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Q&A with FedEx Access Award Jury members

By April 24, 2019 May 28th, 2019 No Comments

FedEx Express will award the Access Award as a signature award at this year’s JA Europe Company of the Year Competition in Lille – an award aiming to reward entrepreneurs that demonstrate a readiness to access new markets and trade internationally. JA Europe sat down for a quick fire Q&A with the FedEx panel…

Ten minutes with Lynda Baumann, Managing Director, Planning and Engineering Hub Operations, FedEx Express Europe

This will be the 12th year FedEx has supported the JA Company Program – helping JA to deliver entrepreneurial education and experiences to young people across Europe. Tell us about any personal experience you have had with entrepreneurship?

My first entrepreneurial venture was when I was a student of engineering, almost 20 years ago. We created a “student association” in order to visit some plants in Madrid and put some partnerships in place. To raise funds for the trip we organized several events such as parties in local bars, second hand book fairs and even participated in a grape harvest. It was a great experience for me and the first time I had an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and management skills. Establishing partnerships with the local plants in Spain also required me to liaise with human resources and communications departments, so that gave me important exposure to business beyond engineering.

What about the importance of entrepreneurial thinking in a business environment – how can the JA Company Program experience prepare young people for success in their future careers?

I think entrepreneurial thinking is valuable to retain throughout your career. These skills help you to be creative, see challenges as opportunities and be ready to react to a changing environment. I think another positive thing to note is that wasting little or no time in resistance towards change will help you to always stay ahead and will support faster career growth.

Before joining the expert panel of the FedEx Access Award, tell us about your involvement with Junior Achievement and engagement in entrepreneurial education programs in France?

This year I’ve been fortunate to engage with the JA Company Program in France as a mentor to a 9th grade class. Young people in the area where I am volunteering do face more difficult circumstances than in other parts of Paris, so while it has been challenging to keep the focus of the students, the most rewarding part for me has been the perspective I have been able to bring to the table as a professional mentor. I try to make sure all of the students can see the value of the skills they are gaining, and how that can translate to help them achieve their own personal ambitions. I’ve also been able to help them structure their approach, define project schedules, key milestones and success factors for the project and it’s been fantastic to see how, week by week, the project evolves and grows increasingly structured.

If you had not found yourself where you are now, and were asked to set up a mini-enterprise, what do you imagine you would be doing instead?

I would like to create a “service” business that benefits others – for example, supporting elderly people in their administrative procedures or daily routine. Innovating to meet the needs of others gives me a personal satisfaction.

Is there any one person you remember in your career or education that gave you formative advice?

I’ve been fortunate to have several people I could call my mentors during my almost 20-year career. I particularly remember one who taught me to better understand, and consequently manage, my emotions when facing difficult or stressful situations. Having a better understanding of the way I would approach a difficult situation helped me to react differently by using my emotions as a strength. Another very important piece of advice was to choose my battles and only engage in those that deserve an investment of your energy.

Can entrepreneurship be taught?

I strongly believe entrepreneurship is a way of thinking but, equally, I don’t believe it is innate, or that it cannot be learned. It’s not enough to have a great idea, be creative or a risk taker, it’s equally important to have an understanding of market opportunity, regulations, distribution and competitors. These are not aspects of entrepreneurship that you can be born with, but are very necessary companions to the personality traits you may or may not naturally have.

How do you, in your current professional role, fulfil the criteria of the FedEx Access Award?

As the Managing Director of Planning and Engineering for Hub Operations, my role is heavily orientated around innovation and regulation. We are always trying to find ways to innovate and improve the way we plan and model our operations. We are continuously optimising the way we use data to anticipate future market trends and ensure we adapt our products and offerings accordingly. Sustainability and collective social responsibility is also a key component in the objectives I set for my teams.

What do you hope students most take away from the Access seminar and the engagement of FedEx Express as sponsor of this competition?

I’d love for FedEx participation in this program to leave the students with a sense of optimism for the future and their own ability to make that vision possible.

Ten minutes with Jerome Ovion, Vice President Hub Operations and Transport France, FedEx Express Europe

This will be the 12th year that FedEx has supported the JA Company Program – helping to deliver entrepreneurial education and experiences to young people across Europe. What personal experience have you had with entrepreneurship?

My first real experience of participating in entrepreneurship was here in Lille, while I was a student of engineering. Together with maybe ten others, we used to organise huge parties in rented spaces around the city. We would care for everything – the rental of the venue, the decoration, drinks, marketing, ticketing. Our parties attracted up to 4,000 people and we had the most famous DJs in France topping the bill. In the end, our core team of about 10 people became maybe 50 or 60 people and we split the profits equally to pay for a ginormous group holiday to Tunisia. By capitalising on the fact there was, at the time, a huge market for this kind of activity, we were able to enjoy free holidays for three years.

What about the importance of entrepreneurial thinking in a business environment – how can the JA Company Program experience prepare young people for success in their future careers?

If you look at FedEx, a company with over 450,000 employees all over the world, it’s easy to see why a business can’t rely on only its founder to be innovative or entrepreneurial. We value entrepreneurial thinking and approaches at all levels across our business because we recognise that this a culture of innovation is needed to respond to changeable landscapes with a lot of movement – whether this is movement of our customers, political climates, or markets. The other thing I would say is that it doesn’t always take an innovative idea – a good idea may already exist – but it takes entrepreneurial thinking to develop and deliver that idea in a new and creative way. For me, entrepreneurship is the unique approach you take to action an idea.

If you had not found yourself where you are now, and were asked to set up a mini-enterprise, what do you imagine you would be doing instead?

Well, there was a time when we were organising the parties in Lille when I considered: “Do I want to continue this beyond my studies and into my professional life?” For me, that decision came down to having a balanced life and I wasn’t sure that embracing partying full time would give me that balance! But I think you have to start with a need. If there is something you yourself are missing in your daily life, then the chances are there is a need. For me, this might now be something based on sport – how to have time flexibility, affordability and also a sociable aspect to exercising.

Is there any one person you remember in your career or education that gave you formative advice?

The most important advice I’ve been given about leadership and running a business relates to how to manage people – as the most important asset in your business. I had approached a peer manager about someone in my team who had come to me with a problem I had wanted to support. The advice I received back was: “You need to make sure that whatever you do for this guy, you can do for the other 22 people in your team.” And that is a really important thing I have always kept in mind to manage equally and fairly.

The FedEx Access Award is focused on four criteria: innovation, access to new markets, community development and social and environmental responsibility. Tell us about a personal experience with one of the criteria?

When I was 20 years old, and an engineering student in Lille, I was fortunate to attend an academic institution that put a lot of emphasis on a balance between education and work, and personal and social aspects of life. As part of our studies we were asked to self-fund four months doing something of our choice that was at least 200km away. At the time, I had wanted to go to Latin America so I made a choice to volunteer with a non-profit organisation helping young homeless in Guatemala. The children I worked with were anything from 6 to 17 years old, and had varying levels of optimism and energy for the difficult circumstances they faced. For me, that was a formative experience and one which has shaped the perspective I have carried forward in my own life.