Saint Cyr: Military training for tomorrow’s leaders

By Antonio Alonso, Global MBA 2015-2016, Peru

My first week at ESSEC was fun and intense. I had just completed the CRASE course and had started to get to know only a fraction of the whole class. I was greatly pleased with CRASE as I got to know my fellow classmates, their cultures, and their way of thinking in a challenging situation, which was to make a restaurant business profitable. This would set the tone for our next experience: 3 days in Saint Cyr Military Academy, one of the most important military academies in France, created by order of Napoleon Bonaparte! I can honestly say that as an MBA student I never thought I would experience living as a cadet for three days and get to know my peers in these conditions all the while learning to become a stronger leader!

We arrived Tuesday night, quickly met our group mentors, were briefed on the program we would participate in, and got installed in our living quarters. The class was split into three teams and our training would start at 7 a.m. sharp the next day. We functioned together as a team since we woke up. We had breakfast before the sun came out, (I wasn’t too thrilled about this last part) soon after we received a lesson in the importance of team leadership, and were given our first task. 

I hate to say it but the first time we attempted to complete our task we failed as a team. But it is in our failures where we learn the most. It was at that moment that we learned not only the importance of having a leader and listening to that leader in order to work as a unit, but also the importance of designing a complete plan to solve a challenge and execute it.

During the next tasks in which we shed, sweat, blood and tears (only a little of the last two) we perfected the abilities taught to us on our first challenge, as well as others such as listening to each other, finding our individual advantages to contribute to the team, and encouraging each other to complete the task. And just as important as learning these abilities are, we got to know each other more, joked around with one another and formed a friendship that I don’t believe we could have obtained in the classroom.

In the end, Saint Cyr accomplished three goals: the first, help us overcome our fears and accomplish tasks we ourselves thought incapable of doing; second, teach us to become strong leaders and make a team work as a single unit, able to overcome any obstacle thrown our way; and last but not least, a connection with our classmates that will only strengthen as we progress in our Global MBA program. I am immensely happy at having had this opportunity and I’m sure my classmates as well!

Introduction Week and CRASE

By Gratianne Quade, Global MBA 2015-2016, United States of America

I am just completing my first week of classes of the ESSEC Global MBA program, class of 2016. Though I thought that I would be in a class of only 32 other students, I was pleased to find that there is overlap with the Luxury and Hospitality MBAs, which combined add around 100 additional students to our immediate network. Meeting them has already been eye-opening and they come from all countries and backgrounds. 

Our first day included a catered meet-and-greet with wine, where the three MBA programs mingled. Just a sample of the people I’ve met include a Japanese man who used to work in renewable energy throughout Asia pacific, a French woman who worked at L'OrĂ©al in product development, and an Indian man who worked in Bollywood.  So far, every person I’ve met has been very interesting and I’m excited to get to know them better.

Our orientation was a full day of getting to know the campus, students and faculty. A few professors  gave speeches. Some revealed a colorful sense of humor and all set the pace for the program, which will be short and incredibly intense. As Professor Peter O’Connor said, we’ll work hard, fail sometimes, succeed others, and undoubtedly form close friendships with our classmates.

After one day of orientation, we were thrown into our first class, aptly named CRASE. You may be familiar with it, the Cornell Restaurant Administration Simulation Exercise (CRASE). It’s a week-long simulation designed to let students fall head first into the dining marketplace to see if they can run a successful restaurant, or at least not make one go bankrupt.

As someone who came from the non-profit sector, I thought that I would not have much to contribute especially since many students have a background in hospitality. But we quickly learned, no one is prepared and that’s the point! We are learning by failing, you could say. The premise is simple, there are 8 restaurants in a town, taken over by 8 student groups. We must reinvent the business strategy in order to succeed under realistic market conditions. For example, some will fight to capture the low-cost fast food segments while others will vie for the high-end market and of course everything in-between. It’s a challenge to say the least! Within our small groups, leaders, calculation wizzes, and marketing experts have emerged. My team asked me to present our findings to the class, so now I have my first presentation under my belt. It’s certainly the most fun way to learn how an income statement functions and to understand all the factors that make a restaurant succeed or fail! 

The energy and enthusiasm level is high and so is the anticipation for the next week, when we’ll head to Saint-Cry, a French military school, where we will complete obstacle courses, sleep in barracks, and awake our inner leaders. I’ll keep you posted as class of 2015 completes the MBA journey!

Words of wisdom, Karl Cox's commencement speech

The Global MBA students had the honor of hosting Karl Cox, the Vice President for Global Public Affairs at Oracle at the 2015 graduation. With great kindness, Mr Cox was happy to share his commencement speech which filled the graduates with great inspiration and motivation for their paths ahead.

Each and everyone of you is an accomplished individual.You leave today with your Global MBA degree in hand.Your Global MBA marks your achievement and we celebrate that achievement here today. 
As important as this degree is, however, what really counts today is not so much the degree but the road that brought you here and the journey which lies ahead. 
You are exceptional people. The fact that most of you chose to leave your country, abandon the familiar and comfortable for risk and adventure, this makes you special. 

“It is hardly possible to overrate the value...Of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar...Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress”

John Stuart Mill, nearly 200 years ago 

We need more people like you. That is easy for me to say as I have chosen a road similar to yours. Born in the United States but leaving Washington at the age of 24 for a one year masters program in Bruges, Belgium, over 30 years later I am still here.

What drove me to choose this path? Curiosity, a desire to confront a different world and an immigrant background. My family left Germany in the 1920's after the horrors of the first world war and before the atrocities of the second war.
Thirty years later, I am still here and what have I learned along the way? I have learned to listen. In a foreign land you don’t know the rules and the codes. No one stops to teach you. You need to be alert, listen and integrate what you observe. 
Having listened, you are ready to learn. You will begin to understand that, which at first seems strange. The exotic eventually becomes familiar. Your skills , abilities and capacity to adapt grow. Having learnt, you are ready to teach. And teach you must. Learning is inherently selfish. As members of a community we want to share; we want to have impact and make a difference. Share what you have learnt – teach. 
Engage. You will have impact and make a difference when you engage. Turn teaching into doing. Grow from being a professor to becoming an agent for change. Find a cause. Find something that excites you or something that revolts you. Commit yourself to addressing it. Fight for the refugees fleeing syria, combat climate change, put an end to female excision, stamp out youth unemployment. Become revolted, engage. Do something! 
Engagement will make you passionate. Ensure that you carry passion into what you do. Feel it in your gut. Feel it in your heart. Engage in something which puts a smile on your face and tears in your eyes. Envelope yourself in passion!
Turn that passion into love. Passion will burn out if you don’t nurture it and allow it to take root. Passion is the flower: beautiful but ephemeral. Love endures. Love takes root. Love is eternal. Love what you do and those around you. 
And lastly, no matter what happens - hope. Never give up. Have confidence that things will get better. You can make a difference. Have confidence in yourself.
The world can be a nasty place. Today we witness the disintegration of nations in the middle east. Religious strife strikes societies around the world. Terrorism eats at the heart of communities across the globe. Youth unemployment sees skills and human will evaporating on the vine. Natural disasters strike the most fragile countries on the globe and thousands of refugees lose their lives on the seas of the Mediterranean.

But hope...Europe’s disagreements and dissension were addressed on the battlefield just two short generations ago. Strife drove my grandparents from this continent. Now I am back. 
But today, dissension and disagreements in Europe are addressed through interminable discussions and compromises crafted around a table. We no longer fight it out on the battlefield. Things do get better. 
Hope...There are two ways to look at the world. Glass half full and glass half empty.

So, keep the hope. Listen, learn, teach, engage, have passion, love and hope.
You have taken a road not many have chosen – leaving your homes, confronting new cultures, taking risks. Now engage, have impact and use the fact that you are different to make a difference. 

I will close with a quote from the 20th century american poet Robert Frost, 'The Road Not Taken.'

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

The Global MBA Class of 2015

Saket Pandit, Global MBA 2014-2015, India

'They say all good things come to an end, and at last, we are at the end of our wonderful MBA experience. Time indeed flies and I can't believe that its been one year since we started off. It feels like we only started a few weeks ago. 

This one year has been productive, engaging, challenging, tough, enriching, exacting and above all, meaningful. 

Our program started with a leadership boot camp at the famed St Cyr Military Academy of the French Armed Forces. It was everything we expected, times two. We went as 21 individuals and come back as a group.

Term 1 laid a solid foundation for the program. We learned all the fundamentals of business, from Strategy to Statistics to Management Accounting. The sheer challenge of Statistical Analysis was balanced by the fun of Managerial Communication. Yes, MBA subjects can be fun too!

Most importantly, we started working in teams, which is crucial to our success as Managers in an increasingly global business world. All teams were diverse and it was the beginning of an excellent peer learning process. 

Term 2 started in Cergy and we had a packed schedule. This time around, Corporate Finance was not balanced by Operations Management :) January was probably the toughest month of the program, since we packed in 3 challenging subjects in just one month, and that also means 3 examinations. 

Come February and it was time for one of the most exciting parts of the Global MBA - Singapore! For many of my classmates, it was their first time in Asia. We were especially thrilled to be amongst the very first students to study on ESSEC's brand new campus. Singapore was everything we imagined, and more. It truly combines the best of the West and the East. Its efficiency is unparalleled and its growth story unbelievable. Undoubtedly many of us would love to work in Singapore.

Singapore was challenging and engaging in its own way. We studied some really key subjects there, which further strengthened our managerial knowledge base. All along Term 2 we also had the company of our wonderful friends from Mannheim Business School. 

Term 3 was all about designing your learning experience yourself, through a vast choice of interesting electives. We still had one mandatory subject, and that brought us all together once weekly. Term 3 is the time when most students actively work on securing their next career opportunity.

Throughout the year we also visited a wide range of companies. This was truly fantastic, as industry interaction is critical in a management program. We also had several guest speakers, who shared a wealth of information and experiences with us. I'm definitely grateful to have interacted with such smart and talented people. I'm sure my classmates would agree.

As the MBA comes to an end, I feel that it has truly been a 'Global' MBA in every way. We have 11 nationalities in the program, we visited 3 different countries as part of our academics and we also have a very diverse faculty that taught us. I never thought I would interact with such a varied set of people in one single place. I'm really grateful to everyone who has made this important year such a success. Our professors, career services, academic and administrative staff, guest speakers, and of course, my wonderful classmates. 

We now enter the next phase of our professional lives, very well equipped and we have made friends for life.