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24 June 2019

Our Incredible Life Paths - SERGE J MASSAT (TBS 1975)

Who were you at TBS?

  • Why did you choose to attend Toulouse Business School?

Born and raised in Toulouse, and wanting study accounting, choosing to attend a school in my native town to pursue this career seemed to be obvious to me.

  • Would you tell us about your time at TBS? (Studies)

I started off doing a prep at SupdeCo Toulouse, as it was called then. Studious (perhaps too much so) but a bit insolent, I quickly decided to take Finance-Accounting option and I separated the courses I thought were indispensable to me from the ones that would never serve me in my career. For example, in computing classes at the time, we had to write programmes with punch cards, which I thought was a waste of time. I knew that one day someone else would write programmes for me. As an aside, I left at the top of my Class after the 40th 😊 and I had a 0.25 out of 20 on my leaving exam in computing.

  • Do you have any stories from your Class to share? (e.g., associations, students)

I think that the thing that marked me for life took place on a Thursday in March of 1973. Thursday afternoons were reserved for sports and the mornings were for classes. I had only had a total of two hours of computing classes, and I was serious about my theory that writing programmes would never serve any purpose for me, so I skipped those courses and spent almost all my Thursdays on the ski slopes. One day, when I was having drinks with some 3rd years after a day of skiing, I learned that they were going to go on a study trip to Mexico. Ten days later, I left with them for two weeks. During our first week there, we studied the Mexican economy - macro and micro - and the second week we studied … the Mexicans. That marked me forever. Twenty-one years later, I opened an agency in Mexico, which was the first foreign expert accountant office to open directly in Mexico, even before Ernst & Young and other KPMG firms. Currently, I have 75 employees or associates in Mexico.

Who are you today?

  • What is your current situation?

Holding an expert accounting degree from France and the United States, I manage or co-manage four offices that I established in North America: in Montreal, New York, Miami, and Mexico, plus a branch in Havana. At 66 years of age, I’d like to step back a little. Luckily, I’ve been able to work with others who are in the process of taking up the slack.

  • Why did you pick this career, this particular goal?

I chose this career by default, without really knowing where I was going, perhaps because I felt that I would be my own boss one day and wouldn’t have to answer to anyone.

But what do you mean by “goal”? Do you think that, at 18 years of age with a “bac” under their belt, people already know what they want to do as a career? That’s what I criticise about today’s students and new graduates. They want to “have a career”. They put themselves in a rigid framework that doesn’t leave room for imagination or creativity. Do you think that when I started attending TBS I had a goal to open agencies in New York, Boston (which I’ve since sold), Mexico, Montreal, Havana, Miami, Luxembourg, and Paris? You can only achieve that by opening your eyes and keeping an entrepreneurial spirit.

  • What did your studies bring you in your personal and professional achievements? 

Like everyone, the courses gave me a foundation. I was a very studious student (too much so) and received an Award of Excellence every year through the bac. I think that the study trip I took to Mexico in 1973 I previously mentioned triggered the understanding that there are other things in life than studying, and that you don’t have to be at the head of your class to be successful. And that sometimes it’s enough to open your eyes to that (read that, not those) which surrounds you, and on the world in general.

What advice do you have for TBS alumni, either students or graduates?

I’ve been dispensing advice to students or recent graduates for a long time. But they’re not very receptive because they’ve been taught that a degree, the company, their future employer are “musts” while they have not yet proven themselves. They are brainwashed at their business schools or whatever.

If you can read between the lines, you already have my other answers above:

- Do serious work without taking yourself too seriously;

- Don’t lock yourself into an inflexible path (career) and wear blinders; keep your eyes open to opportunities, and know how to seize them;

- Know how to sow in order to reap;

- Avoid being too pretentious; and,

- Have an entrepreneurial spirit and be able to take measured risks;




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