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Kellogg-WHU: A Window on the Future

Jorge S., admitted to Kellogg-WHU

Jorge S. already has a wealth of international and educational experiences. But when he began working for his family's business, he learned that hard work and intuition could only get him so far. If he wanted to get to the next level, he would need management skills and knowledge. That's when he decided to enroll in Kellogg-WHU's Executive MBA program. 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I was born and raised in Mexico, but I have a great amount of international experience and education. I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in International Affaires at the AUP - American University in Paris. In 1999, I started working in the Sales Department of one of my family businesses. Despite the fact that I did not have an academic background in business and very little experience in sales, I did manage to learn and catch up pretty fast through intuition and hard work. In 2001, I took position in Portugal, where I have been working since. 

When and why did you start thinking about applying to a business school? 

When I started working in 2002 fot a new company, I was told that an MBA was a must for further promotion. The company gave me full support, and I could count for all the academic and living expenses while doing a full-time MBA program. I would be given a license and permission to take a leave of my responsibilities during the MBA period. I was even given the possibility of choosing any program anywhere in the world! I started my quest in 2003 by visiting MBA fairs around Europe, searching through guides and on the Internet. I decided that I would choose an MBA program in Europe, with a global perspective and with international exchanges in challenging and exciting places. I needed a Management and General Business course for my professional development, as intuition and hard work were not enough to climb the ladder not only within the business organization where I am currently employed but also in the world's business environment.

Would you encourage others to attend Kellogg-WHU? 

Absolutely, I would definitely encourage others to attend the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA Program. This of course depends on the candidates' interest, needs, and priorities. I sincerely think that this is one of the most successful and ambitious and, yet, down-to-earth global Executive MBA programs existing in the continuing education market worldwide. This is the kind of program that I really do recommend not only to very close friends, but to colleagues and personal 'entourage'.

What do you plan to do when you graduate from business school? 

Judging by my recent conversations with my company's hierarchy and HR department, thare are formal plans to promote me in the near future. The promotion lies specifically in Portugal and/or in any of the company's European business organizations. I intend to continue my active participation in the businesses where I am currently involved. In the last decade I have mostly been working and collaborating in various family businesses - either completely owned or still family-controlled and managed.

In what ways do you think Kellogg-WHU is unique? 

What made the Kellogg MBA programs unique are the people. WHU's philosophy of success is described with 3 Ps: Passion, People, and Performance. I think that the combination of theses three schools' philosophies is what makes the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA a unique program. We have excellent professors from both Kellogg and WHU in our program, and this is a clear advantage. My EMBA classmates are worth mentioning as well, not only because of their fascinating backgrounds and international business experiences, but also because they are all wonderful personalities. The spirit of the program is based on teamwork and complementing each other. I am learning not only during the lectures but also through matching skills and abilities with them during the team workshop sessions and projects. Thisis the basis for success in real life.

What was the most challenging part of the admissions process? 

Organizing the paperwork and fillind the application form was a challenge because of the time constraints I had. I could not attend the last Open Days offered at WHU. During those Open Days, candidates could both submit their application form and get interviewed. The deadline was the end of the month, so I requested a personal interview on a later date and traveled to Germany to submit my application form very close to the deadline. Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA was my number one choice, and I did not want to spoil the opportunity.

What advice can you give others who are interested in applying to Kellogg-WHU? 

Apply well in advance and compare this program with others by visiting MBA fairs, gathering as much information as possible through the Internet and by contacting alumni or students. Consider the business school's standing in the business ranking available in the press. Another important point has to do with the perception of the MBA program in the labor market. Ask headhunters and HR directors about their perception of the program, and you will be surprised with their answers. A visit to WHU is worth the effort. I would suggest visiting during one of the Open Days or during the Executive MBA modules, where the candidates can ask the students what they think about the program and what their experience and expectations are.

On a personal level, what does getting an MBA mean to you? 

Getting an MBA gives value to the way I am currently doing things in my life and work. It is about being efficient yet doing things with style. I am expecting up-to-date business skills in order to improve the performance in my professional duties and activities. I am taking advantage of the international perspective from the MBA faculty, as well as from the reste of the students in the program.


Building a Better Road to Success

Damien Liot, admitted to MIT

by Will Toussaint

When MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership Director Stephen Sacca visited MBA Center in early 2006, Damien Liot was there. Damien had heard much about the MIT Sloan program, but the Director's visit and the personal interaction he offered greatly impressed him. So much so that Damien decided to apply to the program even after having spent several months as an MBA student at Sciences Po. Damien was accepted at MIT and reports that the weather in Boston may be cold, but the future looks very bright.

Damien, you have a unique admissions story; could you share some of the details?
Sure, I was an MBA student at Sciences Po during the fall of 2006. I had been accepted there, and I never felt quite right about the fit. I looked around me in the classroom, and I felt like I was much older than everyone else. I had much more than a decade worth of experience. I decided that it would be best to take a look at other options. That’s about when I met the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership Director Stephen Sacca at the MBA Center Paris. I attended an information session that he conducted and remember thinking how impressed I was that MIT would send its Director to speak to us.
There are several business programs in the MIT Sloan School of Management: the two-year MBA, the SDM program, and the one I am currently enrolled in, the Sloan Fellows in Innovation and Global Leadership program. This one-year program is designed for mid-career managers (average age of 39 with about 14 years of work experience) with diverse backgrounds and citizenships (90 people, 26 countries, 70% international). I met Stephen and took a look at these aspects, and I decided to apply the Sloan Fellows program. I am extraordinarily happy with my decision.

So, the personal interaction had a big impact on your decision to apply; why do you think that is?
Well, as I said it really impressed me that MIT would have a director visiting Paris. I think that is because many of the schools don’t make a point of sending their top official to visit France. I know, because I have met many admissions officers from many of the top schools, but there are very few directors. Stephen answered all of my questions honestly, and he was straightforward about why he was visiting. I listened to some of the reasoning behind why he was looking for French students at MIT, and it all made sense. They have every kind of background and nationality represented at MIT, and I think that makes it much more valuable program.

What is your professional background?
I am a regional executive manager for Eurovia, the road division of the world leader construction group VINCI, where I head the public and private roadwork contracts and urban infrastructure development projects in the Paris Region. I have been working in the construction business for about a decade and helped many leadership roles. I also served in the Special Forces Reserve Unit.

What are some of the aspects you believe set MIT Sloan Fellows apart from other programs?
Well, it’s an incredible network of people. Some of the most important leaders in business attend. For example, the Chairman and CEO of Aramco (Saudi crude oil) is my classmate. I now know the key players at the best companies. I can meet with just about anyone I want to meet in the business world without much more than a few phone calls. Being a student at MIT Sloan Fellows program is like being an intern, only much better. You can meet people from almost any company you can think of, because they want to meet you. We have Leadership Seminars which allow us to meet two CEO’s or a noted personality every week! In addition to that, three trips are expected during the year at MIT, one in New York with a leadership purpose, one in California with an innovation purpose, and one big International trip; this year we will travel to India and South Africa. The international trip helps us to discover the international business but also to create and support the incredible network; meeting alumni is always amazing!

What is one of the best experiences you have had meeting someone at MIT?
There have been so many people. I could point to Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of GE. He teaches a leadership class at MIT Sloan. I can tell you it is much different meeting him in person than it is reading about him in a case study. It’s an environment where you can ask him all kinds of questions. Also, we got to meet the current CEO of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, and the former CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina. These are legendary people in business.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your experience applying?
Well, it would have to be the fact that I had applied while I was currently getting an MBA. I was confident that I was making the right decision. But, it is not typical to leave one MBA program for another. I was lucky to meet Stephen Sacca. That helped me make the decision I knew would be right for me.

Do you have any advice for those interested in MIT?
I would recommend doing your research on the school and knowing what it is you want out of the experience. MIT is a great place because it’s got tremendous resources and amazing faculty. I knew it was a good fit for me, but I had to put in the time to research the school and to meet the right people. So, my first recommendation is to talk to the admissions staff. But you should check out the website: It’s a great resource because it is always up-to-date and easy to use.


Applying the Results of Your Studies from the First Day in Class

Raphaël Fainac, admitted to LBS
by Will Toussaint

Despite his rapid career ascent in financial management, Raphaël Fainac still wanted to pursue an MBA. Today, Managing Director of Sagem Communications, UK, his current responsibilities benefit from the scrutiny and advice of both his LBS peers and high-profile instructors. Raphaël assures us he is not going to wait for his diploma before applying his freshly acquired knowledge to company operations. In fact, that is exactly what he is doing right now, just two months after starting his studies.

Hello Raphaël. Can you please start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Well, I am French, and 32 years old. I have a degree in Financial Management from the Sorbonne and a Master’s degree in Management Control and Financial Management from the University of Assas. After graduation in 1998, I was hired as financial controller in the subsidiary of Essilor International in Brussels, Belgium. At the age of 26, I was appointed CFO of the Belgian entity and later, at 28, member of the board of Directors of Essilor Benelux as well. My career at Essilor was truly fast-track. In 8 years, I was progressively promoted to more demanding financial management positions that gave me intensive exposure to the kind of management challenges that few people get at my age. However, always looking for new challenges, I moved to Sagem Communications, UK in 2006, in London, as CFO. A few months later, I was appointed Managing Director of the UK subsidiary. This is my current position.

So, with such a brilliant career, why on earth did you think about applying to business school?
I was already thinking about applying to business school when I moved to Sagem Communications. After a few years in more responsible financial management positions, I thought it was the time to reach the next step and become a corporate-level general manager. That was my main motivation in deciding to follow a top MBA program.

When and why did you decide to attend LBS?
When I was promoted to Managing Director of Sagem Communications, UK, I decided it was time to attend an MBA program to break out of my previous role as financial manager and excel at general management. To consolidate this move from finance into general management, I decided to apply to the EMBA of the London Business School. I started the program in January 2008.

What was the most challenging part of the admissions process?
The GMAT – it was like suddenly going back to school! But there was no getting out of it. It was a prerequisite for my application. It meant endless homework and preparation, but I actually started to enjoy the whole thing. I approached it like a game and even started to get a kick out of doing the little tricks that, in the end, helped me get the score I needed. But let this be clear, a high GMAT score is not the be-all and end-all of your application – your essays are every bit as important, and the MBA Center was indeed there to accompany me throughout the GMAT and application process.

Would you encourage others to attend the LBS EMBA?
After only 2 months at the London Business School, I must say that the experience has highly exceeded my initial expectations. I am studying with 75 peers and high-profile lecturers. Studies at LBS mean you are immersed in different professional contexts. A major advantage of this program is the opportunity to apply the benefits of my studies directly to my current job. The other students and professors are there to challenge my experience, my skills, and my daily decisions. If you are someone who thrives being challenged, I would definitely encourage you to attend the London Business School EMBA.

In what ways do you think the LBS EMBA program is unique?
The London Business School Executive MBA program is unique in the way it exposes you to new, diversified, and multicultural situations. I am in a position to tailor my EMBA to my career goals thanks to LBS’s wide range of electives in marketing and strategic and international management. The education, network, multinational experience, combination of learning with practical experience, and the outstanding faculty have convinced me that the LBS EMBA program is exceptional and the most adapted to my ambition.

What advice can you give others who are interested in applying to the school?
If you are interested in applying to the Executive MBA at LBS, you must take time to prepare. The GMAT and application form are both time consuming and very important. I would suggest your visiting the school and meeting alumni and admission staff. They will guide you through the application process, and it is very important to mention these contacts when you apply. I went out of my way to meet LBS alumni before I applied, and I am sure these encounters played their part.

On a personal level, what does getting an MBA mean to you?
Doing an MBA is a life-time project. It gives me the opportunity to apply all my skills, persistence, and dedication to deriving maximum benefit from an education at LBS. The time is now right for me to broaden my managerial skills and have my ideas and experiences challenged by bright minds with experiences different to my own. On a personal level, the LBS EMBA is going to broaden my horizons farther than I could ever have hoped for.

What do you plan to do when you graduate from business school?
I am not waiting to finish my EMBA to apply the results of my studies to my job. I have already started doing this. Upon graduating, I will take some time to breathe, as the whole program is very demanding. Then I will be ready to set forth on my first goal – becoming a general rather than a financial manager at corporate-level.


Full Steam Ahead

Basile Cayatte, admitted to INSEAD

by Will Toussaint

At a very early age, Basile Cayatte practiced piano and singing and learned the principle of pursuing his passion determinedly. It’s a principle he continued to follow as a telecommunications engineer and then as account sales director for a telecom company. He has brought the same kind of determination in his application to INSEAD, where he was accepted and will begin pursuing his MBA in August 2008.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I graduated from Telecom ParisTech [Paris Institute of Technology], where I studied telecommunications engineering. I started my career as a technical consultant and then moved into sales to develop my business and management skills. I became an account director in 2004. I was in charge of large accounts. I also coordinate local account managers in countries such as South Africa, Brazil, United States, China, Singapore, and several European countries. I am also a musician: I play piano and sing in several choirs.

Could you play some piano for us right now?
Ha. Ha. Well, I don’t get to do much playing anymore. I started playing piano when I was six years old. Now, I am taking more time to sing and manage and direct several choirs. I believe if you are going to pursue something you have to give it everything you have.

When and why did you start thinking about applying to business school?
It was in late 2005. My early background was in telecommunications engineering. As I moved closer to the business side of telecommunications, I felt I needed more soft skills, as well as business and management skills. I was also interested in accelerating my career. And I wanted to work internationally. I think part of the inspiration came from colleagues at work and former classmates at Telecom ParisTech who had gone on to achieve an MBA from INSEAD.

When and why did you decide to attend INSEAD's MBA Program?
I had begun meeting many people who were either pursuing an MBA or had already received their MBA from INSEAD. I started to make a campus visits, and at the same time I started to prepare for the GMAT. At the beginning of 2007, I really decided to pick up the pace in my application. I wanted to really put all my energy into the admissions process. So, I went to see the MBA Center so as to ensure that I was properly prepared.

Would you encourage others to attend INSEAD?
One of the most important aspects is the timing in your career. The timing affects IT professionals who must stay up to date and may not be able to leave the workplace for an extended period. That said, I strongly encourage IT professionals to get an MBA; you have to be smart about when you do it. I was a bit older than the average applicant to INSEAD. But, once you are there, the international experience and diversity is amazing. I can’t think of any place that offers more diversity than INSEAD, and they have campuses in Singapore, Fontainebleau, and Philadelphia, where they work in a partnership with Wharton.

What do you plan to do when you graduate from business school?
I plan to take a senior management position in the hi-tech sector. I would like to work in a different city, such as London or Brussels. The great thing about INSEAD’s diploma is that everyone recognizes it. You have many opportunities for you when you graduate.

In what ways do you think INSEAD's MBA program is unique?
Everyone works very hard at INSEAD, but it’s not a place that only values studying. It’s about developing as a person and having the whole picture. You have exposure to tremendous diversity and develop relationships and connections with people from all over the world. There is a special atmosphere at INSEAD that I feel comfortable with.

What was the most challenging part of the admissions process? And why did you think it was challenging?
Definitely, it was the GMAT. It was very tough. The first time I had taken it I had gotten a 610. I worked really hard to enhance it. I came to MBA Center and I took both the general and Destination 800 preparation courses. Thanks to MBA Center and the hard work managed to improve my score 720!!!

What advice can you give others who are interested in applying to the school?
The first advice I would give would be not to wait for the opportunity to prepare for the GMAT. Find the right test preparation center because it’s a good investment. The money you spend is going to come back to you. Do not try to apply to too many schools. Just focus on the school you want to go to and then develop your relationship with the school. Meet the recruiters. Make sure they know you and that they know you are motivated. At the end, the recruiters knew me quite well at INSEAD. They knew I was taking the GMAT again, and I think it showed them that I was very motivated.

On a personal level, what does getting an MBA mean to you?
I think of getting this MBA as an accomplishment. Sure, it’s an accomplishment for my career, but it is not only professional. I am looking to meet and develop relationships with people from all over the world. I am looking to open my mind. Getting an MBA from INSEAD is undoubtedly a life-changing experience.


Looking to London for Opportunity

Pascal Fievet, admitted to Cass

by Will Toussaint

Pascal Fievet is looking to City University’s Cass Business School in London as the starting point for his next big career move. As a program director for the IT division of NRJ Group, Pascal decided to enroll in the Executive MBA program last year. Now, Pascal is learning the lessons that will enable him to move forward in a new environment

Hello Pascal. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I graduated with a degree in computer science and artificial intelligence in the early 1990s. Currently, I am in charge of CRM projects as the program director of the IT division at NRJ Group. I am married with two kids: Paul-Louis, age 7, and Hortense, age 1 year 6 months.

When and why did you start thinking about applying to business school?
I started thinking about an MBA a while before 2006. I had originally come to MBA Center to study for the TOEFL in September of 2006, and in November I began working on the GMAT. I was feeling that my career of a director was giving me skills and experience that were a bit too specific. It would be difficult to move out of that position without an MBA. Certainly, I could have taken a role somewhere else and moved ahead, but that would mean that I might have to take a role that was of the same kind and same level. It was clear that I needed to acquire the necessary business and financial skills to reach more executive positions.

So you felt as though your career was not headed in the right direction… Why did you decide to get an MBA?
Strengthening your business knowledge when you already have an extensive experience of the real business world is an outstanding opportunity. Furthermore, following an MBA program when you are in your forties is a clear demonstration of your agility, adaptability, open-mindedness, and motivation to go further. The academic part of the MBA program is also highly valuable: it is almost impossible to deeply study disciplines such as Strategy, Finance, Organizational Behavior, Human Resources, and so forth on your own. Finally, I also wanted to broaden my horizon by meeting professional people in a highly diversify context: an international executive MBA was the good place for that.

Was London an important factor in your decision?
I had been in Paris a very long time. Therefore, after considering different options, I found that London would be the better place for this exciting experience. Cass’s location in the heart of the City with direct connections to the business sphere has a big impact on the education. Moreover, as I am looking for a job once I graduate, it was a key factor for me. In London, there is tremendous opportunity – it’s an epicenter of global business. By Eurostar, it takes just over two hours to commute from Paris. Hence London allows you to experience an MBA abroad whilst pursuing your day-to-day professional activity and preserving your family life.

Any other factors?
One of the things that make Cass unique is the whole picture of the school. Part of City University, it has undergrad, full-time, and executive students. I was looking forward to being around not only people from the Executive Program. There is also a great mix of the students. I am one of the few French people at Cass MBA programs, meaning that I am in a small minority. I really enjoy learning about the differences in culture and attitudes. I also appreciate the new building built in early 2000s. Indeed, a donation of the Sir John Cass’s foundation allowed architects to design a great ‘Machine for learning’ as Le Corbusier designed ‘Machines for living’ in a location that makes it very close to the headquarters of some of the major world corporations. Having visited several business schools before choosing Cass, I believe it’s common sense to feel comfortable with the atmosphere and environment of the place where you would have to study for almost 2 years.

Would you encourage others to attend your MBA Program?
Absolutely. If Cass is not yet very well known in France, it still benefits from an excellent reputation in the UK and worldwide. The executive MBA is ranked 2nd in the UK by the Financial Times, 5th in Europe, and 18th in the world. It is a perfect fit for my objectives of following a top MBA abroad to enhance my career opportunities while pursuing my job in Paris. I think if you have similar objectives as I did, then it would be a good choice.

What was the most challenging part of the admissions process?
We are all different, and I do think that we have all strengths and weaknesses. For me it was challenging to speak a foreign language in an interview, especially when speaking to native English speakers in London. I had to work quite hard on my English speaking. Luckily, I was quite well-prepared for the interview by the MBA Center and Hubert Silly, and now, since I have been at Cass in the international context I sought, I feel now confident with English.

What do you plan to do when you graduate from business school?
The future is wide open, but I do hope to find a job in London or a location outside of France. More specifically, I am looking for an executive position. Perhaps it may be with a software company, there are many in London. It will likely be something that can build on my experience in IT leveraging my newly acquired business skills in a global context.


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