When Eric Bakan Koffi graduated from emlyon business school’s International MBA, it was on the back of an impressive CV working in the fields of sales and engineering within high voltage energy. In search of the business savviness needed to see the “big picture” of organizations, understand the key business drivers, and work in teams to produce profitable growth, he delayed his plan to take the IMBA for two very contrasting reasons – the global pandemic and his wife falling pregnant. Determined to take the plunge of leaving his family for a year and quitting his job for extra studies, he tells a tale of sacrifice and reward.

You had a wealth of experience before making the switch back to studying for the IMBA.

“I had a good 10 years of experience under my belt before deciding to resume studies. Areas I had worked in included oil and gas drilling and mining sales operations in my native Ivory Coast, and in Bordeaux, then in General Electric Africa back home, and most recently at AEE Power specializing in high voltage.
However, despite my CV, I knew I needed to top up my professional experience with something extra including financial literacy and strategy to be able to manage businesses and organizations. Thanks to the choice I made at the time, I now find myself in a leadership position working on tendering back in General Electric, providing technical solutions to the global high voltage market, tailoring offers to customer needs, and negotiating with companies and factories so that they prioritize the right markets whilst meeting client expectations. High Voltage Brokering is a complex business, so you need a broad skillset.”

What motivated your decision to stop working and resume studying?

“I had to postpone my original application for the IMBA due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, on a happier note, the fact that my wife was pregnant with our first child. However, neither of these events meant that I lost sight of what was missing from my profile – business acumen and financial literacy. I had honed my technical and commercial skills through the various posts I had held up until then but was patently aware of the importance of upgrading my business skills. It was a calculated risk leaving a leadership role in my country and an emotional wrench saying goodbye my family for a year, but both these decisions were part of a clearly formulated plan.”

Eric Koffi - Alumni IMBA

Why the choice of emlyon?

“France and Europe were both significant draws for me considering my future perspectives and plans, plus I had been recommended the IMBA at emlyon by friends. They had shared with me how the curriculum was organized, and it seemed the perfect match for me and my career aspirations: a program oriented towards entrepreneurship to tailor my business sense and a focus on that point with the ELP (Entrepreneurial Leadership Project) at the end of the year where I got to work on a real business case within a company while being a student.
I also sensed it would enable me to stay in touch with the market and current trends, plus maintain contact with former companies and colleagues with whom I had dealt in previous positions in France. In short, it ticked all the boxes from a professional and personal perspective.”

Which highlights do you retain from the program and the student experience?

“The international dimension to the program, both in terms of opportunities for study trips abroad and the diversity within the cohort. There were 14 nationalities represented by the 38 of us, which made the learning experience especially enriching.
The curriculum is truly designed to prepare graduates for the industry of their choice post-studies, not least because you have alumni coming in to give presentations and actual business representatives working in industry delivering parts of the syllabus.
It also hones the ability not just to assimilate new knowledge but also how to transmit it to others through a lot of group work – it’s not just what you know but how you use it! By developing new competencies such as leadership, teamwork, and team management, and instilling new business acumen in the cohort, the IMBA really marks the transition from student to business professional.”

What advice would you give to students contemplating a similar path to yours?

“A program such as emlyon’s IMBA will be crucial in your professional and personal development. However, you are ultimately the master of the trajectory your career will take after graduation.
My advice when starting out would be to ask yourself three questions:

  • What area do you want to work in?
  • Do you aspire to a more senior role?
  • Which gaps do you need to close to achieve your goals?
    The IMBA facilitates your ability to make clear, well-informed choices and will definitely improve your chances of being captured by the employment market, but it is ultimately down to you to devise a clear career strategy and follow it.
    Oh, and one other piece of advice – make sure you enjoy the city of Lyon, the country and the IMBA student experience. Making new friends within the city will really help balance distance from family and may be useful for those who want to stay in France and need to learn the language!”