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Noelle N’Guessan is an MBA student at Iese Business School in Spain. After graduation, she plans to join MDE Business School. The school in Ivory Coast financed Ms N’Guessan’s MBA studies and she wants to help it become one of the top business schools in Africa. Formerly known as the IHE-Afrique (Institut de Hautes-Etudes Afrique), the school has offered workshops for West African executives since 2004.

Born in Dimbokro, Ivory Coast, Ms N’Guessan has an undergraduate degree in accounting and has worked as an auditor trainee at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a management accountant at Nestlé SA.

Ms N’Guessan will be available to answer your questions in a live web chat on Thursday 22nd December, 2011, between 13.00-14.00 GMT. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

“If you never try what you have never done, you will never know what it could have been.” You will always keep a sense of culpability for not having tried to do something which may, if not change the world, at least improve it.

What would you do if you were dean of a business school for the day?

Put the students into groups according to their background and make them reflect on international trade dynamics to find a sustainable solution for a better distribution of wealth on earth.

What is your biggest lesson learnt?

That ‘there is no free lunch’: in terms of human interrelations, pure philanthropy doesn’t exist because we always look for something to show that our money was the instrument for us to feel like God for a moment - able to keep others in life, give them food or education. In terms of economics, ‘help’ is not the right word to qualify money given to African countries, as it is a way to open new markets for all: those giving and those not giving.

Do you have a studying routine?

I begin early in the morning, because I believe that one’s brain is fresher in the morning. I also try to read my email every 30 minutes and not all the time.

What is the worst job you have ever had?

During my internship between the two years of my MBA, I worked for a company where my direct boss seemed to have a project in mind but I wasn’t able to understand his mental picture and had to content myself with the one written on paper. I ended up being frustrated because I wasn’t able to deliver what was wanted.

What advice would you give to women in business?

Women, from what I have been able to see so far, are intuitive, inspired and driven workers. But long hours doing the same thing doesn’t work (I think that goes for anybody, but mostly it doesn’t work for women), we need more time to think over decisions.

How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

By just being myself. In my last job, I was the only woman in a team of four and had to work hard to make my voice heard. However, it wasn’t because my team-mates didn’t want to listen to my voice. I am not the kind of feminist who sees discrimination anywhere. It was just that they weren’t used to that kind of voice with its particular intonations. So it was my job to make them pay attention to my ideas and points of view: I spent time building my arguments in a sound way, explaining my logic step by step and showing the evidence of my reasoning. It was lot of work, but it was worth it and I was fully integrated into the team.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

Write a memo about teaming up with a woman for men to read and so facilitate their collaboration with the next woman coming in.

What is the last book you read?

Washington Square by Henry James - an easy read. I used it to disconnect from my studies because I was under pressure preparing a public speaking event for high school students.

What inspires you?

My inspiration comes from the belief that I have a mission to fulfil in life and that I am on the right track doing an MBA at this particular time. I don’t think my mission is something like discovering the next computer or writing the next exciting book. I think one can impact society and others’ lives by changing the usual way of doing typical things.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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