Prof. Öncüler is a Professor of Marketing at ESSEC Business School. She received her Masters and PhD from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. After spending 10 years as a faculty at INSEAD, she joined ESSEC in 2008. She teaches managerial decision-making, risk management and negotiations modules in Executive Education, as well as in company-specific workshops. She has done consulting and teaching for companies from various sectors, including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, legal services, hotel management, aerospace, energy, public sector, banking and financial services. Her academic research focuses on decision-making under uncertainty, covering a variety of applications from managerial investments to consumer behavior. Her work has been published in leading academic journals such as Journal of Behavioral Decision-Making, Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Journal of Economic Psychology and Management Science and has been reviewed in media outlets such as the Financial Times and CFO Europe.

What are the specifics of your MBA programme?

The ESSEC & MANNHEIM Executive MBA offers senior executives a unique learning experience that helps them to successfully meet today’s business challenges in a global context and to sustain their career momentum. It is an 18-month, part-time generalist MBA in partnership with Mannheim Business School with a focus on leadership and entrepreneurship.

There are two possible tracks: Modular (starting in October, one-week modules every six weeks, rotating between Paris and Mannheim campuses plus two international residencies- one week in the US and two weeks in Asia) and Weekend (starting in April, meeting every other weekend on Fridays and Saturdays in Paris, plus two international residencies, one week in the US, two weeks in Asia). The teaching method is focused on team-based learning through theoretical knowledge and practical experience.

What are the characteristics you are looking for in applicants?

Our participants are executives who hold at least a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, with a minimum of eight years of work experience in a variety of fields including manufacturing, financial sector, consulting, pharmaceuticals, luxury goods and so on. There are 15 nationalities represented each year on average. We ask the participants to provide a short essay on four topics: their motivation in applying for an EMBA, international exposure, leadership experience and extracurricular activities. Our objective is to have a diverse group with dynamic, well-rounded, experienced individuals who could contribute to the class environment.

What is different about your programme and your school’s approach to business education?

The ESSEC-Mannheim EMBA programme is one of the few truly international MBA programmes, with campuses in Paris, Mannheim and Singapore. We offer a hands-on approach to executive training. In addition to the coursework on business fundamentals, our participants are followed by a professional coach. The coaching programme consists of both individual and group coaching. The individual coaching sessions focus on the career development of the participants; the group coaching is done in small teams where the focus is on working more efficiently as a group and developing organisational skills. We also offer a comprehensive leadership programme where participants engage in various activities and workshops (ranging from a two-day programme in a military camp in Brittany (did they mean Britain?) to negotiations workshops) and share the insights from these experiences with their individual coach.

Could you describe the structure of your programme?

The coursework consists of courses on business fundamentals- mostly two or three-day long courses supported by online learning modules. These are generally case-based courses where participants work in small teams. In addition to the in-class activities, participants also work on an entrepreneurial project for the last 12 months of the programme and present their business plan to a jury composed of faculty and practitioners.

What business areas do your students generally enter after graduation?

Our participants go on to work in finance, consulting and in a variety of industries, ranging from energy to industrial products to pharmaceutical to telecommunications.

What advice would you give to potential candidates?

  1. Develop your creativity through active listening, observing, investigating, analyzing and questioning;
  2. Respect and recognise the added value of others working with you; share your knowledge with them;
  3. Don’t let yourself get buried in work; aim to achieve a healthy work-life balance;
  4. In your decision making process, think of the impact of each option on the big picture; understand how your actions influence the whole ecosystem;
  5. Take calculated risks, avoid being overcautious or overconfident.

What is your school doing to remain at the forefront of business and management thinking?

We are aware of how the digital revolution is changing the world of business education. Our first MOOC course at ESSEC on complexity was recently introduced.  We also formed a strategic alliance with Ecole Centrale, one of the best engineering schools in France, in order to train managers of the future- strategic thinkers who can combine intuition with analytical models. A Master’s programme in entrepreneurship is currently offered to take advantage of this alliance. We are also aware of the need for a global perspective on business education. We are consolidating our long-term commitment in Singapore by a permanent campus in the Science Hub of Singapore, with 30 resident faculty and staff. We will also welcome the first intake of our Asia EMBA programme this fall, which looks at doing business from an Asian perspective.

Within the EMBA curriculum, we are going towards a more innovative approach. Next spring, together with our partner Mannheim Business School, we will offer a one-week programme on “design thinking” for our EMBA participants. The focus will be on innovation and creativity.

How does the size of the class affect the quality of education?

We limit our cohort to 40 people in order to ensure the personalised nature of the programme. We provide individual coaching to all the participants and pay attention to the group dynamics. Each cohort starts the programme and finishes all together. This enhances the strong bond established between participants formed during the programme. We believe this peer network is an integral part of the learning process. During their 18-month stay, participants also interact with other programmes. For instance the “Design Thinking” week is for all three cohorts- Modular and Weekend cohorts from both ESSEC and Mannheim.

How is the Entrepreneurship track incorporated within your programme?

Our entrepreneurship programme consists of an “Entrepreneurial Project” (EP) which is one of the pillars of the curriculum. Under the supervision of one of our resident faculty, about three-four months into the programme, participants start pitching in their business ideas to the group. These ideas can be entirely new or they can be a company-specific problem. After this “marketplace for ideas” stage, participants form small groups around several ideas according to their interests. This stage is an interesting process because it involves soft skills such as negotiations, convincing others and coalition formation. After groups are formed (about four-five people), they work on their business plan during the last 12 months of the programme.

A mentor is assigned to each group, depending on the expertise needed. At the end of the programme, groups present their business plans to the EP jury, which is composed of faculty and practitioners (entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, consultants). To help the participants during the EP phase, certain workshops are organised by our in-house incubator, ESSEC Ventures, by former alumni with successful businesses and also during our international residencies. For instance, this year in August we were in Los Angeles for the one-week US residency. There were presentations from business angels and successful entrepreneurs. We also had company visits to a prominent biotech and internet ventures. 

What percentage of your students embarks upon entrepreneurial ventures after graduation?

Approximately one third of the Entrepreneurial Project business ventures are launched after the programme is over.

Does your school have special facilities that help students with entrepreneurial interests (e.g. business/ start-up incubators/ simulators)?

ESSEC Ventures

ESSEC Ventures was created in 2000 to support ESSEC students with business creation projects. Since the creation of ESSEC Ventures : 180 companies created, 80% five-year survival rate, €30 million in equity raised by startups, 19 companies funded by ESSEC Ventures, more than 800 generated positions, 35 external partners.

  • ESSEC Ventures paves the way adapted to suit your professional profile through its training programmes, its incubators and seed fund.
  • The business incubator provides coaching and logistics in addition to the entrepreneurial networking; more than 100 companies have emerged since its inception.
  • The talent incubator that ESSEC installed at CNIT la Défense, at the heart of the business centre is designed for innovative companies that are already established and in the development phase.
  • ESSEC Ventures funds invest in seed capital. Beyond training and coaching, ESSEC has developed its own funding structure for innovative companies.
  • ESSEC has united with its entrepreneurs and the expertise provided by its partners.
  • Within this same dynamic, ESSEC is organising 13 years with the Sénat Tremplin Entreprises, the premier venture capital event in France.

The Cergy Incubator Student

Requirements for admission to the ESSEC Incubator: At least one ESSEC student (BBA, MBA, Master...) in the project team. The Business plan must have been already designed. To have the ESSEC Ventures network training courses certified is strongly recommended but not required. A motivational probe interview with a coach of the incubator is also required. The incubation period: The average incubation period is nine months but can be shortened or extended depending upon the start-up needs and/or arbitration of the Director (graduation ...).

Type of support the incubator offers: Coaching by the incubator staff, Meetings with expert partners of ESSEC Ventures, Networking events, Desks, telephones, Internet access and a copy centre, Being eligible to apply for the seed fund.

How many of your students want to take electives that revolve around Entrepreneurship?

There are no electives on entrepreneurship. Everyone participates in the EP.