On the HERstory tour of Paris with members of the Women in Leadership Club

What I Learned as an MBA Club President

The HEC Paris MBA’s 25 student clubs orchestrate an incredible number of extracurricular activities throughout the school year. From prestigious speaker events and panel discussions to dance classes and races for charity, members attend club events as a fun way to learn the ins and outs of a new industry. For the Executive Team, the clubs are a great way to flex your leadership skills while organizing events that make a difference for others. 

For Camilla Pereira de Souza, becoming the President of the HEC Paris MBA’s Retail and Luxury Club was much more than a passion—she saw it as key to her future success. Despite having six incredibly accomplished years in investment banking under her belt, she knew that she couldn’t count on that experience alone to whisk her into a new career in Parisian luxury. Which is why, soon after starting the MBA at HEC Paris, she decided to pour her energy into campaigning for—and then serving as—the Club’s President.

The members of the Retail and Luxury Club at the club fair

Camilla Pereira de Souza (2nd, left) with members of the Retail and Luxury Club at the semi-annual Clubs’ Fair

“For someone who wants to explore an industry, becoming a club president or vice president is an invaluable experience,” says Camilla. “When I arrived at HEC Paris, I didn’t know the difference between marketing and merchandising. I had never worked in fashion or luxury. The clubs exist to educate people, to give them access to companies and networking opportunities, and to be safe places to ask questions.”

Even when faced with COVID-19 constraints, it is no exaggeration to say that our MBA Clubs have been able to accomplish great things. For example, the Retail and Luxury Club hosted 52 different online events in the previous six months alone, including a Richemont MBA Day and the annual Retail and Luxury networking event with four other top-ranked European schools.

To learn more, we asked a few of our MBA club presidents, all of whom have served during the pandemic, to share what they learned from leading an HEC Paris MBA club. Here are their responses:

Arts, Media and Entertainment Club

Sally Ghaly, Co-founder and 1st president, January 2020 – September 2020

Goal after the MBA:  Continue to push myself to grow and develop the skills I acquired during the MBA, and to stay in the media and entertainment industry

Signature Events: Speaker event with Netflix’s Global Head of Acquisitions for Kids & Family Content; online choreographed dance lessons for students during COVID-19 confinement

What I Learned: “I co-founded and served as President for HEC’s Arts, Media & Entertainment (AME) Club, which was an incredibly valuable experience in terms of professional development. Still being earlier in my career with three years’ full-time experience, leading a team was something I had never had the opportunity to tackle in a professional context. As my first real experience, there was a lot I needed to learn, and a lot I am still learning, but being able to grow and make mistakes in a safe environment was really crucial in helping me feel more prepared to lead in the future.”


Energy Club

Prafful Mangal, Club President, July 2020 – December 2020

Goal after the MBA: Project financing or consulting role in an energy practice

Signature Event: Alumni Networking Event (HEC Paris MBA alumni from 11 leading energy companies interacted with students)

What I learned:  “Running the energy club was a lot of fun, and in many ways, it also felt like running a start-up. I built my own team (recruiting), set goals (targets), reached out to alumni/industry experts (investors) and ensured that I had an audience attending events (customers). In addition, I learned to manage my time effectively and deal with ambiguity, as COVID brought a lot of uncertainties to navigate while still making sure students learned about the industry.”


Finance Club 

Rob Su, Club President, July 2020 – December 2020

Goal after the MBA: Credit Investing

Signature Event: Finance Speaker Series

Poster for Offline to Online: Building Digital Engagement with LEGOWhat I learned:  “It’s important to define the governing platform from the start and focus on the one or two most important planks. Time was the most valuable resource, and our leadership team found that prioritizing depth over breath was the best use of it. Leveraging HEC’s tremendous resources at hand was also instrumental to our success – we’re particularly grateful to Kristin Young in the HEC Paris Career Center and Delphine Mourot and Lauren Onthank in the HEC UK Office for all of their help.”


Marketing Club

Antonia Dornelles, Club President, July 2020 – December 2020
Goal after the MBA: Working in Employer Branding

Signature Events: Building Digital Engagement with LEGO; L’Oreal on Campus Talk with La Roche Posay’s Global Marketing Director (held in partnership with the MBA Healthcare Club)

What I learned: “Time goes by really fast in an MBA program. In a typical job, it’s okay to wait a week for someone to respond to an email, or to schedule a meeting for the following week. But in the MBA program, we only have very a limited time – 6 months total – as club presidents. If you wait a week, that event you are trying to plan might never happen.  You have to act fast, set clear goals and use KPIs to ensure that you reach your goals.”


The poster for the Africa Business Day 2020MBA Africa Club

Temitope Ahmed, Club President, July 2020 – December 2020

Signature Event: 3rd annual Africa Business Day, an event with 2 panel discussions, 140 participants from business schools around the world (including MIT, Wharton, LBS, Insead and more) and a career fair, all centered around the theme “How Entrepreneurship can help to shape the African Economy”

What I learned: “Attaining a leadership position in the MBA Africa Club in 2020 came with a lot of responsibilities, especially considering the limitations imposed as a consequence of COVID. There was so much to my role: creating new virtual initiatives, getting the team to work in a fast-paced system, navigating interpersonal dynamics and organizing events. Since it’s voluntary work without credit for the team members, a lot of responsibilities fall on the President. In the course of my career, I have occupied several leadership roles. However, I found this role to be the most challenging as I had to coordinate club activities virtually while feeling that failure would be a disaster for the whole team and the group. It was a lot of pressure. Still, I am grateful to have been granted this opportunity to expand my leadership scope and add value to the club. This experience expanded my view and taught me to adjust and forge alternative paths while carrying my team along through uncertain times.”


The flyer for Richemont Day at HEC ParisRetail and Luxury Club

Camilla Pereira de Souza, Club President, July 2020 – December 2020
Goal after the MBA : Working in Paris in luxury marketing

Signature Events: Richemont Day, Retail and Luxury Trek Week, 2020 Luxury Conference, and many more

What I learned: “In my conversations with previous club presidents, I knew that one of the main challenges the president faces is keeping the executive team engaged. As a result, instead of having a traditional club structure with a VP of Events, a VP of Communications, etc., I divided the team by sectors. For example, Megane Scullion was VP of Accessories, because of her background with Coach; Halima Levy is Moroccan and French, and has worked at Vlilebrequin and other European brands, so she became our VP of Retail; Annika Friesen was in charge of Wines and Spirits because of a project she did with Veuve Cliquot. This structure turned out to be an incredibly effective way for them to reach out to companies. Not only did everyone stay motivated, but in the end we were able to host 52 different events during my time as president.”


Tech Club

Omar Nahas, Club President, July 2020 – December 2020

Signature Event: Tech Trek (online event with Google, Microsoft and Linagora)

Goal after the MBA: A role in which I can help my clients leverage innovative technologies to achieve effective and sustainable results.

What I learned: “My biggest takeaway from leading the club during COVID was learning how extremely responsive and helpful the HEC Alumni network is. For our Tech Trek, we brought in high-level speakers from major tech companies (Google, Microsoft and Linagora). Most of the sessions went overtime because the alumni speakers were so invested in giving students tips and insights. They were incredibly willing to help students during these challenging times and to coach them about how to best prepare for job opportunities. The HEC Alumni network, in my opinion, is really the biggest asset of the entire MBA program.”


Members of the Women In Leadership Club listened to Christine Lagarde at the Global Women's Forum

Members of the Women In Leadership Club listened to Christine Lagarde give the closing speech at the Women’s Forum Global Meeting

Women in Leadership Club

 Suri Yang, Club President, July 2020 – December 2020

 Goal after the MBA: A triple jump (Function, Industry, & Location) to work in marketing for a European art or luxury company, eventually landing a position associated with sustainability & CSR

Signature Events: Paris Herstory Tour; Private Equity talk with Level 20 (in collaboration with the Private Equity Club); Paris Women’s Forum Volunteers program; Pink Wednesday (breast cancer awareness campaign)

Publications: Created and published the monthly WeWIL Magazine

Upcoming January Events: Networking event with APAC and Consulting Club; Women in Business Alumna event with LBS, Bocconi, and Esade

What I learned:  “One of my biggest takeaways was the importance of communication. As an official club of the school, our events had to be organized with our guest speakers, approved by the school administration, and then communicated to the students and to all the members of WIL team. Communication across all the different groups of stakeholders became really important, and knowing how to do it well was a key to our success.”