Doing an MBA During a Pandemic (Interview)

#IMMERSIVE #DIVERSE #EYE-OPENING

Doing an MBA During a Pandemic (Interview)

Nayda Massoud, is an ESSEC Global MBA alumna with Lebanese roots and an international upbringing. Nayda, who had a professional background in finance, joined the Global MBA aiming to switch careers. She overcame the challenges of Covid-19 and made them a strength to find a great new position at Amazon in France! In her conversation with Valerie Mokrane, Global MBA candidate & student ambassador, she described her MBA Journey as: #IMMERSIVE #DIVERSE #EYE-OPENING

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Nayda Massoud: I would describe myself as a very positive, curious person who is driven by self-growth. My international upbringing marks me out. With Lebanese origins, I lived in Nigeria for 18 years in 3 different cities experiencing very rich local cultures and a highly diverse international community. I moved to Paris 12 years ago for my studies and later worked for seven years before enrolling on the MBA programme.

What was your source of motivation to do your Global MBA after 6-7 years of experience?

I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, build a network, and expose myself to different business challenges and grow both personally and professionally. I had a stimulating role already in the world of finance. However, I felt that it was time to explore what else I could offer the world through a career switch.

Why did you choose this programme specifically? 

One of my basic requirements was exposure to diversity in culture, perspective, and approach. ESSEC’s Global MBA fulfilled this prerequisite, as do most MBA programmes in the world. However, ESSEC offered more than that. Along with its reputation, the programme’s choice of specialisations, the incorporation of hands-on learning through consulting missions brought balance to the academic experience. Moreover, the length of the programme – one year – was an ideal period for someone eager to immerse him/herself in the course and get back to the working world as soon as possible.

Why did you choose ESSEC Business School? 

For three main reasons. Firstly, ESSEC is a renowned business school with a solid ranking in academic excellence. Secondly, it’s known for its strong network and corporate relations. Finally, the programme itself offers a reputable boutique experience, which fulfilled my pre-enrolment selection criteria. 

How did the programme assist you in achieving your short and long-term goals?

I mentioned personal growth earlier, which I believe is something that can positively influence professional development. On a personal level, the obvious outcome of the programme is that it allowed me to develop learning agility. I had the opportunity to work on a diverse number of case studies. This heavy exposure in such a short time really forced me to flex mentally. In addition, the constant teamwork and interaction with my international fellow participants helped me enhance my cultural intelligence and interpersonal skills.

Most importantly, the programme allowed me to experiment with different situations to better understand my strengths and weaknesses as well as my areas of interest.

On a more professional level, I achieved a career switch, which was my goal from the very beginning. I moved away from Finance and started with Amazon as an Operations Manager as part of the Pathways programme in February 2021. I am thrilled to begin this new adventure and I acknowledge that the programme served as a gateway to this role.

Best moment(s) in the program? 

The Digital Week was an unexpectedly enriching experience. It consisted of a consulting mission for Phillips which tasked us with developing a strategy to increase audience reach for one of their innovations. I particularly enjoyed working with my peers to deliver creative solutions within the limited timeframe whilst facing the challenges of virtual interface during the Covid-19 pandemic. The high level of immersion and commitment needed to deliver results in less than a week made this project such a memorable learning experience.

What is the biggest challenge you've overcome?

NM: The biggest challenge was transitioning to online classes and online networking when the country was put into the Covid-19 lockdown. However, I quickly learnt that the new way of doing things could be used to my advantage. I did a lot of virtual networking through platforms such as LinkedIn in order to prepare my career plan. In fact, my reactivity and openness to discussion eventually led to my new role at Amazon.

What are your key takeaways from this experience? 

NM: Always be open, never block opportunities and remain optimistic. You don’t know what an experience or a simple conversation can lead to, or teach you. It is therefore vital to make use of every opportunity presented to you.

How did the programme enable you to meet your challenges for the future?

I think that the biggest challenge for the future is predicting how the business landscape will change or transform. Today we are exposed to changes such as digital transformation and the AI revolution, but we do not know with certainty how the future will play out. Because change is constant, I would say that the biggest lesson of the MBA is learning how to deal with change and ambiguity.

Undertaking the MBA specifically during the pandemic has certainly shed light on uncertainty. It has shown the importance of continuous learning, diversifying one’s skillset, and developing interest in new technologies. To sum up my answer in one sentence, I would say that the MBA allowed me to develop three main areas to face tomorrow’s challenges: my skills and knowledge, my curiosity, and my adaptability.

Your advice to future students?

Be open- in your mind and in your expectations, and network!

Any book/author or inspiring leader you would recommend to read/follow? 

The Everything Store by Brad Stone is a must read. Actually, I was encouraged to read it before the Amazon opportunity came along. I recommend it because it reflects a story of growth and resilience, which I personally find inspiring.

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