For this very first issue of the year, and as we celebrate The Mag’s third anniversary, Audencia certainly has a lot of news to share with you as we:
The Year of the Ox is certainly off to a great start and we can’t wait to bring you up to speed as you browse through this 16th issue of The Mag.
Here’s wishing you a very enjoyable read.
Take care and best wishes,
The Audencia Alumni team
PS: a big thank you to Anaëlle Cochet (student at Audencia SciencesCom) for the cover photo!
Seven years on after taking its first steps into China with the opening of a cooperative centre as part of the Beijing Institute of Technology, the forming of a new partnership with the University of Chengdu and then the setting up of Shenzhen Audencia Business School, Audencia is continuing to strengthen its presence.
In honour of the Chinese New Year, our Dean Christophe Germain extends his best wishes to Audencia’s Chinese community and takes this opportunity to outline the exciting new plans in the pipeline for the School in China.
Guy-Pierre Chomette, Editor
Jie Shen, professor in HR management at Shenzhen Audencia Business School, gives us an overview of the current labour market in China, the up-and-coming sectors of tomorrow and the skill sets you’ll need to demonstrate if you are to take on this adventure.
What are the latest employment trends we should be keeping an eye on in the Chinese labour market?
Jie Shen: There have been some important job market shifts in China over recent years. Broadly speaking, the family planning policy it pursued for over 30 years has resulted in ending the unlimited supply of workers, we once knew. The tipping point came in 2017 when demand outstripped the supply. Furthermore, the huge surge in technological innovation has led to a large increase in demand for candidates who are highly or moderately qualified, the knock-on effect of this being a workforce shortage in this area. China is at the forefront of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, and therefore requires engineers who are specialised in algorithms and machine learning. Automatically, salaries have risen considerably over the past two decades and are now attracting an increasing number of international employees towards the Chinese firms.
Would you say that the most promising sectors are actually those related to digital data mastery?
Jie Shen: Yes. The demand for IT and Internet security experts is constantly on the rise. For instance, the electronics industry has huge potential for growth. Demand remains high for skilled professionals operating in the field of electronics and key account management, mainly in coastal areas like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing. The prosperity generated by the internationalisation of the electronics trade will require a large talent pool of professionals with international business experience.
Which skills would you expect a former student from Audencia to master if they would like to work in China?
Jie Shen: It’s all a question of having a blend of professional skills whilst also showing a capacity to adapt to different cultures. Audencia provides intercultural management courses that are delivered by international renowned universities. For Audencia graduates, there’s a lot to gain from reviewing and reflecting on the lessons they’ve learnt during their studies, prior to pursing a professional career in China.
Guy-Pierre Chomette, Editor
The gateway of Hong Kong, Shenzhen certainly measures up to the image of China’s vibrant and booming economy. The populous city, home to over 12 million inhabitants, hosts a number of prestigious universities and schools. SABS features among them, the fruit of a collaborative venture established between Audencia and Shenzhen University. Their joint goal is to set up cutting-edge training programmes and welcome in 500 new students by 2025.
A spotlight on Shenzhen, China. It is here, in the Guangdong province to the south of the country, that SABS (Shenzhen Audencia Business School) first opened its doors back in 2017, the result of a partnership between Audencia and the local university. Indeed, the decision to open this campus roughly 30 kilometres from Hong Kong is no mere coincidence.
“Shenzhen isn’t only China’s Silicon Valley, it is also a financial hub,” explains Desi Schmitt, Head of International Affairs at Audencia. Over the last three years, SABS has been integrating a number of programmes, with a view to forging genuine synergies between the French and Chinese students. The most recent course was launched in September 2020: “The Master of Science in Financial Technology, a programme accredited by the Chinese Education Minister.” A total of 104 Chinese students, all following the courses offered in this new programme, will have the option of coming to France to specialise in finance.
The school, supported by faculty members including 17 full-time professors, also delivers an International Master in Management and an MSc in Supply Chain catering for around forty students, as well as a certified Executive programme for professionals (around 40 students), not forgetting the Grande Ecole Programme with a specialisation in finance, as well as more generalised courses including digital marketing, doing business in China, and more.
SABS has increased its capacity from initially accommodating around forty students to now providing courses to 180-200 Chinese students. Moreover, around 100 French Audencians have been given the opportunity of studying here for a term. Furthermore, in order to help encourage ever tighter bonds between graduates, “bringing them together and fostering a sense of belonging,” the ‘alumni’ event will be held again in 2021, following the 2018 edition (with 400 people in attendance) and 2019 in Shenzhen, then in Shanghai in 2020 which gathered 100 participants.
What’s more, so as to support the further development of its activities in China, Audencia wishes to broaden its portfolio by delivering a new range of courses.
“We are currently collaborating with the Chinese Education Minister on this”, highlights Desi Schmitt, who prefers not to give too much away for the time being. What’s our aim? “To keep growing” she replies, with a view to welcoming 500 students on the horizon for 2025.
Florence Falvy, Editor
To get the most out of your interactions with Chinese contacts, it is vital to understand the fundamental differences that exist between the two cultures. Bringing us up to speed is Florine Zhao (GE 10), an advocate of the notion that hierarchy is of paramount importance.
“The three pillars of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism form the backbone of Chinese culture, with four core values at their heart: hierarchy, harmony, compassion, and group orientation. In stark contrast, liberty, equality and independence prevail in the West,” explains Florine Zhao, who arrived in France from China at the age of ten.
This goes to show just how different the two countries are. Take for example the way we say hello where it is customary to exchange a few words. In China “Have you eaten yet?” is a classic phrase, like in France where the weather often pops up in conversation.
“However, there is no physical contact, apart from in a professional context where handshakes are permitted.”
It should be noted that in China there is a hierarchical system to all human relations and, as such, you must be “doubly careful to remain courteous towards people who hold high-ranking positions.”
Turning to our emotions, here again some disparities exist.
“In China, we don’t show our emotions, out of a sense of modesty. Nevertheless, this is now starting to change among younger generations.”
In the field of education there are also differences. The Chinese education system puts an emphasis on “learning things by heart.” Moreover, from a very young age, children are often put into private tuition “to help them gain a competitive advantage and secure a place at one of the top schools.” In addition to this, the “face” culture, representing dignity or prestige, also plays a key role. The Chinese don’t like saying “no”, so very often what you think is a “yes” actually turns out to be a “no” in disguise.
What about your professional life?
For the Chinese, there isn’t really a cut-off point between your private life and your working life. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to be called upon outside working hours. “It gives a very bad impression if you don’t reply. This comes across as a lack of professionalism or motivation.”
As Florine sees it, relations need to remain on a friendly basis. “Avoid all confrontation, what you’re aiming for is consensus and compromise.”
When it comes to leadership, she identifies two distinct styles: “directive and delegative in China; persuasive and participative in France.”
During a meeting, only the influential people actually speak, unless you’ve been invited to contribute to the discussion.
Finally, whilst signing a contract may signify the clinching of a deal in France,
“in China it represents a starting point for collaboration. The Chinese, very flexible by nature, don’t hold back from revising the terms and conditions.”
During a Chinese meal, the “Ganbei!” (meaning “dry your cup!” or “bottoms up!”) is also part of a strict protocol and is a mark of “trust” and “conviviality” during negotiations. Thus, it’s an art you need to master if you want to avoid offending the host. And who could forget the traditional bearing of gifts. Here too, there is a protocol to adhere to, that is if you don’t want to risk giving a bad impression. “For instance, black and white, synonymous with French chic, are in fact the Chinese colours of mourning,” explains Florine.
Florence Falvy, Editor
AACSB is honouring Gilles Vanderpooten (GE 09), along with 24 other honorees, in recognition of the positive and tangible impact they are having on society and their continued commitment towards a better tomorrow.
Journalist, author and CEO of Reporters d’Espoirs (Reporters of Hope), Gilles Vanderpooten has now gained recognition and taken his seat in the small circle of influential leaders to have been honoured by the AACSB accreditation body. Through this annual initiative, AACSB is championing the positive global impact made by business school graduates, whose actions and initiatives are addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges of contemporary society, and in turn, inspiring the next generation of business leaders.
Gilles Vanderpooten is indeed an engaged changemaker, who is also the co-author of a collection of books entitled Conversations for the Future, writing alongside diverse thought leaders including Stéphane Hessel with Engagez-vous (Get Involved), Danielle Mitterrand with Ce que je n’accepte pas (What I cannot accept), Guy Bedos, J’ai fait un rêve (I have a dream), Jean-Claude Carrière with Utopie quand reviendras-tu? (Utopia when are you coming back?) and Philippe Starck, Impression d’ailleurs (Impressions from elsewhere).
For this entrepreneur, ever intent on finding solutions to address the major issues of our time, his first actions can be traced back to his time as a student at Audencia, with Eidos The Nantes Environmental Film Festival in 2006, then The Tour de France of Sustainability in 2008, and his subsequent setting up of the Indibio NGO, partnered by the explorer Jéromine Pasteur in 2010, and the Transformational Media Summit in 2013.
He began his sustainability consultancy work whilst at Grant Thornton, before earning his place on the Crédit Mutuel executive board for institutional relations and CSR. He went on to become actively involved in Reporters d’Espoir, on a mission to transform the media and news into ecological, economic and social “solution accelerators”. This he did while also helping to build back trust between the media and citizens, which is actually now more important than ever.
As part of the NGO, he launched his La France des Solutions initiative and published a spinoff book in 2017, La France des Solutions, ces citoyens qui bâtissent l’avenir (citizens shaping the future). In addition, last summer Gilles took up his pen again to inspire the leaders and decisionmakers in the media sector. He brought out his book, Shaping Tomorrow’s World, the positive role of the media, a go-to reference on the current shifts taking place in journalism and the media, that he is hoping will one day be “future pathfinders”.
With this accolade, AACSB are recognising the fifteen plus years of active engagement from a man whose temperament is as discreet as it is determined. Indeed, Gilles is following in the footsteps of Damien Verdier (GE 79) appointed in 2018.
“It’s a true honour to be on the list of honorees and to be in a position to represent Audencia, a school I hold so dear and a school I have the pleasure of collaborating with over the key societal issues of the day, explains Gilles. Corporate social responsibility, ethical leadership and sustainable development are embedded in all teaching at Audencia. These values and approaches set the school apart from the rest, and, on a personal note, they have nurtured me throughout my career and continue to inspire students of the school. We all have an active role to play within our circle of influence, together helping pave the way towards a more sustainable economy!”
Florence Alix-Gravellier, Editor
The Audencia strategic plan for the next five years has now been made public. This is the result of a collective think tank, mobilising 200 contributors - students, alumni, faculty, staff and partners - that maps out the trajectory and future of Audencia. Its aim is to invent a new business school model.
In co-creation with all stakeholders within its ecosystem, Audencia is committed to impact three major societal challenges: creating and using responsible information and technology; defining and adopting managerial approaches that promote inclusive organisations and societies; the designing and implementing sustainable business and growth models.
To achieve this, the Audencia strategic plan provides a roadmap for the future of the School and has four key objectives:
1/ Gaia is the very first school of ecological and social transition to be set up by a business school. It is entirely dedicated to training in positive-impact managerial strategies and practices and is perfectly in line with sustainable development objectives.
2/ Holistic multidisciplinarity. Audencia is increasingly gearing its training provision towards multidisciplinarity by delivering new double-degree or dual-skills courses. Featuring among these new actions is the creation of a citizen’s passport, or KeyS (Know and Engage for Your Success and Society), championing and endorsing the development of societal, behavioural and professional skills developed by the “homo Audencians” (hybrid profiles).
3/ Development for greater impact. Audencia is aiming to optimise its impact on major contemporary challenges. To do so, it is championing - inter alia - the development of 20 new programmes, the establishment of a new campus in Paris, the launch of a collaborative campus in Brazil, new programmes and new locations in China, as well as the launch of a new initiative to strengthen inclusiveness by means of a dedicated strategy to increase access to the school.
4/ A new organisational alignment. Audencia is to implement a multi-capital performance measurement and monitoring system to take into account the economic, social and environmental dimensions of our combined actions, to develop a Token system so as to value the contributions made by all stakeholders, to realign academic and research activities and to advance digital transformation: Audencia has a duty to reinvent its business model.
Thus, with the help of its new strategic plan ECOS 2025, whilst remaining faithful to its roots, Audencia is intent on working for the common good of society. Its aim isn’t to be “the best school in the world” but rather “a better school for the world.”
Guy-Pierre Chomette, Editor
A new establishment, further extensions, new renovations, and so much more. We take a look back over 2020 at what has been a productive year for Audencia.
Despite the health situation, Audencia has pushed on with its property development plans. In September 2020, the school opened its 5th French campus in La Roche-sur-Yon called Audencia Campus Vendée. It is situated on the site of the CCI, in keeping with the rationale of choosing a location at the heart of one’s own ecosystem. Its purpose is to help further the development of the Audencia Bachelor, already delivered at the Nantes campus. The programme seeks to enable students to follow two all-new streams of specialisation during their third year and its course content is linked to the specific economic characteristics of the region: tourism and family business & entrepreneurship.
Major construction projects:
2020 also saw the completion of some major infrastructure projects for Audencia. Our largest site, Atlantic Campus, profited from the injection of a generous 11-million-euro investment, to cover the entire renovation costs of the 1,080 m² Knowledge Hub (media centre), student workspaces, dubbed the Student Hub (255 m²), as well as three lecture halls and a completely redesigned building which has been extended with the addition of a fifth floor. The latter is devoted to some 30 students unions at the school.
Turning to Audencia City Campus, established on the site of the CCI Nantes Saint-Nazaire, here again there has been some major construction work, thanks to a budget of 1.7 million euros. Thus, students on the Bachelor and Specialised Master programmes can now benefit from 18 brand-new additional classrooms, to cater for the significant growth of these programmes. They can also enjoy its fully redesigned canteen area measuring 230 m², a 238 m² coworking space, as well as a new 400 m² Knowledge Hub.
Events are still taking place…
In 2021, Audencia continues to deliver its flagship events:
Jordi Soude (SCOM 07), Editor
Having gained their sea legs while managing to maintain a level head, these chocolatiers and coffee roasters from Morlaix in Brittany are now at the helm of the world’s first modern cargo sailboat and are on course to revolutionise the maritime transport of goods.
In so few words, it is virtually impossible to do justice to the fascinating project that is Grain de Sail and to Stefan Gallard (MBA 13), the company CMO who is passionate about the work they do. This Franco-American, an international marketing specialist for the agri-food industry (Coca-Cola and Invivo), has seen his career take him from France to the United States and Brazil. In his own words, at the heart of this adventure are the men and women who find themselves carried by the wind, gravitating towards like-minded people all sharing the same values and united by their sheer expertise.
It all started with a desire to champion sailing as a solution to help reduce the carbon footprint of freight shipping and a drive to come up with a coherent business model. The founders’ - brothers Jacques and Olivier Barreau - idea is simple: to set up a business capable of meeting its own transport requirements, that is vertically aligned to business growth, and able to provide the swift transportation of bulky goods to places where there are no local substitutes.
“Transporting goods which could otherwise be produced locally just wouldn’t make any sense,” explains Stefan, “especially in a society which is now waking up to all things organic, local sourcing, carbon footprints and eco-responsibility in general.”
The cocoa beans and coffee initially reached Morlaix as conventional cargo, for the time it took the chocolate factory and coffee-roasting facility to grow and become established, allowing time to generate sufficient capital to build a cargo sailboat, the only one of its kind in the world, which they managed from A to Z, from the designs to the administrative regulations, not to mention the training up of their crew members - all seasoned maritime-cargo experts and experienced sailors.
“Trailblazers, absolutely, but no fools! We are building our project step by step, with sound and considered preparation. For this sailboat prototype, we erred on the side of safety by choosing a manageable-size vessel - 24 metres for 50 tonnes of cargo - equally suited to our current needs. The next one, which we’re already looking into, will carry over 250 tonnes of cargo, to keep up with our fast-growing business.”
What’s more, increasing numbers of people are getting behind the initiative. The company’s human and social values are attracting customers, business partners and supporters alike.
Over 6,000 people on Instagram have been following the first transatlantic voyage which started back in mid-November. Late December, when it moored in New York to drop off a delivery of over 15,000 bottles of top-quality French organic wine, the cargo sailboat was cheered on by Audencians, gathered together on-line by Lucie Gouanelle, the US Chapter ambassador.
“I’m an Audencian myself, originally from Brittany, but now working in the US for a retail group as their logistics manager. The eco-friendly and poetic side of Grain de Sail immediately grabbed my attention. Our industry is doing what it can to modernise itself. Well, 2020 was supposed to be a year to mark the moving of container ships towards a cleaner form of energy. In and of itself, sailboat transit is utterly beautiful, compelling and full of promise. I so hope this business model can be scaled up and adapted for use on a bigger scale.” says Laure Williams (GE 08).
Currently in the waters off the Azores, Grain de Sail returned to Saint Malo in mid-February, before heading back out to sea for another voyage in spring 2021.
Florence Alix-Gravellier, Editor
On 25 March we’re all set to launch the third edition of Audencia Around the World, our annual event bringing together Audencia alumni from across the globe. This year’s edition is particularly special, as it promises to be a fully online experience. Katie Francois, heading up this eagerly awaited gathering, lets us in on some of the stages of the journey.
“Although exchanges will be taking place virtually this year, we really didn’t want to change the format too drastically,” Katie explains. "We’ve therefore decided to maintain the guiding principles behind the event: a week-long journey around the world in the company of our Audencia alumni.”
The central theme for 2021 is “stay connected”, and this stands to reason.
Katie: Starting on 25 March, we’ll be kicking things off in France, where we’ll be shining a light on our international alumni, currently working here in France. Following this, there will be one or more events every day of the week, hosted in cities where alumni communities are presently based. Every ambassador will have the opportunity to put their own stamp on how their gathering is organised. In New York and Dublin for instance, the idea is to hold a virtual city tour. The ambassadors will be given a great deal of autonomy during the live events, but this year we’ll need to be all-the-more creative and help them in coming up with ideas during the run-up to these gatherings. With Audencia’s “event planning” team, we are in the process of selecting the right tools to help with the smooth running of these gatherings, making sure they take place under the best of conditions. We can already confirm that there will be a “photo booth” activity for each gathering, allowing us to look back over the entire event during the closing evening.”
As is the annual custom, our international faculty members will once again be playing an integral role.
Katie: Current students, along with our international faculty, will be invited to 'join' events in their home countries. What’s more, there’s nothing to stop a graduate currently in New York from joining the Phnom Penh event, if they so wish, despite the time difference. This is one of the advantages to be gained from moving an event entirely online: when the event takes place, alumni from far and wide can all be brought together at the same time.”
Jordi Soude (SCOM 07), Editor
With almost 1,000 alumni, predominantly Chinese but also city-based internationals, after France, China is host to the second largest community of Audencians anywhere in the world. The development of our Shenzhen campus is serving to reinforce its foothold and continues to diversify the profiles of these alumni based on the other side of the world.
Audencia Alumni in China is made up of former Chinese students from the school’s French campuses who have returned to their home country after graduation, expatriates attracted back by the incredibly vibrant and booming economies in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Since 2019, the first graduating classes from Shenzhen and partner universities in China have been adding to their numbers.
For this eclectic group of people, there is a constant need to find new ways of making connections, building new bridges and fostering a sense of belonging to a shared project, while some students have never even been to Audencia’s historic campus in Nantes, do not fully master the English or French language, and do not always have access to the core information systems.
This is where the work of our Audencia Alumni ambassadors comes in, teams headed up by the ambassadors, and who run the five communities in:
Supported by operational teams at the school, they organise events, help grow the network, renew contacts and welcome newcomers to the chapters.
Throughout 2020, these Audencia Alumni ambassadors were hard at work, despite the ensuing health crisis which continued to shake the entire planet, preventing a significant number of educational activities from taking place and limiting access to our Chinese campuses. Around fifteen digital gatherings, with a rich blend of formats and topics, were set up including the honouring of Guillaume Rué de Bernadac (GE 12) by the Shanghai Investors Club.
Featuring high on the list of highlights was the webinar set up in joint collaboration with the France - China CCI, held on 24 November around the launch of a Chinese company, as well as the celebratory evening reception in honour of Audencia’s 120th anniversary, on 19 December, and the inauguration of the Audencia Shanghai Research Center, that has designs on becoming the “home of Alumni in China” according to the opening address given by Christophe Germain, CEO of Audencia.
Initial hiring is currently underway in Shanghai and the first holders of the MSBA and BBA will soon be graduating in Chengdu, providing us with an opportunity to strengthen the community as we welcome in a new ambassador.
“In 2021, we’ll need to be all the more reactive and poised to seize every opportunity in order to follow through on our development of Audencia as we strengthen links across our Chinese communities, and across all school campuses,” concludes Cici Liu (MBA 20) Chinese missions officer for the Audencia Alumni team.
Florence Alix-Gravellier, Editor
The experience of living abroad was never one of her life goals. And yet, six years ago Aude Camus (GE 14) and her husband Alexis Harmand, also an Audencia graduate (GE 14), decided to make Hong Kong their home. This is the tale of a career path lined with golden opportunities.
“Hong Kong is an international city that boasts a vast expat community. A city where everything seems effortless, like the way you can pay your taxes at the local grocery store which is open 24/7, and more. It’s a city that never sleeps! It is also a city of stark contrasts, where modern constructions and run-down buildings co-exist in the same space, located just 20 minutes away from the nearest dream beach. There is also a huge gap between the rich and poor, where millionaires live side-by-side with those most impoverished.” explains Aude Camus, who first made this place home in March 2015, alongside her husband Alexis. This image is a far cry from the recollections she first made during a short stopover here as a 15-year-old schoolgirl.
“I remembered it more for being a dirty city where it was constantly raining. Asia really didn’t appeal to me back then.”
A place where being “daring” is a must
Her chance of jetting off to China presented itself when Alexis was entrusted with the sourcing division of a family-run business. As she already held a Working Holiday Visa, Aude decided to go along too.
“Once there, we got in touch with Benoit*, our class-year ambassador, who had been living in Hong Kong for a number of years. He introduced us to his circle of friends and he went on to play an instrumental role.”
She spent four years working at the French Chamber of Commerce, where she was in charge of membership. Meanwhile, she was also writing for Hong Kong Madame magazine, the only local, bilingual (French and English) lifestyle media, set up by two French women back in 2010.
“At the end of 2017, the founders were looking to sell their website on. That’s when, I decided to go for it,” Aude explains. At the age of 30, as of November 2019, she has also taken on a new position working for the English group Ten, a luxury concierge service for whom she now produces content material. Her mastery of English is a real bonus in Hong Kong and her nerve has also proved to be a true asset. Over here, you can put your CV and cover letter to one side.
“Just be daring and it’ll pay off!”
It’s been a year and a half now since Aude last had the opportunity to return to the Paris region, where she was born and bred. This is all down to the health crisis. Yet, despite being far from family, for her leaving is out of the question.
Henceforth, this is the place she calls home, some 9,000 kilometres away from France.
“Hong Kong is our “Home Kong”. This is the place where I had my first professional experiences, where I’ve built a career and our family,” she concludes.
*Since January 2021, Benoit has taken on a new professional challenge in France and has handed over the role of Hong Kong alumni ambassador to Emma (GE 16). Here’s wishing both Benoit and Emma every success!
PS: During Audencia Around the World at the end of March 2021, Emma will be organising her first event for the Hong Kong chapter!
Florence Falvy, Editor
China represents a colossal market with some tremendously promising prospects on offer. However, before flying off to this vast territory, there are certain things you need to know regarding the country’s culture and the local mentalities. Yang Wang (GE 18) helps shed some light on the subject for us.
If you’re seeking to get a foot in the door and do business in China, then there are some rudimentaries you need to be aware of first. Yang Wang, head of marketing at L’Oréal Luxe (Luxury Division) in Paris will certainly back this up. Originally from China, he completed his studies at Audencia, an ideal chance to introduce a new workshop on the topic of “How to work in China.”
First things first, partnering with a local associate may prove “a good way in” when launching a business, thereby enabling you to benefit from valuable insider knowledge of the local market. Indeed, with China spanning a vast territory, it’s not always a smart move to look at the country as a whole but much wiser to ring fence a target market or decide on one major city in particular. Clearly Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong immediately come to mind. Yet, there are also the so-called “lesser known” towns, that are certainly worth investigating. A case in point is Hangzhou, an hour and a half from Shanghai where the head office of e-commerce giant Alibaba is based, which has become a haven for start-ups and upcoming talents.
When looking to do business with China, you need to demonstrate your ability to react quickly.
“You need to be quick off the mark and able to make swift decisions, as the country is thriving and the booming markets are changing rapidly,” explains Yang Wang.
However, as is the case in France, building trust takes time.
“It’s paramount to establish a genuine win-win relationship,” he adds. Learning the language may also be worthwhile but not a prerequisite. “For certain markets, like cosmetics or luxury, English is sufficient.”
Pitfalls to avoid
Be careful not to venture into conquered territory. According to Yang Wang, it’s of utmost importance to come across as “humble and tolerant,” and “to remain non-judgmental.” Working in China is all about taking on the local customs, such as switching to the WeChat messaging app as opposed to Facebook. Equally, it is important to adapt to the developments taking place in an increasingly digitalised country. For instance, remember to leave your bank card at home. Mobile payment has now become the norm in China. Watch out not to make any inappropriate comparisons either between the Chinese and Western models or, for instance, refer to Alibaba as “the Chinese Amazon.”
Finally, on the subject of what conversation topics to discuss, Yang Wang would strongly advise you to steer well away from “politics.”
Florence Falvy, Editor
The Audencia Foundation was set up in 2009, under the auspices of Fondation de France, and supported by Noble Age, CIC Ouest Bank and L’Oréal. In 2020, it celebrated its tenth anniversary and last November a book was published, retracing the adventure so far and mapping out the Foundation’s future perspectives.
This decade has flown by! Ten years of innovation that has seen the Audencia Foundation continuously stepping up its projects and initiatives, in line with its core values and priorities: corporate and social responsibility, entrepreneurship, the hybridisation of skills, and social and cultural inclusion. Ten years is a great time to sit back and take stock, appraising the impact it’s had, hearing multiple stories from the many stakeholders involved and then looking ahead towards the future.
The hundred or so pages of this richly illustrated book are peppered with numerous testimonials by beneficiaries of the Foundation, sponsors, donors, research chairholders, as well as figures from everyday society. Together, they relate their stories of the golden hours of the Audencia Foundation, from the early days of the founding patrons, right up to the creation of its latest chairs - including the Multi-Capital Performance Chair - and through to initiatives such as the Brio programme, Négo-Training, as well as the invaluable support bestowed on an ever-increasing number of students year on year. This publication underlines the great solidarity shown by some 1,800 donors and 125 corporate funders, who have all supported the Foundation and continue to provide their support today.
In effect, for the past ten years the Audencia Foundation has demonstrated its ability to undertake projects and initiatives for the school, its students and society at large.
“On the strength of these experiences and with a strong network of engaged patrons all committed to Audencia (businesses, alumni and friends of the school), the Foundation is now in a position to take on the new goals being rolled out as part of the upcoming strategic plan, resolutely oriented towards the common good of our society,” states Françoise Marcus, General Delegate of the Audencia Fondation.
Over recent years, there has been a steady progression in the number of donations, and in particular those made by Audencia alumni.
“I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of the social inclusion grants during my studies,” testifies Thomas Blondel (GE 02). “Added to the support I received from other bodies - this grant proved a real lifesaver - my odd jobs wouldn’t have got me through. The school did a great job of preparing me for success. I’m very happy to be in a position to give something back and donate towards the social inclusion grants.
Guy-Pierre Chomette, Editor
In response to the difficulties encountered by students due to the health crisis, the Audencia Foundation has been drumming up support for its end-of-year campaign, seeking to increase the number of social inclusion grants and living expenses scholarships for its young entrepreneurs. Whichever way you look at it, this has certainly turned out to be a truly exceptional fundraiser.
The figures speak for themselves:
In these hard times, solidarity has won out. What a great response from our alumni network!
Alumni support for the Audencia Foundation funding scheme has exceeded its objectives. While 180 students were awarded grants by the Foundation in 2020, the trust is now in a position to support:
We’ve come full circle!
New for this year: for donations of €150 and above, the donors receive a Ouivalo urban compost bin. The positive impact start-up was set up by Kevin Hamon (GE 19), himself a beneficiary of an entrepreneurship grant during his final year of studies at Audencia:
“The grant I received from the Foundation has enabled me to follow through on my entrepreneurial calling, letting me try out my idea, and this right from the very start of my end-of-studies internship. One year on and business is going great. I’m delighted to have been given this opportunity. A huge thank you to everyone who has donated, as this grant has helped me grow in confidence, allowing me to take on the risks of having my own company, despite my student status and being new to this. I’m planning on giving something back myself just as soon as I can.”
With the ongoing health crisis continuing to destabilise a large number of students, the solidarity of the Audencia alumni network is rising to new heights. A massive thank you!
Guy-Pierre Chomette, Editor
First released in China back in 2011, the WeChat “super app” has gone on to achieve phenomenal success all over the country. So, what does this app actually do? Why does all Chinese have it on their mobile phones? Nancy Yinan Guan (IMM 18) an Chinese expat living in France for several years now, helps us gain some clarity.
“From its humble beginnings as a messaging app, it wasn’t long before it would go on to be adopted by the entire population and by all generations. Even my grandfather uses it", Nancy explains. "It has become our sole go-to medium for sending messages.”
Now a ubiquitous part of everyday life, a host of new features has been incorporated throughout its development, and helped turn it into what it is now, a type of ‘super application.’
“Today, it’s fair to say that it’s an all-in-one Facebook, WhatsApp, Uber, PayPal and more", Nancy continues. "It is a multi-purpose, standalone app for real-time video chats, voice messages, mobile payment, orders and delivery, ticket reservation, and lots more besides. With WeChat, you can even book a hospital appointment.”
Field of communication
Proving such a massive hit (with 1.1 billion active users and accounting for a whopping third of mobile traffic in China), it is no wonder businesses have all been clambering in an attempt to capture this new field of communication:
“Four or five years ago, brands started moving onto this app in a bid to tap into its wide audience. They publish their news, set up strategies for improving customer relations and also sell their goods directly online.”
As regards the ongoing controversy over the app’s “surveillance”, Nancy is very clear on the matter:
“As I see it, WeChat is a very convenient way for me to keep in touch with my family and friends, and even more so since I became an expat. Moreover, I believe that the Chinese primarily look at the usefulness of this app, without necessarily raising any questions regarding any potential government surveillance.”
Jordi Soude (SCOM 07), Editor
From Paris to Tehran, Helsinki and Hong Kong, and from operational finance management to strategy and talent development, Guillaume Schoebel (GE 89) remains a globetrotter through and through, with an avid passion for new experiences.
“Exploring is great fun!” says this sailing enthusiast, slipping into a smile. He is now settled at the foot of the Alps, the base from where he runs the Schneider Electric community of Country Directors.
Guillaume Schoebel started out his career working in finance, before going on to develop a passion for running profit centres, followed up by an internal move to an international management position, in sales and price processing. Meanwhile, he was also putting a lot of hours into coaching, successfully earning his certificate in 2018.
His career was constantly on the move, dictated by whichever opportunities and challenges he’d managed to bring about, but always in line with what he wanted to do at the time.
“Just having a job with no plans of building a family, especially when you’re working overseas, is a recipe for misery,” he says, thinking of his wife and children who have followed him all over the world, learning new languages and cultural codes as they went, to help them integrate successfully.
Swedish, Farsi, English and Mandarin, the Schoebel family are polyglot from father to son, despite feeling somewhat at a loss in Hong Kong, with its multitude of grassroots dialects and the dominance of Cantonese.
“In the same way Farsi gave me a great way in when I found myself working with the Iranians, especially outside Tehran, in Hong Kong, a global city with its own identity and cultural markers, enabled us all to benefit from a tremendously rich and unique experience, at times surreal, but a truly cosmopolitan experience.”
With its own special fields of business featuring nowhere else on the globe, in banking, insurance and the luxury industry, Hong Kong constitutes a cosmopolitan bubble with its own liberal approach and complex dealings with China. Westerners with their lavish lifestyles rub shoulders, sometimes unknowingly, with Cantonese customs found merely a few tube-stops from the town centre, amidst this cultural melting pot that can prove quite unnerving.
“At the end of the day, what stood out to us most was the impression we had of stepping back in time. Right the way through the political and ideological crisis that struck the city, we felt things people from outside the region could never have imagined. You had to be there to understand what it was really like.”
Henceforth, Guillaume Schoebel is orienting his career more towards passing on his expertise.
“I’m fascinated in discovering what makes people tick, so I can help them to become more performant.” In addition, he supports the Audencia Foundation on the premise that we should be helping out young people to avoid running the risk of “missing something important.”
His words of wisdom to Audencia students is to seek out a wealth of international experiences and to give themselves a broad learning environment, preferably one that’s off the beaten track.
“No doubt the health crisis will curb many travel opportunities but signing up to a blended and cosmopolitan approach still remains key. The sooner you get to really enjoy being in different environments, the better!”
Florence Alix-Gravellier, Editor
The career path of Wei Chen (GE 11) has so far seen her jet setting over 8,000 kilometres between France and China, with a spell at Audencia and a stopover at Valeo, the automotive supplier. A truly surefire way of combining passion with profession and loving what you do.
Wei Chen grew up in Ningbo, a harbour city situated in northeast Zhejiang province, China. And yet, it was in France that she decided to pursue part of her studies, after enrolling at Audencia to specialise in finance, management control and auditing. After graduating from the Grande Ecole programme in 2011, she went on to join the automotive supplier Valeo in Creteil (Val-de-Marne), initially working in the management control division as part of a 9-month internship, resulting in the company taking her on as their industrial management controller at the Nevers factory, in Nièvre. Two years later, she returned to her Chinese homeland.
“An opportunity came my way for a career move, working for Valeo Powertrain System in Shanghai as their management controller,” she recollects.
Four years on, and a further opportunity also came along for her to become the financial controller, in charge of the windscreen wiper systems division, while, in parallel, working as their management controller for the regional head office of Wiper Systems Asia.
A passion for automotives
At the age of 32, Wei Chen continues to work at the factory in Shanghai while still remaining in close contact with her former classmates from Audencia, who, just like her, are also working in China, or else in other countries around the globe. Her current assignments?
“Making the best use of resources to meet the company’s financial targets.” To work in this sector, you need to have a certain number of strengths. “You’ll require good business acumen, should be results-focussed, and more importantly, you need to have good communication skills to work with and manage all the other parts of the job.”
What’s more, having first-hand experience of studying and working in France has proved a real bonus.
“Aside from the benefits of knowing another language, I gained a better insight into both French and Chinese culture.” This is a real advantage in everyday life when serving as intermediary between French managers and local teams, she says.
And it’s certainly no coincidence that this car enthusiast came to work in the automotive trade. “I love driving, automotive engineering really appeals to me, and I’m a huge fan of Fomula 1,” she tells us. It is also “a very promising business line, especially in China” where cost control is a key strategic factor. All the more reason why this profession of hers is so crucial.
Her future goal is to remain within the automotive sector and she is also planning on making her way up to the position of financial Director.
Florence Falvy, Editor
Many thanks for reading the mag #16, the first issue of this year 2021! We hope that, like us, the beautiful stories of Audencia's alumni inspire you.
We look forward to seeing you in June 2021 for the next edition of the mag. In the meantime, if you have any ideas, suggestions, remarks or questions, we remain at your disposal. Do not hesitate to write us (it will be our pleasure): firstname.lastname@example.org.
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