Valérie Ferret is the new Vice President of Learning Experiences (Education) at Dassault Systèmes, Number 1 in the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world. WIL had the pleasure to interview Valérie and discuss her leap from Legal Counsel to the French-American Chamber of Commerce, to working in the private sector. We also discussed the importance of remaining sustainable at heart, the need for more women in tech and the importance of networking inside and outside of the WIL community!
What prompted your career change from legal counsel in a Law Firm to working as Public Affairs and Sustainability Manager at Dassault?
After graduating from Law School, I worked as Legal Counsel from 2002-2006 before moving to the United States. As I realized that my degree in Law would not be that useful for an American market, I began networking and eventually became Director of the French-American Chamber of Commerce. In this role, I was responsible for advocating the French Business community to both the French and local government.
Whilst working at the Chamber of Commerce, my knowledge of technology was limited. However, a presentation from Dassault Systèmes convinced me of the importance of bringing good to society through technology and I decided to make the change to the corporate world.
So, to answer your question, my career change was driven by meeting new people, extending my horizons and being open to new opportunities!
I was convinced of the importance of bringing good to society
through technology and made the change to the corporate world
In January 2018, Dassault was named no1 in the top 100 most sustainable companies in the world by Corporate Knights. (See here) As Public Affairs & CSR Manager, how did you and the company implement the Dassault Systèmes’ vision of Corporate Social Responsibility?
When I Joined Dassault Systèmes in 2008, as manager for Public Affairs & CSR, my mission was to expand and nurture the global influencer’s network to position the company as the best partner for sustainable innovation. It was a time when Dassault Systèmes had redefined its purpose to provide business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. Therefore the CSR mission was not one of a dedicated organization but the company purpose. This was a very visionary approach, and I was exciting about leading a cross-organization project.
Achieving Number 1 ranking is a recognition that this approach to sustainability is successful, not only in terms of social and environmental impact but also of our overall performance as this ranking relies on the computation of many different indicators, including innovation, financial and fiscal ones.
To achieve this high ranking, we have put into place a robust environmental process to assess and mitigate our environmental footprint, as well as strong policies on our social indicators such as the promotion of women in the company.
Do you believe that the 4th industrial revolution is a sustainability revolution?
Definitely! More precisely, we refer to this as the Industry Renaissance as it is about the total redefinition of the industry rather than the rebirth or optimization of the existing one. In other words, not only should the focus be on digitizing the industry but on inventing a whole set of solutions with new means of production for new categories of consumers. We call them experiences in Dassault Systèmes.
For example, the Industry Renaissance will most likely bring a whole new mobility experience (car sharing, connected vehicles…) and the digital world allows for the new definition of models to be sustainable by heart.
At Dassault Systèmes, we have a start-up accelerator and incubator, the 3DEXPERIENC Lab, which provides start-ups with the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, making it feasible for them to design their products and giving them the ability to grow as a company. We have great examples of start-ups which thought about their concept as sustainable innovations such as “L’increvable”. This company does not produce a washing machine, but a personalize washing experience with a machine built to last the longest possible time. It was built on the circular economy principles. There is also a generation effect with the willingness to shake up and disrupt the existing models.
Two years on from the Paris agreement COP21, how successful do you believe it has been since its introduction? And has it unlocked new opportunities for business?
There are two ways in which a sustainable model can emerge. The first is a pro regulation approach, such as the Paris agreement, which is a belief that we will bring the right constraints in order to foster innovation. The second approach is through a market approach, consumer-driven.
Currently, countries have not reached the collective commitment they made, as we still sit between 3-5 degrees rise and some countries are backing out of the commitment. To bring all the countries back together in agreement is a long process. Therefore, I strongly believe that we should focus on providing people and innovators, with the right tools, skills, and mindset to bring disruptive experiences to the market which will be sustainable innovations.
Eventually, we won’t need the Paris agreement, once we’ll have an innovation on renewable energy storage which will be competitive.
We currently have a unique opportunity to define the models for the future, we need to put the right efforts on research and innovation for sustainability.
We need to ensure we have people who want to innovate,
with sustainability at the heart of the model.
As a member of WIL for over 7 years now, how important do you believe is the promotion of women and overall diversity within a company?
It is VERY important. All over the world the position of women is still low within society, yet we realize that no country can lead with only one half of society. It is not about promoting women for the sake of promoting women, it is about a society working together be it in an organization, enterprise, company, NGO’s with all talents to solve the global challenges ahead of us.
Working for a Tech company, I know how much of a challenge it is to hire women. When we recruit from top Schools, there are less than 15% of women graduating making it more difficult to find the balance!
As Engineers, we want to solve issues and solve challenges
and for this we need all of society, men and women.
What I most appreciate as a member of WIL is the opportunity to meet and exchange with women who come from very different sectors, allowing us to learn from one another, go outside the boundaries and scope of which we are used to, and come up with new and innovative ideas!
Valerie Ferret is VP of Learning Experience (Education) at Dassault Systèmes. Her mission is to connect education and industry on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, to provide the right skills and right mindset for people in the Industry Renaissance.
Valerie Ferret joined Dassault Systèmes in 2008, as Public Affairs and CSR manager. In 2012 she became Public Affairs and Sustainability Director. She was responsible for developing the global influencer network to promote the company vision to provide businesses and people with 3DEXPERIENCE universes to imagine sustainable innovations.
Valerie started her career in France in 2002 as legal counsel. Two years later, she joined a fast-growing private postal services operator in Luxemburg to create the in-house legal function. In 2006, she moved to the US and became Executive Director of the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Boston. Valerie holds a law degree from University of Montpellier. She is married and proud mother of two children.