Learning online and on the job – the power of curiosity
Fabienne Diouf had doubts about adding an online Executive Master's Program to an already-busy schedule. At the time, she was the Cooperation and Trade Director at the Sultanate of Oman Embassy in Senegal and had two young children. But she soon found a rhythm and settled into the work, and now she looks back with pride at her accomplishment - “It’s the best program I've ever done.”
Fabienne is no stranger to hard work. She began her career as a consultant in her father’s firm promoting investment in Senegal and Sub-Saharan Africa. The company specialized in strategy, intermediation and representation for foreign companies. Fabienne helped to provide a full package of services, guiding investors through market analysis and risk management.
She took that experience to her role at the Sultanate of Oman Embassy in Senegal. There, Fabienne looked for ways to apply her philosophy of improving processes and looking into new technologies in order to add value to her job. “When we started, we were not focused on digital,” she recalls. “We live in an area where things are changing so fast, we now invest a lot of time in the digital sector.” Fabienne has been recently appointed Managing Partner of Ylios Executive Advisory for the West African Region, a French-based consulting firm that has existed for over 30 years and has supported several international groups, leading public institutions and large companies on their strategy, organization and transformation.
LEVELLING THE PLAYING FIELD
In early 2018, Fabienne decided to share her experience and knowledge with young people. She founded The Even Bridge, an association of volunteer professionals who work to prepare young people for the challenges they will face in tomorrow’s business environment. Fabienne could tell the concept was taking root when more and more people – including members of her own family – started to approach her for guidance on how to find a job. She found that many of those young people were not equipped with the tools they needed for employment success.
“If people hire you, it’s because they believe you have value to add,” she says. “It’s up to you to first build that value. We need to equip people with the tools they need to find employment. The Even Bridge is a capacity-building program that helps participants gain important skills.”
CREATING YOUR OWN LUCK
Fabienne is very clear about her definition of luck: “Luck doesn’t mean you show up unprepared then wait and see,” she explains. "It’s waking up in the morning and doing everything possible to achieve your goals."
Being curious, proactive and solutions-oriented are the core values she brings to her organization. And it was these traits that spurred Fabienne to enroll in the HEC Paris MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2018. When she joined her class four months into the 18-month program, it was necessary for her to complete earlier assignments while still working on current projects.
She admits that at that time, "it was crazy". Fortunately, she was able to find the necessary time and energy to catch up with her classmates.
MAKING LIFE-LONG CONNECTIONS
It was not her first experience with online education. Working in Senegal and managing both a business and personal life, online programs were essential to continuing her formal education. But the HEC Paris program was different from others Fabienne had done. She especially appreciated the opportunity it provided to collaborate with other students.
“The quality of interaction among classmates was very high,” she says. Her classmates were accomplished professionals from a variety of fields and countries. “We still keep in touch. It’s a family we have gained forever.”
SELF-MOTIVATION IS KEY
HEC Paris enhanced my critical thinking and helped me develop a better way of processing new techniques,” she says. But her own drive to succeed was crucial. “When you are young, you study because you have to. It’s different when you choose to learn.”
Now she has successfully earned her Executive Master's, she looks back at the experience with appreciation. “HEC was one of the best experiences of my life,” she says. “You have to prove yourself. After every milestone you achieve, you feel very proud.”
Would she do it again? “Maybe in two years,” she laughs. “Every lesson you learn will be very, very valuable.”
Find out more about the MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship