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Judith Bouvard is dean of Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France, where she has worked since it was founded in 1984. In 1995, she created the school’s first international postgraduate programme, the Master of International Business and then went on to create a range of programmes, including an MBA. She has also extended the school’s campus to Russia, Malta, Moldova, Georgia, Singapore, China, Iran, the UK and Saudi Arabia.
Prof Bouvard grew up in the UK and studied on the Henley DBA programme, while working at Grenoble. Before entering academia, she worked in the luxury shoe industry for several years.
In her spare time, Prof Bouvard enjoys travelling, singing, interior design and real estate.
1. When did you know you wanted to be dean of a business school?
I never thought that I would be a dean of a business school. In fact I never intended to end up in academia. I was always more attracted to a career in the corporate world. But being a dean is very similar to managing a company and nowadays business education has become a commodity and we are competing in a global marketplace which makes the job so much more challenging.
2. Who are your business heroes?
A public figure I admire is Simone Weil, a French politician who has contributed to advancing the rights of women in France. On a more personal level, my father had a great influence on me as he made me interested in business and I admire my brother’s management skills.
3. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
I chose an elective in law while studying for my bachelor’s degree. I hadn’t been in France for very long and my French still needed improving. I was the only foreigner in the class – student exchanges were much less frequent than they are today – and I found the subject very difficult both from the language point of view and the content. I was relieved when I found that I had passed the course.
4. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
That the grass is definitely not greener on the other side!
5. What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
When I was a student I had a holiday job in a factory working on a production line. It was the worst job I can think of. Incredibly boring and repetitive and some workers were doing that job every day of their working lives. It was that job that made me decide that I had to study hard to get myself an interesting career. However, with hindsight I think that it was a good experience because it really makes you realise how lucky you are to be able to go to university.
7. What advice would you give to women in business?
It’s a tough world, but for men too. Set yourself goals and don’t let anyone deter you from achieving them.
8. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I think that I am so used to being the only female in many meetings that I don’t notice it any more. It is no longer a problem for me. If you are competent in your job then there is no reason why you should not be respected. Strangely enough though, I find that I have fewer problems in Middle Eastern countries which are more male-dominated than Europe.
9. How do you deal with pressure?
The best way for me to deal with pressure is by switching off completely when I go to my singing lessons. Singing is very relaxing as it helps me to focus on the present moment. It’s impossible to think about work-related problems at the same time. You need to breathe correctly to sing and this helps you to physically relax.
10. What is your life philosophy?
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Life is short and we should live it to the full. You never know what is around the corner so it’s better to enjoy yourself while you can. I also try to avoid conflicts. I think that is something one learns with time. Conflicts are so negative and waste so much energy. No-one and nothing is perfect.