Finding the MBA program that best suits your career goals and vision of the future is a difficult task. Imagine the added stress of making that choice alongside your partner, because you want to complete an MBA as a couple. “Every year more partners are applying together, and some of them don’t mention that they’re a couple,” said Yann Tissier, Director of Admissions for MBA Programs at HEC Paris. “We actually prefer it when they do, because it adds another interesting family dimension to their application.”
One of those duos who applied – and were accepted – into the HEC Paris MBA are Dominique Christiansen and Mauricio Mastropietro, MBA ’20. The two met in 2015, married in 2017, and starting working together at LATAM Airlines in Chile. When it came time to boost their careers, they decided the best way was by earning an MBA from HEC Paris. HEC Paris was decidedly the right fit for them, they explained, as they wanted to learn a new language, liked the program’s length, and loved the option to do a specialization – being able to customize the experience according to their personal career objectives. We asked them what it’s like to complete an MBA as a couple.
Q: Was your application process any different because of your couple status?
Dominique: Yes and no. We contacted the HEC Paris MBA Admissions team to inform them that we would be applying as a couple. They responded, “No problem! Your applications will be reviewed individually, but we have no issue with you both applying.” They helped us massively with our uncertainties, and we always felt like they genuinely wanted to see us succeed.
“Having great friends in your MBA Program makes it an amazing experience. Having your partner there too is the cherry on top” –Dominique Christiansen
Q: What advice would you give to couples during the application process?
Dominique: Always visit the university. No matter what you see online, you will always feel differently about the program and the campus when you experience it first-hand, especially doing the MBA together, when both of your opinions must be taken into consideration. Moreover, you can ask students, and potentially other couples, questions about their MBA experience.
Mauricio: Visiting the campus also helps you envision what your life will be like during the program. In our case, we had to choose between living in Paris, Versailles or campus. We chose campus. It just makes everything easier: from socializing to getting to lectures.
Q: How did other students react when they found out you are together?
Dominique: People were always surprised. It’s funny, when I met someone in the program and told them that I’m from Chile, and the company I used to work for, they would always say, “Oh, so do you know Mauricio then?” Erm, you could say that… he’s my husband!
Q: What are the advantages to doing an MBA as a couple, besides not dealing with a long-distance relationship for 16 months?
Dominique: We asked to be admitted in the same cohort, which turned out to be a great option. With the same schedule, everything is smoother – especially if you need to commute together.
Since we were a couple, we were never assigned to the same working group, which was great because we went together to class but then we each had our own agenda with our group projects and tasks. Part of the draw of the MBA is working with people who have different mindsets from your own and benefiting from their ideas, so this was the perfect balance.
Mauricio: Having your partner with you means that you get exposed to different things – whether that’s getting involved in clubs that you wouldn’t normally join, or getting to know people that you normally wouldn’t be friends with. Now we have a very expansive group of friends.
Q: Were there any disadvantages to doing the MBA as a couple?
Dominique: Especially at the beginning of the program, it can be difficult to find the right balance between spending time with your partner and making friends with other people. Sometimes I felt guilty saying no to plans because I knew that Mau and I needed to have our time together. But honestly, we didn’t find many disadvantages to doing the MBA as a couple.
Q: What stands out for you about the program?
Dominique: The highlight for me was the people that we were able to share the MBA experience with. I was with my life partner, and I also made great friends, and having all that together makes the experience truly enjoyable. During Integration Week, it was really great to have Mau there too. We spent an amazing weekend in a chateau, doing team-building activities, but, of course, I was nervous meeting everyone for the first time. Mauricio’s presence really put me at ease. In short, making great friends in your MBA program makes it an amazing experience; having your partner there too is the cherry on top.
Also, one of the best experiences hands down was the Veuve Clicquot visit in Reims – we really had the times of our lives.
Q: What advice do you have those wanting to do the MBA as a couple?
Mauricio: It is important to discuss what you will do after your MBA as early as possible. In our case, we agreed that the first one of us to get a great job offer should accept it, and then other one would look for jobs in the same city. Fortunately, we both were offered jobs in the same company, so we never had to put that plan into action.
Dominique: The program goes by so quickly, so seize every opportunity that you can. For example, we never planned on doing internships, but because we wanted to change industries after graduation, we thought it would be a wise thing to do. We both ended up getting internships at Johnson & Johnson–thankfully they went well–and we have accepted full-time offers with the company in Chile after graduation.