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Audencia – L’Oréal – Kellogg: Quite a LEAP

Anne-Laure Duno, admitted to Kellogg, INSEAD and LBS

by Brian Henry, PhD (Trinity College, Dublin)

For this ambitious MBA candidate, the one-year MBA program at Kellogg was the perfect choice. Anne-Laure Duno has a good French undergraduate business degree and a clear vision of her career goals, both of which are prerequisites for candidates wishing to join Kellogg’s accelerated program. It was a tough choice all the same, as Anne-Laure turned down INSEAD and London Business School, despite the scholarships on offer. Nothing was going to stop this L’Oréal executive from going to the top-ranked US business school.

Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I believe that entrepreneurship and innovation, coupled with professional accomplishment and personal fulfillment, are the most important traditions that I inherited from my family. I learned from my parents to leverage my expertise on behalf of the community. Social responsibility and integrity are twin characteristics of my personality. Education-wise, I have earned a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Controlling from Audencia School of Management in Nantes in 2002.

How has your career evolved since 2002?

I am glad to have been hired by L’Oréal almost five years ago; this dynamic French company has enabled me to realize my potential. I have built an ambitious career trajectory to the point that I now manage a small team of financial auditors on assignment in L’Oréal’s many branches worldwide. The projects that I have handled show my diversity and my rapid evolution in management responsibilities. Today, I report to general managers and stakeholders directly.

In which ways do you think that an MBA will help you move on in your professional career?

On the basis of my evolution, I am ready to join an international strategic consulting firm such as McKinsey, Bain, or Boston Consulting Group. An MBA is the perfect vehicle for me to achieve this goal, giving me a thorough understanding of organizational behavior, management, strategy, and marketing. I could move towards a management position in an international subsidiary, either turning around the operations of an underperforming business or creating a new operation in the consumer goods industry. With L’Oréal, I have already conducted eight audit reviews in entities with annual turnover as high as €300M in India, USA, Taiwan, Spain and Colombia. I might even go back, as L’Oréal has been very supportive of my MBA, giving me a year-long sabbatical so that I do not have to turn in my resignation.

Why did you choose the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University?

Kellogg embraces a collaborative learning environment called the LEAP (Learning through Experience and Action Program), which will enable me to master the principles of leadership, tackle the behavior of people and learn how firms interact with their environment.

What was the most difficult part of the MBA application?

For me the essays were the most difficult. Fortunately, Dr. Hubert Silly of the MBA Center Paris was able to help me. I would write down my responses to the essays from six to eight in the morning, send them by email, go to work and then come home to read Hubert Silly’s comments in my email inbox. He explained to me how to focus on the questions and develop the most insightful responses. In one essay question, for example, I was asked to describe myself. It was the most difficult question and required the most thinking, but thanks to Hubert I wrote a deeply moving essay.

What advice do you have for MBA candidates?

Aim high! No matter what you think, you should apply to at least one top business school. Since I had the advantage of having a business degree, only the top schools interested me. But if you put in the work at the MBA Center, the results may surprise you.


Making the Right MBA Move to Chicago

Carine Hutasse, admitted to Chicago GSB

by Brian Henry, PhD (Trinity College, Dublin)

With a background in marketing and strategy for some of France’s most well-known cheese brands, this graduate from Lyon’s prestigious business school decided on Chicago GSB to pursue her career goals. Her post-MBA plans are to gain professional experience in the USA at a higher level of experience before returning to Europe to start her own business or to start up a food and nutrition unit within an international organization.

Can you tell us a little about your education?

I attended EM Lyon Business School, where I specialized in consumer goods while gaining valuable interpersonal and multicultural skills. In my final year (1996) at EM Lyon, I did an MBA international exchange at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management. I really loved the experience and always said to myself that I would go for an MBA after a few years of professional experience. That was more than 10 years ago, so I knew it was now or never.

Can you tell us more about your professional career?

In my last job, I was a senior marketing product manager for Bongrain AG, which is a Swiss subsidiary importing famous French cheese brands such as Caprice des Dieux, Tartare, St Mфret, Coeur de Lion, and St Agur. I defined and implemented marketing strategies for these cheese brands, expanded their promotional plans, developed TV-advertising campaigns, and launched extensions in new market segments. Previously, I was a market research project leader for 3M France consumer goods such as Scotch, Post-it, and Scotch-Brite brands.

How do expect the MBA to enhance your career?

My objective is to get professional experience in the USA at a higher level of responsibility before coming back to Europe. An MBA will give me the professional skills and the community network to achieve these goals. In addition to learning about strategy and general management, I am especially interested in the nutrition area, including food and lifestyle improvements, which is a growing concern in the whole world. On finishing my MBA, I want to capitalize upon this knowledge and work in one of the top five food companies worldwide. My experience has shown me that these companies will have to go through major changes in the near future. There are two major trends in the food business, wellness and nutrition expertise, and these will have to be integrated as quickly and efficiently as possible into future strategies.

Why did you choose the University of Chicago GSB?

First, I focused on MBA programs in big cities in the USA such as Chicago, New York, and Boston. I then applied to five top schools, but after being accepted to Chicago I did not follow up on the other applications, such as those to MIT and Columbia, both of which put my application on their waitlists. I decided on the University of Chicago’s MBA program because it has a very stimulating environment. I developed a good feeling for the whole Chicago GSB team, including current French and Swiss students, who were present and helpful in my decision-making process. Along with bright MBAs and excellent professors, GSB embraces a committed community including faculty, students, administration, alumni and outside speakers. I expect its rich academic and cultural environment to further my development and help me reach my potential.

What was the most difficult part of the application process?

The essays, and especially those where you need to describe and detail your career objectives and how the MBA will contribute to your goals. It was difficult at the beginning because I was not very clear and determined about my objectives. Discussing the essays with Dr. Hubert Silly (PhD, Harvard, 1988) and then writing and editing them over and over again helped me design an accurate perspective. You need to make some kind of introspection to know what you really want.

What was the most interesting part of the process?

The interviews provided the most enriching moments. They enabled me to test my own motivation and convincing power. I was also lucky to be able to arrange the interviews in Zurich, Geneva and Zug, which are cities not far from my home in Switzerland.

What advice do you have for other MBA candidates?

There are three success factors for getting into a top MBA program. First, don’t wait until the last minute like I did, but instead start the process early. I first met Dr. Hubert Silly in October for round-two applications, which were due in early January. If I had started earlier, I would have enjoyed Christmas 2006 with more serenity. Second success factor, hire a professional coach like Dr. Silly who has the experience and know-how in the MBA world. One of my friends applied to MBA programs on his own, but was accepted to none of them. There is no room for improvisation here. You simply cannot do it all on your own without the assistance of a coach who will share his or her deep knowledge and help you focus on what the admission committees will be sensitive to in your application and how you can improve your story-telling. Third success factor is time management and endurance. Apart from the vast number of forms to fill out, the applications consume a lot of energy. You have to deal with a lot of stuff all at the same time. You cannot concentrate first on the essays, then on the TOEFL, after the GMAT, and in the end your recommenders. You really have no choice but to dedicate your efforts to all these tasks at the same time. And this is what makes it more difficult, especially in situations where you are working full-time for a company that is not yet aware of your applications to MBA program.


Building a Business Starts with Getting an MBA

Madhu Rajesh, admitted to INSEAD

by Brian Henry, PhD (Trinity College, Dublin)

For this international hotel manager, the idea to do an MBA started with a guiding principle that she learned from her first job in Dubai: “look after your staff and they will look after your business.” A people person, Madhu wants to start her own business some day, but to meet her goals she needed the skills that only an MBA can offer.

Can you tell us a little about your values and traditions?

I was brought up in a provincial town in India, in an extended family with a paternalistic mindset, where girls were meant to be seen, not heard! My convent schooling taught me to be prim and proper. My parents used to say, “First deserve, then desire”. These words of wisdom have been the foundation for everything I have done in life; I have learnt to deserve my desires.

How did you manage to build your career in the hospitality and tourism business?

I am a people person. In the service industry, I sell not just holidays, but dreams and experiences. The product is intangible and any unsold unit represents revenue lost forever. Working in a multicultural environment with colleagues, clients and guests coming from all walks of life, I am always keen to gain an inherent understanding of cultures to discover what influences consumer behavior, and incorporate these preferences in the products I sell.

Did you have any role models?

I have developed my leadership skills observing successful business managers. At the JW Marriott in Dubai where I began my international career, the general manager believed that dining in the staff cafeteria was important. This helped him establish a close contact with the 900 employees. He not only knew all the staff by name, but also their families and understood daily issues. The Marriott philosophy involves looking after your staff so they look after your business. I have learnt the truth behind this logic and it sums up my leadership style.

Why did you choose to do an MBA at this point in your career?

My decision to pursue an MBA is a natural progression, both personally and professionally. It is a calculated step towards becoming an entrepreneur. The challenge of building something from nothing excites me. The need for creativity and energy is higher, the sense of responsibility greater and the personal rewards more meaningful.

How will your MBA affect your family life?

By starting at INSEAD in January 2008, I will have completed the 10-month program before my son starts school. Along with my husband, my son will stay in the UK. With INSEAD, I would not have much time for my son in any event. And it would be unfair to ask my spouse to relocate to France, since he has a great job in the UK. So we decided that it is best if my son stays back with his Dad who will be able to devote regular time for him. But we will try and spend as much time together as possible – every weekend – and take some long weekends, too. We also have the summer break to look forward to.

What do you think is the most critical part of the application process?

Definitely the essays. Introspecting for the essays taught me a lot about who I am, what I stand for and what my priorities are, ideas that one probably never has the time to stop and think about. With a lot of thought, I listed out the points about me that I wanted to tell the business schools. I also researched the schools to find out what they would like to hear and then chose those elements from my list that would fit the schools list.

What about the interview process?

I had two interviews for INSEAD, and they were totally different from each other. The first lasted two and a half hours and was a typical case-study-style interview. But I had fun during the interview. My interviewer put me totally at ease and at the end said he was going to recommend me. The second one was more formal and lasted about 50 minutes. It is important to know your story and be able to defend it, which can only come when you have been genuine in your applications.

Why did you come to Judy Martinez at the MBA Center London for advice?

Judy was a great help because there were things I was reluctant to talk about openly. She reassured me and encouraged me to write in my essays all the events in my life that make me special. She also pointed out developments that I overlooked or thought were too mundane, as she felt they would help showcase my potential in a better light. Judy has a knack of asking the right questions and going through two to three concepts for each essay to tell you which one clicks and which one does not.

What advice would you have for other MBA candidates?

Give yourself plenty of time. Focus on the GMAT while remembering that other elements of your application are important as well. Essays and recommendations need to be thought through. Select a college based on its strengths as they pertain to your long-term career goals. Research your target school well and speak with alumni, students and school representatives. Finally, take advantage of the MBA Center.


For Me, Chicago GSB Was Always My First Choice

Ekaterina Herzig, admitted to Chicago GSB

by Will Toussaint

Even as an undergraduate, Ekaterina Herzig dreamed of returning to the classroom later on in life to learn more about business and subjects like finance and economics. But after graduating, a fast-track career at Watson AS’s Marionnaud perfumeries, lots of travel and building a family did not leave her much time to pursue that dream. Now, thanks to a little elbow grease, time management, and support from her family and employer, Ekaterina finally found a way back to the classroom – a very prestigious one, in fact – at Chicago GSB's Executive MBA Program. Ekaterina was accepted last February and recently began classes. Based in Switzerland, she took time out of a busy schedule to talk to MBA Center about her experience.

How did you feel when you discovered you were accepted to Chicago GSB?
I’ll remember that moment forever. Even though I had already applied to Chicago GSB and performed lots of research on the school, I arrived in London for a Chicago GSB EXperience Day this past February. Chicago GSB presents these days several times a year. It’s an excellent opportunity to meet current students, faculty, admissions officers and get more of the whole atmosphere that is uniquely Chicago GSB. When I arrived, Elisa Nieto (Chicago GSB Assistant Director of Marketing & Recruitment) met me with a smile at the door. She said “Congratulations!!!” Less than 24 hours before, I had received an acceptance email. But, because I was traveling, I did not have access to my email account. I was completely surprised.
That moment, I can’t describe in words how happy I felt. That moment was like a culmination of all the hard work I had put into my dreams and into my future. It was like a window to a new era opening right in front of you. It was a very emotional moment.

When was it that you first began thinking about getting an MBA?
I started thinking about it very early, right after my first year as a student at my university. I was fascinated by subjects such as Microeconomics, Marketing, and Financial Analysis. I knew I wanted to learn more at some point. I also come from Russia, a country that has changed drastically in recent times. It’s where a planned economy ruled for 75 years and then all of a sudden it was thrown into this world of an open economy and financial markets. As Eastern Europe has changed, these subjects have became more important for me to learn more about.
I had visited American and European Universities after I graduated and I was looking around for what kind of program would suit me best. But, life interceded. I got married. I had a daughter. I was being promoted every 3 years, and all the time I was facing new challenges.
This fast pace continued until I finally decided it was now or never. I had to slow it down and dedicate myself to pursuing an MBA. So, at that point, I began looking for an executive program. When I discovered that Chicago had established European and Asian campuses combined with top-notch education, it was an easy decision.

So Chicago was your first choice, why?
Yes. For me, Chicago GSB was always my first choice. There is a long, long list of reasons why. But, primarily I can say it has a long and prestigious history and yet continues to be a leader heading towards the future.
Obviously, I attended an information session. I did a lot of research. I met alumni and admissions officers, who helped me gain a deeper understanding. Chicago GSB also has the best program for business fundamentals. I think the motto that stuck with me was “Get a case study right and you master the details, understand the principals and you master a world.” I also wanted to be part of a community that strives to facilitate teamwork among its members and has a tremendous alumni support throughout the world.

What are some words you would use to describe Chicago GSB’s Executive Education program?
Integrity. Curiosity. Flexibility. Innovation. Diversity. These are qualities I believe Chicago GSB wants to foster in its program.

What part of the application process did you find most challenging?
No doubt about it – the obligatory interview for Chicago GSB was the most challenging. It’s the final step in the application process, so it’s easy to feel a little pressure at that point. I met with the Director of Corporate Relations and Recruitment – Arnold Longboy – and the Managing Director for Europe – Glenn Sykes. They are sharp people and, of course, I wanted to be prepared to clearly answer any question they put forth. I knew it was a valuable opportunity, and I wanted to make sure I could communicate my ideas, my history, and my thoughts directly and precisely.

You have a young daughter and a full-time job – how do you find the time to study?
It is tough. Chicago GSB is a challenging place, and there’s a lot to read. But you find ways to adapt and do it. Support from my family and my work has been integral to my success. There are also 16 weeks out of 22 weeks total that you have to spend on-campus. Time management is crucial, and you have to be dedicated. I try to spend at least an hour or two a day studying, and obviously it’s more sometimes. So, I’m always looking for an opportunity. On a plane or at an airport. Waiting for a train. On a long drive. You name it, and you’ll find me buried in a book or case study. I also have to give credit to my husband who has been supportive and helpful – he loves economics and is now interested in getting his PhD in Economics at Chicago. I guess you could say my whole family has become Chicago devotees. At night, I’ll even read my daughter a book before she goes to bed, and then I’ll go up and read Competitive Strategy Cases and spend time analyzing them.

Ever tried to combine the two? Perhaps you could read a case study to your daughter?
I do find the case studies fascinating. But, my daughter is 8-years-old. Right now, she is a bit more interested in what Naruto [a popular cartoon character] is doing.

Are there professors or courses you are looking forward to taking?
That’s hard for me to answer because there are so many gifted professors at Chicago. There’s Macroeconomics Professor John Huizinga, a very prominent and brilliant professor who is an agent to NBA star Yao Ming. There’s Bates Medal winner Kevin Murphy and Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker. I can tell you I have already had a chance to take five courses, and everyone has surpassed my already high expectations. For example, in my Competitive Strategy my professor Luis Garicano explained game theory and Nash Equilibrium in the most unique way – he had us play games in the classroom.

What advice can you give applicants who are interested in applying to Chicago GSB?
Start preparing now. Allow yourself the time to write quality essays; I wrote three of them. Know what you have to say for the interview and questions you might be asked. They also ask for three recommendation letters. There are great places to get prepared and learn more about the university, such as Chicago GSB information sessions. Check the website and visit an EXperience Day. This will give you an excellent perspective because you will get to know current student and faculty. Also, in almost every major city there is a GSB Chicago alumni club you can contact. You can meet current students and alumni there.


IMD: Close Ties Build a Better Network

Paul Holmes, admitted to IMD

by Will Toussaint

For Paul Holmes, knowing exactly what he wanted out of an MBA program was one of the most important aspects in gaining admission to IMD. The 32-year-old former pricing analyst for Sanofi-Aventis had done his homework and researched many of the top business schools. The research paid off, and, despite a challenging final interview, Paul was accepted.

Congratulations on your IMD success, Paul. What was the most challenging part of the admissions process?
Without question, it was the interview.

How so?
Well, I had a tremendous difficulty getting to Switzerland due to my busy schedule. I checked into the hotel near IMD very late at night and succeeded in only getting about two hours rest before my interview. When I returned to the hotel room following my interview I found all my luggage had been stolen. This included my wallet and credit cards, which I had left inside a jacket pocket.
It was not a good situation.

Well, did you ever get your luggage back?
IMD is taking care of everything. They told me not to worry about anything. They have been handling all the details over reimbursement with the hotel. It was nice because at that point I was not even a student yet and they went out of their way to make sure I was taken care of.

That’s an interesting beginning to your MBA experience; perhaps you can tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I was born, raised and resided in the U.K. for most of my life, except for three years I spent in Japan both working and studying. I also recently finished working for Sanofi-Aventis for the past year in Paris as a pricing manager. In this role I was responsible for recommending global launch prices for 16 new pharmaceutical products across six different therapy areas. I also have Trinidad and Tobago citizenship through my mother. My grandfather was a prominent politician and labor leader there.

Why did you want to get an MBA?
It has really been a personal goal of mine for a number of years. I applied to schools in the United States when I was only 23. I had also reached the final round of Fulbright scholarships to do my MBA. However, I was too young at the time. I am very glad I didn't enter a program at that point, because now that I am older with more experience, I believe I know more clearly what I want from a career as well as life in general.

But you did achieve a Masters prior to getting your MBA?
I decided against an MBA early on, and at that point I decided to earn an MSc [in Health Economics] from the London School of Economics. Only more recently did I decide to pursue my long-term goal of an MBA. I realized that through my experience I wanted to understand more about business fundamentals and increase my overall knowledge. Additionally, I wanted to be exposed to the opportunities an MBA might bring and to develop myself as a leader in a business context.

What are characteristics that attracted you to IMD?
At 32, I didn't want to spend two years in a program with younger and less experienced students. INSEAD and IMD were the two obvious choices to fit these immediate criteria.
IMD has a strong focus on leadership and entrepreneurship. IMD really pushes the real world onto its students. I believe this reflects its close relationship with business. I think that all the professors who teach on the full-time MBA course consult for companies as well, enabling them to bring up-to-date thinking into the classroom. The students are pushed to use what they learn in class in real life situations from day one. From when we started in January all the students were working with entrepreneurs to assist them with their start-ups. We can't sit back and just take in the theory!
IMD offered me a much more personal focus due to the small student intake, and I believe this will contribute more to my personal development more than other schools. IMD also concentrates very heavily on developing each student individually with personal psychoanalysis and counseling. This will help me define my personal and career goals more clearly and hence refine the direction I want to go in. This level of attention is only possible with a small student body.

So, bigger is not always better?
In some ways, it can be said that, due to the population only being 90 full-time MBA students a year, the network is not as strong as other schools. However, what I have experienced so far is that the small size actually makes the network stronger and closer, like a family in some respects.


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