Who runs the world…? An Ode to the Women of the HEC Paris MBA

During my HEC Paris MBA journey, I’ve come across a treasured bunch that inspires me and helps me stand back up every time I trip–my gorgeous HEC lady crew. While all of us were already independent, young, and dynamic women before we entered the MBA program, we realized mid-journey that together we’re even stronger and wiser. So when I was asked if I wanted to share something about my MBA experience for this blog, I leapt at the chance to write about them.

Sitting among the flowers

Amrita, Saumya and Sayumi

Before I begin my adulation for this special bunch, I’m going to warn you that no amount of space would suffice to extoll all of them and their qualities. Hence, here’s a select few of the Women of the HEC Paris MBA who exemplify the vibrance of the rest.

Cultural diversity is a star of the MBA program. Add to that the professional commitments of my lady crew and you’re not going to find a similar match even in the best movies or novels. India, Japan, USA, UK, Canada, Lebanon, Russia, Serbia, Brazil, Switzerland, Nigeria (phew!)–you name it and there’s an Iron Lady from every corner of the world here at HEC. Their professional paths? Consultants, lawyers, doctors, bankers, political advisors, engineers–we’ve left no field untouched with our dynamism. But the most charming aspect of all? Top each of their personalities with what they’ve learned personally and professionally, and I’ve found myself amidst what young Indra Nooyi, Jacinda Arden, and Hillary Clinton were (perhaps) like. And the humility of this crew is the cherry on the cake.

“While all of us were already independent, young, and dynamic women before we entered the MBA program, we realized mid-journey that together we’re even stronger and wiser.”

In front of the chateau in Versailles

A personalized tour of the Versailles castle, courtesy of Linse Kelbe (back row, left)

We began our MBA journey back in September 2020 with weekend trips to Versailles and Paris. Little did we know back then that between walks across parks and conversations over coffee, we’d build a life-long support system. I still remember my first trip to Versailles when our Wall Street ballerina Linse Kelbe gave me the best personalized tour one could ask for. A few months later, we were placed together in an academic working group. That’s when our friendship and mutual respect blossomed as we aced assignments during the most stressful of times (thanks COVID)!

And then there’s my Japanese soul sister Sayumi Murakami, whose kindness and humility has the whole cohort rooting for her at each step. Not only is she incredibly understanding and caring, but her multilingual skills in English, Japanese and French, and finance prowess leave us applauding her each day. This woman has a piece of my heart for life!

Then comes the golden girl Aleksandra Socevic who isn’t just my go-to-girl plus supermodel plus confidante plus green tea partner plus, but also someone who truly exemplifies Ms. Beauty with Brains.

And, of course, my Indian friends, who I’ve laughed, cried, smiled and frowned with (add all those crazy MBA moments and emotions here). They’ve had my back no matter what came our way. Anisha Khadilkar, Accounting Wizard with a heart of gold, and Amrita Roy, Tech Queen and a Michelin chef (I certify it!), you’re my numero unos. From planning and hosting events for the MBA Tech Club to being guinea pigs for my culinary experiments, we’ve experienced it all with growing fondness through the journey.

A group of MBA women dining outAnd now the sunshine bunch–whose mere presence will light up your day–our Lebanese representatives Yasmina Alameddine, Roula Boustany and Pascale El Khoury! Ladies, how do you even do it? Always at their academic and professional best, with smiles that’ll make you forget every worry, and energy that’ll make you question Red Bull. You are always the most fun and productive to be around. Full of charm and generosity that makes me call them the real pearls of the Arabian Sea.

When it comes to the dear mommies of the batch…Wonder Woman might lose her charm ahead of them. Ladies, you make the rest of us realize that superheroines are indeed real. They’re in each one of us. Academic stars, professional leaders and full-time moms, you’re the ones that the rest of us look up to in moments of stress and complain. Seeing you, we realize that we have boundless strength and courage hidden in us.

Not merely friends, these women are a support system that shall be one of my biggest takeaways from the HEC Paris MBA. Sure, we’re always at our hardworking best to make the most of our professional and academic opportunities, but together we push and elevate each other. Learning, loving, leading–my HEC lady crew is the secret ingredient that makes this program all the more cherishable.

Thank you, ladies, for being YOU! 😊

And a special shoutout to our male allies (you’re a countless bunch) for the courage, support and positive energy you share each day.

Text by Saumya Ailawadi, MBA ’22

Saumya Ailawadi is an MBA student completing her final term at HEC Paris. A Strategy major, she aspires to combine her Sales Management experience in the Middle East with Business Development and Strategy-building functions in e-commerce. During the summer of 2021, she is interning with Amazon in London and is keen on building her expertise in the sector. Indian by origin, she grew up in 6 countries. She chose the HEC Paris MBA program as it resonated the most with her multi-cultural upbringing. She is currently serving as the Vice President of the HEC Paris MBA Tech Club and is an active advocate for women’s initiatives on campus.