After the first stage of her career working for several software companies and then in cash management sales, Carole Djen-Ullmo decided to change direction in 2015, an opportunity facilitated by the open and dynamic career management that characterises one of the world’s leading banks. Djen-Ullmo’s bold leap to another role should serve as an inspiration to those striving for change in their professional path. Now Global Head of Communications & Marketing at BNP Paribas, she manages a team of professionals covering cash management and trade finance.
Carole Djen Ullmo
Global Head of Communications & Marketing
‘Back in 2015, I was new to communications and marketing; it was challenging, as with all new roles. But it was all the more complex because I had to decipher my new environment very quickly. So, I first went through an initial phase of observation, listening actively to each team member and key stakeholder. I then created my own roadmap.’ When asked what made her stand out when it came to applying for her current position, Djen-Ullmo shares the following: ‘I think that I asked the right questions, such as ‘What are you looking for in this role?’
Djen-Ullmo always had a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve. To her, marketing and communications as a whole has always been a powerful business enabler. It must promote the business to all its stakeholders. ‘It sounds simple’, admits Djen-Ullmo, ‘but in today’s world, it’s actually very sophisticated, partly because the content war is fierce, and communication channels have undergone a revolution’.
In addition to being always strategic, Djen-Ulmo values out-of-the-box initiatives that bring visibility while creating links between employees, customers and other stakeholders. ‘Yesterday, brands addressed their clients and shareholders in a top-bottom manner. Today, they deliver messages to a much larger audience including social network influencers, so it’s a huge challenge to control how they are perceived’, she continues.
During her tenure, innovative initiatives were launched from the collaborative research and discussion-based Journeys to Treasury (https://www.journeystotreasury.com) to the ‘Treasury Board’ which acts as an insider group of industry advisors. This focus group conducted in partnership with clients of the activity aims to co-create new cash management solutions, with the ultimate goal of building tomorrow’s treasury.
A carefully chosen team
To give substance to her vision, Carole is surrounded by the best professionals, all rigorous and agile, and able to think outside the box. Again, she emphasises BNP Paribas’ willingness to allow employees to voice out their aspirations and evolve professionally. The counterpart, however, is that the bar is high. ‘You’re given a chance, but then nothing can be taken for granted; you must question yourself without censoring yourself, adapt and improvise while increasing your skills where necessary. It’s the way to open up new horizons. The only sure thing is that you have to succeed, and your lack of experience at the start is never an excuse”, she adds with a broad smile.
Another feature of Carole’s team is its diversity of origins, which creates a capacity to communicate with multiple cultures (BNP Paribas is present in more than 70 countries) and think differently. Djen-Ullmo sees it as a must in global activities like cash management and trade finance. She also says how proud she is to be part of a group that is both engaged for the future and inclusive, adding that ‘very few players demonstrate such a concrete commitment to diversity and parity’. She feels entirely in line with the group’s values and sees this as absolutely essential.
Trusting your instincts
If Carole were to give any advice to those inspired by her journey, she would recommend active listening as a ground principle. When applying for her current position, she also remembers ‘exploring the needs of her internal recruiters rather than convincing them that she was the best candidate for the job’. She is grateful for the opportunity she was given to prove herself in an entirely new role.
When asked about a mantra or guiding principle that she would share with other aspiring professionals, Carole shared the following advice, ‘Push yourself, go for it and, above all, believe in yourself!’ Before deciding on a career plan, she recommends that you first be aware of who you are and understand yourself very well. To keep career trajectory in mind is important, but more than that, you must be conscious of your capabilities, then the fields of possibility are wide and plentiful. Djen-Ullmo also advises having a mentor that is inspiring and to work hard on your individual craft. In that respect, she sees learning and improving her skills as a continuous momentum. ‘The desire to break new grounds has always driven me’, she adds.
As Carole says, ‘The key ingredients of success in this role are determination, rigor and a drive to climb mountains to respond to the needs of our stakeholders. Adding to this are creativity and passion and a positive state of mind to drive good vibes, plus the agility of an acrobat in responding to unexpected scenarios.’
Focusing upon the pandemic and last 18 months, she shares that ‘I knew my team would adapt because they’re incredibly agile. Still, this period of COVID was a change of routine for everyone, and our whole ecosystem went through a period of adjustment. Agility is the key to surviving in all contexts, and solidarity is invaluable to stay the course. My team showed both, and I consider this a significant source of pride’.