AFAM: hello, Jean and thank you for your time. How have you become acquainted with AFAM?


Jean: ah, like many things in the Gadz'Arts community, and business in general, around a meal! Shortly after I moved to the Bay Area in 1998, I met Frédéric (Garderes) and Xavier (Wartelle) and we formed a habit to meet for lunch in Mountain View. A few years later, when Xavier co-founded AFAM with Eric (Benhamou), he knew who to call to give a hand!



AFAM: When and why did you decide to help American Friends of Arts et Metiers? What was your main motivation?

Jean: great question! When you live 9 hours and more than 5,500 miles away from Paris, the ties with the mother ship for our Gadz'Arts alumni organization, La Soce, can appear rather weak and distant. Add to this the busyness of the life of an expatriate in a startup, with a young family, and you have the recipe to forget about the ideals of our community. With its dynamism, financial means and local presence, AFAM gives all Gadz'Arts in the US a pragmatic opportunity to reconnect and help the next generations and classes experience the passion which got us to cross the pond ourselves in the first place. And, beyond this passion, ton of logistical support to make the hop or plunge easier! A joined AFAM for this opportunity to reconnect and give back with more impact and scale.


AFAM: What did you do for AFAM at the beginning for your volunteering experience? What is your role inside the organization now?

Jean: I first joined as a paid member, processing both membership to AFAM and La Soce through AFAM. I then joined our Shasta team, Shasta being our AFAM program focused on providing assistance and support to Arts et Métiers students who are seeking internships in the US. We are also helping those who want to study in universities in the US. Later, in 2017, I got elected to the AFAM Board. It's so rewarding to see for instance one of my mentees blossom and now work for Tesla!


AFAM: Do you have any previous experience helping non-profit organizations? Any non-profit you knew of and helped to when you were a student at Arts et Metiers?

Jean: yes, quite a few actually, and I'd start with all the volunteering opportunities which were provided to us right during our 3 years with Arts et Métiers. From representing students with the staff (DDE), organizing meals and events and later representing my class (DDP), I never counted the hours, but that was clearly not for profit! One of our sons organized a trip and we spent 3 weeks in Ethiopia helping a 2,000-people community displaced by a major drought. Later, through IBM's Corporate Corps program, I spent 4 weeks in Senegal helping Coders for Africa. I also volunteer in the Toastmasters organization, and I'm an official and sub committee chair with USA Track and Field. Plus a few other engagements so, on top of two big jobs, an executive position at IBM and highly competitive ultra marathon running, never a dull moment!


AFAM: Anything you’d like to wish to AFAM?

Jean: saying success looks quite cheesy, who wants to fail, right? But, still, success of AFAM's mission, definitely! Both reinforcing the connections among Gadz'Arts in the US, and the local friends and supporters of our School, as well as expanding the recognition of the Arts & Métiers brand. While the name has such an outstanding reputation in France, it doesn't as much outside of the Hexagon. Glad to give back to our community this way, and hoping other Gadz'Arts will also get the calling to join us, either financially or volunteering their time to assist the next generations, or both!

 

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Jean during one of his beloved marathon races in California (photo courtesy: Jean Pommier)

How you can help AFAM, our community and our students?

You can easily donate to AFAM: here

You can help AFAM: by becoming a Shasta mentor or our expert/referrer

You can share your ideas with AFAM community manager or any member of our team

Please read other interviews of "Giving back to your community" series:

With Michel Vulpillat (Ch 183), our new representative in Southern California

With Valentin Fehr (Cl 212), our new representative in Atlanta region

With Alain Mutschler ( Ch 190), our Shasta mentor

With Jean-Luc Nauleau ( An 81), AFAM board member

AFAM: Hello Alain, and thank you for your time! Please tell me, how did you first hear about AFAM?

Alain: I moved to the United States at the end of 2008, the day after the Lehman brother’s bank collapsed. I initially planned to stay for a few years as an expatriate, but I never left New England and eventually relocated with my wife and kids.

At that time, AFAM already had a presence on the internet with an initial website and was contacting the growing population of alumni located within the US through emails and LinkedIn profiles.

AFAM: When did you decide to help AFAM and become our mentor? What was your motivation? Please tell us a few words about your mentorship experience.

Alain: I was contacted by AFAM to support French students who were looking for a US internship. I had paired up with students in the past, and we worked together to equip them for their future challenges. I love to help people discover their calling. Having worked in many different countries (Mexico, Germany, China…), I also gained much cross-cultural experience that can be very useful. In addition, I am deeply involved with the local state universities here in Massachusetts, and I serve as a panelist and help students prepare for the workplace environment.

AFAM: Do you have any previous experience volunteering for any non-profit organization? Any help you provided to non-profits when you were still a student at Arts et Métiers?

Alain: Back in France and starting as a high school kid, I volunteered in many sports and cultural activities. I think it prepares us for life and a career by developing the soft and hard skills needed later to succeed.

Today, being in charge of American operations, I do travel a lot. However, I still try to volunteer as often as I can. I am also involved at a local level in sports activities and several business organizations. It has helped me meet fascinating and diverse people that I would not have met otherwise, and volunteering is very strong here, especially at the community level.

AFAM: What would you like to wish to the AFAM team?

Alain: AFAM has been around for quite a while and has expanded substantially over the last few years. Congratulations to the team, and I wish many others will join the organization and be active. I hope that our alumni and students can enjoy the many services offered by AFAM. With an ever-growing alumni and student population attracted to the USA, AFAM is like a compass and serves anybody who would like to contribute or is just interested in US opportunities.

AFAM: thank you, Alain, for your time!

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Photo: courtesy of Alain Mutschler

How you can help AFAM, our community and our students?

You can easily donate to AFAM: here

You can help AFAM: by becoming a Shasta mentor or our expert/referrer

You can share your ideas with AFAM community manager or any member of our team

Please read other interviews of "Giving back to your community" series:

With Michel Vulpillat (Ch 183), our new representative in Southern California

With Valentin Fehr (Cl 212), our new representative in Atlanta region

With Jean Pommier (An 183), AFAM board member, Shasta committee member and Shasta mentor

With Jean-Luc Nauleau ( An 81), AFAM board member

 

AFAM: Hello Valentin and thank you for being a part of this new interview series “Giving back to your community”. Please let us know a few words about yourself. How long have you been living in the US and what are you doing in life?

Valentin: Hello Albina! After graduating from Arts et Metiers I joined Georgia Tech in Atlanta to get my master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering. Getting more and more involved in statistics, modeling, and data in general, I joined Capgemini US as a Data Science consultant in 2019. I have now been living in Atlanta Georgia for 6 years.

 

AFAM: Congratulations on your new role: President of Atlanta gadz group, AFAM representative in Atlanta region! Please tell us how come you decided to join AFAM as a new regional representative?

Valentin: I have always liked being involved in the gadz community, so leaving France so soon after graduating was a big split. However, I soon discovered that Atlanta usually has several gadz around, ranging from students at Georgia Tech to people just working and living here. As soon as I heard about events organized by AFAM around town I was in! And now that the opportunity to organize and facilitate these events has presented itself, I want to give back by making the gadz in Atlanta feel connected and let them know we can help them if they need.

 

AFAM: Do you have any previous experience donating/helping/volunteering for non-profit organizations back in France (may be when you were still an Arts et Metiers student) or in the US? What are your thoughts on being a volunteer?

Valentin: While I was a student at Arts et Metiers in Cluny it was part of our daily life to be involved in the association. This is where I learned that when so many contribute even just a bit, it can lead to great things.

Today, I would like to continue by helping current students or even Alumni know more about opportunities in the US. I would also like to continue to feel this sense of community here in Atlanta as a continuation of our experience at Arts et Metiers.

 

AFAM: What would you like to wish to AFAM team and to the gadz’ arts community in the US?

Valentin: Well, with the current context I wish we all get to meet in person soon!

I do also wish that the AFAM team and the US gadz community gets a wider reach, because I know a lot of students and alumni do want to move to the US. It usually is a tall order but knowing they can count on other gadz already here or on AFAM to help them is a big plus.

 

AFAM: It is summertime. What are the best things to do in Atlanta now? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Valentin: Atlanta is a bit ruthless during peak summer season! High temperature and high humidity makes it difficult to stay out for too long. However, “Shooting the Hooch” is an Atlanta classic, tubing down the Chattahoochee river on an inflatable donut. One of the only refreshing outside activities around!  Another popular destination is Tybee Island, on the coast, for a weekend beach trip next to Savannah, GA.

Finally, the most popular place to hang out in Atlanta these days is anywhere along the Beltline. It is a bicycle track going through parts of the city and around which several hip places have opened lately, the most famous ones being Ponce City Market and Krog Street, where you can shop, eat, and drink before going on a walk or a bike trip.

 

AFAM: Valentin, thank you for your time and for this interview!

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Midtown Atlanta skyline as seen from Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd stadium

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Martin Luther King's childhood home in Downtown Atlanta

Both pictures - courtesy of Valentin

How you can help AFAM, our community and our students?

You can easily donate to AFAM: here

You can help AFAM: by becoming a Shasta mentor or our expert/referrer

You can share your ideas with AFAM community manager or any member of our team

Please read other interviews of "Giving back to your community" series:

With Michel Vulpillat (Ch 183), our new representative in Southern California

With Alain Mutschler ( Ch 190), our Shasta mentor

With Jean Pommier (An 183), AFAM board member, Shasta committee member and Shasta mentor

With Jean-Luc Nauleau ( An 81), AFAM board member

AFAM starts a new series of interviews "Giving back to your community". It is a series about dedicated and engaged gadzarts in the US, helping AFAM and our community being our donors, mentors and volunteers.

Our first interviewee is Michel Vulpillat ( Ch 183), Sourthern California AFAM representative and member of the Operations Committee since 2021.

AFAM: Hello, Michel. Thank you for this interview. You joined AFAM as our new Southern California representative this year. Today you are also a part of AFAM operations committee which goal is to generate and manage projects and activities for the gadz community in the US and in France. Please let us know how did you know about AFAM and how did you join the team?

Michel: Being in the US for more than 30 years and always wanting to regroup the gadz community I've kept an eye on what was happening, thus I witnessed the AFAM creation and blooming. Once I contacted them to let them know I was trying to develop the community relations in Southern California, they brought me on board. Since my goals are consistent with AFAM's objectives, it's a great and a natural fit.

AFAM: How do you see you volunteering work for AFAM in the future? What results would you like to see?

Michel: What really matters is what our target demographic (our "customers" in a sense) would like to see, and how well as an organization we respond to that need and demand. As long as the organization is on point, effective and not bogged down in politics, everything will be just great. It's like a rugby game, both teams and all players have to be good, for you or your team to be your best. It's not a single isolated element. So, if me and the team coalesce properly and are doing a great job, we should achieve great results. If I'm not a great player I won't last long, if I am a great player but the team otherwise does not play a great game, it will not last long either. Since AFAM has been around for quite a while and has been quite effective, I already know how good the teams are, now it's up to me to fit, we shall see.

 

AFAM: Do you have any previous experience volunteering, here in the US or back in France (may be even when you were an Art et Metiers student)?

Michel: Other than my main job, as soon as I could have some spare time, I've always volunteered in all kind of organizations. Between the curiosity of different worlds, cultures, etc. and the fact that it's a very rewarding thing, it's always been something that interested me. Besides one never has more freedom than when volunteering. As a matter of fact, I started volunteering when I was still in high school, in motor-sport, which was a great entry card and gave me connections for my future career at the time. I was also volunteering in the burgeoning personal computer and software industry. Volunteering really framed my whole path in life, I just got lucky that sometimes people were willing to pay me for it.

Having had more and more free time over time, I have kept volunteering and participating in all kind of endeavors, always a great experience, and always meeting interesting people. Nowadays I volunteer in many organizations, like first responders (search and rescue, etc.) for our area, sport organizations, metal and wood workers groups, alumni, business and investment networks in Los Angeles, Director of technology for the National Museum of the Surface Navy here in Los Angeles.

 

 

AFAM: You are based in Los Angeles area. Do you like the region? What do you like to do in your spare time?

 

Michel: Coming to LA (Los Angeles): that was an easy decision. When I started the video game company, it was to expand to the Americas for a French company, so there were many possible options to consider. Strategically however, it was much easier to choose, LA was the center of "entertainment" in many forms (movie, music, etc..) which was not only related, but also a source of cross marketing and licensing for our products (both inward and outward), and a fertile environment to source various creative talents. California was also a good place to be as it was and still is a major hub for the computer and software industries. LA was also strategic as we were to expand to Asia soon after (which I did in Japan first, the year after) so another good stepping stone as the Western USA has a lot of ties with Asia naturally. LA was a direct destination from Paris. And finally, all the people involved were so happy to either live here (climate and more) or have to come here every now and then.

Los Angeles, in particular the area open to the ocean (not behind a mountain range) is just an idyllic climate, and we have access to everything possible under the sun. Name one thing you need, or you'd like to do, even winter sports like skiing, and I can get you to it within a 2-hour range.

There is really nothing not to like. Besides, personally I really don't like cities, never did, I'm a mountain man. So, while oddly enough I'm fond of Tokyo, which I cannot explain why really, as it would look to be the worse city for me, Los Angeles is my favorite city in the world, because it's a city that doesn't feel like a city. Things are wide open, very few high-rise buildings, lots of vegetation, very easy to drive around and park anywhere (well mostly, I still don't go to places where there is traffic and it's hard to park). And yet we have access to everything, within a very reasonable distance.

So here I am, 30 plus years later, and still ecstatic and very lucky to live here, in paradise.

 

As for the region, some of my activities led me to discover and know the "Southwest" in depth, meaning from California to Colorado East and to Oregon, Utah, North. This is a fabulous region with so many things to see, or do. I've done it so many times, with people visiting, with groups of French tourists, in cars, buses, even motorbikes through back-roads and dirt roads, I know most, if not all, the roads and trails, the parks, places to stay and eat and to visit.

The Southwest has two things in particular that never leave people without strong feelings, either for or against: the desert (Mojave, or Sonoran), and Las Vegas. For absolute different reasons, these two produce an emotional feeling unseen for other places. There are also many magnificent places around: Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, to name a few. Personally, I absolutely love the desert. I also used to love the pre-2010 Vegas, now that it is more of an amusement park style, and they widened their focus from gambling to entertainment, the old spirit is lost and I don't like it as much.

 

Concerning my spare time, I've never sorted things out in terms of work/not work, to me it's all life, so it can be looked at as no spare time, or it's all "spare time". So, I do eat (love that), sleep, and do multiple activities that I like (which always included “work"). What particular activity that is, varies over time and needs, it's also a constant and evolving journey of discovery. My global scope of interest is business, science and technology, but I really have no hard-set boundaries, or even directions, I'm always curious about everything that people are interested in, and also in their particular cultural experience. So, in the end, these points of interests, and the people around me, and the opportunities (positive or negative), all have lit up the path that I have been taking at any point in time.

It's not what we do, it's who we do it with!


 

Thank you for your time and for the love of LA you shared with us! See you soon!

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USS Iowa, the National Museum of the Surface Navy, in San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles

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Port of Los Angeles, at dawn, looking south east

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Algodones Dunes at the Mexican, and Arizona borders

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Mojave Desert, near Kelso, Kelso Dunes in the distance

All pictures: courtesy of Michel Vulpillat

How you can help AFAM, our community and our students?

You can easily donate to AFAM: here

You can help AFAM: by becoming a Shasta mentor or our expert/referrer

You can share your ideas with AFAM community manager or any member of our team

Please read other interviews of "Giving back to your community" series:

With Valentin Fehr (Cl 212), our new representive in Atlanta region

With Alain Mutschler ( Ch 190), our Shasta mentor

With Jean Pommier (An 183), AFAM board member, Shasta committee member and Shasta mentor

With Jean-Luc Nauleau ( An 81), AFAM board member

Interview with Guénaël Prince (Cl 201) was published in Arts & Métiers Magazine #428 (June-July 2021).

Guénaël is a CTO and Co-founder of Waga Energy based in Pennsylvania.

WAGA-ENERGY is a French start-up, dedicated to energy transition through landfill gas upgrading. Founded in 2015, WAGA-ENERGY aims to develop efficient and innovative process to upgrade landfill gas into biomethane, renewable substitute of Natural Gas.

  428AETMMAG_013_interview_Guenael_Prince.pdf