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EMBA Alumni Profile - France Margaret Bélanger, McGill-HEC Montreal

EXECUTIVE MBA Alumni Profile - France Margaret Bélanger, McGill-HEC Montreal Class of 2014 main image

Executive MBA degrees are renowned for providing candidates with the skills and confidence to embark on a career change. For corporate attorney, France Margaret Bélanger, the qualification from McGill-HEC Montreal saw her career change from legal practice to the ice hockey arena with the Montreal Canadiens.

“My career as a corporate attorney has allowed me to be closely involved in a variety of business transactions over the years, but after practicing for 18 years, I wanted to be a better business advisor for my clients,” explains Bélanger. “The way to accomplish this was to acquire a better understanding of my clients’ business issues. The EMBA has allowed me to have a broader business perspective – much more strategic – and to have a clearer appreciation for what goes on in a business on a daily basis.”

France Margaret Bélanger, McGill-HEC Montreal Class of 2014Career Change with an Executive MBA

When Bélanger stepped into the business school classroom, she did so as a partner at Canadian law firm, Stikeman Elliott LLP. However, while studying for her EMBA, she made a career change and joined the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team as senior vice president and chief legal officer. A year later and she has been promoted to executive vice president of corporate affairs and chief legal officer. “My new functions include a broader set of responsibilities such as, amongst others, human resources, governance and governmental relations.

“I believe that the combination of my legal background, my transactional experience and, most importantly, what I learnt on my EMBA has helped me to obtain my new role, which goes far beyond the legal sphere.”

The McGill-HEC Montreal Executive MBA program was the only program Bélanger considered. “As partner with many on-going transactions, I simply could not envisage setting my practice aside for 15 months to complete a master’s degree,” Bélanger says. “The EMBA from McGill-HEC Montreal enabled me to undertake my studies while continuing to carry on my mergers and acquisition practice.”

EMBA flexibility and fun

Besides a career change, there were also a number of other reasons why Bélanger was attracted to the McGill-HEC Montreal EMBA program: “the experience level of the participants; the holistic approach taken; the fact that it was bilingual; the fact that the class is a team working together to build knowledge; the “human”, non-competitive approach taken by the program; and the fact that the schedule was realistic and manageable for someone with a demanding legal practice and young children.”

While the Montreal Canadiens executive vice president was expecting all of these attributes of the Executive MBA program, what she wasn’t expecting was the element of fun. “As anticipated, it was hard work and challenging at times, especially from a time management standpoint. However, I had not expected the level of friendship that would be formed over the 15 month-period the cohort spent together, the amount of fun we had as a group and the support we were able to offer each other.”

Bélanger says the EMBA experience has allowed her to improve her understanding, and refine her analysis, of business transactions. “In addition to the traditional legal analysis of a given deal, which is based on facts and supported by legislation and caselaw, I am now also considering strategic issues that may impact the transaction,” she explains. “The juxtaposition of the legal and the strategic analysis results in a powerful tool to address transactions. 

“The EMBA also gave me a different appreciation of the interrelationships between the different aspects of a business. In addition, it taught me the importance of stepping back and seeing the big picture.”

Acquiring knowledge at McGill-HEC Montreal

When asked when she believes the best time to do an EMBA is, Bélanger replies: “once you have had the chance to acquire sufficient experience in your professional or corporate environment. In order to make the most of the Executive MBA, and to be able to contribute in class, you need to be able to reflect on the learnings acquired in class, be they from the teachers or your classmates, and apply the same to your own environment,” she says.

“And, in order to be adequately prepared for business school, I believe one should attempt to familiarize oneself with the financial markets and what is happening in the business world in order to develop an appreciation for deal making and related business decisions.”  The combination of mixing acquired knowledge with acquiring knowledge was clearly a winning combination for France Margaret Bélanger and the Montreal Canadiens.

Written by Ann Graham

Ann is the senior features writer for the QS TopExecutive Guide and anything Executive MBA related.
@anngwrites

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