Guillaume Lesay truly knows what it means to have a global perspective, as the Yale SOM chapter leader in France, and as a long-time global employee of GE—currently working as an Operations Leader in Paris. It is no surprise then, that Guillaume is most excited about the school’s recent MAM and Global Network initiatives, which he says are “the only way forward for education, business, society, and everyone’s personal development.”
“I stay engaged with SOM because I have kept in contact with great classmates, I enjoyed the program and the quality of the professors, and I admire the campus and the level of excellence it exudes around the globe. I hope I can enhance the sense of community of the alumni in France through my commitment as the French Chapter Leader.”
What have you been up to since Graduation?
Shockingly enough, I have stayed with the same employer since graduation, GE! What happened is that I was hired in the US, trained in the US to the corporate culture and technical expertise of this truly huge company, with the objective to become a global leader and help integrate foreign acquisitions. After two years in Connecticut, I, in effect, became a global employee and spent the following 18 years working on acquisition integrations across several countries--primarily in France, but also Brazil, Singapore and Turkey. Acquisition integrations require a high level of cultural sensitivity and agility to find consensus, while remaining focused on the end objective of making an acquisition an accretive business decision. I was fortunate enough that my wife, an architect, agreed to follow the path and we have had great personal pleasure and shared interests in discovering and settling in different cultures.
What impact has Yale SOM and being a member of the SOM community had on your life and career?
As a foreign student, I might have benefitted from Yale SOM in a different way than my US classmates. Yale SOM introduced me to the American management style and business environment. Its mission and courses helped confirm in my mind the interdependency of public and private sectors, a prevailing situation in Europe and elsewhere in the world, in particular in the emerging markets. It also reinforced my interest in international economic development. Prior to my years at SOM, I had lived and worked in Indonesia, and was eager to develop an ability to help communities in emerging markets mixing academic and practical learnings. With the exciting evolution of my career at GE, this vision has not materialized, but is still a path I will consider when an opportunity arises. It is during all these years that I also realized how virtually non-existent the SOM community was outside the US, where I was operating. Now that I am settling in France, is the time to work on this and support the recent Chapter initiative.
The school’s mission is to educate leaders for business and society, looking at your current career and interests, what does this mean to you?
To me, this does not mean that the School’s mission is to educate leaders for one or the other, but for both business and society. I learned then, and now know, that one cannot be disconnected from another. One concrete example is about the rise of regulation in the financial sector, and how to consider this a business enabler rather than just a waste of time. In Europe, we’re more used to regulation and there is a strong belief that markets can’t operate without boundaries. A lot (but not all) new regulations and controls implemented in the financial sector since the last financial crisis were actually already operational in many of our foreign subsidiaries. Through my different positions, I have striven to understand and accept the rules of the game, rather than try to bend or circumvent them.
What drives you to do the type of work that you do?
The belief that even in a capitalistic environment, you can apply the tenets of social responsibility. Through acquisitions and globalization, GE’s corporate culture has tremendously evolved over the last 20 years, and I took part in this, albeit a small part. I am also accumulating experiences that can be transferred into society at some point of my future career.
If you could tell a current student one thing, what would it be?
Let SOM transform the way you see your environment, and, when you leave the School, do something different from when you come into it.