Sunday 8 June 2014

Student Interview # 5 and ESSEC Chair # 1 - Maria Serova shares on coming to ESSEC and being part of the Leadership and Diversity Chair

By Rafaela EchterdiekMSc in Management 1st year student, Germany

Maria Serova is a 24 year old first year MSc Management student at ESSEC. She is Russian and did a Bachelor and subsequent Master in Foreign Languages and Literature at Lomonosov Moscow State University (Russia). Since January 2014 Maria participates in the ESSEC Leadership and Diversity Chair. I asked Maria about her motivation to study at ESSEC, her experiences of the chair and her expectations and future goals: 

Why did you choose to come to ESSEC?
After I finished my Master I worked for 5 months as a Project Manager in Russia. I enjoyed the work but felt that a formal management education would help me to master these kinds of jobs in my future career. I therefore decided to follow a management master. I wanted to gain international experience which is why I looked for suitable programs outside Russia but still within Europe. I quickly focused my search on France because French business schools have a very good reputation and I already spoke French. My previous studies did not have anything to do with business but ESSEC was very appealing to me because it would give me a good general business foundation. In addition to that I felt that it would allow me to focus on a specific business area depending on my personal preference which I yet had to discover.

Are you happy with your decision to follow a business Master?
I am absolutely happy with it. I believe that for my future career it is very valuable to have a general business understanding. I want to become a Project Manager at an NGO preferably in a foreign country. As a project manager it is very useful to know all sorts of business areas such as accounting, marketing and strategy. I think that this Master complements my education in languages and will therefore give me a competitive edge when I apply for my future job.  

How do you like your stay at ESSEC so far?
So far it has been a very eventful 7 months. I met a lot of French and international students which also broadened my mind about other cultures. I enjoy being surrounded by such a diverse student body. I was very pleased to discover that ESSEC has a lot of different associations. I joined the photography association “Noir sur Blanc” to meet other people who share my passion. Apart from that Paris is a beautiful city which has so much history and arts to offer. There are many exhibitions, concerts and other cultural activities which go on the whole year round. 
So far the classes at ESSEC have been very practical. A lot of the material is discussed through case studies. This helps me to see the applicability and usefulness in reality. When I started I was a bit concerned about the fact that I did not study business before. However, so far it has not been a problem because the pre-master classes I took in the first term provided me with the necessary foundations. 

ESSEC Leadership and Diversity Chair

Maria took part in the 6 month ESSEC Leadership and Diversity Chair held in cooperation with 2 partner firms Deloitte & L’Oréal. A chair is a specialized program combining theoretical perspectives, practical knowledge from professional presentations and hands-on experience through concrete projects with partner firms. Maria gives us some insights about the chair and its work.

Who can participate in the Chair?
In general, every ESSEC student following a Master's program at ESSEC can be part of a Chair. However, as it is a very selective program you have to apply for the chair. You are asked to write a short essay about your motivation followed by a brief interview with the Head of the Chair, Junko Takagi, and employees of both partner companies. This year 21 students got selected for the program. We are a very diverse group with students coming from at least 7 different countries. So I guess, the notion of diversity is already adhered to in the composition of the group.

Do you think participating in the Chair has a value for your future? 
I think that we live in a more and more globalized world. It requires us to deal with diversity in various ways such as nationality, gender, religion and so on. People from different countries often have very different views, ideas, moral concepts and value systems of the world they are living in. To manage these differences in a business context can be challenging. I strive for an international career and hence, I think being able to successfully manage diversity will make me a better leader. Apart from the professional value I think that understanding and appreciating human differences is also beneficial for my personal development.

What do you discuss during the chair?
We have seminars followed by discussions on managing workforce diversity. I enjoy the fact that we discuss examples of actual leaders to complement the theoretical content of the lectures. Furthermore, we have seminars which are held by Deloitte and L’Oréal. L’Oréal for example has its own diversity department which deals with (amongst other things) balancing nationality differences. I find it very interesting to get such an insight about real problems companies face and how they attempt to solve them.
In addition to that we went on a weekend trip to Copenhagen. During the trip we visited several companies such as Carlsberg to talk to them about social responsibility, diversity in the company and other related topics. We had some workshops at Copenhagen Business School to discover how diversity can be lived and how it can enhance creativity. 

If you want to get more information on the ESSEC Leadership and Diversity Chair check out its website of or follow its activities on the Facebook page

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