Alumni Stories · Leadership

Petroleum Engineer Lionel Girard sees BOT as rare opportunity to take stock

October 2016

As a petroleum engineer who advises producer countries,
Lionel Girard did not turn to IMD to boost his career or add a line to his CV. He was looking to expand his global professional outlook and says that Building on Talent surpassed his expectations.

“I needed the time to reflect on management and leadership, but also on myself.”

Girard’s career path has been essentially in the gas and oil industry after qualifying as a mechanical engineer in France, his country of origin. He became a field engineer for offshore and onshore installations and travelled extensively to South America, Africa, China and Indonesia. “Although I loved the job, the travelling became a burden, so I quit and went back to school.”

The year that he spent at the prestigious Ecole des Mines in Paris opened up his aspirations and heightened his profile. “I rose from the practical aspects of mechanical engineering to the larger picture, the ramifications of energy consumption and their regulatory environments, including with the EU.”

Girard then joined EDF, the state-owned electricity provider in France and worked on a program set up to define the price of gas. “I learned to cope in a big environment, but that wasn’t what I was looking for at that time.”

A successful interview with a small Swiss company, S & L Consulting S.A., resulted in a position that has lasted ten years, a period during which the company has expanded. He started as a technical consultant to give service support to onshore and offshore petroleum operations mainly in the Middle East and is now Field Engineering Manager, with responsibilities that extend to operations in the North Sea.

The reasons Girard discusses for enrolling in IMD’s Building on Talent program are both personal and professional. He wanted to break out of the market isolation in which many technical engineers find themselves, but he also wanted to acquire the tools to assess and evaluate how projects could benefit his employer.

The program allowed Girard to step back and reflect: “If you want to progress, it’s important to understand how other people perceive you. They can help you think about who you are.” He was pleasantly surprised by the degree of honesty of the participants, his own included, when it came to describing the co-participants. “The objectives of the exercise were made very clear from the onset,” which is why, in his opinion, they worked to everyone’s benefit.

Coming from a scientific background and from a small company gave him a different outlook on leadership, which he found interesting to share with the bankers, corporate managers and other professionals in the program. He also appreciated the degree of commitment of his IMD professors who, even one year later, contribute to the WhatsApp group opened by the participants of his session. “BOT helped me understand how valuable it is to get back to the basics and to believe in our qualities. It’s also a question of having the right attitude.”

Building on Talent (BOT) is for high-potential managers early in their career looking to take on greater responsibility.

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