AFAM: Tell us about your career path and area of expertise today, Jean-Baptiste. How did it come about?
JB: I am a Principal in a strategy consultancy called the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), specialized in strategy of Financial Institutions (FIs). I have been working with FIs since the beginning of my career. After I graduated from Arts et Métiers, I went on to earn a Specialized Master from HEC. I was then recruited as a Financial Mathematician at Aon Global Risk Consulting, a consultancy.
After 2.5 years there, I had the opportunity to become the head of the pricing department of a client of mine, Credit Foncier.
Three years later, I decided I wanted new challenges, and a more international job. An A&M Alumni from BCG passed on my CV to the FI practice, and I was recruited as a consultant. Six years down the line, I have worked in 15+ different countries for more than 20 clients, on some of their more strategic matters.
AFAM: What do you do every day at work? How does being a Gadz’Arts help you in your everyday tasks and team management?
JB: Clients bring us in to solve some of their toughest challenges: how can we enter the Asian market? Should we invest in certain asset classes? How can we gain market shares?
As a Principal, I set up and manage ad-hoc teams of 3 to 6 extremely talented consultants to solve the issue. I have strategic conversations with the clients and bring my own expertise and brainpower to finding the answer to their issue.
Being a Gadz’Art is a fundamental part of my work-identity. As an engineer, I see my teams as machines, where all the wheels have a specific function, and all have to fit together for the machine to work. I always fine-tune the machine, ensuring people are put in an optimal position to deliver, leveraging their strengths and/or developing the skills we need them to have.
Besides, my extra-curricular experience organizing the A&M Fignoss Gala in 2004 somehow taught me to manage not overly relying on hierarchy and figuring out a way to solve problems for which I don’t have a roadmap. Which, come to think of it, would be a pretty accurate description of what I have to do now…
AFAM: How did you come to the US- why and when? How is your work life different than in France?
JB: My current employer, BCG, recruited me in Paris in 2012. After one year, I transferred to our London office. 2.5 years later, we launched an initiative to develop certain business lines in the US, and I joined the NYC office.
Though I am not sure this is representative of the US, New-York is definitely much, much more international and multi-cultural than Paris. My current team of 6 people boasts 4 different nationalities. New-York has entire neighborhoods with a clearly distinct identity, even language in some cases.
There is also something about the optimism of Americans. On average, they complain way less than we (and I!) do.
I however sometimes miss some good-old European sophistication in food, clothing, design, opera, etc. Things can be very ‘bling’ here.
AFAM: What is the best advice someone ever gave you? Why?
JB: To ask yourself what you want in life, and revisit the answer from time to time. Especially with regards to work-life balance. This doesn’t have to be precise, but maybe as a young graduate you will want to travel the world, while as a 30-something you will want to be more sedentary. Or maybe the opposite. All of it comes with trade-offs, and you will eventually have opportunities for every option. Your ability to seize the right opportunity at the right time is directly linked to the clarity of your aspirations.
Also, don’t be afraid. Turn down something because it doesn’t fit your aspirations, your project. Never, ever because you think it’ll be too hard.
AFAM: What is one favorite way to spend your free time (hobbies, weekend activities)?
JB: Two and a half years in, and I am still discovering New-York, its neighborhoods, its museums, its communities! I love a day at the beach at Rockaway, and Upstate New-York is beautiful. Also just hanging out, having drinks on rooftops with friends is something I will never get tired of.
AFAM: Thank you again for sharing your experience and thoughts on life in the USA for Gadz'Arts! AFAM is grateful for your support! And congratulations on your new responsibilities as a President of the East Coast Group!