Nathalie du Preez
Nathalie du Preez
Home Region

Cape Town, South Africa

Undergrad Education

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2005

Previous Experience

Goldman Sachs, New York and London

HBS Activities

Admissions Representative for Section A, VP of Careers for the European Club, Africa Business Club, Finance Club, Marketing Club

“I want to be true to my African roots, but I also want to reach into the rest of the world.”

For Nathalie du Preez, passion for her country has also been the driving force behind leaving it — at least temporarily. "I love South Africa," she says, "but as a legacy of apartheid, it's very separated from the rest of the world. To make a difference in my country, I had to leave it to see it from other perspectives."

That desire for different points of view led Nathalie to the United States, where she fulfilled a business degree at Wharton and later worked for Goldman Sachs. These formative experiences inspired her to seek perspectives on other aspects of business.

Finding leadership she can take home

Nathalie suspected that with its emphasis on leadership and the diversity of its student body, HBS would give her the multidimensional insight she sought. Her first visit confirmed her expectations. "I attended a strategy class on an admissions visit," Nathalie says. "Afterwards, five students approached me to talk about South Africa and investment opportunities. It struck me how inquisitive and curious HBS students are — and it made me want to go to school here."

Now that she's deep into her RC year, Nathalie sees important connections between what she's learning at HBS and what she hopes to bring back to Africa. "Where leaders often fail," she says, "is in not having humility or an understanding of the different aspects of different people. HBS brings in the communication skills. When you're in a class sharing complex views with others, it sharpens your emotional intelligence — you become more astute. As a leader, you have to take into account different perspectives. HBS courses give you a taste of what you'll face when you graduate."

As an example, Nathalie refers to a Leadership and Corporate Accountability case about child labor. "Initially, I thought the issue was simple. I went into class firmly opposed to child labor," says Nathalie. "Then I heard from a couple of students from India who revealed a different side of the picture: For many children, this is the only way they can survive. Suddenly, the question was not merely whether child labor should be abolished, but how to address the underlying social conditions that give rise to a culture of child labor.

"Roots and wings"

For her summer internship, Nathalie will work with the luxury-goods giant Richemont in Paris. In a welcome addition to her financial background, she will be involved in strategic management and marketing, conducting competitive analyses of 18 luxury brands, including Mont Blanc, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Founded by a South African and headquartered in Switzerland, Richemont has the multiple connections Nathalie wants.

"For me, it's about roots and wings," Nathalie says. "I want to be true to my African roots, but I also want to reach into the rest of the world." Ultimately, she wants to return to South Africa with lessons she's learned at HBS. "I'm strengthening my moral and ethical compass by being here," says Nathalie. "I'm learning to see the best in people, and through them, the best insights in so many aspects of business: marketing, finance, ethics, and management."