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Real Humans of the HEC Paris MBA Class of 2023

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hec paris mba classKaren Cedeno Cruz, HEC Paris MBA Class of 2023

Age: 32
Hometown: La Chorrera, Panama (Central America)
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Technologic University of Panama, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 8+ Years in Project Management – Renewable Energies, HVAC, Medical Devices 

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now? 
While working for large multinationals as a project manager, I met many amazing professionals and mentors and I spotted patterns in them. They all had extraordinary business acumen, negotiation skills and a broad vision. I realized that an MBA would enable me to develop these skills—along with many others!—that are necessary for excelling in the business world and that will help me in my career growth. 

Why did you choose HEC? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? 
HEC Paris is not only a prestigious institution with an impressive faculty and infrastructure, but also a CEO incubator. It offers one of the most diverse MBAs in the world. In our cohort we are 169 individuals from 49 different nations, with vastly different cultures and ways of thinking. And let’s not forget about its excellent location very close to one of the biggest metropolises in the world, right in the heart of Europe. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023? 
I’ve been blessed with having the opportunity of working at a global level, across different industries and with different types of projects. I understand the challenges of working in large cross-cultural companies, deploying massive business-transformation programs, and managing resistance to change at multinational levels, all of which are very important skills in the current environment we are facing. Additionally, I’m the only Panamanian in my class so, in my opinion, a different culture will always bring different perspectives. 

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I used to breakdance when I was in college.

Post-MBA career interests:
Consulting, Venture Capital, Entrepreneurship

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? 
The interview with alumni. It is such a good way to learn about the program and how you fit with the school’s culture. Both alumni I interviewed with worked for two of the largest tech companies in the world. I was very honored to meet them and share my perspectives with them. This is a very interesting twist from the traditional admissions interview.   

– What is one thing you would change or do differently? 
Prepare well in advance (1 year minimum) to have a smooth application process. I would also apply in the earlier rounds where you might have more opportunities to be admitted. 

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? 
I would have skipped the GRE. What helped me to get through it was my determination to reach my goal and accelerate the growth of my career. 

What is your initial impression of the HEC students/culture/community? 
The community is very structured and organized. There are many clubs that you can join depending on your interests, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re a neophyte in that area. There are not only professional clubs, but also sports and arts clubs.  

At HEC Paris there is an MBA Council, run by current students, which has been created to represent the interests of all MBA participants and acts as the main liaison between the MBA student body, faculty, and administration. There are also MBA students serving as Academic Representatives and Career Representatives, who act as the liaisons between the Academic Teams and Careers Team. In other words, there’s always someone who will always be happy to help if you need support.  

What is one thing you have learned about HEC that has surprised you? 
I was surprised by the immensity of the campus: 340 acres. If you love nature (as I do), living on campus is a perfect place, and you will be able to find lakes, deer, wild ducks, and even a château hidden in the forest. Very picturesque, I know! 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how? 
I deferred from the January 2021 batch due to strict restrictions from my country’s government. The admissions team was very supportive and provided me with guidance during this period, and now I’m safe and sound on campus and have been able to participate in most of the events with my proof of vaccination/pass sanitaire (currently not required for face-to-face classes).  

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
Personally, I think what can bring anxiety is the internship/job search, but the idea is to use this anxiety in your favor and leverage all the career support that HEC Paris offers you, including coaching and career counseling. I also intend to network as much as possible, but with a very well-defined target.  

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year? 
I have to say I’m super excited that I have this amazing opportunity of undertaking this MBA journey with such accomplished and excellent professionals. The program is so well designed that you will get to know everyone and will develop this camaraderie and spirit of teamwork, so you can take advantage of the full experience.  

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2023, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: HEC Paris

About the Author

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Lauren Wakal

Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.

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