Back-to-School Week at HEC Paris EMBA: Beginning a Transformative Journey

Last week, the HEC Paris Executive MBA’s Class of 2025 inaugural intake wrapped up the first module of their 18-month EMBA journeys.

As the September 2023 intake of the HEC Paris EMBA program prepared to embark on a transformative educational journey, a diverse group of individuals from around the world shared their insights, aspirations, and motivations. As ever, each participant brought a unique perspective and background to this vibrant tapestry of global leaders.

September’s 56-student intake hails from 30 different countries, with 16% of the group in consulting, 14% working in financial services, and 11% in tech. It was the first 9-day module out of five for the EMBAs, giving them their first opportunity to meet in person.

It was also the inaugural intake for newly appointed Associate Dean of MBA Programs Dr. Brad Harris, who opened the students’ first module with a few words of encouragement, wisdom, and setting a tone of “character, competence, and courage” commensurate with the group’s standard of excellence.

Associate Dean Dr. Brad Harris: "character, competence, and courage."

Associate Dean Dr. Brad Harris: “character, competence, and courage.”

“We are in the business of changing lives here at HEC,” he started, “and the program you have joined is one of its flagships.”

He offered a glimpse into the tea leaves for the students, 80% of whom hail from outside of France, in that their “greatest challenge as an executive leader is going to be ‘how do I get all these people with different backgrounds to all pull in the same way?’”

Executives from around the world

Members of the group quickly recognized the unique perspectives their cohort brought to the table.

Olivier Atunes, a Product Manager from Dallas, Texas, shared his reasons for choosing HEC. He valued HEC’s reputation, global ranking, and the impressive diversity within his cohort.

“This week I’m meeting with people from all around the world, who all spoke multiple languages,” he marveled.

“They have different backgrounds and histories, they have lived in many countries, this is amazing and so inspiring, and actually even more than what I was expecting by choosing HEC.”

HEC Paris EMBA September 23 intake

Olivier’s back-to-school strategy was to come to class with an open mindset, ready to engage with teachers and peers. He appreciated the program’s approach of combining theory with cohort exchanges, group work, and discussions.

Rosella Ghidoni, the Director for Scope Ratings GmbH in Italy, cited HEC’s well-established reputation in educating future leaders. She also mentioned cutting-edge fundamentals and a commitment to high-standing academic excellence as motivating factors.

HEC Paris EMBA September 23 intake

“HEC will be an opportunity for growing both professionally and personally, to build a global vision on changing business environments and on purposeful leadership,” she said.

“It will be a transformational journey.”

Transformation and learning

The theme of transformation ran as a distinct through line in the remarks of her classmates. “The HEC Executive MBA is widely recognized for its academic excellence. It also offers a unique opportunity to grow as a leader, embark on a transformative journey, and to ‘make things happen,’” said Anass Bouabdillah, a telecom industry professional.

Anass is looking forward to the program’s unmatched opportunities, including building lifelong connections with a diverse cohort and exploring the abundant resources offered by HEC. His back-to-school strategy was simple yet effective: “I just plan to wear my EMBA hoodie, rally with my peers and make things happen!”

HEC Paris EMBA September 23 intake

André Bittencourt, Chief Data Scientist for Dataland, a tech startup he co-founded in 2021, had a distinct perspective. He chose HEC to transition from a technical role to a business leader, seeking to create prosperous and meaningful enterprises.

For André, the Capstone Project at HEC was a pivotal factor.

“For me, the EMBA journey is much more about self-reflection and internal transformation than it is about the academic achievements,” he said. “I am joining with an open attitude to incorporate new learnings and to re-evaluate myself throughout the program.”

André was excited about self-reflection and the transformative potential of his EMBA journey. He says he’s looking forward to seeing how this experience would benefit both himself and his colleagues.

“No real transformation can take place without practice. The Capstone project is what has really set HEC Paris apart for me,” he continued.

HEC Paris EMBA September 23 intake

“Having the opportunity to work on your business project with the support from a world-class staff and resources to support you is what I believe will help me achieve my goals.”

You are you, but more

The week held orientation activities as well as a full-fledged academic module focused on leadership. Also on the agenda was a raft of group work, chateau dinners, and forming the first ironclad bonds of a unique professional network.

Dr. Harris encapsulated the program’s core mission, reminding the students that “when you leave this program, you are going to be different.”

“You are going to be you, but more.”

More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe. Nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. The Executive MBA at HEC Paris perennially ranks among the best in the world; click here to learn more.

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