Jérémie Cappellano (ISTEC 2007), Global Head of Procurement Service Line at Solvay in Lisbon
What has been your career path in a few words?
Originally from Lille, I joined the ISTEC 2007 class. I had four fantastic years at the school with fond memories, especially through my involvement in numerous associations as a member of the BDE (Bureau des Étudiants) and later the BDA (Bureau des Associations). My semesters of study in China in 2003 and Dublin the following year also confirmed my interest in the international dimension that I wanted to pursue in my professional career.
Thanks to ISTEC, I also discovered the field of procurement during my first-year internship at SAMARITAINE, one of the iconic department stores in Paris. That was my turning point. An unforgettable experience! Throughout my journey, I followed this direction.
In 2007, to conclude my time at ISTEC, I joined GIAT Industries // Nexter Systems (French Defense Group) to complete my final thesis and share reflections on “Supplier Relationship Management.”
With the accumulated experience from my journey, I was able to join a specialized MBA in International Procurement.
I started my career in a French multinational company in Defense (VEOLIA) before moving to Brussels to join a pharmaceutical company in 2009 (GSK Vaccines). Initially, I went for a 9-month assignment in Belgium but ended up working there for 12 years. Between 2012 and 2016, I had the opportunity to evolve in an American packaging company (SONOCO) responsible for the European procurement scope of the company.
In 2016, I joined the SOLVAY Group, a Belgian multinational that offers a wide range of products for consumer goods, construction, energy, water, environment, and electronics. In a few figures, the Solvay Group has a turnover of 10.1 billion euros, with over 21,000 employees across 98 sites in 63 countries.
What is your current job?
My current job is quite broad due to the size of the group. After starting at Solvay as a Procurement Excellence Lead, I then joined one of our business units as Global Director of Procurement, leading a fantastic team!
Since March 2022, I have been the Director of the Procurement Service Line at Solvay Business Services (SBS), the Group’s shared service center. This gives me a 360-degree view of the world of Procurement. I am in charge of a team of nearly 300 people, mainly based in Portugal, Brazil, and Thailand, who ensure that the 1.2 million invoices received annually from our suppliers, corresponding to 590,000 purchase orders, are paid on time. I also need to ensure that the data of our +30,000 suppliers is up to date. I am also responsible for the Travel & Expenses part of the group, as well as the digitalization and automation of our processes. Our function serves as the interface between our external and internal customers for their needs in this part of the process. As an executive member of Solvay Business Services and the Group’s procurement function, my role is to ensure sound decision-making and guidance to support our growth and transformation. The most important aspect of this is ensuring the development of my teams and enabling their growth within the group.
My team is my main asset!
You chose to work in Lisbon. Why did you make that choice?
For the delicious Pastéis de Nata! But not only that. The choice came naturally because the SBS headquarters is located in Lisbon, where a large part of my teams is based. I could have possibly fulfilled this role from the Brussels office, but I preferred the proximity to my teams, which is very important to me. I’m fortunate to have my own office in Lisbon, but to be honest, I mostly sit in the open space with my Dream Team! From an ecological point of view, it reduces the need to commute and therefore decreases my carbon footprint. Relocating abroad is also an excellent opportunity for personal, family, and professional development. My spouse was also a triggering factor, being very supportive of this choice.
What are the advantages of working in Portugal?
Portugal is a beautiful country with an excellent quality of life. And the weather is quite different from Belgium! There is a very open-mindedness, and the population is very welcoming and always ready to help. Living by the ocean also offers the opportunity to discover new horizons, engage in new sports, and experience a different way of life than what we know in France or elsewhere. There are very good wines that can rival French wines, although I remain convinced that Belgium remains number one for its choice and quality of beers, but one must know how to make concessions 😉
Are there different working methods?
As Solvay is an industrial group and SBS is a service center, we need to be quite standardized in our operations. Therefore, it’s not so much about the working methods that I would emphasize, but rather the diversity within our ecosystem. It is probably one of the parts that interests me the most in this role: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. There is so much to share on this subject.
Is it difficult to obtain a work visa?
As a European citizen, I didn’t have to obtain a work visa for Portugal. There are some administrative procedures to be done, nothing complicated, but it’s true that everything is very bureaucratic in Portugal, and we are far from being “paperless.” It’s also a lesson in patience!
What have been the challenging moments?
Organizing the relocation of a family with 3 children (and a cat) can sometimes be a bit difficult and a source of stress that everyone manages in the best possible way, especially if you combine it with renovating an apartment while working mostly from home. It also impacts our own ecosystem (family, friends, etc.) because each person has their own reality of this adventure. Finding a home, a school, ensuring that the family adapts well, all while working (and a lot) has sometimes been a challenge. For example, one week before our departure from Belgium, we still didn’t have a place to live, we only had our plane tickets, while our 300 boxes were already on their way to Portugal to an unknown address. In the end, it was our surroundings who had many more questions and expressed their concerns about things we had no answers to, and things that didn’t disturb us as much. We were so positive and confident that it probably reassured them, or maybe they thought we were crazy… Perhaps both!
The successful and happy moments you are proud of?
I’m happy that everyone quickly adapted and integrated, despite the language barrier, especially in everyday life. My spouse and I manage to reconcile our demanding jobs and family life. It requires a certain sense of organization, and I’m proud that we succeed in doing so. I’m also happy to have finally been able to use and master my paddleboard on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not the same as on a lake!
What advice would you give to ISTEC students who wish to work abroad like you?
Wishing for something is one thing, actually doing it is another! You have to take the leap, be open to this type of opportunity! No matter what stage you are at professionally or personally, don’t let logistical constraints, language barriers, or the fear of the unknown hold you back. Yes, it can be complex at times, but by remaining optimistic, positive, and grounded, it is entirely achievable! It’s also important to be curious, to learn, and not hesitate to reach out or expand your network to facilitate integration. I am available to discuss this topic further!
Contacts: Jérémie Cappellano – email@example.com
Association of Graduates, Claude Wisdorff, ISTEC Network Director – firstname.lastname@example.org