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Executive Education

My HEC Paris journey, the first two months - Azat Mardan

It has already been two months since I was accepted onto and joined the MSIE program at HEC Paris (Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship). Right away, there were two courses that I had to pass within the month of July 2019.

Learning - Azat article

...Luckily, there was a summer break in August. So the deadlines for the final exams were extended by one month (into the second month of the program). The first two courses were Entrepreneurial Strategy and Boosting Creativity. Let me share a little bit about the courses and the final exams.

Entrepreneurial Strategy

The Entrepreneurial Strategy: From Ideal to Exit course is led by an experienced entrepreneur who has founded and sold multiple companies. As the name of the course suggests, we’ve covered everything starting from an idea for a startup/business to selling of it. In between, we’ve covered sales, management, and other topics. The scope of starting, running and selling a business is vast. However, for someone who is unfamiliar with startups or if they are looking to form a traditional businesses, this course is good. It offers a high-level overview of what it takes to have a successful sale.

The main take away is that as an entrepreneur, you should start small with as little money as possible and focusing on sales before focusing on the team as well as potential international expansion and scaling up. There are two crucial aspects: starting fast and doing sales yourself at the beginning. Many people do not actually start their business and those who start, run the risk of never making it, due to the lack of capital generated from sales. Another reason for this failure could be that their product is not in demand, perhaps due to the failure to test the research the market beforehand.

For me this course was a good reminder of some of the tools and techniques. I was surprised at the end that the only option was an exit by an acquisition. About a decade ago, I would have imagined someone building a business that would run for years or one that can go to an IPO. This may be a sign of a ‘winner-takes-all economy’ where small startups can’t compete with market giants in the long term and thus are unable to survive on their own. Startups must be sold or cease to exist. Even the most successful firms such as Twitter and Snapchat struggled to generate profits for many years. On the other hand founders of Instagram and WhatsApp did the right thing by selling their firms to Facebook which already had sales and advertising but lacked a new audience.

Boosting Creativity

The Boosting Creativity course was a very unusual one. We had to draw aliens, coffee shops and learn about scarf knitters. I liked that my creative limits were pushed. We used different techniques and templates to be more creative. I even liked some of my coffee shop ideas and I believe that they could be real businesses.

The main take away is that happiness and the positive attitude help creativity. The more positive their emotions, the better chance someone has of being creative. Also, creativity is about using normal objects in a new way. The last take away is that restraining the number of options (less choices) makes experienced creators more creative, while it has no effect on novice creators. It is counterintuitive because everyone thinks that having more options leads to more freedom and creativity. This is not the case and my personal experience proves it.

Final Exams

For this Master’s degree, HEC Paris requires a final exam for each course. These exams are conducted via Coursera and Examify (a separate company from HEC Paris and Coursera). I was surprised with this format but the exams turned out to be pleasant and convenient. The exams give more credibility to the degree because they make it very hard to cheat.

The convenience is in the fact that I didn’t need to drive to a test location like Prometric or use an antique PC computer with a QWERTY layout. I like my MacBook keyboards and use the Colemak layout. The exam is done with the camera and mic on. Also, I shared my screen and showed that my table is clean and there’s no one else in the room. These things are required to prevent you from cheating and looking at notes (these are closed book exams).

Wrap up

Overall, I’m very satisfied with this MSc from HEC Paris so far. I love, love, love the self-paced aspect, the practicality of the courses, the peer-reviewed assignments and the proctored final exams. I just don’t like to sit in traffic trying to get to a classroom. I prefer video lectures to live tutors.

As far as practicality, I already started to apply some of the skills I learned in Boosting Creativity in my life and work. But there’s no time to rest. There are two more new exciting, interesting and useful courses in September 2019: Business Strategy and Strategic Management of Innovation. I even ordered a text book. Onwards!

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