Why Technical Skills And An MBA Make Management Consultants

HEC Paris MBA Gavin Henderson has gone from start-up companies in Scotland to a management consultancy role. For him, business school was essential to transition from science to strategy.

Gavin Henderson wanted to pursue an MBA to help shift his career path towards management consulting. HEC Paris was the business school of his choice. It strikes the right balance between flexibility, duration and depth of studies. International exposure, as well as the school’s stellar reputation, reassured him that he made the right choice.

Attending the HEC MBA affected Gavin’s future career in more ways than one. Apart from the knowledge and the degree, Gavin managed to grow his professional contacts and benefit from HEC’s leading alumni network.

Testament to his success after the MBA is the fact that he managed to recuperate his tuition investment after only two years.

In this interview Gavin offers prospective MBA students some advice, discusses the impact that his MBA had on his personal as well as professional development, and explains how he transitioned from a science background.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

After 10 years in project management and quality management roles at start-up software companies in the UK, I was looking to extend my business acumen with a professional qualification – to increase my international exposure and boost my career, with the aim of working for an international consultancy to implement the strategic projects of Fortune 500 clients.

Why did you choose a business school in France – and what was it that separated HEC Paris from the other business schools?

The HEC Paris MBA provided the perfect mix of duration, flexibility and international exposure, from a highly ranked business school.

I desired a course that was shorter than the traditional two year programs in the US while being more in-depth than a one year program.

HEC Paris’ 16-month full-time MBA provided the opportunity to compound the learning from the core studies through internships and an exchange program, while also achieving my objective to increase my international exposure. I also had the opportunity to work and study on three different continents.

What are the main takeaways you got from the school's program?

Summing up, my key takeaways are: Remaining open to opportunities; soft skills are paramount in management roles; the value of networking.

The HEC Paris MBA program is heavily focused around team work, leadership and communication skills; these soft skills represent the table stakes for management roles, and provide the necessary competences for managing the increasingly complex projects that underpin today’s business strategies.

I continually reach out to alumni and professional contacts, arranging informational interviews with local and international professionals.

Would you recommend HEC Paris to prospective MBA students, and why?

Yes, I would recommend the HEC Paris MBA.

There are many facets which make the HEC Paris MBA attractive, including: The high level of international diversity, with more that 85% international students; being a top-five university world-wide for the number of alumni holding CEO positions in Fortune Global 500 Companies; the faculty of internationally recognised professors; and a diverse curriculum that can be tailored to students’ needs.

Over the past few years you have worked for Infosys, for the Royal Bank of Scotland, for Philips and now you work for Altran AG. Are you interested in experiencing diverse and contrasting working environments or was it coincidental?

I was interested in diversifying my project management experience by working in contrasting environments with multicultural teams to make me a better leader. This approach… remains true today in my current role.

During my exchange I also worked on a strategic project for Invenergy (the largest independent wind power generation company in North America) as part of the inaugural clean technology lab at the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business.

Do you think that having an MBA increased your overall job opportunities?

Yes, definitely. Prior to the MBA I worked for start-ups in Edinburgh. These entrepreneurial environments instilled a hands-on approach and a 'can do' attitude which remains with me today. However, I found it difficult to find acceptance in the larger corporations that I approached.

Speaking to clients and colleagues, I notice that they recognise HEC Paris; the impact that the school's reputation has on their attitude is evident.

What advice would you give to a science graduate who is considering an MBA?

In this day and age technology is a key driver to many business strategies and companies see the value of people who have both the technical understanding and a business perspective.

An MBA is the ideal further education course to supplement your technical knowledge with the business acumen that will make you a real asset in a corporate environment.

Additionally, if you are not already receiving the support of a mentor I would encourage you to identify a role model, from your current professional or your desired direction, and start preparing to take you career forwards.

Do you have any hobbies that get you away from business?

On a weekly basis I play badminton and run through the local neighbourhood. I also make the most of seasonal activities, such as skiing and hill-walking, in the surrounding regions of Switzerland, France and Italy.

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