An MBA in France: a powerful choice for students from emerging markets

By Ashok Som, Associate Dean of the Global MBA

At ESSEC’s Global MBA, our group of students this year represents 14 different nationalities. That means that in any given class, perspectives and practices are being shared between Asian, American, European, Latin, and Middle-Eastern students. The cultural competency gained through these interactions is an invaluable addition to the already rich curriculum of an MBA program. The Global MBA rises to this challenge of offering a program geared towards high-potentials who are eager to bridge the gap between developed nations and emerging markets. One of last year’s graduates, an Indian student with an engineering background was able to use his MBA as a platform for changing both sector and location. Taking advantage of a year in France to gain some proficiency in French and maximizing his chances for networking, he landed a consulting job in Belgium. This functional and geographical change was facilitated by his choice to pursue his MBA in Europe.

The world is changing, and becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Having the cultural agility to move between different places, implement best practices from the world over, and evaluate the unique risks and opportunities presented by a volatile and diverse environment are essential skills for today’s managers. Among the changes brought on by globalization is the huge opportunity for business students to attend schools that will widen their horizons, open a world of career options, and give them the foundations they need to operate successfully in any corner of the globe. A post-experience MBA in particular provides a stepping stone for bridging the distance between the Western world and emerging markets.

The choice to pursue an MBA abroad is an important decision, one based on a variety of factors including long-term career goals, location and financial constraints, but for participants coming from emerging markets, this decision can have a lasting positive career impact. During an MBA program, students are exposed to international business and cultural practices that will equip and enable them to contribute to the growth of their home economies through the multi-nationals operating in their home economies and to bridge and narrow the gap between the developed nations and the emerging markets

Today, business practices are in a constant state of evolution and flux. Globalization means redefining what we do, how we do it, and on what playing field it takes place. Emerging markets especially the Big Emerging Markets (BEM) such as Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and Kenya have witnessed growth at a rapid pace. This state of growth and change provides a whole new range of opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors, and business practitioners, assuming they have the knowledge and the skill-set to take advantage of these opportunities. The broad general knowledge of an MBA, combined with the global focus of a program such as ours here at ESSEC, makes participants more proficient to maneuver these changes as the opportunities for success that they are, instead of confronting them as indecipherable challenges. The more one knows about international business practices and diverse cultures, the easier it will be to grow one’s own business and career in an interconnected and globalized marketplace. Global MBA students study in France and Singapore, and visit emerging markets during their 12 month program: last year Russia, this year South Africa, plus the international immersion project which takes them into the field on consulting projects around the globe.

In addition to the obvious benefits of the knowledge and network gained during an MBA, there is also often a financial incentive involved for participants from emerging countries looking to go to well-known Western schools. Schools place a considerable premium on diversity, seeking to build connections among students from different parts of the world. This often incites them to offer scholarships to students from the BEM countries, for example, who will add a unique and valuable perspective to the whole class. It also means that the participants will understand and be sensitized to working in multi-cultural teams.

In terms of post-MBA career placement, the rise in economic growth in emerging countries, such as BEMs, means a rise in job opportunities, as well, particularly for professionals holding an MBA. Growth is occurring across sectors such as service, retail, manufacturing, and luxury businesses. And as multinationals search for growth and profitability they are attracted to these emerging countries. These companies require an efficient and competent workforce, adept and fluent in common business practices but also conscious of and conversant in local practices, language, and culture. This means that employers are often eager to hire locally, but from among a pool of local candidates who possess the skills obtained through a world-class MBA program. MBA holders with diverse backgrounds mean more competitiveness on the global playing field for companies with a multinational presence. These businesses are growing in complexity and scope, meaning they need skilled and competent leaders more than ever before.

In short, in addition to equipping a student with best practices from traditional western education and their hands-on experiential learning in emerging markets, a student who pursues their MBA outside of the emerging market that they call home adds a powerful dimension to their personal network. This circle of contacts abroad, be it cohort members, alumni, individuals met through career activities or during a job search, is an invaluable tool for launching an international career.

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