Written on 24 October 2013.
Top executives from Intel and Airbus met with MSc in Marketing Management students recently as part of the Key Account Management course taught by Professor Jean-Pierre Dolait, a former vice president of marketing in the high-tech industry who brings high-ranking business professionals to EDHEC classrooms in Lille and Paris.
Dolait’s most recent guests were Erwan Montaux and Adrien Rendu from Intel Corp., and Andreas Hermann, Vice President Freighters at Airbus. The Intel team met with students on 17 October, and Hermann met with them on 18 October. These encounters helped students to better understand how companies nurture and strengthen the relationships they have with customers by providing market trend expertise, superior product and technical knowledge, and yes, even a little bit of hand-holding and soothing in times of crisis.
The first of the two courses was held on EDHEC’s Lille campus, and the second at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (ENSAM), an engineering school in Lille and Dolait’s alma mater. EDHEC also has a partnership with the Ecole Centrale Paris, another well-known engineering school in France. These partnerships help students from different academic backgrounds to share expertise and to forge entrepreneurial relationships that sometimes result in successful business ventures.
Dolait, who completed a PhD in aeronautics at Caltech in Pasadena, California and an MBA at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Anderson School of Business, uses his numerous business contacts to enliven his courses at EDHEC. This type of intervention by business professionals is one of the principal strengths of the EDHEC Business School. For Dolait, it is also a chance to see old friends and former students. Rendu, a retail marketing manager at Intel, is a 2012 EDHEC graduate.
“I invite only leaders to participate in my classes,” said Dolait, who also recruits executives from top brands such as Nespresso and Apple to intervene in his courses. “My students often meet with company vice presidents. It gives them the best perspective of corporate activities and management challenges.”
During the presentation by the Intel team, EDHEC and ENSAM students got a chance to learn about the history of the semiconductor chip manufacturer and how the company has evolved to meet changing market demands, including making impressive research and development investments even during economic downturns. The two Intel executives also showed off some new technology equipped with Intel microprocessors, including a super-slim tablet with removable keyboard.
“You need to look at customer service from all angles,” said Montaux, Intel’s consumer manager for Western Europe. “You need to ask yourself, ‘How do I create the demand?’ and ‘How do I create the new technology to meet this demand?’”
Rendu and Montaux encouraged students to consider Intel for internships and post-graduation jobs. “Eighteen months ago I was sitting in the same seats as you,” said Rendu, who joined Intel right after graduation. “You see what you can do with an EDHEC degree.”
The next day, students from EDHEC visited the ENSAM campus for the presentation of Andreas Hermann. Hermann, a German national who has worked for Airbus for 15 years, gave the students an insightful lecture about the airline manufacturer as well as the air travel and air freight industries, including information about the number of commercial airlines in service around the world (1,500) and the number of global jobs directly connected to air transport (8,4 million).
Hermann told students that to be successful in key account management, it is imperative to know the organization of the company with which you are working. “You have to know how it functions and how its key managers think,” he said. “Basically, when you are a key account manager, you are the expert on the cus
tomer you serve. No one knows better what is going on with that customer than you. And this knowledge is what drives all of your dealings with the customer and all the decisions that you make in relation to the customer.”
To make his point, Hermann told the story of the president of a commercial airline who called him in a rage because of a problem with an aircraft order. The president, Niki Lauda, a three-time Formula One World Champion, told Hermann he wanted to see him immediately. Hermann dropped everything and prepared to fly across the globe to meet Lauda. But first he made some calls to key contacts within the airline company. “Thanks to great relationships I had with people at all levels of the company, even before I met with the big boss, I knew what he was going to tell me and how I could fix the problem,” Hermann said. “The fact that I reacted quickly saved the deal and made the president trust me even more.”
Hermann encouraged students to follow his path into key account management, but also shared with them some of the hard realities of such work: significant time away from family and friends; many hours of difficult, energy-sapping negotiations, and, at times, stressful situations where the key account manager is alone in a room full of critics. Still, for Hermann, it’s a job like no other. “It’s a great job which gives you great fulfilment and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”