Is the HEC Paris Summer School Worth It?

I attended the HEC Paris Summer School in Luxury Management in 2016, and this is a question I get asked a lot online from people trying to figure out whether to go for it or not. In this article I’m going to break down my experience of attending it, and why it was worth it for me. I hope you can use my experience to figure out whether it’ll be worth it for you.

Why I chose the HEC Paris Summer School

For my bachelor’s I studied Computer Science — however, I was always interested in marketing and business. I was also particularly interested in luxury as an industry. I was also not particularly interested in being a software engineer, and that’s why over the summer break I wanted to do something that would be interesting to me, as well as valuable for my education — that’s when I started looking for summer school programs.

I found HEC Paris through a Google search. I’d never heard of the school before, and I quickly learned that it was one of the elite business schools of the world, and it had a Luxury Management Summer School program. It was 2 weeks long, it wasn’t as expensive as the American summer schools (those can run up almost $10k or more!) and the course content looked super interesting. Plus it was in Paris (or so I thought).

I applied and I got in!

The Experience

The Campus

The HEC Lake

The HEC campus is located in a quaint little town called Jouy-en-Josas, near Versailles, almost 25 kilometers south of Paris. I guess that’s just close enough to justify the name ‘HEC Paris’? Either way, the campus is quite beautiful. There’s a lake and lots of open space. The S Building where the summer school classes are held is really modern and state-of-the-art. The residences at the time I went were quite old, but they’ve updated them now, and they’re quite modern and comfortable as well.

Academic Coursework

My coursework was absolutely top-notch and high quality. Every day there were either 3 hours or 6 hours of classes with a 10-minute break in between. We learned the fundamentals of Luxury Management, touching upon various core topics as well as highly relevant case studies.

I was taught by Patrick Albaladejo, who’s an extremely experienced and knowledgeable professor with tons of industry experience. On top of that, we had some amazing guest lectures by Michel Chevalier and Gachoucha Kretz as well as Chanel’s CTO at that time.

My group for the Dior project.

Besides classes, we had two assignments — one 4-page paper due at the middle of the course, as well as a group assignment to suggest an innovative idea to a luxury brand after identifying a pain point.

My group chose Dior as our brand, and we first went to the Dior flagship store on Avenue Montaigne to understand their sales process, and then created a presentation detailing a new loyalty program that we imagined for the brand.

Being the first time attending an academic program outside of India for me, it was truly amazing and a big step up from the memory/rote-based learning I was used to at home.

creating connections

I met some truly interesting people at the summer school, some of whom I’m still in touch with today. It was an interesting mix of students from all over the world, as well as at different points in their academic careers.

Some students were bachelor’s students (like I was, at that time) who joined the program for the experience, and others were current master’s students who were collecting ECTS credits for their programs through this course as well.

I learned a ton from the people around me, inside and outside the classroom. We had picnics, explored Paris together, stayed out till 2am, roamed around the campus (which is beautiful, by the way) and partied hard. It was truly amazing, and you can see what my experience actually looked like in the video below.

It was a fantastic experience to work with people from different cultural and social backgrounds, something that provided me more learning than the actual course itself.

What did I get out of it

The HEC Paris Summer School was a life-changing experience for me. It was the first time I did an academic program outside of India, the first time I worked with students from around the world, the first time I travelled abroad by myself at the age of 19.

Academically, aside from gaining a background into the luxury industry, I gained exposure to the world of business studies and marketing, which solidified my decision to study business and marketing for my master’s. Through the program, I also learned about the HEC Paris Grande École program that I’m currently in right now.

In the program, I met some amazing and inspiring people that exposed me to different ways of thinking, different food, and different cultures and backgrounds. I learned how to use chopsticks during summer school as well! Even though I’m not in touch with most of my classmates from the program anymore, those people contributed to the development of my global understanding and my worldview.

Is it worth it?

That’s something that a lot of people ask me. I get tons of messages from people who’ve seen my YouTube video on the summer school asking me ‘is it worth it?’, ‘I’m interested in making a career in xxx, is the summer school worth it for that?’, and so on.

Here’s my take on this — the summer school program is not something that’ll wildly assist a career change or will give you something super impressive to put on your CV to convince employers. Although it does look good on my resume, I don’t think it’s something that will definitely open any doors for you, by itself.

If you’re into luxury (or any of the other summer school programs available at HEC), it’s a fantastic program to do to build your knowledge, meet interesting people, and gain a unique life experience. From that perspective, it’s totally worth it.

I would highly recommend doing it if you have the time and the means to do so. However, do adjust your expectations out of it.

Material Things

What are material things? Are they things like your new iPhone, that brand new car sitting in your garage or that restaurant you blew five thousand bucks on last night? Why do we like material things? Do they make us happy?

One thing I’ve realised over my years of growing up, is that happiness from material things is ephemeral. It lasts only for a short while until you realise what else you need in life. What ends up happening is that you keep buying material things to remain happy, but then eventually one of two things (or both) will happen:

  • You run out of money.
  • You run out of things to buy.

What happens then? You start feeling unhappy again. You start realising that you’ve got a shit ton of stuff you wanted, but that one thing you needed isn’t still there. That one thing you needed could be anything. A group of friends, a better relationship with your parents, true love, more success in your field — anything. So then you get back into your wallow. But now you have nothing to buy, or nothing to buy it with. What now?

The point here is not that you shouldn’t indulge in luxuries and material possessions. Those are there for a reason — to make your life better and more satisfying, provided that your inner peace and inner needs are met. Think of them as the cherry on top of an already amazing cupcake. They can’t make the cupcake.

The point here is that you should understand why you’re feeling sad or low. Is it actually because you wanted that new iPad? Or is it because you have a void in your life somewhere else? You should sit and figure that out first. Material possessions are only temporarily going to fill that void. You need something concrete to fill it. You need peace. You need understanding. You need closure. Once you fill those gaps, only then can you truly enjoy what you earn.

That is all for today.

5 Truths About Leaders

Today, I’m going to write about Leadership.

I’m sure all of us at some point or the other have always wanted to be a leader. At school, at work and in society – the one thing which is common in all of these is the presence of a leader. What does a leader do? Why does every entity, group or institution require a leader? More importantly, what does it take to be a leader?

Read on to be able to answer some of these questions.

Truth #1: You Don’t Need To Be a Leader to Be One.

It may sound counter intuitive at first. But the truth is, you don’t need
to be a leader to be one. No one is required to be appointed as a leader by anyone else to be able to lead. Leadership is an attitude; a way of life. It’s not a job or a title. It’s the way one chooses to live.

Think of it this way – you can either choose to dive head-first into all important decisions and be a self-proclaimed and self-asserted alpha in your social group (or place of work, or school) or you can choose to hide in the side-lines and watch while someone else takes that place and all the responsibilities which come with it. No one has to give you a title ‘Mr Firstname Lastname, Leader’ for you to lead. Even if you’re in the lowest ranked job or at the bottom of the school social food-chain (those still exist?), you can still express assertiveness and get things done by people. It’s just your attitude at the end of the day.

Truth #2: The Title (or lack thereof) Doesn’t Come For Free

Sure, being a leader has its perks and awesomeness. But it also comes at a cost – responsibility. Does President Obama sit and chill in his office all day? He’s got a ton of respect as a leader. He still has to do work. If he doesn’t perform, next election he’s out. Even if you don’t have the title of President or even any title at all, being a self-asserted leader also comes at its costs. Once people start developing trust in you as a leader, you have to work. You gotta make the decisions, go through the negotiations and make sure you’re providing the best for the ones you’re leading.

Truth #3: Leading ≠ Bossing

The job of a leader is not to boss around and get people to do things for him while he sits and drinks coffee in his room. The leader is entrusted with the responsibility to develop and train the entire group of people he/she’s leading. The leader leaves no one behind. He’s the protective and nurturing big brother you’ve always wanted.

Truth #4: The Leader Doesn’t Care About Opinions

Now don’t get me wrong. Leaders should definitely take feedback from their colleagues and friends and understand whether what they’re doing is correct or not. But it stops at that. The leader shouldn’t care about what people think of him. Those are usually short term things. The leader always looks at the bigger picture and takes appropriate actions to achieve long-term goals.

Truth #5: There Can Be More Than One Leader

Leaders are not lone warriors standing at the top, guarding, while the rest stay put and let him do all the worrying. At the end of the day, who are you leading? A team. Don’t forget that. The leader needs to work with his team to determine the best course of action for all situations.

That is all for today and thank you for reading!

PS: My exams are starting in a week’s time. I may not be able to write as often as I have been over the past 2 weeks anymore. However, I will try my best to keep writing regularly!

How refraining from piracy helped me widen my music horizon.

Piracy is everywhere.

Specially living in a country like India, where laws know no enforcement and people know no iTunes, it is the most common way of procuring digital media. It has been this way for a long time, and will in all likelihood remain this way.

However, I’m not gonna delve into the moral aspect of piracy. I’m gonna write about how piracy helped me listen to more music, rather than limiting my options. Yes, you read that right. Non piracy-ism, if you may, actually helped me increase the variety of music on my iPhone. Interested in knowing how? Read on.

As I write this post, my iPhone lays in my dock, playing music, although legal, I didn’t pay for. The next 10 songs in my playlist are ones I didn’t pay for. Yet, all of them are legal. How? They aren’t famous. Most people are so exposed to commercial Top 40 music and cheap, will-last-only-two-weeks Bollywood music that they are oblivious to the ocean of free legal music available on the interwebs for anyone to enjoy. And honestly, this ocean holds far more treasures than the Top 40 and Bollywood. In the past one year, most of the music I’ve listened to was not very famous but free music. And it was top quality! Better than any of the stuff I listened to before. There was a time when I downloaded the month’s Top 40 from PirateBay and 3 months later I would look at my library only to find music I never listened to after that one month. Now, it’s all different.

What has non piracy-ism got to do with that? At first, I thought I shouldn’t pirate because I was looting the music industry of well deserved money. I started buying music off iTunes and Flipkart Flyte. Eventually, I realised that I can’t go on like this forever!

That was when I discovered 8tracks. It was like a gift from heaven. So many mixes to listen to! And the best part was that most of the mixes contained – as I clicked on the ‘buy from iTunes’ button and got no results only to find them for free on SoundCloud – free songs. Free, legal songs. And they were so much better than the earlier ‘Top’ 40 I was used to.

Since then, I have not pirated a single song – save for Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘Something Good Can Work’ as it was not available on the Indian iTunes Store. I have been listening to free music, discovered through the lovely 8tracks app. And I’m absolutely loving it.

Overall, what started off as a moral choice, now has become a music choice. I still do buy the occasional paid song I discover on 8tracks, but for the most part all the music on my iPhone is free and legal.

8tracks is available on Windows Phone (where I originally discovered it), Android and iOS for free.