Where technology meets business with Julien Cornet

We’re sure that our namesake, Ernest Solvay would like Julien Cornet. They both share a common passion for turning scientific progress into business opportunity, although in Julien’s case its computer science instead of chemistry. We spoke with Julien about his Solvay experience

JULIEN CORNET
Class of 2016
Employer: Semetis
Title: eBusiness Consulting Manager
City: Brussels
Nationality: Belgian

Semetis is in the business of digital advertising and digital business intelligence. What is your role at the company?

My main job is to communicate about the power of technology and big data to C-suite level executives. And then to translate their very real business challenges to the I.T. teams who develop the solutions they need. Sometimes people think that I’m a programmer or data scientist, but I’m not…my role is in management and client relations, although I’m obviously knowledgeable about tech and data science.

When you started the MBA in 2014, you had already worked at Semetis for almost four years. What inspired you to get an MBA?

When I joined Semetis, it was still in start-up mode. But it was growing rapidly and so was my role in the company. I had just been promoted to a management position, which involved a lot of new responsibilities and tough business targets.
I was learning by doing on the job, which is typical for start-ups. But, I knew that I could do a lot more for the company with a formal education in business. This realization made it much easier for me to pitch my boss to sponsor my education.

How exactly did you pitch Semetis for sponsorship?

I approached it just like I do with the business challenges I face at work. I laid out exactly how a Solvay MBA would create real value both for Semetis and for me. I made the case that I needed the degree to deliver results, and I must have been persuasive because they agreed.

Is Semetis happy with their investment? Are you?

Yes, there is no question about this. When I’m talking to executives from the C-suite on down, I can speak their language. I understand the business challenges that they are facing and can communicate about our technology solutions in a far more compelling and powerful way.
Overall, the MBA has helped me to define and take ownership of my new role as a manager. I have far more confidence today in leading teams and project finance than I did before.

You traveled to Silicon Valley as part of a study trip. Today, these trips are part of our new Global Labs (G-Labs), one of the most popular aspects of the MBA. What was this experience like for you?

Visiting companies like Google and Facebook was incredible since I work with the I.T. products that these companies develop everyday at work. Getting to meet with people who are at the forefront of innovation in my industry was like getting a sneak peak into the future.
The Solvay name opened a lot of doors during our trip. We visited high-profile incubators and venture capital firms and met with leading professors at Stanford and Berkley.
Exploring Silicon Valley in-person will always be better than reading about it in a case study. Solvay gave me this opportunity.

How did you balance work and school during your MBA?

When I was at Semetis, I stayed in work mode. And when I was in class, I tried to really put boundaries up and immerse myself in the program. Everyone at work knew that I was taking the MBA and did their best to respect my commitments.
Of course, I had to sacrifice many evenings and weekends for the program, but that’s part of the bargain. Anyone considering a part-time degree needs to be prepared to reprioritize their life – both professional and personal – and to make tough choices sometimes. But it’s all totally worth it.

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