Clara Boisserand: innovating for customers

26/02/2019 - Innovation and R&D, Careers, France
Clara thinks creatively and uses her technical and sales skills to solve customers’ problems.

What does your work involve?

I am the Strategic Marketing Manager for hydrocarbon treatments (refineries, petrochemicals, gas processing, etc.) and my role has three different aspects.

  • The first is marketing: I help to develop the strategic plan for the hydrocarbon processing product line. I am responsible for sales forecasts in all regions, taking product and market specificities into account.

  • The second is innovation: from coming up with new designs (also known as front-end innovation) to developing both the business plan and our technical and commercial products and services. My role is to provide support and supervision, and ensure that new ideas are viable. When you are developing a new product or service, it is essential to start with the issues that customers face, otherwise you risk not being able to sell it. This means I try and understand customers' problems (issues regarding refinery design optimization, for example, or relating to tube usage), and I ask myself: how do I solve this problem? Does a solution already exist? If not, then we need to come up with several ideas to then be able to sign off on the one which will be of the most value, both to our customers and to Vallourec. This idea of value for customers (or value proposition) is also key to how we construct our range of products and services, along with the associated business model.
  • The third aspect is transformation: I work on new business opportunities for the group, both in terms of digital transformation and analyzing opportunities in new energy. In terms of the digital side of things, for example, my role is to get early adopters on board and investing in solutions that we are currently working on, so that we can finalize the solution and design the product or service based on their feedback and experience. This is a Test & Learn approach associated with the Agile Method that was originally practiced by start-ups. 

What are the main challenges of your job?

Innovation sometimes means starting from scratch, and that is very gratifying. I need to show that I can take initiative, put my creativity to good use and come up with new ideas!

Customer experience must be the main source of innovation. But, as a tube manufacturer, we are sometimes quite a long way down the value chain as there are lots of intermediaries between us and the end users. Reaching them is not easy!

What do you like about working at Vallourec?

Vallourec is a large but people-focused company where you quickly start to feel at home. We are all encouraged to voice our opinions, ask questions and suggest solutions to actively contribute to the overall success of both our projects and the company.

I wanted to work in an industrial firm in the energy sector with an international side to it...I don't think things could have worked out better!

Tell us about your background.

I have a Master's in Strategy & Management but, during my business course, I soon realized I wanted to do technical internships – at the CEA, EDF and Air Liquide – to increase my scientific knowledge. My family has a history in manufacturing and when I was younger I got to spend time in the factory, where I learned how things are made, and about the products that my father and grandfather designed (which were parts of valve actuators!).

I realized that I was interested in the energy sector during my internships, and so decided to continue my studies at engineering school and do a Master's in engineering to learn the technical skills I needed. This dual competency - which you often see in reverse (with engineers subsequently training in business) - means I understand the market and corporate strategy as well as the technical aspects of industrial projects.

Once I finished studying I started work in a consultancy firm, where I supported EDF during the digital transformation of their production and engineering divisions: I did everything from performing functional analyses to establishing a technical digital roadmap for all the production facilities in France.

I started working with Vallourec in Seoul as a VIE, where I was a marketing manager for power generation activities in Korea and Japan. During the three years I spent in Korea, my role developed to include South-East Asia. I was responsible for exploring business opportunities in several South-Asian countries (the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand) and meeting key local stakeholders to propose services and solutions that were tailored to the issues they faced. We ran technical seminars for hundreds of people in Vietnam and Indonesia, where we would introduce our services and showcase our innovation to some of the region's largest power plant operators.

In June 2017 I came back to France and took up my new role at the Vallourec headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt.

Who are you outside of work?

I love travel, culture and language, and have been to almost 50 different countries (I started early!). I have experience working in Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Seoul, and I speak five languages fluently.

I love sport too, of course! I have competed in aerobics for twelve years (not joking!), but nowadays I'm focusing on my tennis.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Whatever happens, always be enthusiastic and passionate about your work!