Transformation is where the heart is for Roland Dubois: “Most of us come to the Executive MBA in search of a change.”

An eagerness to keep evolving led Roland Dubois to the HEC Paris Executive MBA program and a new purposeful professional role.

Roland Dubois is someone who likes change.

His eagerness to keep things moving and evolving is the story of his professional and personal life.

Currently residing in Switzerland, Roland was born in France and initially raised in Venezuela at early age to French parents. He has lived in 12 different countries, speaks five languages fluently and has predominantly worked in roles which allow him to implement change into large organizations.

So, it’s fitting that his latest role as Vice President – Head of Sustainability at the multinational ABB group is about implementing purposeful change for the company in a large and measurable way.

Because of this affection for change the the husband and father of three decided to enroll in the HEC Paris Executive MBA, where he could meet other individuals with a similar goal to transform themselves.

“Most of us come to the Executive MBA in search of a change. I was surprised by the enthusiasm people had to transform. It made them super open and ready to exchange their feelings and state of mind,” said Roland Dubois.

Although if you were to look at Roland’s CV you might think his desire for change had been stifled by the fact that he’d worked at the same company for the past 16 years with a thread in sales, marketing and strategy. But a closer inspection reveals an individual who has moved between different roles and continents, influencing transformation within the aluminium business sector of Rio Tinto, his previous employer.

“Most of us come to the Executive MBA in search of a change. I was surprised by the enthusiasm people had to transform. It made them super open and ready to exchange their feelings and state of mind,” Executive MBA participant, Roland Dubois.

A self-described “change agent” within companies, one of Roland’s greatest triumphs was bringing in the concept of low CO2 aluminium under the brand RenewAl, which is now a standard on the market and has been followed by competitors. This successful project resulted in a joint venture between Rio Tinto, Apple and Alcoa under the name Elysis, a disruptive technology for the aluminium smelting industry as the process is “carbon free” and even emits oxygen as a by-product.

But after many years in the aluminium business, Roland was eager to refresh his knowledge and find his next challenge which led him to the EMBA.

“I wanted to see different business cases presented by people from various industries and discuss these with clever people. Where else could I see people of different ages, origins and backgrounds – not from my business environment – and have chats and exchange intellectually, truly intellectually with them?”

Discovering Strengths and Values

HEC Executive MBA classroom

Roland Dubois (left) during a class at the HEC Paris Executive MBA.

Roland came to the Executive MBA knowing that he was ready to move on from Rio Tinto, but he was still trying to work out what his next move should be.

The program forced the dynamic professional to pause and evaluate where it was that he was trying to go.

“It was a moment for me to stop and think about myself and where I wanted to go which I don’t think I ever really had done before. I’ve been running all my life and suddenly I could stop for the first time and say – ok, who am I, how do others see me and what is my end goal?”

“The leadership module was undeniably for me at a different level and a critical part of this self-reflection process. Between the theoretical courses and concrete tools applied to yourself, it touches you as it’s a moment to ask yourself a certain number of questions” he said.

“It was a moment for me to stop and think about myself and where I wanted to go which I don’t think I ever really had done before.”

Additionally, it was during an EMBA career coaching session that Roland realized the theme of his story and his vocation in work: transformation.

“One day, one of the coaches said ‘Well, what I see is that you’re a change agent, somebody who triggers and drives transformation in the missions you lead’ and I thought: oh wow, sure ! This is the thread line.”

Pillars for Purposeful Transformation

Roland Dubois found his latest as Vice President – Head of Sustainability at ABB during his Executive MBA course.

The career coaching helped Roland to formulate the pillars he wanted for his next step and a few points emerged:

Transformation: “My personality is to be creative and strategic so I needed something new that would fit with this.”

Sustainability: “I wanted something in relation with an important sustainability dimension such as a sector in relation with renewable energies, as I believed it is a great way to contribute positively.”

Innovation: “I wanted something that would propel me into entrepreneurship because I was not sure where I was going to go and was open to the idea of being an entrepreneur. That’s why I chose the Innovation major.”

International: “Because that’s also who I am.  It’s a major part of my personal journey. ”

“Perhaps it was a question of openness, but the job that I was proposed after this process regrouped all these pillars that I had in mind.”

Roland was surprised with how quickly he found his ideal role, his current position at ABB. One of the directives from his HEC career coach was to strategically begin reaching out to his network, which he said “worked more and faster than expected, and in a few days connected me to the right job.”

“Perhaps it was a question of openness, but the job that I was proposed after this process regrouped all these pillars that I had in mind.”

“Whatever maturity and experience that you have, the reality is that you’re more efficient with all these little tools if you sincerely use them for self-reflection. You have to find your own recipe with the ingredients given, and good ones, fresh ones,” he added.

The New Role

So, what’s the goal after this latest change in Roland’s life? A new kind of transformation, of course.

Roland is currently finalizing ABB’s 10-year sustainability strategy, an enormous transformation for an organization which operates in more than 100 countries across business units such as power grids, robotics, motion, industrial automation and electrification.

“It’s not a small ambition. We’re talking about a group of over 140,000 employees with many different divisions, many politics. If we are successful in setting the right direction, process, mindset, and further embed sustainability in the business strategy, I will be proud of myself and the company because I believe in what I am recommending through a collaborative process. This new transformation will solidify a positive and sustainable future for ABB. I have it deep in my heart.”

But this is only the beginning of Roland’s mission.

“The next step for me is to ensure that the concrete steps of the new sustainability strategy are rolled out and implemented in each division.”

A Human Adventure

HEC Paris Executive MBA

“You exchange with different people which is a virtue of such a program because it takes you out of your comfort zone.” Roland Dubois, Executive MBA participant.

It can be a strange feeling to go back into the classroom after so many years spent in the boardroom, especially as some participants hold senior or executive positions.

“When I came into the EMBA I was head of commercial strategy for a global company with 17 very clever people reporting to me. At HEC, in this new scenario, suddenly you’re not the boss anymore. You must question your position, which especially at the beginning is a little bit challenging. You’re forced to go beyond your usual style, and your preconceived ideas and perceptions of people. It’s refreshing.”

“Entering into the cohort I had some doubts because I was one of the oldest people (at 52), so I was thinking, can a 35-year-old guy really bring anything new to me? This old against young thing. (laughs) They were probably thinking, what has this old guy got to bring to me!?” Roland said with a grin.

“At HEC, suddenly you’re not the boss anymore. You must question your position, which especially at the beginning is a little bit challenging. You’re forced to go beyond your usual style, and your preconceived ideas and perceptions of people. It’s refreshing.”

“The human factor is always what surprises you in your career. You’re confronted with people you like, or eventually dislike, and you exchange with different people which is a virtue of such a program because it takes you out of your comfort zone.”

Perhaps it’s the transformation he’s lived through and witnessed in his peers, at a time when change seems to be the thread line of today’s society, but it’s mostly the people he’s met that have made Roland’s journey unforgettable.

“I love human beings. They’re the most interesting thing in the world, regardless of background, age or gender. And above anything else, this was a human adventure that we lived together.”

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