Raja El Asmar is a Lebanese banker hoping to expand his career into continental Europe.
He is studying for an MBA at EMLYON Business School, a top institution based in France, where he is benefiting from a diverse cohort and an international experience that he hopes will take his career to the next level.
A former credit analyst at BLOM banking group, Lebanon’s biggest bank last year by profits, he spent two years in that post after a three-year stint as an operations specialist at BLOM’s investment bank. Before that, he worked an internship at Bank Audi sal, another top Lebanese lender. He joined EMLYON this year.
Raja is currently completing an MBA project, acting as a business consultant for euronews, a media group with most watched news channel in Europe, helping the company to capitalise on its brand image and expand its global reach.
Why did you decide to begin an MBA degree?
Having gained around five years of banking experience in Beirut, Lebanon, I was ready to commit myself to a completely new international experience. I wanted to take my career to the next level by interacting with colleagues from different backgrounds, and by focusing on courses that would enhance my managerial skills.
What made your business school stand out from the rest?
EMLYON Business School offers a very unique MBA program. The school’s focus on entrepreneurship – while offering the possibility to specialize in a wide range of fields like finance, strategy and marketing, to list a few – was appealing.
In addition, I was [attracted] to the fact that the program assigns students to work on a year-long consulting project with multinational firms.
Also, the relatively small class size does not turn you into just another number – which is the case at [some] other business schools. The EMLYON MBA professors and directors follow-up with students.
How would you describe the culture at your business school?
With around 35 students with about 22 different nationalities, the cultural diversity of the cohort is more than anyone can ask for. All continents are represented, without exception. Moreover, the French culture certainly has a huge influence on the school, which is a huge plus for anyone who would like to know more about this historically-rich country.
Which aspect of the MBA has been the most valuable?
The most valuable part of the MBA has been the interaction with classmates from different nationalities. I got the chance to see how cultures from all around the world differ from one another. Everyone in class has their own way of thinking – which is both challenging and interesting at the same time.
The professors also come from diverse regions, and each one of them offers a unique way of delivering ideas.
What advice would you give to people who are about to apply to business school?
They should prepare themselves for a once in a lifetime experience and make the best of it. They will be surprised by the fact that time flies really fast during the MBA program.
What was your biggest challenge at BLOM BANK?
My biggest challenge was to keep myself motivated and execute my tasks efficiently – although I faced an immense amount of pressure at times. [But] I always challenged myself by going forward until I achieved my objectives.
What are your future career plans?
With the help of the MBA degree, I aim to work in a multinational financial institution in Switzerland or France. Working in Europe has been one of my main career objectives – it will certainly take my career to the next level, where I will be gaining valuable international experience, adding to what I have already achieved in my home country.