Alumni Voice: Rowland Marshall

Rowland Marshall, MBA ’16, has degrees in both Electronic Engineering and Information Technology from Queensland University of Technology. Before joining the HEC Paris MBA, he had worked for 10 years in the Medical and Aerospace industries. Rowland is now a Product Manager for the Drone Group at Intel in San Francisco. We caught up with him recently to ask about his MBA experience, and how it has enhanced his career progression.

Why did you choose the HEC Paris MBA?

I wanted to do an MBA for two reasons: firstly, because my mentors recommended an MBA for my career progression and, after 10 years of work, I wanted a sabbatical to reflect on life and learn something new. As for HEC Paris: I knew I wanted to live in Europe in order to diversify my experiences, and I wanted to have a high-quality learning experience.

I chose HEC Paris based on its academic record, and the diversity of the students who choose the school. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to live with colleagues who came from such diverse backgrounds. This brought a broad set of ideas and opinions to discussions, as well as making social exchanges all the more interesting – never underestimate the value of the other students who are experiencing the MBA journey with you!

As an Australian, what did you like most about living in France? 

France is a beautiful, large country with a rich history and culture. The people are very lively and friendly, and know how to both work hard and enjoy life at the same time. In addition, it is a major hub in Europe, making travel to other countries very easy.

What were the highlights of your time at HEC Paris?

I came to HEC for a strong academic experience, and I received much more in return. I underestimated the value of the HEC Paris brand and the opportunity it gives to network within France and Europe. The ability to meet with a broad array of companies and people, and to learn from their experiences was, and continues to be, a wonderful experience.

Here are my top three highlights:

  • The people who participated in the MBA
    HEC Paris attracts like-minded people who are extremely friendly and collaborative. It was a family-like experience, where we all helped and learned from each other. The culture of a school is very important when deciding where to go.
  • The professors and academic experience
    You have to work hard if you want to maximize the value of your MBA. This was made all the more easy and pleasant by an incredible collection of very capable and friendly professors.
  • The environment
    For the first half of the program, I lived on campus, then I moved to the center of Paris. This allowed me to build strong connections with my colleagues, and afterwards experience la vie Parisienne.

How did the MBA help you with your career progression?

Unlike many colleagues, I undertook an MBA primarily to learn rather than to advance my career. However, the MBA challenged my career plans in a very positive way, giving me the time to explore a variety of opportunities and potential avenues in the job market. While at HEC, I met with people from various backgrounds and levels, from consultants to CFOs, in order to learn from their experiences.

Through the MBA coursework, the specialization in Advanced Management, and my classmates, I learned how to network effectively, gaining the confidence and skills required to approach people and companies. These skills were critical in securing both my first and second positions after the MBA. Now that I am out in the workforce, I feel much more agile and able to move horizontally and vertically within the company and the industry as a whole.

Why do you recommend the MBA degree?

It is a time to take stock of your career, to challenge your assumptions and personal goals, and to broaden your mind academically, culturally and socially. If you have this mind-set, and are ready to work hard, then you will greatly improve both your career and your life. Having said that, I do not recommend an MBA if you are not willing to work. It will challenge you both personally and professionally, and while it is a huge amount of fun, it will shake up your life!

Did HEC Paris prepare you for your role in the largest tech hub in the world?

So far I’ve been in Silicon Valley for just over a year, and I’m still learning and integrating. From a work-culture perspective, it is further away from the Australian experience than I had expected, and further still from the experience I had in France.

I think it is important to think about where you want to work, and to spend time studying the local culture and industry. In this regard, the MBA has prepared me to be better at reading a room, understanding an environment, and adapting to new challenges. From a professional perspective, I am now more confident and better equipped to analyze and negotiate the business environment across the many different divisions that make up a company. All thanks to my time at the HEC Paris MBA!