Mouphtaou Yarou, our newest MBA Student Ambassador Coordinator, is ready to get to work. A professional basketball player with his own youth charity association, he says the concept of giving back to the community is one he learned from his mother.
At the age of 16, Mouphtaou (or “Mouph” as he calls himself) left his home in the mountains of Benin to study in the US on a basketball scholarship. The first several months were anything but easy. It was a lot of firsts: his first plane ride, first visit to the United States, first time living away from home. “Everything was hard: I couldn’t eat the food. We had to wake up early to practice, go to class, the days were long. Maybe the hardest thing was that back home I’d had my routine and my friends and suddenly everything was different.”
He saw snow for the first time that winter in Virginia.
He called his mom every week telling her he’d had enough.
It was hard in the beginning but in time, Mouph found his place. “The one thing that kept me going was that the people around me were nice, open.” Classmates were helpful, friends got him through the worst of it. People were what made the experience start to click.
Mouph would eventually thrive in high school, then college in Philadelphia, still playing basketball, and staying focused on his studies. After college, he worked as a 401K broker, and enjoyed helping people make their retirement plans. The game called him back, though, and soon Mouph was playing professionally again, this time in Serbia, a short but impactful experience that would begin his love affair with Europe.
Eventually he found himself playing professional basketball all across France, in Le Mans, Antibes, Levallois, Boulazac, and Le Portel. As the official language of Benin is French, Mouph found living here a great fit. He was also closer to his family, a much shorter plane ride. In France, he would meet his wife, and welcome a new daughter into the world.
YOUTH CHARITY WORK
Alongside his career, Mouph operates a charity for children in Benin and Togo called MY BARIKA. Officially established in 2018, Mouph has actually helped run informal basketball camps since he was in college. His association also hosts math camps for students and is now considering the integration of computer training in programs like Excel and PowerPoint for the older children.
There are three main activities within the association: the first consists of basketball camps and tournaments, and the second is a scholarship program that covers full tuition, living expenses and school supplies and which is currently funding schooling for 16 students. “The oldest in the group wants to be a pilot,” he says proudly. The third program collects supplies, money and toys for a local orphanage – the same orphanage his late mother once provided with fresh food from her nearby farm.
He recognizes the importance of the experience he had, and how it shaped the choices he can make for himself today as an adult. Each year, Mouph’s non-profit organization makes it possible for students to go to high school in preparation for a university education. His dream is to provide this opportunity to even more youths, as the organization continues to grow. It’s a first step on their journey, a way to open a door to kids like himself. “It’s my way of giving back,” says Mouph. It’s a way of honoring all of the people who have been there for him along the way, most importantly the mother who always pushed him to succeed.
“At other schools, recruiters only saw the basketball player, but HEC saw more than that.”
After an injury playing basketball, Mouph began to rethink his life plan, returning to the education that his mother always said would be his biggest asset. HEC was his number one choice.
“I don’t need to say that HEC is one of the best schools in Europe, how great the professors are. Everybody knows it’s a great program. But the way people here took the time to listen and guide me; that’s what made my decision.”
During the application process at HEC, students are contacted by a Marketing & Recruitment Manager who specializes in their region. They give the applicant feedback and coach them through the process, ensuring that their application is done correctly and in the most complete way possible.
When Mouph spoke with members of the Marketing & Recruitment Team, he remembers that “people were so warm. At other schools, recruiters only saw the basketball player, but HEC saw more than that.”
“(Marketing & Recruitment Manager) Jeanne Destombes put me in touch with an HEC MBA alum who is an ex-rugby player now working in London as an investment banker. I wasn’t expecting that.” He remembers the conversation he had with the alumnus, who was enthusiastic and honest about the experience he had. Mouph was even more convinced. “He gave me the desire to come here. He made me feel like part of the community and that’s one way I want to give back.”
He appreciated that the application process was a tailored experience to each individual, and saw firsthand how the connections that prospective participants make with current students and alumni make a big difference. Inspired by his experience, Mouph is now an HEC MBA ambassador, and loves to share the excitement of the program with prospective students the way his alumni contact did with him.
ON LIFE IN THE MBA
“I’m constantly learning from the backgrounds of my peers in consulting and finance”
Mouph actually sees a lot of the game of basketball in the MBA, explaining the challenges and strategy required. He knows he has to keep his head in the game as he balances the program with his family life and continues to help run the charity in Benin. While he may not make it to all the evening social events, he remains active in the community through club work and his ambassador role. As VP of Business in the HEC MBA Africa Club, VP of Finance of the Private Equity and Venture Capital Club, and advisor to the Finance Club, he keeps connected to his main interests, helping to shape club agendas and collaborating to put together events and network in the field.
And 16 months is the perfect amount of time, Mouph says. “The first term was about getting back into the groove of school, getting back into finance, connecting with my classmates. I’m constantly learning from the backgrounds of my peers in consulting and finance, and hearing what’s going on in those sectors.”
Mouph is enjoying his time in the HEC Paris MBA, filling in the gaps in his business education. He notes how much he has learned in just six months and says that, though he doesn’t know exactly what his next job will be, the vision is taking shape for the future.
“I’m coming from sports where we like a lot of competition, we like to win. I want that. I want to find a job that pushes me to the edge and helps me get better. Pushing to get things done, learning new things, challenging myself.”
The lessons he is learning here are invaluable, Mouph says, and beyond academics, the program has opened his mind and helped him reflect on what he truly wants his life to look like.
So far, it’s looking pretty good.