'HEC has saved me from career mistake'

December 3, 2004

Demand for global business courses has fallen, but many individuals still value the experience. David Jobbins reports

Robert Couper, 36, says his time at France's HEC may have saved him from making a serious career mistake.

"I had thought of moving into the financial industry before coming here.

Fortunately, after a 16-month programme and a number of opportunities to review career objectives with alumni and our careers service, I realised that this industry was not for me.

"Without this time to develop my career goals I may have made a very big career mistake and ended up in a position that did not suit me."

He gained a first in electrical and electronic engineering at Dundee Institute of Technology, before spending almost ten years at Bechtel working on petrochemical, telecommunications, aviation and civil projects worldwide.

After spending time on international sites in countries such as Algeria, Kazakhstan and Germany, he worked up to project engineering management level.

At first he was undecided as to whether he should take an MBA outside the UK and looked into all possibilities.

"But, after a period of initial research, I decided to go abroad."

In addition to traditional research tools such as the internet, guides and rankings, his choice of business school was determined by recommendations from French contacts who all suggested HEC.

He visited Insead in Fontainebleau before making a final choice. "When I arrived (at Insead) there were lots of prospective participants and no one was really expecting me. I didn't have the impression that this was a place where I could develop."

In contrast, he found HEC's staff open and informative. "They started by discussing my personal situation and not the course. I got the feeling that they were really attempting to find out about me. I left thinking that HEC was somewhere where I could develop more than just business skills.

"They have taught me everything about working together to achieve something that alone I would never be able to achieve."

He said he aimed to stay in France in the short term and was looking for a multinational company where he could take on a business unit management role.

"HEC has a considerable reputation in France, but I believe that it has developed that reputation internationally.

"If I were a recruiter of a multinational looking to fill an international position, I would be much more inclined to value candidates who had already developed an understanding and exposure to an international lifestyle by studying outside their own country rather than simply putting 'geographically mobile' on their CV."

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