Entrepreneurial DNA

Globetrotter Maria Figueroa Armijos is the new Programme Director of EDHEC’s MSc in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. She is no stranger to either topic, as we discover in this in-depth interview.

Written on 09 Sep 2020.


 

What kind of student were you?

I was a nerd, an avid reader and a doer, always striving to find new solutions to the world’s problems. I was constantly active, engaged in one entrepreneurial project or another, the student council, or some other innovative initiative or competition on campus.

Name a professor who inspired you

Dr Irene Alvarado, my first-year entrepreneurial projects professor at my alma mater, EARTH University in Costa Rica, was the most inspirational, strong, female entrepreneurial figure in my early career. Her example and guidance, while letting me be free to discover my own interests, led me to identify that I could conduct research on entrepreneurship while leading my own venture and guiding other student entrepreneurs on campus. My experiential learning under her wing taught me that, through research and practice, I could make a meaningful impact in the global entrepreneurial community.

Why this passion for entrepreneurship?

I was born and raised in a family of serial entrepreneurs. From an early age, I developed a keen interest and passion for supporting entrepreneurial efforts. My parents were entrepreneurs, my siblings are entrepreneurs and most of my (large) extended family own their own business. I grew up in a developing country where you must design and make your own path if you want to lead a successful career. Entrepreneurship was an integral part of my daily life ‒ the good and the bad, the struggles and the celebrations. As the youngest in my family, I always wanted to give back, but not just to those immediately around me. I wanted to make a wider impact.

My personal experience, paired with my academic training, sparked my serious commitment to researching how entrepreneurship and regional innovation can effect meaningful change.

What is your connection to France?

I am happily married to a European citizen. I moved from the United States to France in January 2020, as I strongly believe in and support the European lifestyle, where one can strive for professional excellence without sacrificing personal wellbeing. Although it was hard to leave my life in the US behind, this move opened up a new adventure for us and allowed us to be closer to at least one side of the family.

What is your research about?

My research provides empirical evidence to inform policy design and implementation, aimed at supporting entrepreneurs and promoting sustainable regional economic development. My research interests lie in the intersection of entrepreneurship and regional innovation, including entrepreneurial finance, women's entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship policy and crowdfunding.

​My work has been published in leading journals, including the Journal of Business Ethics, Regional Studies, Small Business Economics, the Entrepreneurship Research Journal, the Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Development.

Entrepreneurship and innovation are increasingly becoming critical tools for regional, national and international development. An interdisciplinary approach to the field offers better potential for collaboration and promises a more effective linkage between scholarly evidence and management practices and policymaking.

What is your connection to the MSc in Entrepreneurship and Innovation?

I already served as Academic Director of the MSc in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. My role was to ensure our students engaged in a rigorous curriculum that maintained a balanced academic-practitioner pedagogy, with the highest standards of experiential learning that seamlessly integrated advanced knowledge of entrepreneurship and innovation with in-depth analysis of current business problems and a close connection to ever-changing market demands and opportunities.

How does this MSc benefit students?

Current transformations in the global economy require future generations that can effect sustainable impact. Anchored in a top EU business school, created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, our programme is strategically designed to prepare an entrepreneurial generation of ethical leaders with a global perspective who can spur innovation in any context.

Whether their interest is in commercial, social, or public ventures, our experiential learning curriculum and immersion trips will prepare them to lead in a global society increasingly fuelled by innovation and entrepreneurial activity. Our overarching goal is to prepare future generations that can lead effectively and make an impact.

 

Is there an entrepreneur who particularly inspires you?

Every entrepreneur is out there every day, facing challenges and opportunities. Some are seeking to maximise profits. Some are seeking a better personal-professional balance. Some are trying to make ends meet. Some are seeking to change the world. Whatever their pursuit, the daily hurdles that entrepreneurs face remind me of the importance of my role as a researcher ‒ to push our knowledge boundaries ‒ and as a professor ‒ to guide our students to become entrepreneurial leaders and innovators, a new generation of change agents that can lead a more sustainable economy.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

My international, inter-cultural and inter-disciplinary experiences have allowed me to grow every year into a more well-rounded individual who can identify the positive and joy in almost everything.

What is your favourite book on entrepreneurship?

Originals by Adam Grant. It portrays the true nature of entrepreneurs, the fact that there is no one-size-fit-all profile, that every entrepreneur is unique. It reminds us all that our role as mentors and advisors is to fuel our students’ entrepreneurial passion in the discovery of their own talents and journey.

Do you have a surprising hobby?

I am an avid fan of Pilates, Zumba, and hiking in nature (where there is no cell phone signal!). I attended ‘military high school’ between the ages of 11 and 17. It was the best school in my state, but it came at a price: everything had to do with military training and was controlled and operated by the National Armed Forces. Push ups, burpees, squats and jumping jacks were part of my daily life, in military uniform and boots. For most of my life, I woke up at 5am every day.

What would you have done if you had not taught?

If I had not gone into academia, I would have been a full-time entrepreneur/business owner. I engaged in a few ventures throughout my 20s. I still have an interest in a couple, as a partner and advisor.

 

Visit the programme page

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