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One Transformative Experience, Two Continents: Three MBA Graduates Share Their Journey

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With an opportunity to study in France and Singapore, an innovative curriculum, an intimately-sized cohort, and liberal facetime with the academic faculty, the ESSEC Global MBA program has been quietly hailed as a transformative experience. But what does transformation mean? Here’s a first-hand account.

Transformation, in its purest form, is disruptive. MBA programs — a traditional bastion of business schools created to provide cutting edge knowledge — are not spared from disruption either. It’s easy to posit the value of transformation as nothing more than a trending buzzword. But transformation — the principles, capability, and utility of it — is deeply embedded in ESSEC’s academic philosophy for the past 100 years since its founding in France.

In the Asia-Pacific campus located in Singapore, the Strategy & Digital Leadership track of the ESSEC Global MBA program truly transforms a participant’s global ambition and worldview. The culture of cohesion, collaboration, and connectedness within the cohort and faculty has been something of a best-kept secret — an underappreciated human-centric value in a world where business schools are becoming more competitive.

Mo Dirani, a Singapore-based Lebanese, Mia Mendoza from the Philippines, and Jeff Fraser, a Michigan-native now working in Singapore, are all recent graduates of ESSEC’s Global MBA Strategy & Digital Leadership program. Transformation isn’t a buzzword for them. Transformation played a crucial role in their professional and personal development.

The disruptive nature of transformation is peppered throughout their journey. Their account of how the MBA program has shaped them is one of inspiration and aspiration. See what an ESSEC experience looks like through the lens of these three graduates of the Strategy & Digital Leadership program.

 

 

MO DIRANI

Lebanese · Graduated in 2018 from ESSEC Asia-Pacific
Associate Director of Transaction Banking at Standard Chartered Bank Singapore

Mo’s journey takes us from ESSEC’s Global MBA Strategy & Digital Leadership program to Singapore’s financial and tech hub and a life-changing experience in the Sumatran jungle.

How did the Global MBA program prepare you for success in your current role?

Right after graduating from ESSEC, the first position that I took was in the treasury liquidity, modeling and platform, at Standard Chartered in Singapore. The experience was essentially a hybrid of my past work in market and liquidity risk management and the digital acumen that I gained from the MBA program.

About a year and a half later, I moved to another position, this time in transaction banking. It’s a lot more business-oriented with its own digital challenges. And that is where I'm using the most significant learnings acquired from the MBA program — specifically in product management, a skill set critical to transaction banking.

Digitalization and product management were some of the domains of learnings I got out of the MBA program. These are crucial in banking as these are among the main catalysts to propel banking into a new era. My time at ESSEC has enabled me to start shifting my views of banking from the old ways and start thinking ahead in a more agile and streamlined approach.

As you mentioned, you enrolled in the Strategy & Digital Leadership track. Why did you choose ESSEC Asia-Pacific in Singapore?

Before joining the program, I spent six years working in banking, specifically in market and liquidity risk management. The reason why I decided to jump on the MBA journey was to diversify my scope since it was too one-dimensional.

I decided to focus on digital business because I noticed that — although I aimed to deepen my finance experience both professionally and academically as much as possible— there was a lack of digital business acumen that I needed to invest myself in. Complementing both worlds, an MBA and a digital path, was a great benefit for me.

If I had not taken on this experience of diversification, there’s a type of glass ceiling that I would have hit, and I would not have been able to maintain a competitive edge in the market.

What do you think ESSEC and the program excel at?

In the program, you have a choice to study in France and Singapore. That, to me, is like killing two birds with one stone. Firstly, I get to experience Europe at the Cergy campus in France. Secondly, and more importantly, I get to experience learning and working in a major tech and finance hub in Singapore. It just makes complete sense to me.

The other thing is the quality of the cohort and faculty in the program. To me, it’s one of the values from ESSEC that not many people know about and is truly underappreciated. The cohort is not only internationally diverse but also professionally.

I got the chance to learn from them about the good, the bad, and the ugly of so many different industries. That was a real eye-opener and a whole new level of knowledge that was previously completely unknown to me. Also, since it’s an intimate-sized cohort, we get so much access to the professors that we all ended up being excellent friends till today.

Another experience that I hold dear to my heart was our experiences outside the campus. In Sumatra, we had a fantastic boot camp in the middle of a jungle to develop a sustainable revenue-making product for the villagers.

Compared to putting up stickers on a board like what happens in most product boot camps, this was problem-solving with a whole lot of reality around us.

The program excels in opening our minds to different experiences to solve real-world problems.

 

MIA MENDOZA
Filipino · Graduated in 2020 from ESSEC Asia-Pacific
Seller Communications & Education Management Lead at Shopee

Mia was searching for a global, modern, and collaborative MBA program focusing on the digital landscape. She found one that ticked all the right boxes: ESSEC’s Global MBA Strategy & Digital Leadership.

 

How did the Global MBA program prepare you for success in your current role?

My role at Shopee directly impacts the sellers’ awareness and understanding of the different products and programs that affect their business. The goal is to help them optimize and grow their business through educational initiatives. To have a holistic view of how each initiative impacts our sellers, strong business acumen is essential.

That said, one of the key learnings that I got out of my experience at ESSEC was just the sheer exposure to diversity. It was a big deal for me as it made me more sensitive to the different ways that people communicate. It broadened the different perspectives that I can see through, and that helped me learn how to transform content in other ways that will be easier for diverse audiences to understand.

With a diverse cohort of different nationalities and experiences, my ESSEC experience also taught me how to excel together. We went into projects with the premise that “okay, this is how I work, but h

You enrolled in the Strategy & Digital Leadership track. Why did you choose ESSEC Asia-Pacific in Singapore?

I wanted to study outside of the Philippines and gain more global exposure. My work experience has mostly been with local companies, although I worked on projects with partners outside of the country. I felt like I needed to be completely submerged in a different environment, and ESSEC was a top choice.

One of the things I liked most about ESSEC in Singapore was the flexibility in terms of geography. The business school is close to home, yet it allowed me to study in Singapore and Europe. I chose to stay in Singapore because the country is the digital innovation hub in Asia. I also preferred the electives offered from ESSEC Asia-Pacific as they were more digital-focused.

Other than that, I was also looking into business schools that weren’t traditional in their methods or drove an insanely competitive culture. I wanted a more collaborative environment and one that embraces diversity. I didn’t come from management consulting or any big companies; I didn’t fit a typical MBA profile. I wanted a school that embraced differences – not just in terms of culture but also background and work experiences. ESSEC Asia-Pacific ticked all those boxes.

What do you think ESSEC and the program excel at?

The program has shown me the importance of building your network and putting yourself out there professionally.

Aside from organizing professional talks and career fairs, ESSEC held workshops that aimed to equip us with the skills to seek out connections independently. We were encouraged to start conversations with guest speakers who came to the campus or professors who were experts in their field.

I feel like that's something I didn't do so much before — putting myself out there and actively networking. I wasn't big on networking, and I was really shy. Even though I'm pretty eloquent and I speak well, I didn't know how to start these conversations with strangers.

ESSEC pushed us to grow, and that led to me having more fruitful conversations. I understand networking and putting yourself out there can be awkward for many people, but I believe ESSEC did a lot in helping us be more comfortable with it.

 

 

JEFF FRASER
American · Graduated in 2019 from ESSEC Asia-Pacific
Digital Strategist at MOI Global

Jeff was clear with what he wanted in an MBA program: one that’s future-focused for future-proofing. He not only gained that in ESSEC’s Strategy & Digital Leadership program, but he was also exposed to the demands of an ever-changing global landscape

 

How did the Global MBA program prepare you for success in your current role?

As a Digital Strategist at a B2B marketing agency, it’s my job to dilute complex business problems and objectives into intuitive, human-centered insights.

One of the refreshing challenges of this type of work is the diversity of the clients we engage with. No two clients are the same. Navigating B2B marketing means that you have to understand the complexities and nuances of business models, internal politics and processes, and the people driving them.

It means that I can’t wear the same hat or look through the same lens for any two problems. It also means I never stop learning or adding new perspectives.

My time with ESSEC was essentially a year-long crash course in all of that. We were constantly exposed to new industries and different perspectives. Along the way, we built up an arsenal of frameworks, references, and approaches to problem-solving that would make me a more effective communicator and leader.

You enrolled in the Strategy & Digital Leadership track. Why did you choose ESSEC Asia-Pacific in Singapore?

Simply put, I looked at cost and international recognition. Cost should be relatively self-explanatory, but here’s a bit of context anyway: I’m an American, and because of this, I have painful memories that associate higher education with higher debt. (MBAs, in particular, brings to mind six-figure price tags.)

I had just spent nearly a decade working in developing countries throughout Asia, doing communications and marketing for nonprofits and start-up social enterprises. Suffice it to say, I was not rolling in disposable income.

Luckily, there are a lot of options out there offering value in many different ways. I just had to find one that worked for me.

As for international recognition, one of my objectives with the MBA was to pivot my career to work with companies that lead the way in tech. Not an easy feat even in the best of circumstances.

To do so, I needed to position myself as advantageously as possible. Being in Singapore seemed like a no-brainer; it’s arguably the world leader in digital transformation where the biggest tech brands set up headquarters. I also figured that having an MBA focused on digital leadership from an internationally accredited institution couldn’t hurt my chances either.

What do you think ESSEC and the program excel at?

In a nutshell, ESSEC’s program helped me see digital and disruption in a different light.

We used to think of disruption as moments — like that time a company developed a new phone or when some punk kids pirated music online. These were isolated incidents that caused industry-wide extinction events. But as time goes on, those instances are riding on the coattails of one another with shorter intervals in between, and many are happening in obscurity.

One of the things that I really valued about ESSEC was its focus on all things digital. We learned about the characteristics of disruption, the strategies companies employ to face it head-on, and what is happening today that could disrupt us tomorrow.

These weren't just one-off learnings either. Case studies came hand-in-hand with frameworks to help us understand that disruption is not uniquely digital. We approached these issues holistically — taking in the perspectives from accounting, logistics and supply chain, marketing, and more.

In these uncertain times, how would the program benefit prospective students?

MBA programs attract top talent from around the world, and that alone is a great reason for anyone to consider an MBA.

However, with the next normal settling in, people are becoming more comfortable working remotely. This means that international teams will bump shoulders on video calls, cultures will collide, and you may find yourself taking on responsibility or collaborating with people a world away.

So, it isn’t just ESSEC’s focus on digital business that students will benefit from, but also from the proximity to new cultures, people, and ways of problem-solving in a disrupted world.

There are many ways a person can future-proof his or her career, but knowing how to work with people from anywhere on any problem is a skill that never goes out of fashion.

 

 

Interested in the ESSEC Global MBA?

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