Interview with Yann Jouveneaux

Exchange with Yann Jouveneaux, EMEA Information & Corporate Projects Director in Marseille (2015 EMBA intake).


Benedicte Germon: Yann Jouveneaux, can you tell us more about yourself and your background? 

YJ: Well, I am nearly fifty and have the feeling I already lived several lives. I am working for the European, Middle East and Africa Holding of a Japanese company, worldwide leader in the Seed Business, located close to Montpellier. I originally studied to become an electronic engineer, specialized in automation, but I was so deeply passionate with computers that I ended up doing an internship in Scotland as a computer programmer in a Marine biological research centre. I have been attracted, very early, to international experiences and traveling around the world. Once graduated, that is probably why I joined the Merchant Marine Officer Academy in Marseille, where I learnt how to become a deck officer and a mechanical engineer on board cargo or passenger ships. This has been a wonderful school and a unique experience traveling the world and facing all sorts of challenging situations. Fighting a real fire with Filipinos on a super tanker, negotiating with Chinese service suppliers in a dry-dock or sewing someone else’s calf are clearly kinds of situations that teach you how to adapt quickly and keep your self-control.

During my time at sea, the position of “communication officer” disappeared and my unique set of electronic and IT skills happened to be useful to take over the support for all systems on board. This is probably how I started “on the field” and rather unconsciously, my first experience of IT management in an industrial environment.

After my final graduation and national duty period, I became the IT director for a shipping company in Paris, member of the executive committee at the young age of 25. This has been the start of a successful set of senior IT executive roles for several international companies until I join my current company in 2003. I had the unique opportunity to be one of the” happy few” who participated in the successful move of our core activities from the Netherlands to France. Since that time, in a context of permanent growth, I have been evolving from the role of IT Director to a set of more transversal responsibilities for the EMEA holding. 

BG: What brought you to KEDGE Executive MBA ?

YJ: When you are in charge of IT at a large scale, you are regularly exposed to decision-making processes that affect the whole company. You have to help all your colleagues from all departments to make the best decision in many different dimensions of the business. While the company can rely, of course, on many experienced managers in charge of their respective departments, you are however expected to be the one who sees the big picture, who understands overall processes, implications and interactions in order to build the best systems. I had to learn on my own the basics of each business function, just to be able to have the right level of discussion, understanding and advice at executive level.

For me, passing an Executive MBA was the perfect tool to fill the gaps I probably missed and improve the quality of my business insights for the company as a CTO. I selected Kedge because it represented the perfect balance between FT ranking, quality of the faculty, traveling distance, cost and rhythm of work.
I never regretted that choice.

BG: What have you been up to since you ended the program? 

YJ: Strangely enough, I was not expecting any significant change in terms of responsibility as we had agreed with my management that there would not be any new position to expect in our group on short-term basis.

However, right in the middle of my MBA course, I was suddenly proposed a new role at a completely different scale. I almost doubled my teams, created from scratch a legal department and brand-new corporate projects that successfully carried out all sorts of international business fruits (from new building and building extension in France and Spain to the support of M&A in Jordan). Since then, in addition to my responsibility of IT Director, I also deployed the GDPR compliance framework for the group and built, together with all sites and departments in EMEA, our first Digital Transformation Strategy. The last challenge has been for me to deploy in France, successfully, in emergency, the full scope of Japanese Sarbanes-Oxley internal control framework- a pure financial area of expertise, completely out of my comfort zone.

I honestly do not know if this is due to the EMBA or not but, for sure, my job today has very little to do with the job I had when I started the course.

BG: Can you precise how the EMBA helped your career ?

YJ: I am not 100% sure that the EMBA directly helped my career, but it did help me a lot in terms of self-confidence and self-awareness. I learned a lot in many new domains such as Business Strategy, international finance and more specially the management of Innovation but I think that the most significant has been about trusting myself. I can clearly assess, through the common judgment of many recognized professionals that I can fully rely on my management skills, my years of executive experiences and more importantly on the relevance of my analysis of business situations. It might seem weird, but I needed this confirmation to “unlock” my own limitation about my capacity to evolve at an executive level. I must add that the two-year coaching has been also extremely helpful. Thanks to the impressive skills and the hard work of Frederique Tofani, I know exactly who I am and what I should be precisely looking for to be happy in my career. 

BG: A couple more questions with quick answers:
- Your main takeaway from KEDGE EMBA?

YJ: There is a way to be an efficient manager who supports profitability of his company and, at the same time, who deeply respects and care about his teams. 

BG: Your best memory from KEDGE EMBA?

YJ: Evenings of hard work…..and fun, with the “dream team”, the most amazing and impressive guys I’ve ever met in my life (Jeff, Nico, Matthieu, Vitor…and more). We were all exhausted, both because of the MBA and our jobs but it’s been really magic moments that I will remember forever.

BG: A passion you wish to share : 

YJ: Thanks to Covid, I discovered last year a very nice course about technical trading on the stock-exchange … I learned again a lot and I had to forget everything I thought I knew about the subject but, after months of efforts, I think I found my perfect hobby. If you can control your emotions (80%) and if you are good at analysing figures (20%), it can really change your life and make you look at things with a totally different angle. Since I finished all my online courses last summer, I have been trading every single evening at home.

BG: New business trends that fascinate /interest you currently.

YJ: I have recently been working a lot on Digital transformation, agile methods and innovation to build our company strategy. This is a difficult subject, as it really requires thinking out of the box and fighting against habits. I found out that my strange mix of studies and experiences together with my EMBA (specialisation in management of Innovation in Portland- US) really gave me a unique view on this subject. I have the feeling that you should really be at the crossroad of technology and general management to get the full picture while most of the information you get are coming from pure technical experts. I really look forward to seeing the evolution of our internal plans in the coming years.

BG: Yann Jouveneaux, many thanks again for your time and rich exchanges! We wish you the best.