Thomas Grenier
Thomas Grenier
Home Region

Paris, France

Undergrad Education

Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), 2006

Previous Experience

BCG, Paris; McKinsey & Co., Paris

HBS Activities

European Club, Club des Francophone, Healthcare Club

“I wanted the flavor of business in America.”

In case after case, HBS students are challenged to make and defend crucial business decisions. In the summer of 2008, Thomas Grenier and his fellow climber had to make an even more urgent choice: whether to respect the signs of incoming bad weather and turn back from Pakistan's Gasherbrum II, or press forward to reach the 8,035-meter summit.

"We turned back," says Thomas, "to climb another day." Gasherbrum II was one in a series of challenges Thomas undertook with just one partner and no guides. After graduating from Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, Thomas and a friend raised €60,000 and climbed Cho-Oyu, which is near Mt. Everest in Tibet. In the summer of 2007, Thomas took a break from his McKinsey consulting position to attempt Gasherbrum IV, a summit that remains unreached.

New heights in America

After successful roles at BCG in Paris, and in M&A at SG Cowen in New York, Thomas wanted time for reflection. "I'm interested in entrepreneurship and growing small companies," he says. "I needed two years to step back and think about what I really wanted to do: How can I be as passionate about my job as I am about mountaineering?"

"I also wanted an American experience — and to me, HBS is the American business school for international students," says Thomas. "I didn't want to go to a pure international school — I wanted the flavor of business in America."

But HBS also challenged Thomas' expectations. "The case method is something of a shock," Thomas admits. "I thought I'd learn a lot of content — formulas and models. Here, the emphasis is on skills, which is great, because you can read content on your own. But the section experience and the case method improve skills you can't build by yourself."

The program has also opened up cultural perspectives. Thomas says, "In classes, we talk a great deal about the European emphasis on government regulation and the American belief in free trade. But the United States is where the banking industry has the greatest ties between private business and government authority. This inspires a pragmatic approach to crises that isn't bound to any fixed ideologies."

Healthy interests

"I've been interested in health care for a long time," says Thomas. At SG Cowen, he prepared a research report comparing European and American biotech investments. "I showed that it was far more profitable in the United States and that U.S. companies are better at developing new drugs."

Thomas will continue to explore health care in his summer internship with Sanofi-Aventis, where he will work on pharmaceutical growth opportunities in Asia. "Eventually," Thomas says, "I'd like to apply entrepreneurial thinking to a small company — to take an existing company and make it great."