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Interview with Raymond Michel

The Joy of Mentoring

Last December, on the eve of his 64th birthday, Raymond Michel joined the Board of Carbon Waters. In addition to being part of the young start-up’s strategy committee, Raymond also advises the team in charge of designing the future production pilot.

Below, the portrait of a mentor who has officially retired, but still enjoys mentoring others.

You’ve had a long career, mainly in the field of chemistry.

Raymond Michel: I graduated from the ENSIACET [French graduate school] with a degree in chemical engineering, then I worked in the chemistry departments at Elf Aquitaine and Total for 22 years. I filled various roles at the factory, and then management roles at headquarters: Safety Manager, then Industrial Manager.

Next I joined Firmenich, global leader in fragrance and flavor, where I worked for 16 years, based at the Corporate Center in Geneva. At Firmenich I was in charge of Global Operations for the Ingredients Division.

This job covered industrial activities and the supply chain, improving procedures and investments. I had a team of about 700 and we operated eight factories worldwide (Americas, China, India, Switzerland, France), including the construction and kickoff of two factories in India and China.

It was an exciting challenge from an industrial and technological viewpoint, but especially from a human viewpoint!

What did you learn from managing teams that were both multidisciplinary and multicultural?

Building and developing high-performance teams and organizations is the key to success! When we work together, we can rise to new challenges, support change, and evolve. That requires education and leadership.

On an international level, you have to understand and accept cultural differences, while remaining steadfast about company values (Safety, Quality, Environment, Ethics) that everyone must follow at all times.

I remember how shocked I was the first time I visited the factory construction site in India. Children were running around the site barefoot, women, who were protected only by their saris and their sandals, were carrying heavy buckets of concrete to help their husbands. I had to call an emergency meeting of the local management team to re-explain to them in no uncertain terms the company’s standards and values, to put a stop to these slipups.

You retired in September 2020. Why get involved in a start-up like Carbon Waters?

I’ve always liked sharing and passing on my expertise and my experience. Carbon Waters is a very innovative French start-up that needs to industrialize to grow.

Their team is young, competent, and energetic, and I can help them develop, grow, and succeed. It’s a new challenge that I find very stimulating, both intellectually and emotionally.

What is your role within Carbon Waters?

I just joined the board and I take part in the company’s strategic and organizational decision-making, particularly in industrial areas. I also spend part of my time helping Carbon Waters experts with their future production unit project.

It’s team work, where everyone contributes their expertise and their experience for the common goal of making Carbon Waters a success!

So I’m living an active retirement, between Arcachon and Pessac, family and team work, kitesurfing and nanomaterials.

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