From Circus Artist To Biz Executive: School Shifts MBA’s Career Path
Written by Seb Murray for Business Because
Two decades of intensive dance and aerial training has given Sydney Martinie, a sassy business development executive based in Texas, a career as a circus artist at groups including Cirque Imagine, a leading French performance company.
But you wouldn’t know it. The EMLYON Business School MBA is expanding Sylpheo, a company which creates apps and helps businesses integrate with Salesforce, its partner and the NYSE-listed cloud and enterprise software corporation, into North America.
After working for world-renowned productions such as the French opera festival Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, she moved to Dallas and launched her first company importing stonework from France with her partner and now husband.
She chose to study at France’s EMLYON for its focus on entrepreneurship and enrolled in 2013. She finished the MBA in March this year.
She has no plans to leave Sylpheo but eventually pictures herself mentoring venture capital-backed start-up companies.
Why did you decide to begin an MBA degree?
I always knew I wanted to pursue a business degree after my undergrad, I just wanted to take my time experiencing life beforehand.
The EMLYON International MBA focuses on entrepreneurship and actively seeks atypical profiles like mine. I’m a former circus artist — albeit one with an entrepreneurial background and more moxie than you can shake a stick at — and I needed a degree to help connect the dots. Business school gives you the analytical tools and framework to do that.
How helpful was the MBA in securing your current job?
It was helpful in that it indirectly gave me a network through Allyage [a foundation which helps students and alumni succeed in their careers] and French EMLYON alumnus Nicolas Pujol — a self-proclaimed nomad and a great guy, I might add — who currently lives and works in the US.
What is your biggest lesson learnt?
Never give a potential employer the impression that you doubt yourself in the role you’re seeking. I think women tend to do this more often than men; if we aren’t pro’s at something, we feel incapable of saying we can do it.
If you want to evolve professionally you’ve got to think: « I’ve never done this but I’m good enough; I’m smart enough, and I’m capable of learning how. »
How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I don’t notice it to be honest. We should draw attention to our capabilities, not to our gender.
What advice would you give to MBA students who are about to graduate from business school?
I’d say the degree per se will lose its value with the sheer volume of MBAs being cranked out these days. So I probably wouldn’t list it in my headliner on LinkedIn, for example.
Set yourself apart and incorporate any quixotic experiences that you consider an integral part of your identity. In the end we’re all storytellers, so tell a story that is brief and compelling. All your experiences have value, the key is finding how to market them.
What has been your greatest challenge at Sylpheo so far?
Sylpheo is one of the top Salesforce and Heroku partners in Europe, but until now has [had] zero visibility in the US, so my biggest challenge has been opening up a new market, building contacts, and aligning our marketing and sales [while] keeping in mind that the approach varies between Europe and the US.
I think I’ve held up pretty good so far. “Gotta roll up yer sleeves,” as one would say in Texas.
What are your future career plans?
I plan on continuing to develop Sylpheo in the US and build the core team here.
Eventually I see myself playing a role as a mentor for early-stage VC-funded start-ups — perhaps with a Trans-Atlantic twist — aiding young companies on their path to greatness. Or maybe I’ll start a goat farm or aerial yoga retreat in the Hill Country. The jury is still out on that one.