5 May

My moment of inspiration

My career had long since been mapped out. My life itself, written in advance. There were no surprises, no room for the unknown. All was pre-packaged.

With a diploma from a prestigious French university in my pocket, I, as a matter of course, join Danone as a product manager. I travel to 26 countries a year to brew, digest and reconstitute a multitude of market data. Once again, there is little room for the unknown: the slightest consumer habit is scanned, expectations mapped, quantified and sequenced.

My analyses and the resulting decisions are then passed on to R&D, to create the food philosopher’s stone that transforms consumer desires into actual purchases. I quickly realize that scientists and marketers don’t speak the same language. In the interest of bilingualism, as much as out of curiosity, I decide to take a Master’s degree in flavours and ingredients.

My career then goes on to working with a food distribution company and a strategy consulting firm. I am fortunate to work for bosses who donate 10% of their income (huge in Retail, where margins are very low!). to charity. I have my first inspirational moment. My first moment of questioning. I looked for answers by handing in my notice and walking alone to Compostela… and get my first answer: from now on, my work must be to serve the poorest in society!On the road to Santiago, I find meaning for my career.

Back at work, I deliver the fruit of my reflection to an ex-partner. Is it chance? He tells me about a dinner, a few days earlier, with the Director General of the NGO “Enfants du Mékong”… someone “fed up with this generation that doesn’t want to serve the poor”. A meeting is quickly arranged, despite my own project being something quite different: I want to take over a company that reintegrates former prisoners into society. Three times in a row, I refuse the offer of a job from “Enfants du Mékong”. The prospect of managing a €9 million communications budget and a team of 10 people, scares me: It is my wife who finally convinces me to take the leap into the unknown. So, I begin a job I feel I haven’t chosen… everything is new to me: no market data… no turnover! No quantitative data, only qualitative data!

My first Board of Directors is not of this world.

– What is the NGO’s objective for five years’ time?

– Answer: “the poor child”.

Three times the same question. Three times the same answer. The tone is set and I hang on. After two years as Director of Communications, I am appointed Managing Director; after four years, Chief Executive Officer. I now get it. My priority? The poor child.


Guillaume d’Aboville – Ambassador of our model Chapter 1
Supported Cause : NGO Children of the Mekong