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My story - Kevin Barrois (EMBA 2020): Developing soft skills with the EDHEC Executive MBA

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7 Nov 2022
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At only 31 years old, Kévin Barrois (EMBA 2020) was Chief Financial Officer of the N3C Group - the leader in the refrigeration and HVAC market based in the North of Paris. We had the privilege and pleasure of meeting up with Kevin, who participated in the EDHEC Executive MBA programme whilst continuing his inspiring career.

 

Kevin, what journey led you to your current position as CFO?

My original career path was as a Chartered Accountant. I studied at the Higher Institute of Expertise and Audit (ISEA) in Lille, where I obtained a License, then a Master of Accounting, Control and Audit. To become a Chartered Accountant you normally have to complete three years of internship and prepare a thesis: so after my studies I joined an accounting firm. I found the work okay, but I didn’t love it. I was carrying out assessments for companies when I had never even been to their office before. I didn’t know the human stories that hid behind the figures I was aggregating. Quickly, I had the feeling that my work did not make sense for me; I wanted to live a more embodied experience and work closer to the activity of a company and the people in it.

 

So, You Decided to Make A Change?

Indeed. I didn’t finish the required three years of internship. Instead, I decided I wanted to work inside a company. I was 25 years old. Sometimes your path in life is determined by luck: I had the good fortune to meet an entrepreneur who I made an immediate connection with – and who is now my current boss and a key factor in my career path! Nicolas Bourgois, head of the N3C Group (a company established 10 years ago and experiencing good growth) was in the process of acquiring the group and offered me the opportunity to support the negotiation process. We finalized the acquisition deal together and then I was offered the role of Group Administrative and Financial Director. At an age when, in this profession, one is rather assistant of Director of Finance or even assistant of assistant, it was a unique opportunity.

 

Tell us about N3C Group

From a financial point of view, what is interesting about the N3C Group is the fact that it is independent, which is against the current financial trend of institutionalizing the capital of a company by bringing in private equity funds, for example. As Director of Finance, my strategy is not to follow the trend. On the contrary, our goal is to be the first French independent in our sector.

 

How would you summarise your vision of your role?

I have a very transversal vision of my role, which I consider out of any silo. In general, financiers are not perceived as great communicators... But I always said that I did not want to be in an expert position yet inaccessible or talk about my job in an over-complicated way. It's a key part of my responsibilities, I believe, to make our employees understand the financial situation of the company so that they feel invested and more involved. For me, the finance department brings together all the players in the company. The technician who works closely with the customer is essential to finance and vice versa because in our business, everything is linked: if the technician performs well, then the finances will be good. Everything is open in our team and business - starting with the door to my office. This corporate culture, which is driven by our CEO, immediately made sense to me.

" It's a key part of my responsibilities, I believe, to make our employees understand the financial situation of the company so that they feel invested and more involved. For me, the finance department brings together all the players in the company. "

 

You are currently a participant of the Executive MBA at EDHEC in Paris– what made you decide to do this?

I was young when I became a Director of Finance. After 6 years in the position, I wanted to open up new horizons and develop my soft skills. For me, the technical skills are nothing without the human skills. I often think of this famous Zig Ziglar quote: "It's your attitude, more than your aptitude, that determines your altitude." The human is at the heart of my strategy and all the decisions I make on a daily basis. Following an EMBA seemed like an opportunity for me to develop this dimension.

 

Why did you choose EDHEC?

This choice was obvious to me. Firstly, because EDHEC is consistently top-ranked as a business school, for its excellence in the field of finance. But also - and especially - because it embodies the values that are dear to me: the work ethic obviously, but also the conviviality and humanity, a dimension of welcome and of openness that is just as essential.

 

What do you think of the program so far?

I am delighted. The class is made up of professionals from very different backgrounds, which leads to many exciting debates and exchanges of experience that gives me a completely new perspective on many topics. The speakers are also very relevant, and I appreciate that they are listening to our points of view. We are far from the lectures of the classical education system.

 

The EMBA offers career coaching that links personal and professional development, in particular through personalized coaching sessions - how does this approach resonate with your profile?

This work on oneself is really transforming. I realised that until now I had advanced in my career without questioning in depth my life goals. Today, more and more people are changing their career at age 40 or 45, in search of meaning. To avoid missing out on life and finding the right balance between personal and professional life, it seems essential to me to learn to ask the right questions well in advance. That's also why I'm careful to make time for interests outside of work too, such as aviation, which I used to practice with my grandfather when I was young - everything looks better from above! I'm currently in the process of getting my licence and I really love it. My grandfather always said that he would spend more time flying when he retired but he died a year and a half before he could do it... This really stuck with me. My generation realises that personal growth is just as important as professional development, and I find it important. I find this culture in the EMBA.

" I was young when I became a Director of Finance. After 6 years in the position, I wanted to open up new horizons and develop my soft skills. Because for me the technical skills are nothing without the human skills."

 

Kévin's Success Story - to be continued

Today, Kévin is CFO at Sdez group and teaches at  ISCID-CO International Business School. 

This article was updated on March 23, 2023.

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