Interview with Access MBA

February 24, 2016

François Blanchet, Director of Marketing and Admissions answers 8 important questions that prospective candidates need to know to decide an MBA program. 
This interview was conducted by the Access MBA during the Spolight week focused on Studying in Europe.  

  • Can you briefly describe your MBA programme, its curriculum, teaching methods and faculty?

We are very proud of our Full Time MBA programme with a specialization in Innovation Management. It is a joint degree with the Solvay Brussels School and the result of our 50 years of experience in delivering MBA programs in Paris and Brussels. Our goal is to train and develop business leaders who can adjust to the complexities of the digital age and design innovative strategies in all type of industries. What’s more, this curriculum is based on a backbone of experiential learning, which allows participants to gain first-hand practice and acquire a ‘learn-apply-test-iterate’ approach to business and leadership.

We consistently challenge our professors, the program content and the pedagogy. We have worked hard to bring together top-level international visiting faculty from leading universities from around the world – the programme is taught fully in English. Each course combines the traditional MBA case-study pedagogy and group work with real-life experiences and learning outside of class. This continued model of excellence and student-centric approach has led to École des Ponts Business School being ranked #1 in the world by the International Graduate Forum and CEO Magazine.

To tell you a bit more about the curriculum, it is a 10-month programme with an optional 5-month internship for participants who want to implement a career change or demonstrate their ability to adapt to the European working environment. All the courses take place in Paris with optional study trips to the Silicon Valley, the hub of innovation, and Shanghai, a new center for global business. The academic year is divided in 3 streams –  Leading & Managing, Business Performance and Innovative & Strategic Thinking – each backed with a 10-week project: the Social Impact project, the Corporate Performance Audit and the Product-to-Market Challenge. As participants acquire new skills in class, they can put them at use to take their on-going project further.

  • Why did you decide to offer a specialization in Innovation Management in a General Management program?

Well, we are the business school of École des Ponts, the oldest engineering school in the world, one of France's top Grandes Ecoles, and a founding member of the Paris Institute of Technology. Since 1747, our school has had a tradition to train leaders, pioneers and inventors for a world that has kept changing at an increasing speed. Our vision here is that new technologies are behind most of the changes occurring in business organizations, customer expectations and society at large. For example, can you imagine global business today without advanced information technologies?

At our campus, we are at the heart of an innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem including the Paris school of Design Thinking as well as many research labs, incubators and start-ups. We take our MBA participants for a study trip to the Silicon Valley, where our school has many ties with hi-tech MNEs, venture capitalists, start-ups and leading universities such as Stanford and Berkeley. This focus on innovation naturally translates into the curriculum as the whole cohort finishes the program with an Hack-an-App Challenge and the presentation of their integrative start-up project, which we call the Demo Day.

  • Why should prospective students choose to study a Full-time MBA, at your business school?

We have introduced prospective students to the skillset and forward-thinking vision they can develop by joining our program. But our commitment to our MBA participants goes way beyond that. What we are offering at the École des Ponts Business School is a transformative experience that enables ambitious professionals to embark on a career path they excel at, and which fulfills their expectations and beyond. For that, helping them assert their personality and cultivate their emotional intelligence is as important as improving their analytical skills.

For sure, experiential learning and group work are key in this transformation process. More importantly, we have heavily invested in a Career and Leadership Development Program which spans all through the MBA. It combines a series of career design workshops, leadership retreats and job-hunting seminars. And it culminates with individual coaching sessions where each participant is empowered toward achieving her or his personal goals – and leveraging the networking and recruitment opportunities offered on-campus and globally.

  • Who is the ideal candidate for your MBA programme?

Full Time MBA participants have a minimum of 3 years of work experience - 8 years in average - and come from a diversity of professional backgrounds. We pay attention to each candidate’s personal values, experience of teamwork, and determination. For example, we turn down candidates who believe that for them to win, somebody has to lose; candidates who believe that developing their ego is more important than developing their personality; candidates who feel  that to earn an MBA, the hardest part is to get admitted.

Ultimately, we are looking for high-potential candidates who want to transform their career, who are ambitious, have a drive for learning and see a changing world as a world of opportunities.  It is a reward in itself for the staff and the Faculty to see our participants developing their skills and transforming over a 10-month period.

  • How diverse and international are your MBA cohorts?

Celia Russo, who founded our business school 30 years ago, had the vision that diversity in the classroom - in terms of culture, gender, education or professional background - is a necessary condition to train leaders and managers who will thrive in a global economy and contribute to make the world a better place. More than ever, we sustain this vision with affirmative scholarship programs encouraging diversity in all its forms.

We are particularly happy that international students, from all four corners of the globe, account for 85% of the student body. In the ongoing MBA cohort, there are 18 different nationalities among 28 participants. This is likely the result of our alliance strategy which has led us to operate MBA programs on four continents (Argentina, France, Japan, China, India, Morocco and the Gulf Region), organize exchange programs and offer joint degrees with prestigious universities in Europe and the USA.

  • What is your programme’s ROI?

Deciding to pursue an MBA is an important life choice. It is a very wise investment in oneself and probably the best option to create exciting new professional opportunities. The payoff is not only professional, rather it is first and foremost personal. Participants face numerous challenges and learn a lot about themselves along the way. And, like all investments, the more you put in the more you will get in return.

We know that MBA rankings emphasize salary increase and we hear that some schools have recruitment strategies based on this criterium. Our placement surveys show that on average the pay increase is between 25% and 30% immediately after our MBA . However, this is not a number you should consider to calculate a return on investment. Some of our graduates more than double their income while entrepreneurs actually experience a salary decrease. Prospective students who would like to assess the opportunity of doing an MBA should register on our website for a Strategic Career Consultation.

  • How does the curriculum adapt to the shifting world economy?  How do big challenges like the Greek debt crisis, the soaring EU-Russian relations or indeed the refugee crisis affect doing business in the EU?

We feel we have designed a “next generation MBA” that builds on solid academic foundations, deep ties to practitioners and an intensely experiential approach. All the recent events in Europe have been a challenge but it gave an opportunity to think out of the box and provide solutions to the ongoing or potential issues.  Our participants are given real life case studies to deal with and come up with their own solutions, which are then discussed with the professor and the rest of the class. These kinds of exercises prepare them for any potential business threat in a turbulent economy.

We also observe that European companies are - more than ever - aware that their future growth relies on their ability to design and execute ambitious international strategies. And that certainly gives an edge, on the job market, to MBA graduates with a global mindset and an ability to adjust to cross-cultural issues.

  • Tell us about your alumni networks, how powerful are they? How do they benefit your graduates?

Ecole des Ponts and Solvay are both recognized as elite educational institutions in Europe. And rightly so as our alumni are very influential, including 6 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, ministers in several countries, and the 2014 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Our participants and graduates have access to a combined base of 35,000 alumni on all five continents, and to an extended base of more than 300,000 alumni from the Paris Institute of Technology and Université Libre de Bruxelles.

This said, what does it mean to be part of such a prestigious and powerful network? It is well understood among the alumni community that most of the value of the Ecole des Ponts degrees lies in the achievements, reputation and exemplarity of fellow alumni. By joining our MBA programs, our participants also commit to contribute to the community, including succeeding in their careers with the help of the network! We dedicate a whole sequence of our Career & Leadership Development Program to achieve just that: learn how to leverage the network, and create value for fellow alumni by doing so. 

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If you have any query, please contact: Kataline Boubet, +33(0)1 64 22 15 12, info@pontsbschool.com
Please note that our next intake is in October 2016: