Success Outside the Box: Grande Ecole Student Coline Renault Joins 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Committee
When Coline Renault started her Master in Management at HEC Paris, she imagined she'd end up like her friends with jobs in consulting or finance. Eager to have a different kind of impact, her curiosity pushed her to explore other opportunities; she took a serious look into the booming sports industry and landed an internship on the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
Coline used the HEC Paris network to get her foot in the door at the Olympics and after a few short months, her own hard work and determination paid off. She was offered another 6-month extension to her internship, expanding her responsibilities to include playing an integral part of the core management team, where she helps manage a budget of over 3 billion dollars. With the team set to scale quickly from 300 to over 4,000 in the next three years, Coline's career has nowhere to go but up.
Hello Coline. What drew you to apply to HEC Paris?
Having studied law as an undergrad, I wanted to switch to business management for my masters. With no professional experience and eager to make that career switch as soon as possible, I knew that the master in management was the perfect way to go. HEC is one of the best institutions in France to offer this program. As such, I knew I would be studying alongside the brightest students and most passionate teachers, hence broadening my professional perspectives. Moreover, the unique student experience and culture the school fosters was another major motivating factor.
What were the biggest challenges in your application to HEC Paris. And how did you overcome them?
I think that taking the GMAT test proved a major challenge for me. I had not done any kind of math or logical problem-solving in the past four years of law school. I felt a bit rusty! The GMAT is a two-fold test which challenges and tests your quantitative and qualitative skills. I first focused on the qualitative part in order to secure a close-to-perfect score, as a safe-net for the rest. Then, for the quantitative parts, I took all the free quizzes on the internet I could find, as well as practicing with books and studying with fellow GMAT takers.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind when prepping for the test (and the whole application process in general), is to know it will require some organization and will be time-consuming.
How did you manage to land an internship?
I met the PARIS 2024 Games Organizing Committee at the CARREFOUR Event held at HEC Paris. The team was exuding enthusiasm, passion and motivation. I was left wide-eyed.
I tracked internship offers on their website, went through a three-stage interview process, and finally landed a job at the International Relations unit in February 2020. The Paris 2024 Committee was to attend the Tokyo 2020 Games as analysts to record the dos and don’ts and to use as a springboard for their own edition. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Games were postponed and so was my internship.
However, the Paris Committee immediately offered me a position at the Cultural Operations unit, as a replacement. The job was to oversee the production of a 3-year long inter-disciplinary cultural program, leading up to the Games. The job was fascinating, and I became familiar with the inner workings of the Committee, its units and its teams. This made me realize I aspired to obtain a broader vision of the project. Through coffee chats and networking, I finally managed to land my dream position at the leadership and I joined the Head of Planification unit.
What is the thing that you look most forward to in your career?
There is something tremendously rewarding about working on a project that gathers, engages and connects people. When mentioning the Olympics and Paralympics at any social gathering, people will instantly share their best memories, their hopes of medals and wishes for the Paris edition. There are huge expectations placed upon us, and I like knowing I contribute to not only meeting them, but also exceeding them.
Our job at PARIS 2024 is to create the best possible experience for our athletes, our visitors and our hosts. One of the highest-positioned director of the committee was once asked “How will we know our Games were a success?”. He replied “If no one mentions us”. The core of our job is making the Games run so smoothly and in such a seamless manner that all the attention is focused on the athletes’ world-record performances, the city thrilling with joy, and the stadiums echoing the cheers of an entire nation’s pride. This statement resonated with me and has been the driving force in the way in which I conduct my job.
What does a day at your internship look like?
The Committee is split into several teams: the Sports unit, the Venues and Infrastructures unit, the Games Services units (dealing with security, food, waste, traffic, etc.), Marketing, Business, Legal, Finance, etc. At the Planification and Coordination unit, we have to coordinate, make sure that everyone does their part on schedule and track the project’s overall progress. On a daily basis, I will therefore meet with these units to introduce project management tools tailored for each of them, and follow their implementation. This requires analytical skills, interpersonal agility, and a capacity to navigate multi-stakeholder and cross-units interests.