Jan 17, 2023 HEC Lausanne

Achieving Excellence: Insights from our EMBA Top Grade Award Winner

Achieving Excellence: Insights from our EMBA Top Grade Award Winner

We’ve previously discussed the qualities and requirements of an Executive MBA student, but we haven’t explored what it takes to be “The best Executive MBA student”. To answer this question we interviewed our 2022 Best Average Grade Award winner, Zsombor Szirmai. 

EMBA_graduation_2022-87Zsombor, a seasoned professional in the pharmaceutical industry with over 10 years of experience in four different countries, enrolled in our Executive MBA program with a Finance Focus 16 months ago.

Just a few days after successfully completing the programme, our 2022 Graduate was appointed Head of Business Excellence and Execution at Novartis Hungary.

Despite his busy career and academic pursuits, Zsombor places high importance on balancing his family life. 

Even if as emphasised by Zsombor there are multiple ways of designating the best EMBA student, we wanted to ask him what has been his strategy and motivation to finish at the top of his class (from an academic point of view).

What does winning the 2022 Best Average Grade Award represents for you?

It was above all a nice surprise to wrap up my EMBA with this; one form of feedback on the effort I invested into the program. I knew that 4-5 of us finished with similar averages, but I haven’t given more thought to this.

At the same time I want to treat the award at its right value: it is an academic recognition, but we are all business, medical or other professionals in our careers where our impacts should be and will be measured in entirely different ways than an average grade.

It could be that some of my peers in the program make a much bigger impact than me at work in their organizations or beyond work in activities of social responsibility. 

For example, just think about the tremendous effort some of my peers have made to help Ukrainian war refugees arriving in Switzerland and the social value they created.

What does it take to be among the best students?

It definitely takes individual commitment, resilience and persistence. I think more important than these aspects of work ethic are two things: first being a part of a program that genuinely interests you and you’re passionate about, and second: drawing intellectual inspiration from your EMBA colleagues, from their diversity of thought, experiences, and aspirations. 


What would you be your main advice to someone joining the HEC Lausanne EMBA programme?

Enjoy every single moment of it, grow academically, as an individual, and as a social being. Take time to reflect on yourself: how you have changed as a result of the program, and build your self-awareness.

Make sure to build and nurture your friendships and network – while it may be too early to say shortly after graduation, I do have the confidence that we built lifelong friendships here.

As Jeffry Petty said: “trust the process” – it’s not easy, so find a supportive network among your peers, your friends & family to help you get through the challenging moments.  

How did you manage the balance between the programme, your professional life and your private life?

It was often challenging to give up weekends and weekday evenings and spend time away from family when travelling to Lausanne.

I think the only way is to thoroughly prepare those around you for the sacrifices this will require, so they are ready to support you. This is true whether they are your family or colleagues at the workplace.

The program definitely forces a few behaviours that are often talked about without true action: prioritizing and understanding that delivering 80% is good enough when perfection is not needed.

 It’s also hugely important to find and make the best of the relatively few less stressful periods of the program to ensure you recharge. 


The entire team congratulates Zsombor Szirmai on receiving this academic excellence award. This prize is awarded every year to the student with the best final grade thanks to the generosity of the Banque Cantonal Vaudoise.

 Credits : Pictures by C.Strahm – L’Elixir

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