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Home »» Moroccan Of The Month

Fatiha Jillali  [ June, 2009 ]
Fatiha Jillali I was born in 1978 in Casablanca but I grew up in a small city called Khouribga where my father worked as a civil engineer. Absent the internet at the time and given the scarce learning resources in town, I was blessed with having a mother determined to make me succeed amidst adversity. An example of my mum’s determination was going above and beyond to persuade a catholic nun to give me private French and English lessons and saving money secretly to enroll me in distant classes with a school located in France to master both languages.

Since childhood, I was active in many sports (swimming, tennis, basket ball, you name it). I also showed a clear interest in Arts, painting in particular. I was able to pursue my passion to the point of actually making a successful art exhibition. According to my art teachers, I could have made a career out of it yet I decided to keep it as a hobby and chose to pursue my other passion, mathematics. I graduated first in high school in the toughest branch - mathematical sciences. Then I chose Finance by successfully passing the entry exams of the top business school in Morocco (ISCAE, Casablanca).

While in college, I was involved in many extra curricular activities, most important of which was my membership with AFAK, the most vocal environment protection and civic consciousness NGO in Morocco.

After graduating with high honors, I joined Ericsson. My trajectory within the company was stellar including a job rotation in Sweden and several promotions, the latest of which was as project control manager with 3 financial controllers reporting to me at the age of 24. Despite a successful career at Ericsson, I decided to get an Ivy League MBA before my trajectory starts flattening.

I applied for a Fulbright scholarship which I was awarded and then got admitted to my dream school, the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell.

On my 1st year in the US, I was a board member of Net Impact an organization that promotes environmental sustainability in business. And I was chosen to represent Cornell in a panel of discussion on The EU-US relations in a program called Interstate that was held in Belgium. The purpose of the program is to discuss transatlantic political and business relations between the United States and the enlarged European Union.

I also participated in a seminar on managing natural resources in Arizona to which I was invited by The US Department of State and took part in a leadership trek at WestPoint. And I raised money for the "Save Darfur" initiative by selling wristbands on campus.

During the summer, I interned with a leading Telecom company in New Jersey. At the end of my internship a full time job offer was extended to me to join the Finance leadership rotational program. Currently, I am considering an opportunity to do research with one of my Cornell professors on an exciting field: Islamic Finance.

On my 2nd year in the US, I am a teaching assistant at the Johnson school for 2 classes: Financial Accounting and Macroeconomics & International Trade.

I made sure to customize my MBA experience by taking the necessary electives to make it internationally focused. For instance, the International Finance class addresses concerns like the impact of political risks on the financial market of a given country. All the concepts learnt in other investment and portfolio management classes or Corporate Finance are looked at from entirely different lenses and I feel I am now equipped to apply all the hard financial skills in any environment regardless of the political turmoil it faces.

Also, the class of macroeconomics and international trade combines math intensive sessions with big picture real life cases, the like of the long deflation cycle in Japan or the economic impacts of the accession of Ehud Olmert as the head of State in Israel and the victory of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections. Taking the class was an eye opener but helping to teach it was even more so. I became more attentive to the intricacies of politics and economics on a daily basis and I acquired the ability to actually critique world news with solid arguments.

I made sure to constantly stay on top of what is happening in the world not only by checking the BBC news website 10 times a day but also by becoming a fervent reader of The Economist. I have also taken the initiative to regularly write to share my views on several articles. One which I wrote in the aftermath of Jordan’s terrorist attacks actually got published in the International Herald Tribune:

Another of my papers titled "Desperately Seeking Rational Homo Economicus" can be found in the link below by scrolling down to the middle of the page:

On campus, I often take the lead in organizing constructive debates with other classmates to steer different opinions and confront views on hot topics of the moment in International affairs. Amidst those heated debates I made lifetime friendships with nationals of multiple countries that I would have never imagined to meet otherwise.

My mum always said to me: “De la discussion jaillit la lumičre” (Translated from French it means: Light comes from discussion). I couldn’t agree more. It is generally the lack of understanding that generates misconceptions and fear of “the other”. Dialogue is crucial. It is a small planet after all and with English as an international language, there is no such thing as a Babel tower.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered in a Hebrew-Arabic translation project on campus, the purpose of which was to compare-contrast views reflected in articles of a children’s magazine called “Windows”. The magazine is the focal point of an ambitious project led by Jews and Palestinians from both sides of the Green Line that work together to promote acquaintance, understanding and reconciliation between both peoples through educational programs, media and art. Windows is a non-profit organization and not affiliated with any political body. (Their website is:

I am also a career assistant volunteer coaching 1st year MBA students in their job search, career choices and conducting mock job interviews. I also joined the Latin America career trek this past winter and I am the Cornell campus manager for the nation wide French MBA Club.

Last and I will conclude on that, if you take a look at my application essay to get into business school, you would find a sentence similar to this: “I envision myself working with an international organization the like of the World Bank where I will be able to make an effective impact in bridging the gaps between citizens of the world, alleviating poverty and making developing countries more financially sustainable”.

And I haven’t changed my mind. I am a die hard believer that microfinance coupled with base of the pyramid sustainable technologies can bring about lasting change in the lives of the world neediest on a massive scale.

The legacy of Dr. Muhammad Yunus (founder of Grameen Foundation) must not just be perpetuated; it must be build upon day after day.

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