“It’s a dream come true”

Better known as the ‘Ready to Launch’ director, responsible for making sure the new trucks get on the market in time, we find out what makes former basketball player Nathalie Boivin tick and what made her become the leader of the upcoming Renault product launch.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the launch project?

“The fact that we have so many changes happening at Renault Trucks, all at the same time. All the products are new; then there’s the Euro 6 emission regulation that takes effect in January 2014; and we’ve got some new sales tools. On top of it all, there’s the internal organisation transformation. It’s a lot at once! But it’s also very exciting.

The challenge for us, as a project team, is that we have to cover the phase-in of the new product, phase-out of the old range, sales tool offering, sales force and technicians’ training, marketing, press and communication, and maintenance covering network tools and spare parts. It’s a lot to manage in parallel to all these changes going on around us.“

Is is it difficult to keep your team on track given all these changes?
“Absolutely not. We’ve got our deadlines, our weekly meetings and a good work process in place. Besides, this is an exceptional event for Renault Trucks as it’s the first time ever that we renew all our products at the same time. Everyone’s really motivated because it’s such an important event for the group. It’s a huge opportunity for everyone to be part of this development and the company’s future.”

So how will your life look after the launch?
“For me and the team – and the entire organisation – the launch is like a dream come true; it’s the day our baby will be born and when we will show all our work from the past seven years. But while June is the first step of the launch, it doesn’t mean the end of the road for me and my team, it’s just the start of the next phase.”

 Can you share some of your project management tips?
“Coordination and communication are essential. There are so many different business lines and people involved that the project has to be properly coordinated and information communicated regularly.”

How does it feel to work as a woman in such a male-dominated environment?
“I’m used to it! Already, back in university, I was one of the few female students studying engineering. When I began to work, there were very few women working in this field.

I have two kids – now they’re grown up – but when they were younger I needed to put them in kindergarten and sometimes had to leave a meeting a bit early to pick them up. Back then, the men would give me a funny look and wonder why I had to leave.

Times have changed. Now, both parents often work and it’s not uncommon for men and women to leave early to pick kids up or drop them off at school. Twenty years ago this was not the case.“

What’s driven this change do you think?
“Society has developed, but things have also changed a bit since we joined the Volvo Group as they work with diversity as part of the Volvo Way. For example, we set up a Women’s Inclusion Network last year which provides a discussion forum, lunch meetings and an online site for gender-related issues.

But the fact is that women are still a minority in this industry so it’s always going to be a bit more difficult to be integrated. The typical male and female stereotypes still remain. Things have changed for the better but there’s still a long way to go.” 

What has been one of the memorable things you’ve done during your truck career?
“I once spent a night in a cab at a truck stop to experience how it is to sleep in a cab and what the driver needs so I could better define the prerequisites for the new products. In the beginning I was a bit anxious but it was very interesting to understand their job better. I noticed that they spend a lot of time alone in their job – they eat alone at roadside diners, they sleep in their cab. It’s like their home when they are on the road.”

You used to play basketball professionally. Where does your interest in this sport come from and do you see similarities between basketball and your job?
“I grew up in Villeurbanne which is the home of ASVEL, one of France’s biggest basketball teams. So, when my teacher created a team in primary school, I joined and ended up playing at the national level in France. I still play for fun today and am on the club’s management; my son also plays so I often watch his matches.

Basketball is a team sport which is what I like about it. We’re all one team aiming for a goal. Teamwork is crucial to win. It’s the same in business!

 There’s a Pack Boivin named after you. What is that about?
“When I worked on the specifications of the new products, we wanted to analyze the storage space needed in the cab. So, I put two big bags together with everything the driver needs to store in his cab – food, clothes like helmet and boots, things they need for the truck like window cleaner etc. We wanted to see if everything would fit comfortably in the cab.

This was six years ago and, to this day, it’s still called the Pack Boivin after me!“

Profile
Nathalie Boivin

Title: ‘Ready to Launch’ Director for the new Renault Trucks range
Education: Degree in mechanical engineering from Lyon University
Work experience: Joined Irisbus in 1989. Joined 3P Renault Trucks in 1999 as an engineering manager; moved into product marketing in 2002 responsible for cabs products then the Construction range; appointed ‘Ready to Launch’ Director for the new range in 2012.
Hobbies: Bricolage, spending time with friends, playing basketball, traveling, trekking.
Favorite truck: “Today, it’s the Renault Kerax. But, ask me  after June and I’ll have a new favourite!”

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