After completing her BBA in Paris and Master’s in Marketing in London, Karolina Gniewowska still had a thirst for knowledge. A part of her always knew the time would come for her to pursue an MBA, so after more than five years’ experience in fields such as e-publishing, banking, and luxury goods, she jumped on the MBA open day tour—HEC Paris prevailed.
Today, as she approaches her graduation from the HEC Paris MBA, having received both a spot on the Class of 2018’s Dean’s List and the prestigious Leadership Award, she is an example of what happens when you embark on the MBA journey with an open mind and the ability to connect the dots.
Over a year ago, Karolina attended the annual HEC Alumni Forum to tackle on-campus interviews with a few well-known consulting companies interested in her blend of digital and luxury experience. Serendipitously, she stepped into an auditorium where a round table was taking place on the digitalization of different industries. Among the guests was Pierre Moustial, former finance professor at HEC Paris and current CEO of URGO Group, one of France’s biggest healthcare companies.
“Talking about how digitalization can positively impact the healthcare industry, he totally eclipsed all the other speakers,” Karolina recalls. She felt inspired and remembers spending the following week researching and reading about the company.
While waiting at a private clinic in Paris barely a few days later, she witnessed first-hand what the URGO Group’s CEO was describing at the HEC Paris event. “It was an impulse: I just took out my smartphone and sent him a long email detailing my experience as a patient, and how it all linked to his speech the week before.” Lo and behold, Karolina is now taking part in the URGO Group’s Leadership Program consisting of three rotations around the globe, lasting 2-to-3 years each.
For her first rotation Karolina chose to go back to her native Poland. Everything was brand new to her—she used the HEC Paris MBA to complete the fabled MBA triple jump, changing country, sector, and role.
She serves as business effectiveness and development manager and sits on the local board. She is not just adapting to a new working environment either—Poland itself, she explains, has changed immensely since she departed 15 years ago.
She credits her MBA studies at HEC Paris for equipping her with one of the most—if not the most—valuable skills in today’s business world: change management.
Karolina expounds that the HEC Paris MBA offers something few other business schools can. A relatively small class size, which favors cross-fertilization of ideas and skillsets, and passionate professors. “I will never forget Dr Florian Hoos who was able to make me fall in love with accounting,” she says. “Or professor Olivier Sibony, former partner and director in the Paris, New York and Brussels offices of McKinsey & Company.”
Furthermore, in response to one of the biggest challenges for companies today—digital disruption—HEC Paris partnered with French businessman Xavier Niel’s famous Ecole42 to create a certification in digital transformation. As part of the school’s digital transformation certificate, Karolina was exposed to companies like Air France Industries and the PSA Group, working alongside their teams on the digitalization of their processes and products. The certificate is one of the highlights of her MBA experience. “It really gets you out the classroom,” she says.
She also worked with HEC Paris alum Nicolas Riou—the man behind market research and strategic planning company, BrainValue. “When we met, Nicolas was finishing his latest book, called Digital Consumer, all while building an app-based joint-venture, so we figured out a six-month consulting project that could benefit both sides,” Karolina says.
The six-month placement had Karolina running online communities to gain a snapshot of customer behavior in four sectors—healthcare being one of them. “That’s when I first got a glimpse of how digital and healthcare intervene,” she concludes. “Today, I see that everything links in the end—you see the puzzle come together.”