What is your North Star?

Valerie Mokrane is a South African MBA student at ESSEC Business School in Paris, France. She specializes in Strategy and Digital Leadership and is also a mother of two boys. She tells us about her experiences studying in France, how she balances family life and her MBA, and what passion she identifies as her North Star.

In short

Integrating into French society

One of the ways ESSEC Business School helps its MBA students integrate into French society is by helping them learn the language. Valerie Mokrane is currently taking French classes and explains why she thinks it’s an essential component of immersing herself in the country’s culture. 

“I am taking French classes, which are not easy by the way, but I try,” she tells us. “We try to learn as much as we can – [ESSEC] supports us in that” by providing French classes that help students integrate into society and make day-to-day life easier. Some of the speakers who come and speak to MBA students are exclusive speakers which makes a basic understanding of French essential. Luckily, the classes are catered according to the students’ needs and expertise which makes for comfortable learning. Valerie says, “If you actually want to immerse yourself in the culture, you are going to learn.” (03:20

Studying at ESSEC also gives students a great entry point into the French labor market after they complete their degrees because of its popularity and great reputation. 

“If you’ve gone to ESSEC and you’re trying to enter the business world, everybody understands the type of university you’ve been to and the type of person that you are,” Valerie explains. (03:56)

Balancing family life with an MBA

Alongside her full-time MBA program, Valerie also has a family at home. Although she admits that it’s difficult to balance all her responsibilities at times, she believes that anything is possible with a little determination. 

She says, “I think that anything is possible under the sun. I think if you want something hard enough, you can do it. So, I wanted this hard enough, and I’m doing it. I also have a great support system in the form of my husband.” (04:12)

Valerie also explains that ESSEC has been very understanding and supportive of her balancing her studies and family life.

“I told [ESSEC] in the beginning that I’m a mom,” she says. “Whenever I’ve had situations where I’ve had to look after my kids for an hour or two [and] working from Zoom, professors [and my fellow students] have been very understanding.” (04:31)

Great leaders are formed at ESSEC

ESSEC is an institution that nurtures great leaders.

“Leadership is part of the entire MBA experience,” she says. “Every little thing that we do drives us to be good leaders. It’s in our interactions with our peers, our interactions with the professors, [our interactions] with third parties, it all drives us to be great leaders.” (06:47)

In fact, Valerie realized that she was a natural leader through her MBA program: “I just stand up and take charge and I delegate…and I get the work done.” (07:32)

Identify what motivates you and consistently work towards it

Valerie has an admirable passion that she’s identified as her North Star: She wants to help eradicate poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is something that motivates and drives her day in and day out. 

Studying at ESSEC, she is acquiring the skills she needs to make her dream a reality:

“As an African, I want to gain skills from ESSEC, learn how to be a great leader, learn how to manage projects better [and] learn how to [manage the finances of an organization], and go back to Africa and actually form an organization that’s going to help eradicate poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s what I want to do.” (09:24)

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