IMD International

Incoming CFO of SGS: “IMD changed me fundamentally”

Carla De Geyseleer says her three programs at IMD have contributed

to her success

September 25, 2014

"I'm addicted to IMD," Carla De Geyseleer announces immediately. Since completing her EMBA in 2004-2005, she makes it a point to come back every two years and has taken part in the Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) and High Performance Leadership (HPL) programs since the EMBA. Looking forward to coming to this year's Alumni gathering, she says: "It always feels like I'm coming home."

"I can honestly say that the EMBA changed me fundamentally as a person. I was able to reflect on my weaknesses and build on my strengths, including in my personal life. I came out as a more mature and balanced person and, no doubt, a better leader because I learned to focus much more on the development of others and to better understand them as well," she says.

In November 2014, Carla De Geyseleer will become CFO of SGS, the world's leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company with 80,000 employees worldwide. This comes as the reward to a career that has brought her steadily up through the ranks, first with Ernst & Young, followed by 15 years with DHL and close to five years with Vodafone, both in Germany and in the Netherlands.

"You can dream of a fantastic job on the same street where you live, but that's not going to happen," she says. She admits that there have been sacrifices to her personal life, as she commutes home to her family in Belgium every weekend, although it also has advantages, such as being able to focus entirely on her job during the week.

Asked whether the EMBA helped her move upwards in the company that had sponsored her degree, she answered: "I had to work hard for it, but eventually I was offered an interesting opportunity."

The profound changes that many participants experience make it difficult for some to go back to a job that doesn't fascinate them anymore after discovering the stimulation of a top school like IMD. "Companies should definitely invest in executive learning, but also should learn to better value the transformation of their employees when they return," she says.

Carla says that her appointment by SGS came unexpectedly, as she wasn't even active on the job market, although, clearly, her long-standing desire was to become CFO of a publicly-traded company.

Although it was long with many interviews, Carla says that she truly enjoyed the selection process. She believes that her alignment with the values of SGS, her passion for the business, as well as her ability to focus on the medium and long term, not just the quarterly results, secured her the position. As did her singular determination to attain defined goals: "I am definitely solution-oriented."

At Vodafone she learned the benefits of a corporate structure that places business intelligence under finance leadership, especially in times of rapid technological change and the emergence of big data. "You need to translate big data into useful information for business, not leave it in the IT department. Otherwise, you lose out on innovation." She hopes to be able to apply this progressive model to SGS.

Innovation was already at the forefront of what she learned at IMD. She remembers traveling to Silicon Valley and visiting inspiring start-ups. "I would love to go back and experience it all over again," she says of her times at IMD.

Carla De Geyseleer is currently Chief Financial Officer, Vodafone, Amsterdam. She will be attending the upcoming Biennial International Alumni Event focusing on the digital revolution on 26th and 27th September at the IMD campus in Lausanne.

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