When it comes to Executive MBA programs, certain benefits are immediately apparent: improved leadership skills, enhanced professional networks, and radically boosted potential for career advancement. However, these programs also offer hidden added value that might not be immediately apparent.
It has only been a few months since he graduated from the HEC Paris Executive MBA, but René Azeez has already uncovered a wealth of added peripheral benefits that he hadn’t initially anticipated.
The Toronto-based startup stalwart reflects on the most remarkable hidden changes he’s seen so far— and on the potential of what’s yet to come.
A reputable Executive MBA goes a long way toward career transformation.
Since graduating less than a year ago (HEC Paris EMBA Class of 2022), many of my colleagues have since been promoted, started their own companies, or pivoted into new industries in leadership roles.
They can attest to the fact that the program was a very potent career launchpad and it packs a punch in terms of brand power, network effect, and business readiness for participants. These things have obvious transformative power and are part of the brand promise. I myself have taken on a new level of leadership responsibilities and believe that HEC was instrumental in creating the necessary conditions for my own progress and success.
That said, I think there are some much more subtle – often hidden – benefits to your post-graduation self that are also immensely valuable. So, if you’re thinking about doing an EMBA, I encourage you to consider the factors below, based on my own experience of the more subtle benefits.
My professional confidence and sense of belonging have noticeably increased since completing the program and I suspect that I am not alone in this outcome. Owing to the tremendous breadth of the experience – we touched on hundreds of subjects and had thousands of discussions – graduates are immensely versatile in business.
When combining this with the power of the HEC Paris brand, I have found that my own experience of “imposter syndrome” has diminished since graduation. I seldom question my belonging and my right to occupy space in any leadership conversation.
For a visible minority and immigrant who was often trying to find my place, this has been priceless – anything that affords me the opportunity to lift my head a little higher and express myself a little more confidently goes a long way.
The type of confidence that comes from the completion of an intensive educational experience is the type of confidence you want – while it is challenging to cultivate, it is hard to diminish and therefore will serve you for the rest of your lives. Since graduating, I also have found new networks from unexpected communities.
To be fair, I expected to be part of a cohort and a global alumni network.
What I did not expect is to become part of sub-communities based on interest and locality and to cultivate friendships that go far beyond casual.
Vibrant communities that share interests in anything from entrepreneurship to wines are part of the fabric of post-graduation life. I’ve been approached by alumni to do everything from joining new startups to partying in Miami.
There is even an Association des Alumni des Grandes Ecoles in Canada where I live that connect alumni from all the Grandes Ecoles – and I suspect similar associations might exist no matter where you are in the world.
The HEC Paris community has an energy that is meant to be harnessed far beyond your academic experience. In fact, two of my groomsmen for my upcoming wedding in August are friends that I met at HEC Paris. That alone has made the experience worthwhile.
Finally, I left the program feeling a renewed sense of duty to myself and to the world around me. As an alumnus, after witnessing the ambition and fearlessness of my colleagues, I now see opportunities to leave an impact on the world where I may have only seen obstacles in the past. The entrepreneurial ethos of HEC Paris is deeply connected to a sense of responsibility to those around us.
In a world where profit at all costs has left us with existential threats to our very existence, this experience does its part to seed its graduate leaders with the tools and mindset to look beyond the bottom line.
This mindset has not only been beneficial to each of us individually but to our businesses and therefore to the world in which we live.
Choosing to pursue an EMBA is a deeply personal decision that requires intense commitment, my humble advice is that you look outside of the obvious value and consider the hidden benefits when making your decision.
René Azeez is a seasoned analyst, consultant, strategist, and innovation evangelist. He recently graduated from the HEC Paris Executive MBA while working full-time in a pivotal role in determining the strategic roadmap for Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District. There, he leverages deep ecosystem knowledge and develops strategic relationships in order to solve complex problems and implementation issues critical to Venture Services, part of a broader effort to advance over 1300 Canadian technology start-ups.
This essay has been edited for clarity and style.
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