A day in the shoes of Solvay CEO, Ilham Kadri
Lara Soggiu, Solvay Brussels School Economics & Management student, shadowed Solvay CEO Ilham Kadri for a day.
What was it like being CEO for a day?
It was an inspiring, challenging and fantastic experience. As a student, I discovered another world that I couldn’t have thought of.
How was your contact with your CEO?
The contact with Ilham Kadri was quite easy, we were speaking a lot between each event of the day, she was giving me a lot of advice stemming from her experience and her leadership.
How would you describe her leadership style?
Ilham Kadri is a real leader having a true passion and lot of knowledge in science with her PhD. She is “grounded balance” with a lot of emotional intelligence, psychology, knowing the engagement of her talents in her company. She has also a lot of knowledge about the actuality. Furthermore, it was surprising to see the team that is around her and help her with the logistics, and the culture of feedback after each event, even with me.
How would you describe the company’s culture, as you observed it today?
I think that it is difficult to describe a culture in just one day. Solvay is a company that has a long history based on science. This company puts a lot of energy in a new strategy that focuses on people, on ideas and on progress.
What part(s) of the day did you enjoy most?
Each moment was unique, I think I enjoyed the most the feedback after each event when we were talking about leadership. I also enjoyed seeing how Ilham Kadri is calm and brilliant in each situation of the day.
What were the most important lessons you learned about leadership?
The best lesson I have learned was that the best mentors are also the most demanding. They will care about you but also challenge you all the time, so you have to move out of your comfort zone and push your limits.
Was being a CEO different from what you thought it would be?
Yes, I think no one can imagine what it is before seeing a CEO working next to you for a whole day. I was especially amazed by the level of organization in that multinational firm. As a CEO, nothing is left to chance.
What did you learn about yourself through the process?
The process of CEOx1Day is challenging! Each student learn how to pass a real professional process (phone call, psychological test, interview, presentation, speed dating, …). The Hogan test is really a great opportunity for students to learn more about themselves and work on their strengths and shortcomings.
How did the day influence how you look at your own career?
I think that this day helped me to be more inspired. I realized how important it is, as Ilham Kadri told me, “do things to make an impact”, knowing yourself and “discovering/knowing your own why”.
Could you apply anything you learned already in your life or studies?
Yes of course! At Solvay we have courses about strategy and leadership where we need to read a lot of articles from the Harvard Business Review. Sometimes, these articles can seem far from the reality because we are students evolving at the university and not in the professional world. It was impressive to see these articles in action and realize how true they can be.
Why do you think initiatives like this are important for students?
CEOX1Day is for students an opportunity to learn as much or even more than when you are in class. At Solvay we have courses about strategy and leadership where we need to read a lot of articles from the Harvard Business Review. Sometimes, these articles can seem far from the reality because we are students evolving at the university and not in the professional world. It was impressive to see these articles in action and realize how true they can be.
How would you summarize your experience in the CEOx1Day programme?
It was a great experience! I think that not a lot of girls from Solvay are doing it because it is difficult to think that you deserve it and you will be one of the finalists. When you are selected, this day can also seem scary and challenging but if I would receive a message to have the opportunity to do it again, I would do it without any hesitation.
Ilham taught me that time is the scarcest resource for a CEO. Thank you so much, Ilham Kadri, for giving me some of your time for one day! It was an extremely insightful and inspiring experience.