Nicolas Castet was hired as operations manager of Carbon Waters last May, following a long international career. From Freiburg to Singapore, this globe-trotting manager has always been guided by a strong entrepreneurial spirit. As with the mountain climbing he does in his spare time, he is summitting the heights and the challenges to see life from on high.
You call yourself a “pure product of Solvay.” Could you tell us about your professional journey?
Nicolas Castet: After studying economics and finance at Bordeaux, I had my first internship at Rhône Poulenc. Then I joined Rhodia, the company’s chemistry division, as a Corporate Finances manager. Along the way, I became the head of the Credit Management department. It was a real challenge, because at the time, everything had to be created globally: organization, team, procedures, and more.
In 2008, you switch gears for the first time, and you decide to go abroad.
NC: In fact, I had been at the helm of financial management at Rhodia’s Business Unit in Freiburg (Germany) for nearly eight years. In 2011, Rhodia was finally taken under Solvay’s wing and, after 15 years of experience in various financial positions, I felt ready to take on a new adventure. Actually, I wanted to get a taste for the terrain!
So Solvay offers you a job as sales manager in Singapore.
NC: Right. The goal was to grow sales in Asia Pacific, by creating a local outpost. I was in charge of a wide area, from Pakistan to Japan, excluding China. My team and I were always on the move, full of project ideas to diversify activity. It was a thrilling time, with such an entrepreneurial feel, even though I had the full weight of the company behind me.
What do you remember about those years?
NC: Singapore is a multicultural city, where Malaysians, Chinese, and Indians live together in peace in a patchwork of cultures and languages. I learned a lot, traveled a lot, too: India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and also to the Australian outback. It was an unforgettable road trip!
After spending over 12 years abroad, I felt it was time for me to go back to France. Especially since my two children had never lived in France! So in late 2020, I came back to my roots, in the middle of the pandemic, looking for a new opportunity.
Still in chemistry?
NC: Yes, it’s a lively, innovative, dynamic industry, with the promise of opportunities and growth in the green transformation. I also wanted to be part of a company that had a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and it was eventually through France Chimie Nouvelle Aquitaine that I heard about Carbon Waters. It was good timing, because right then Alban Chesneau was looking to build out his management team to prepare the road map for future marketing of his products.
What are your specific tasks at Carbon Waters?
NC: I have been the operations manager since May 2022. I have many roles: First, prepare the commercial and marketing strategy for our new applications, then secure the supply chain. Next, organize and supervise financial management. Finally, participate in strategy sessions and in guiding the company’s overall direction. Our goal is to make Carbon Waters an industrial company. It’s quite a challenge, and it entails many types of risks: industrial, financial, and commercial. You know, I love mountain climbing, and I’ve already climbed Mont Blanc. Today Carbon Waters is a “lead climber.” We still have peaks to reach, narrow passages to cross, sometimes cautiously, sometimes boldly, but believe me, at the top of the mountain, the view is always spectacular!