Joseph Pfister – Google

Interview with Joseph Pfister, an MIM graduate from ESCP currently working at Google, Dublin.

‘ESCP campuses all over Europe guaranteed me more travelling and living in cities I had always wanted to discover.’

What was life before ESCP like?

I hail from Alsace, France but I’ve been fortunate to have moved around a lot as a child, notably to the USA from ages 7 to 10, hence my international and bilingual background. In high-school, I knew I did not want to immediately study in France and was very attracted by studying abroad. I pursued my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. After graduating in 2015, I was a bit lost because I realized I did not want to stay in the field of international affairs. I decided to get professional experience because I had only done a summer internship up until then. I went to work for Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland. I mostly worked in Compliance as a Project Manager and then in Medical Affairs for digital transformation projects. After a year and a half in Basel, I decided it was time to go back to studying to do my Master’s, which had always been an objective of mine, and after Novartis I knew I wanted to get a business degree. I thus passed the GMAT and applied to Master in Management or similar programs all over Europe (UK, the Netherlands, Spain, France, etc). I really hesitated between ESADE in Barcelona, Erasmus in Rotterdam and ESCP.

So what made you choose ESCP?

ESCP made the most sense to me on several levels:

  • I preferred a two year program over 12 or 18 months because I knew it would go by very fast and I wanted to make the most of what would probably be my last studying experience before really starting my professional career.
  • As a French national, ESCP is very attractive because of how elitist the French higher education system is and how recognized the school is.
  • The first year has general courses which I liked because I had studied Political Science for my Bachelor, so I needed to learn everything about Finance, Accounting, Strategy, the basics.
  • ESCP offers a lot of interesting specializations to choose from.
  • ESCP has campuses all over Europe which guaranteed me some more travelling and living in cities I had always wanted to discover.
  • The school attracts a diverse international student population because of its ranking.
  • The central location of the Paris campus!

How was your experience at ESCP?

I chose to stay at the Paris campus for my entire first year because I had not lived in France since high-school and it is where a lot of my close contacts (friends and family) live. I was very glad to have done my pre-requisite courses there because it allowed me to meet a lot of people in a rather small group and to build some of the best relationships I have built during the program. I am very glad to have stayed for one year on one campus as well because I think it creates a stronger sense of belonging to the institution which you may not have if you move around each semester.

For the second year and especially the first semester, I really chose my campus based on the specialization, which was Business consulting in London. For my last semester, I went to Madrid because I absolutely wanted to finish there, in the sun.

Going to Spain was important for me because I learned Spanish during my Bachelor’s and did an exchange in Mexico. I really wanted to work on it during my time at ESCP and there was no better way than living in a Hispanic country. I also thought it would be nicer to be there during the winter semester because of the weather which can be pretty terrible in other locations. My favorite campuses were Paris and Madrid.

I chose Business Consulting because I was considering going in to the field, and had never worked as a consultant so thought it could be useful. I had also heard that it was quite challenging, and since the first year’s core courses were pretty easy for me, I looked forward to the challenge. It actually was a lot of work and I learned a lot during that semester.

I chose Project Management 2 mostly because it was in Madrid but also because I really like project management so wanted to learn more about it. It is also cool that the specialization prepares you to take the PMP, a project management certification.

How did your career progress with the MIM program?

I did two internships during my time at ESCP, each time during the summer. One in between my M1 and M2 in a small Parisian start-up because I had never been in a very small organization and wanted to see what it was like to have to build everything from the bottom up. The ESCP network helped me find the internship; the founder was from the school so was looking for students from there. I replaced another ESCP student but I wish he would have been more transparent about what was going on in the company (which by the way is doing well).

I did learn a lot from that experience but in different ways than I expected.

Just after my M2, I completed the professional experience requirements by doing a Summer Business Internship at Google. I don’t know to what extent ESCP helped me get it, but probably quite a bit because of the reputation and the presence of alumni in the company. When I applied, I felt like it was really a wild attempt but somehow (and I still don’t know how) it worked. I interned as a data analyst for the operational branch of an HR team for 3 months.

Before the end of my internship, I knew I did not want to remain in the same team where I interned so I started looking at other teams at Google that had open positions. I found one that I would be interested in and applied internally. After the interviews, it worked out so I came back to Google a month and a half after the end of my internship.

What was the highlight of the MIM program at ESCP for you?

I personally enjoyed the seminar in Brussels, Belgium, on the European Union. I think it’s really important to make the most of it (both for the party and academic experience). I just wished ESCP organised it during the last semester of M2 rather than the first of M1.

The campuses are really an amazing thing and the student body is very diverse which is great.

What’s next in store for you?

Good question, I have no idea. I’m not very good at making big plans for my life or my career. I never thought I would be working at Google in Dublin a year ago but here I am and I like to remain very open in terms of opportunities. So who knows, but I know I want to continue travelling a lot and want to work in different countries. I did the MIM because I want to manage people at some point so I guess I will be working towards that in the coming years.

Manish Chawla
Interview by Manish Chawla

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