How this ESCP Europe Alumnus Helps Others Achieve their MBA Goals

How this ESCP Alumnus Helps Others Achieve their MBA Goals main image

Yann Cedric Kouame is treasurer and head of financial modelling at Fonds de Développement des Infrastructures Industrielles (FODI) in the Ivory Coast, and an alumnus of ESCP Europe Business School. With a background in finance, including jobs at Citi Bank and KPMG, he’s passionate about development in his home nation and the rest of Africa. He’s a student ambassador for ESCP and speaks to TopMBA.com about his MBA experiences and how his student ambassador role allows him to help students from Africa and the Middle East undertake MBA study.

Why did you decide to undertake an MBA?

I primarily decided to do an MBA as a career accelerator. To ensure I fulfilled my ambition of reaching the rank of director in my company, I knew I needed evidence I’d be able to work at this level, hence why I undertook an MBA. I also wanted to get an MBA to globalize my career, as an MBA from an internationally recognized business school means I’m more marketable and can apply for positions worldwide.

Did the global nature of ESCP Europe make you want to study for your MBA there?

Yes, I wanted to have an adventure! ESCP Europe was the first ever business school, worldwide they have a very powerful alumni network, and as I wanted international scope, ESCP Europe really suited me. We called our program the ‘little world,’ because there were so many nationalities on the same cohort. You meet people from all around the world, learn about their culture, and build a very strong network. This multicultural aspect really appealed to me.

What would you say were the highlights of your MBA experience?

Our professors were very experienced and passionate. Some of them made me enjoy accounting, and before that I hated accounting! I think the competitive advantage of this program is the electives – they’re very intensive, you learn a lot and it helps you build a strong network. I travelled all around Europe and met a lot of interesting people.

Another highlight was the company consultancy project, which built on our professional experience and it’s a good way for people to find a job. A lot of my classmates landed jobs directly after their consultancy projects at companies like Accenture.

Were there any elements of the MBA that you found particularly difficult?

At the beginning I struggled with the fact it’s a full-time MBA, and you can’t do anything but study for one year. You often have lots of projects running simultaneously, you must work in a team, it’s very tough, but at the end of the day it’s an advantage. I had an agreement with my company to do this MBA because it was only one year, I’m not so sure I’d have been able to go back if it had run for two or three years.

What effect would you say the MBA has had on your career?

I was told by our HR department when I was studying in London when I returned to my position I’d get a 40 percent increase on my salary, no negotiation necessary. Another bonus is future career possibilities; I can get hired for positions all over the world, so it gives you a broad scope. And finally, during my MBA, I was introduced to alternative finance organization EIC Corporation, and I’m now a member of the board for Europe.

Can you explain why you became a student ambassador for ESCP Europe, and what that role involves?

I was pleased to take on this role as before I applied people were giving me advice, which was a great advantage. I believe if you receive, you’re obliged to give. As a student ambassador, we represent the school at open days, but our main task is mentorship. When someone from Africa or the Middle East begins an application for ESCP Europe, they’re referred to me, so I can advise them on how to prepare and sort out financing.

The main difficulty in emerging or developing countries isn’t the level of knowledge, but the ability to pay for this level of education. I was fortunate to be able to finance part of my degree, and my family also helped.

But that isn’t the case for everyone, and I don’t think it’s fair that people can’t follow their dreams due to a lack of funding, so we have to find solutions to help them. If we can’t give them a complete grant we can get them in touch with foundations and other funding.

I want to help ensure other people get the same chance I had that got me to where I am today. I strongly believe in Africa, but for me our development path is only through education, and I’ll help people as much as I can to have a good education.

How do you advise potential students from Africa and the Middle East?

I ask applicants a few questions to assess their motivation, why they want to do an MBA, what they want their career path to be post-graduation, and whether they need an MBA to get to this position. I review their application and we discuss funding options, such as how to get a bank loan and find scholarships.

After they’ve gone through the process and just before starting their MBA, we talk about life on the course. For example, I help them decide which campus would most suit their financial situation and personal needs.

Personally, the most interesting part of this role is that it’s a continuation of knowledge. When you’re helping people, sometimes they ask you a question and you don’t necessarily have an answer, but it motivates you to find the answer. So, when you’re trying to help people, you’re also helping yourself.

Written by Julia Gilmore

Julia is a writer for TopMBA.com, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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