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4 Ways An MSc Can Help You Become A Sustainable Leader

From working with tribes in the Brazilian Amazon to harnessing the power of AI, studying an MSc at business school can teach you how to become a forward-thinking sustainable leader


Wed Sep 27 2023

When Juliana Goldstein started working for the largest beer brewing company in the world, she had no idea Corona was about to impact her life in more ways than one.   

An industrial engineering graduate from one of Brazil’s top universities, Juliana was initially content to go into the field of supply chain management. There, she oversaw orders, drew up strategies, and liaised with clients. 

However, she had a lingering feeling that she should be doing something more.

“I wanted to change my path from supply chain. I’m very passionate about sustainability,” she says. “And my dream was to live in France.”

Then the pandemic hit. Suddenly in a turbulent economic climate, Juliana saw an opportunity to switch her focus through further study.    

When searching for business programs to enhance her career, she came across the two-year MSc in Global Innovation & Entrepreneurship at emlyon business school. Not only situated in the picturesque French city of Lyon, the course also boasted an international focus and, crucially, an emphasis on sustainability. 

Here are four ways that the MSc helped Juliana become a sustainable leader:

1. A sustainability-forward curriculum

Given Juliana’s choice to pursue her studies in a new continent, she was not going to be content with cookie-cutter courses that wouldn’t have the desired impact on her career. 

“It was a very hard decision for me to say goodbye,” she says. “I was like, if I'm going to change my [career] path, I need to understand what I really want.”

At emlyon, the MSc curriculum focuses on sustainability and innovative leadership, meaning the course goes beyond the basics to teach students how use environmentally friendly business practices in creative ways. 

In their first year, students attend a variety of globally oriented modules designed to develop their critical thinking skills. That includes classes in Cross-cultural Management, Sustainability Strategy, and International Negotiation.

In addition, students are also shown how to use CSR, which is the Corporate Social Responsibility framework. An essential practice amongst top corporations, CSR is a method by which companies weigh up business decisions against their environmental and social impact; a must for any sustainable leader. 

2. High caliber of professors

The best way to learn is through talented and enthusiastic teachers–which Juliana found in abundance throughout her time studying her MSc. 

Part of what initially made Juliana fall in love with emlyon’s MSc was the helpfulness of the program coordinator, who took the time to video call her while she was still considering her application to answer questions.

As a school that hosts students from over 125 nationalities, emlyon has plenty of staff who are available to reach out to international students to help them find their feet. 

Not only did Juliana find the staff helpful, they also provided her with stimulating lessons that encouraged her to develop new skills. 

One module that she found particularly beneficial in improving her communication abilities was a project she completed in her first year where teams of students used software to manage an inventory company.

“I learned how to present a pitch, how to present a company, how to defend my ideas,” Juliana says. 

3. International opportunities 

One of Juliana’s passions has always been travelling. Which was just one of the reasons why the program at emlyon was so appealing. 

On top of studying in Lyon in their first year, students also spend two terms studying between the university’s partner campuses: Oulu Business School, Finland, and the Franco-Vietnamian Center for Management in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, Vietnam.

Juliana was assigned to Morocco and China, however due to the challenges of COVID-19 she was unable to attend. Emlyon still made an effort to provide virtual courses with these universities and to provide students with a fulfilling experience, including local insights and virtual guided tours.

What excited Juliana even more than spending time in these places, though, was the opportunity to complete her second-year work experience wherever she wanted. 

“I found an amazing opportunity to do my thesis in Amazonia in Brazil,” she says. “It was a group of women, who were making cosmetics with things from nature.”

An eight-hour boat ride from the nearest large city of Manaus, Juliana spent three months living and working in the rainforest, forgoing most modern comforts such as electricity or Internet.

There, it was necessary for her to put her newfound sustainability skills into practice, as she helped the group devise a marketing plan to export their small industry throughout Brazil. 

4. Job opportunities 

After helping to build up the Amazonian cosmetics brand, Juliana was invited by the Ecological Research Institute of Brazil to teach the same sustainable marketing techniques to other communities along the Amazon River. 

For 20 days, she traversed the basin by boat, exchanging her ideas with different villages, many of whom spoke their own local, indigenous language rather than Brazil's national language of Portuguese. 

By using the cross-cultural skills that she picked up at emlyon, Juliana says she came to understand the tribes’ fundamental business goals–which differ greatly from those in the West. 

“They don't have ambitions of having a huge amount of money,” Juliana explains. “They just want their kids to have a profession so they can stay [in the Amazon].” 

Juliana’s story is proof that by combining pro-environmental practices, international opportunities, and technological developments, an MSc can teach you how to become a successful sustainable leader.  

Now a management consultant for a Brazil-based consulting firm, she uses a combination of her experiences working with local tribes and the AI skills that she learned on her MSc to tailor sustainable business strategies for her clients.

“I wanted a change and this was the best match,” she says. 

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