For our 50th Anniversary, EFMD has created a new “Behind the Scenes” series so you can get to know us better. This conversation is with Julie Comte one of our Coordinators for Business School Impact System (BSIS) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Thank you very much for doing this, Julie. I know it’s not easy to be interviewed. Could you start by telling me how long you’ve been at EFMD, where you’re located and what you do?
Yes, of course. I joined EFMD last September, so I’m fairly new. I work for the BSIS department and for the Geneva office, where I’m based.
And what do you like most about your work?
Well, actually, everything. I love everything about the work. There isn’t a day when I don’t learn something new, and I love being back in an international environment. It’s very enriching. I ran my own business for seven years and had to close it down in 2018. So, I have been changing jobs a lot over the past four years, and it was hard to bounce back into something I was really passionate about. But it’s actually the first time in a long time that I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s very challenging, as it is very different from what I’ve been used to in the past. And the work is also varied, which is great because I get bored quite easily with repetitive tasks. Also, because I am on my own in the Geneva office, I have some responsibilities, and I enjoy that a lot.
I know that you have an interesting background. Could you tell us more about what you did before owning the business?
Yes, I have an atypical career path because I started out as a ballet dancer. It was a passion that I had from when I was a little girl. At 13, I went to audition at the Conservatory in Geneva, and they told me that I had none of the abilities to become a ballet dancer. But since I’m stubborn, I thought: let’s prove them wrong, and was hired as a professional ballet dancer by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the age of 18.
Then when the passion faded a little and, you know, I went to auditions “backwards”, if I may say, I decided to stop my professional career. I went into the gym business, and, as mentioned earlier, opened my own business in France in 2012.
And what was the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far while working at EFMD?
This interview. Well, I’m kidding, -ish. Actually, the whole job description was a big challenge because everything was so new to me. And like most people before COVID, I had never used Zoom before. So, since I’m on my own in Geneva, and our team is scattered over Europe, it took some getting used to learning the specificities of the job without having anyone physically in the office.
I wanted to take everything in as quickly as possible in order to be efficient, so that was a challenge. But I wasn’t being pressured or anything. That’s just me because I hate feeling helpless. Everyone was helpful and made it easy but the first few weeks on the job were quite stressful! Luckily, I like challenges.
As someone who owned a business, do you find that has been helpful in any way as far as transitioning into this position?
Yes, definitely helpful. In my case, having my own small business meant dealing with many issues with little means. I had to multitask. For example, if a machine broke down, well, without the money to hire someone to fix it, you have to do it yourself. So, I’ve been used to tackling a lot of things, working long hours, and even having a diploma in order to be able to take classes if a teacher was missing. So, I’m used to making it happen one way or the other. I have to mention that my family and friends were never very far to help and support me, but my lack of academic education was compensated by my “on-the-job” experiences which taught me to adapt quickly, learn fast, take initiative, be proactive, etc,. and indeed helped a lot adjusting to yet again a new environment.
Yeah, definitely. I think so. And when someone finds out what you do, what question do they always ask you?
Mostly they are impressed and ask how I managed to have this great opportunity. They also ask for specifics about EFMD. And then, they ask me if I’m enjoying it. I am lucky to be surrounded by people that really care about me. So, that’s usually the follow-up question, do you like what you do?
And can you tell me three words that would best describe you?
Well, I’m genuinely nice. I’m flexible, but I’m not easygoing. That’s a downside. I can be stubborn, and I take everything to heart.
I understand. I think I’m a little the same.
No one’s perfect.
Right, exactly. If you could travel in the blink of an eye, where would you go and why?
I would go back to Montreal because I lived there for a few months in 2006. And long story short, I was there for The Nutcracker season, and when I arrived, the accommodation that the company was supposed to have arranged for me was not available right away, So one of the dancers’ fathers offered me to stay with them at their place for a couple of days, time to sort things out. And actually, I ended up staying the whole time, like six months, I think it was. And we really hit it off. It was really nice. I was a stranger, and they just offered to have me there with them in their family. So it’s been almost 20 years, and we haven’t seen each other again, but we have kept in touch all these years and if I could travel in a blink of an eye, I would go and say hi.
That’s nice. It sounds like you have a second family there.
Well, actually, it’s funny you mention that because when I got back from Canada, I was speaking so highly of this family, and particularly the dad, that my mum and dad started calling him my Canadian foster dad. I definitely had the best time there.
What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Well, I am very close to my family and friends, so I always seek their advice, and it’s always good advice. But if I had to point a single one out, it would be that you can’t actually change the way other people react., you can only change the way you react. You can’t do anything about other people’s behaviour, and in order to calm the situation down or solve conflicts then it’s a good thing to change your way of reacting. I thought that was really good advice; That’s the one that stuck with me anyway in difficult situations.
Yes, very good advice. And the last question, what could you give a 20-minute presentation on with no preparation?
Nothing. No, really, I can’t. It’s terrifying for me to go and do something unprepared. Even something like ballet, for example, which I’ve done for years and which I know well. I could not go up on stage and do something unprepared. That’s impossible for me. So it would be a nightmare to have to do that.
I agree. I feel the same. Thanks so much, Julie for talking with me today! It was great to get to know more about you.
Learn more about Julie in the video with Eline Loux below.
See more of our staff interview series.