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My First Day at HEC's Executive MBA: A Blend of History, Strategy, and Networking


Hello, dear readers!

Today, I’m thrilled to share an exhilarating journey I embarked upon—my first day in the Executive MBA program at HEC Paris, located in Jouy-en-Josas, a small town near the Versailles castle. This day was more than just about academic rigor; it was a blend of history, strategy, and a remarkable dinner in a setting rich with royal heritage!

HEC Castle

The Morning Buzz: Meeting the Cohort

Our day kicked off bright and early at 8:30 AM, establishing the pace for all future in-class days. While most of the program is conducted online, there are a few weeks of onsite sessions every couple of months. These onsite weeks are quite intense, often leading to short nights in-between evening events and early morning classes 😪. Meeting my fellow participants in person was exhilarating. The group formed a vibrant tapestry of professionals from diverse fields such as sales, finance, engineering, and HR, further enriched by a healthy mix of French and international voices.

The welcoming talk at 9 AM offered more than just an introduction; it provided a deep dive into HEC’s illustrious history. Learning about its origins dating back to Napoleon III and its evolution into a modern campus under Charles de Gaulle was truly fascinating.

Embracing a Unique Identity

What struck me the most was the ethos of the EMBA program. We were not mere students; we were participants with rich histories and experiences. The emphasis was on personal growth and leveraging our unique identities, rather than just acquiring a diploma. The humorous nudge about the program’s cost being higher because we are participants, not students, was a light-hearted reminder of the journey’s value.

The Art of Decision Making: Business Simulation Game

In the afternoon, we plunged into a business simulation overseen by Professor Olivier Tabatoni. It was a practical test of strategy, involving decisions to grow a classic manufacturing company over four business quarters. I took the lead in preparing for the first quarter, focusing on a balanced approach to product rollout.

Despite a rocky start caused by a team member’s ambitious pricing strategy, we quickly adapted. My approach of minimizing inventory and maintaining careful observation paid dividends, enabling us to dominate the market, particularly with our new product. This experience not only allowed us to test our analytical skills in a playful manner but also underscored the importance of flexibility and rapid adaptation in business. Winning the simulation brought us accolades and bolstered our reputation within the cohort.

At the end of the simulation, Professor Tabatoni revealed that none of us had adopted the optimal strategy. The goal was not so much to achieve market dominance but rather to invest heavily in sales teams and R&D to capture a new, larger market. This revelation highlighted the multifaceted nature of business strategy, which will be the focus of our second in-class module in April.

The Heart of Business
My team received an extra book from Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy and an HEC graduate, for winning the game. By the end of this first module, I had almost received one book per day.

An Evening of Elegance and Networking

The day culminated with a toast and dinner at the historical HEC Castle - a former haunt of Louis XIV. The setting was as regal as it was conducive to networking and sharing experiences with my peers.

Networking dinner at HEC Castle
HEC castle’s dining room

This remarkable day was just the beginning of a transformative journey. Stay tuned for more insights and experiences from my EMBA adventure. For real-time updates, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Your comments and feedback are always welcome!

À bientôt, Aristide 🌟📚🌐


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