From Apprentice to CEO

All-around advice on skilling, from the perspective of those who are just starting their own careers or influencing the career of thousands of others


Recently, we welcomed our new Chair, Laurent Freixe, Executive Vice President, CEO Zone Americas, Nestlé S.A, ringing in a new chapter for GAN Global. Bringing together a few of our influential Board Members, we honed in on this unique chance to learn about the main skills we all need to be fine-tuning to thrive in the next industrialization wave, from both CEOs and apprentices representing these top companies. The transition in GAN Global’s Chairmanship comes at a critical time where the world of work is changing at an unprecedented pace, driven by megatrends such as globalization and technology, which are changing our demographics, shifting the nature of tasks needed, and fundamentally altering our workplaces.


At GAN Global, we are focusing on the opportunities we can leverage to unlock new opportunities of change in the workplace. At our recent Chair Handover ceremony, we recently gained perspectives from both CEOs and apprentices on what skills we need for the 21st century. These words of wisdom are relevant for the next generation who are just starting their careers and for those who want to cultivate a continuous learning mindset at work.


The single most important takeaway, according to our CEOs, is that soft skills are fundamental, to thrive in our changing world of work. Technical skills will continue to change with technology, so agility, the ability to work in teams, and the eagerness to learn are the most empowering traits to cultivate.

(At Accenture Geneva’s Future Camp, Kathleen Elsig, Acting ED, GAN Global, moderates a discussion with new GAN Chair, Laurent Freixe, Alain Dehaze, former GAN Chair and CEO, The Adecco Group, and Thomas Meyer, CEO, Accenture Switzerland, and a few young employees from their companies who started out as apprentices.)

(Jason Andres Suarez, Commercial Apprentice, Nestlé S.A., Valerija Adamovic, HR Assistant, former Commercial Apprentice, The Adecco Group, Amanda Lätsch, Global Mobility Analyst, former Mediamatics Technician Apprentice, Accenture)


- A few tips that were shared from CEOs and apprentices:


1. An apprenticeship is a great way to get a broad understanding of how a company works.

From the experience of the three apprentices, who were able to rotate among several departments – marketing, legal, HR, and communications -they gained a sense of responsibility and independence early on. Thanks to working in different departments, the apprentices were able to determine early on what type of work and subject they were each best suited for.

The apprentices agreed that once you complete the apprenticeship, it will be easier to know what field you want to work in and where you can add most value. According to Alain Dehaze, we are each our own greatest competitor. Each of us alone is best positioned to set the bar for where our professional strengths and weaknesses lie. In teamwork, there is no room for competition with our peers.


2. An apprenticeship is only part of your learning journey. There is still more room to learn afterwards.

Challenging yourself in the workplace is something you should cultivate until the end of your career. Amanda Lätsch, Global Mobility Analyst and former Mediamatics Technician Apprentice at Accenture, for example, has completed an apprenticeship but has also enrolled in an International Business course. Her apprenticeship program gave her the courage to know that balancing both school and work is possible. From the wise words of Thomas Meyer, CEO, Accenture Switzerland:

“Learning and work go together . . . We don’t know which jobs will exist in a few years, therefore, this requires agility from both individuals and education systems” .


3. Being a great leader for your organisation requires a few main ingredients.

“One needs to be energised and passionate about what you do to motivate and inspire others.” – Alain Dehaze, former GAN Chair, CEO, The Adecco Group

“In a data-driven society, one needs to be able to translate that data for the bigger picture and digest the information, so that it is understandable for others to know where we are headed. Data should be readily transformed into actionable items.” – Laurent Freixe, GAN Chair, EVP, CEO Zone Americas, Nestlé S.A.

As we shift to less hierarchical structures, it is important to be adaptable, to be able to shift from both being a team leader to a team player when needed. Courage, common-sense, and authenticity were also identified by these leaders as crucial skills they look for when hiring. In a fast-moving environment, patience is an important skill required to understand that change will not happen overnight.

Working for an international company where over 100 nationalities can be represented, respect for other cultures is another key ingredient to thrive in a leading firm.

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