The Right Timing for an EMBA: A Mid-career Executive Makes a Change


  French-native, Paris-based telecommunications executive Marie Hernigou is an engineer by training, as well as a well-traveled mother of thr...


French-native, Paris-based telecommunications executive Marie Hernigou is an engineer by training, as well as a well-traveled mother of three. With over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, Marie is currently a B2B ICT Director at Bouygues Telecom, where she’s been working for over 13 years. This new role represents a shift from technical direction and she is now in charge of the delivery of technical services for B2B clients. Thanks to her time in the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA, Marie was fully prepared for this new role, with a deep and nuanced understanding of business operations and the work of her peers in marketing, sales and strategy. While she’d thought about getting an MBA degree much earlier on in her career, it wasn’t until “the planets were aligned in 2019” in her personal and professional lives that she was able to pursue her dreams…and at that point, an Executive MBA was the right fit. But let’s hear the story in Marie’s own words.


With 20 years of professional experience, why did you decide on an EMBA program?

I’d always always been tempted by an MBA program and considered one when I was in my late twenties. But at that time, as a young parent and working professional, it just didn’t fit. Finally, the planets were aligned in 2019 in my professional and personal lives to be able to pursue the idea. However, by that point, I felt I was too senior for an MBA program. I also wanted to be able to continue working at the same time.

And why did you choose the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA?

I chose the program based on a recommendation from a colleague who’d recently completed it and also for its social and entrepreneurial spirit. As someone who loves traveling and working in diverse environments, I was also excited by the opportunity to study in English and practice my language skills. I was excited to develop my business skills and to really immerse myself in an international context.

What three words best summarize your experience overall?

Roller coaster, booster and inspiration!

What were some of your best moments or experiences in the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA program?

My best-of list includes: my innovation case study in Mannheim and completing the St. Cyr military leadership experience. There’s also my MCT (multi-competency team). We had so many amazing moments together, from dinners to team building to many hours on assignments. We all have such diverse backgrounds but quickly identified one another’s skills to be able to work together in a productive and complementary way throughout the 18 months of the program. We still have a monthly catch-up call.

The Strategic project was also a great memory with various pivots over the course of several months. We worked with a start-up which implemented our product and released the product we defined. I’m also delighted that I am now a mentee in EWA Boost, the ESSEC Women’s Alumni mentorship program that gives us the opportunity to benefit from experience from executive alumni.

What is the biggest challenge you overcame in the program?

My biggest challenge was finance. I feel like I really started from scratch in the subject, even though my husband, also an engineer, reminded me that we had finance courses in our initial studies!

Before our first finance module, we had an assignment and I felt myself staring at a blank page for several nights in a row. I managed to get help and power through. Fast-forward to the advanced corporate finance module and I got 18/20! So I really made up for lost time.

What was the most valuable aspect of studying in the EMBA program?

I would say it’s having the opportunity to share the experience with people from very various backgrounds but the common will to learn, grow and go beyond boundaries.

You recently started a new position in the same company, tell us more about it

I moved to the B2B direction of my company, closer to our business stakes. I am in charge of a department studying and delivering telecommunication solutions, tailored for large B2B accounts.

How did the EMBA program assist you in achieving your short and long-term goals?

In the short term, the program helped me to better understand the workings of the company and our teams. For the long term, well, ask me again in a few years!

The individual coaching sessions were interesting and helpful as well, giving me perspective and career-oriented goals.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

I would advise applicants not to define specific goals for the program but to go for new adventures and to open new doors.

And once you start the program, organization is key. That, and a supportive partner can really make a difference. I’m grateful to my husband for taking care of our three children during the weeks when I was studying.

What books, authors or thought leaders would you recommend to others?

I recommend Tout ce que vous savez sur le management est faux (Everything you know about management is wrong) by Jérôme Barthélemy, one of my professors.

And I also recommend Imperial Woman by Pearl Buck, which I read during the “Doing Business in China” module. Another hidden benefit of the program: falling love with (and making time for) reading again!