Innovation, entrepreneurship and online learning: a global executive forges his own path
François Lignon has always valued education. But when he decided to enroll in the HEC Paris MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, he ended up learning even more than he had anticipated. The course was François' first experience with online education, and it provided many lessons beyond the formal curriculum. He is already reaping the benefits.
François Lignon’s career had progressed smoothly from engineering to management. “Managers were also eager to give me more responsibilities,” he said. Although he credits those managers with training him well, he still noticed the missing pieces in an education that was mostly based on experience.
“Sometimes I wasn’t very sure of what I was doing well and what I was doing wrong,” he admitted. “After 20 years, you have good hard skills, but you’re not very sure about your soft skills, and figuring those out can be kind of a puzzle. I needed a way to consolidate everything,” he said. Much of his continuing education had been informal, and based on observation or internal training. “At certain moments in your career, you need to ask yourself: How can I become more efficient in my role?"
Flexible but powerful
At the time, François was a Vice President of Product Management. With such a demanding role, and family responsibilities too, he knew he needed an educational opportunity that did not require his physical presence for weeks at a time.
François found the perfect solution with the HEC Paris online MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “I could study in the evenings and weekends without having to leave my job, while still being at home with my kids,” he said. He also found the online format very complete and the entrepreneurship aspect especially interesting: “You learn about company management, product management, tracking costs and revenues and how to finance your project."
Exchanges with classmates and teaching assistants provided support, collaboration, and feedback, as did live courses. “We’re all still in touch now,” he said, mentioning a recent dinner in Paris that included classmates now based there or who went to the city just to participate in the gathering. “People do their best to meet up,” he said. “This Masters is here to give you the global picture and enables you to do it independently or with the help of HEC Paris.”
Building lasting partnerships
The ongoing connection with classmates has been a vital part of what François took from the program. Even now, new learning opportunities continue to appear, with former classmates exchanging ideas. François explained, “someone will say, ‘I had difficulties understanding particular aspects of this course’ and someone else will say ‘Oh, but I can explain it to you.’”
In an academic project that he describes as similar to speed dating, François was fortunate enough to be part of a group that included an orthopedic surgeon with a start-up idea. Elias Dagher envisioned a teleconsultation platform to allow physicians to engage with specialists based all over the world to solve complex cases. Mickey Edlin, an American project manager, and Stephane Imbert, a French sales manager based in Dubai, worked with François and Elias to share ideas and develop the concept. Together they created Consulib, a company that connects patients and doctors for remote medical consultations.
Exploring different routes to entrepreneurship
François credits his MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship with teaching him about different paths to entrepreneurship. “If you want to get in on a start-up,” he said, “you can jump into an existing company.” He suggests being a business angel and providing capital, or serving on an advisory board. “I’ve learned there are lots of ways to be involved in start-ups, in the ways that will feed your intrinsic motivation.”
François says it all comes back to his lifelong interest in innovation, which he has learned extends beyond just technological progress. “Innovation is about improving business models and overall innovation within organizations. This is where you step into entrepreneurship."