Elvie Lahournere, APAC head of Digital Innovation at Natixis Corporate Investment Banking.
Both my parents are immigrants and none of them have been to university. Yet, I have entered one of the best French Engineering School and Canadian University, then found a way to work in France, Indonesia, Spain, and now in China.
Make things happen even if barriers are in front of you.
I started my career literally building helicopters, so technology and innovation have always been a part of me. I love the challenge of trying to find solutions in a complex environment. I am what we call a “technological curious” or a “tech enthusiast”. Let me be clear here, I am neither a data scientist nor do I hold a Ph.D. in computer science. Now, do I understand how A.I. is disrupting all industries or how DLT technology is changing the game of currency exchange? Totally!
That’s what brought me into tech: just because it changes so fast, anyone that is curious and dedicated enough can have valuable inputs on the subject.
What was the turning point in your career?
I think the turning point of my career so far is definitely when I moved to China. It was a life-changing decision. Not only because I had the exciting project of setting up a new branch in Beijing from scratch, but I had left everything in France and came with only two pieces of luggage.
Back then, the idea was “just” to connect with the tech community in Beijing and better understand what was different from France. Four years later, innovation, digital and tech is my job! I think that is the beauty of the world where we live: passion, commitment, and curiosity can transform the way you perceive technology and broaden our own opportunities.
Since then, I have co-founded and became the leader of French Tech Beijing, a non-profit organization that gathers Tech entrepreneurs, startup, VC, and large corporates to promote tech development and bridge the French and Chinese tech ecosystem. After almost four years, we achieved more than 400 members partnerships signed with key leaders within the Chinese and the French tech industry and influential hubs.
I realized how the Chinese tech ecosystem was by nature completely different from what I have seen in France or Europe: faster, bigger with more money. I have understood that people were always the key. People who have helped me better understand Chinese culture and helped me navigate among Chinese tech. Also, people whom I have build French Tech and all the tech network with.
What about your “runner” mindset? How does it help you in your life/career?
Competition drives excellence! That’s why I love competing. But unlike most people who believe that competition is about winning against others, I am deeply convinced that it is about always trying to be the best of yourself. This is a mindset that I have had since I was a child. If you see competition that way, then naturally helping others to achieve the best of themselves is the immediate consequence.
I say very often that “fair competition” is vital to stay alive. I think this is how I have built my career by challenging the status quo and never accepting the comfort zone. I also believe that through sport, we can convey a lot of strong messages such as fair play, team spirit and going beyond one’s limits that are essential when you aim for executive positions in the workplace.
When I started to work in China, I realized the power of a team and I completely embraced the “community approach”. Whenever I had difficulties with my non-profit organization or even at home, there is always someone from my team that I can “wechat/whatsapp” to seek for advice.
It seems really easy but it requires two important elements. One, the network and two, being able to share, especially when things are not going in the right direction. Sharing our moments of difficulties with someone else not only gives us a new perspective, but we also get to learn about the challenges of the other person and how they overcome it.
Driving innovation requires to have an organization that is ready for change. A major part of my role is to enable my peers to be ready for our new way of working. I believe that people are our key competitive advantage and technology will enable them to work better and faster.
My role is to empower my teammates around the new technology use cases and more importantly drive a sense of urgency to embrace this change. We live in a very competitive world and our capacity to try, to fail to retry and to accept the potential failure is crucial to bring new ideas.
Imagine 10 years ago, if someone had told you: “you will be able to open your house with your face” you would probably find that person crazy.
Now, not only you can open your door house but also you can pay or unlock your phone. I feel lucky to participate in this change and to be an actor in this transformation. I am looking forward to seeing the next big thing.
Using flying taxi unmanned drone, ordering fit to my size dress with just a picture and a phone or paying with a personal chip integrated under my thumb… probably still not there … but I am sure not too far.
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