My HEC Paris Journey, Part VI: Thoughts 3/4 Into the MSIE Program

Written by Azat MardanJune 02, 2020

I’m 3/4 into the Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MSIE) degree program at HEC Paris, and it is a time to write a reflection on my experience. I’ll think about whether it was worth the time and effort, and of course if I’m getting what I expected.

It’s worth mentioning that a lot of universities and colleges moved to virtual classes. We, at MSIE, had a 100% virtual/online program from the beginning. Our cohort is number four which means HEC and Coursera figured out a lot of issues that they might have had before, like in any version 1.0 product. My cohort started in Jun 2019 so this post mark a year into the program.

Thoughts on MSIE HEC Paris courses

So far I’ve taken and passed 15 out of 20 courses. Several of courses came very handy in my work and business. I would say about 20% of material was completely new and useful. The rest was either something I already knew or something very theoretical that I don’t need right now.

When it comes to things I already knew, like how to start a company, create financial documents and raise venture capital for example, I didn’t use the skills and knowledge recently or forgot about some aspects. Thus, it was good to have a refresher. I would pick up a new concept or idea here and there even if I knew the topic at large.

On the theoretical things like numerous abbreviated frameworks (e.g., SWOT), I might use them in the future or at least I will know their names, what they do and where to find more information on them.

Some of the assignments were very easy for me because of my work, prior business education and reading experiences. Assignments in general are very soft skills oriented. It’s because I came from a hard science background where I had a lot of quantitative assignments. Here the assignments are very open ended and often time there are multiple right answers. This is a great exercise in story telling, interpreting and communicating your perspective.

Thoughts of the MSIE program

I can definitely attest that MSIE is a great investment of time and money. And it’s not just a sunk cost bias. I would sum up the advantages as follows:

  • Good curation, formatting and packaging of content. In our distracted world, the last thing we need is to sift through Internet to find the best material.
  • Reinforcement of the terminology and instillment of the lingo: You won’t be a fool if someone mentions Design Thinking, Five Forces analysis or Balanced Score Card
  • Practical exercises that improve communication skills
  • Automatization of skills: You’ll be slinging a new Business Canvas Model every time you think of a new business idea.
  • Confidence build up: It’s like Toast Masters. Every time you do seemingly easy (but hard because it’s open ended) assignment, your confidence at work, life and business goes up.
  • Networking and a global perspective: I met people who work in Africa, France, Asia, US, and Middle East. One connection already helped me in my business.
  • New ideas for innovation in a large company or for starting your own company: Every week I learn about new cool ideas that spark my imagination and might help in my work someday.
  • It’s all remote so you spend more time learning that would have been wasted on commuting, and you don’t have an opportunity cost of having to stop to work for 1-2 years while getting your education.
  • Vast reading list: if you like reading like I am, then you’ll not run out of recommended business reading in the next 5-10 years, guaranteed. (I’ve read over 400 books in the last several years.)
  • Diverse global peer-reviewed assignments and case studies: It’s interesting to read about a launch of an apple cider in Kenya, or a prospering cookie business. We’re here in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco are sometimes stuck in a bubble thinking of only tech and software businesses.
  • Large toolkit: I’m sure whatever problem I may face in the next 5-15 years in my career and of being an executive, I have a large arsenal of tools to pick from and to avoid re-inventing the wheel. I already had a few moments at work when I said to myself, wait that’s exactly a situation in a case study or I can apply the XYZ framework here.
  • Structure and short-term progress: It’s nice to have short-term progress form module to module and from one quiz to another. This gives me a peace of mind in otherwise chaotic and more long-term work life.
  • The MSIE team at HEC Paris is responsive and accommodating to needs and requests. You don’t feel like you’re left alone even when they are many miles and 9 hours ahead of you.

Now about things that I don’t like so much. There are not that many of them:

  • The Coursera platform doesn’t have a great User Experience (as of Jun 2019 to Jun 2020). The fonts for questions and answers of the same color, pages load lowly, actions require too many clicks. As far as other learning platforms (LMS) like Canvas or edX, Coursera is the best. (I’ve taken courses at Harvard that use Canvas and authored a course myself on edX).
  • There are occasional typos and weirdly worded sentences in the quizzes. I flag typos for TAs to fix and they respond and fix them quickly.
  • One case study was extremely old. It was a good and thorough document but for me and other students it was hard to focus and work on it because it was a 10-20 year old company. There were couple other studies about 2-3 years back which is not that bad but you know how the product turned out if you do an Internet search.
  • Some very small percentage of courses and professors are very theoretical and don’t have industry experience which makes it harder to apply the knowledge.
  • You might feel like you are not doing enough. This is especially hard for perfectionists and overachievers. There are always more forum discussions to participate in, more articles to read, more books to skim, more community messages to read and answer. And there’s no one to stop you when it’s just good enough. :)

It’s a final stretch to finish the program by Nov 2020. There are five more courses and a year-long team project. The HEC Paris motto is knowledge to dare. That’s true with MSIE. The program exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to take the rest of the courses and write about my experience here.