Olivier Rabiller, 44
Vice president and general manager, high-growth regions, business development and global aftermarket, Honeywell Transportation Systems
Family: Wife, Emmanuelle; sons, Benjamin, 14, Thibault, 11
Born: Puteaux, France
Languages: French, English, Portuguese
Education: MBA, INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France; master's degree in mechanical engineering, Ecole Centrale, Nantes, France
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
My first automotive job was with Renault as a trainee in the engine manufacturing engineering department. I had developed a passion for cars and how complex they were as a kid. My interests grew to encompass not only the engineering, but also the varied disciplines of purchasing, manufacturing and marketing and sales, all of which are critical to successfully launching a car. I was interested in all aspects of the business.
We are pretty good at celebrating our heroes within this industry, but behind every successful leader is a skilled and dedicated team. I feel a great amount of satisfaction in watching the growth and development of our people as they ascend from junior levels to greater responsibility, ultimately taking on senior leadership positions. That to me is a clear and irrefutable sign of sustainable success.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
I have learned that promotions to leadership positions require more than technical expertise. You cannot underestimate the time and effort required to develop the well-rounded leadership skills that are needed at the higher levels of an organization. I take the responsibility for recruiting, mentoring and developing team members very seriously. In a fast-paced business environment, tackling major gaps in leadership skills while simultaneously assigning a wider scope of responsibility often leads to failure. I have learned that how success is achieved is just as important as achieving the milestone itself.
What is your current challenge at work?
My challenge is anticipating the evolutionary needs of our business globally through our technology platforms and our customers. This is a challenge in terms of scope, as there are unique needs for high-growth regions versus established markets, as well as in terms of portfolio development for what can be diverging needs among our customers around the world. Keeping all of those variables in mind, we still need to be able to identify and develop key talent to build the strong local organizations that drive our fast-paced growth.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The pace of innovation is incredible in this industry. It's really remarkable when you consider that we already have extremely high-tech content coupled with the demand for mass production of millions of units every year. When you look at a car today and compare it to what it was 10 or 20 years ago, you realize that there have been an amazing number of innovations that have been developed and optimized to meet expectations of cost, reliability and scale. And from what I can see, looking at what we are working on, this effect will only accelerate in the years to come.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Enjoy what you do even under challenging conditions. You can't motivate people working with you if you are not passionate about what you are doing: a highly motivated team can scale mountains.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
Be ready to adapt and drive change. This industry is fast-paced and constantly changing – and given its scale and competitive nature, that leaves plenty of opportunity for failure. Managing change in this high-pressure environment is exciting and rewarding. As most of the auto industry's growth comes from developing markets, you need to be comfortable with different cultural environments. This requires an open mind – not only to help local teams succeed, but also to anticipate the end-user experiences of customers who have different expectations.
If you were CEO of a company, what would you do first?
Regardless of what your official title is, I think most successful business leaders approach their work holistically, with a CEO's mentality. Any time you take on a new role, I think you should listen and learn from the people who have built the business throughout the years – and that includes the customers. Understand what needs to be kept and what needs to be strengthened. Then determine what the key improvement opportunities are, where change is needed. Select a few focused and high-impact improvement areas to address immediately and share the successes with the team to create a winning dynamic.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I am very excited about being in my current role, because it affords me a rich portfolio of activities as a general manager with global responsibilities and opportunities to help Honeywell continue its success as a global leader. I am excited by the challenge of developing myself to manage larger scopes of business.
What do you do to relax?
I enjoy being able to spend time with my family and friends in between my travels. Switzerland is great for skiing, and I am lucky that my wife and kids are great skiers. I really enjoy the special moments that ski touring offers. After a few hours of climbing a mountain with friends, you reach the top and have a 360-degree view of beautiful scenery before blazing your own trail back down in the deep, soft powder. I am originally from the Atlantic coast, so I am also an avid sailor. While I currently live far from the sea, I take full advantage of the few opportunities I have to sail my sport catamaran and initiate my sons into the pleasure of riding the waves.
A second-hand Renault 11. It was very robust and dependable for a student.
An Audi Q5 boosted by a powerful Honeywell Turbo and a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet, a great car for enjoying Switzerland's scenery.
2014-present: Vice president and general manager, high-growth regions, business development and global aftermarket, Honeywell Transportation Systems, Rolle, Switzerland
2012-2014: Vice president and general manager, aftermarket, Honeywell, Rolle
2009-2012: Vice president, chief procurement officer, Honeywell, Rolle
2006-2009: Vice president, customer management, global passenger vehicles, Honeywell Turbo Technologies, Rolle
2005-2006: Vice president sales & marketing, EMEA, Honeywell Turbo, Rolle
2004-2005: Marketing director, EMEA, Honeywell Turbo, Rolle
2002-2004: Business development manager, EMEA, Honeywell Turbo, Brussels, Belgium
1998-2001: South America powertrain purchasing manager, Renault, Curitiba, Brazil
1996-1998: Purchaser, engine components, Renault, Boulogne, France
1994-1996: Project manager, new aftersale services, Renault Revoz, Ljubljana, Slovenia