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HEC Paris: From LATAM to London

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The HEC Paris MBA sets students up for success in global business in just 16 months. The exposure to international business begins with the student body, which is typically comprised of up to 95% international students. Personalized career development programs also support diverse goals, as 91 percent of 2020 graduates moved into new sectors, functions or locations, and 45 percent changed all three of these aspects of their career.

No matter the change you want to make in your career, the HEC Paris MBA is a bridge to your goals. In this piece, we focus on location, as two alumni who moved from Latin America to London share their journeys through HEC Paris and beyond.

Matias Fagiano, HEC Paris MBA 2019, Finance Track

Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Pre-MBA work experience (industry, years): I worked for 5 years in the Telecommunications industry, where I held the roles of product manager, solution manager and Datacenter business director
Post-MBA work experience: At the beginning of 2019, I worked at Société Générale’s internal consulting unit on assignments for their corporate and investment banking business, then I did a mix of venture capital and consulting in Paris before moving to London. In London I worked for 2 years in Altman Solon, a pure strategy firm focusing only on TMT, before taking my current role as Engagement Manager at Oliver Wyman’s CMT practice.

Why did you choose to attend HEC Paris, or what did you love the most about HEC Paris?
I chose HEC Paris because I wanted a top-tier European business school and MBA program, one that would allow me to keep my options open and that had a comprehensive curriculum.

Tell me about your change in geography:
–What were your greatest challenges?
I think the greatest challenge is that, while your work experience may be well appreciated in your home country, sometimes is difficult for recruiters and hiring managers to immediately realize this (as they may not understand what you did and how important it was simply by reading your job title/company).

–What did you learn in the process?
Having a well-prepared pitch, on many different levels, about you, your experience and the value you bring to the table is very important. You need to effectively communicate your fit for the role you are applying to, and to do so you need your 30-second, 1-minute and 5-minute pitches. It is essential that you explain this clearly and concisely, and also that you are able to go deep into the details.

–How did HEC Paris support this part of your journey?
First, by exposing me to Europe’s international business mindset and giving me the chance to engage with companies, career advisors, professors and fellow students. Second, by offering workshops to prepare for the job search, and also by having several career fairs where I could interact with many companies based in Europe. Lastly, with its top-tier curriculum, it allowed me to add value to my CV, which I then used in my job search process, as well as later in my actual day-to-day work!

What tips do you have for MBA students looking to make a similar change?
Plan, execute, adjust. From the very beginning.

Have a plan, always. And have backups, too. From the very beginning of the MBA you must have a roadmap, even if you are unsure what path you want to follow (like finance, consulting or industry). You can always adjust and calibrate based on how good/bad you are doing, and this is a very important process that will help you achieve your end goal.

Along with having a plan, execute it and learn from your outcomes. To give an example, if you think you want to work in private equity and you start networking you will learn how to effectively network. Later, if you decide that, actually, you want to do consulting, the lessons learned about networking can be easily applied here. As an example, you may learn that cold contacting people on LinkedIn may not really work as planned. It is much different to first meet the person (at say, an HEC event) and then connect.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Getting a sponsored Visa is typically an issue for people looking to move geographies. If that’s your case, you need to start working on that from the very beginning, and target only firms that sponsor visas (exclude everyone else, even if it’s your dream company). Later, once you’ve succeeded at your goal of switching geographies you can adjust the other variables (sector, company, role). One step at the time, in order of priority, to meet your end goal.

Petra Bellido, HEC Paris MBA 2017

Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Pre-MBA work experience (industry, years): I was working for Shell (oil and gas industry) for 8 years and my last position was Procurement Manager.
Post-MBA work experience: In 2017, I started in a rotational program in Citi in Operations and Technology LATAM. During 2 years, I worked in 4 different roles in Mexico City, São Paulo and Bogota. After this program, I got transferred to London in 2019 as Vice President in Global Payments and Receivables Product Development. I’ve been working in the same position ever since and I recently got promoted to Senior Vice President.

Why did you choose to attend HEC Paris, or what did you love the most about HEC Paris?
I was looking for a top MBA school with a very diverse group of students so I could truly experience a global environment and that’s exactly what I found in HEC Paris.

Tell me about your change in geography:
–What were your greatest challenges?
One of the greatest challenges in changing location, especially in Europe, is to obtain a work permit. After you relocate, there is a period of adaptation to the local culture and the city.

–What did you learn in the process?
Regarding the work permit, I would recommend aiming for companies that have sponsoring programs for relocation. Once you have your permit to work, I advise you to research the city’s neighborhoods and gather information about the steps you need to take to settle in, from cultural aspects to legal requirements.

–How did HEC Paris support this part of your journey?
The MBA opened my eyes to how I could leverage the knowledge I acquired in my previous roles to transfer to a different industry and location. I also built relationships that extend far beyond my professional career and transformed my path in life.

What tips do you have for MBA students looking to make a similar change?
Firstly, think about your objectives in embarking on an MBA program. Doing an MBA requires a lot of resources and effort, but it is worth it! Secondly, beginning the moment you start the MBA, you should deep dive into the environment, enjoy the school’s professors, students and facilities, and make the best of the experience. Thirdly, depending on your industry of choice, you should start applying to internship positions fairly soon or join clubs to practice for interviews. The internship is a very important part of the MBA and it will definitely help you to secure a job after the program. Lastly, during and after the MBA, keep building strong relationships. They will help you overcome some of the professional and personal challenges you will encounter in making all the changes necessary to pursue your new path.

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.