Yannick Kpodar: “I am dedicated to investing in myself and in the development of future leaders”
Raised in Washington D.C., educated in France, United Kingdom and Spain, Yannick Kpodar –27 years old– is a multicultural businessman with domestic and international experiences leading projects for many companies around the world. After leading the market expansion of Dell’s Software Group acquisition to Eastern Canada and being the president of 100+ associates for the social enterprise Enactus in the UK, Kpodar is based in Silicon Valley where he is involved in several entrepreneurial projects as a coach and trainer. Since the start of January 2015 he is also responsible for new business development and strategic partner acquisition for Bonitasoft’s North America Business Process Management (BPM) market.
In the next interview he tells us about his amazing experiences, his interesting point of view about entrepreneurship and, of course, his time at EADA, where he did an International Master in Management in 2012.
On your Linkedin account you define yourself as a multicultural businessman, a globetrotter, a public speaker, a social entrepreneur, a consultant… In what way do you want people to describe yourself?
I would like people to describe me as a social entrepreneur because my projects and my goals are mostly around building human capital and developing sustainable platforms for our next generations. I am also a keynote speaker because I love to be able to share my knowledge and inspire those who want to achieve more in life. Thirdly, I define myself as a sales leader because my profession is high technology sales for large organizations and start-ups. And lastly, I would highlight my role as an investor because I’m dedicated to investing in myself –in my skills and knowledge– and in the development of future leaders.
Your career is absolutely brilliant. Why did you decide to become a businessman?
I think inside of me, I have always been somewhat of a “leader”. I have always loved being able to influence people. I have enjoyed alongside my life the process of developing myself so I can develop others. I have a passion for working on myself so that I can minimize my weaknesses and sharpen my strengths. And I knew from a young age that being involved in international business would give me the opportunity to travel the world, learn from different cultures and people and, eventually, learn enough to be able to make a difference on a large scale. In that sense, I have been blessed with the opportunity to live in different countries from the United States to France, England, Spain and even Senegal in West Africa. This experience has been invaluable to me and every time I was in a different country I was met with several obstacles and new chances to grow.
I have enjoyed alongside my life the process of developing myself so I can develop others
On your website you say “Define what success means to you, and then go get it”. Tell me, what success means to you?
Success means different things to several people based on who they are, their background, their close relationships and their surroundings. Unfortunately, people often let others define what success means for them. They want to be the person that their parents want them to be, or that their peers, or teachers, or community want them to be instead of whom they want to be according to their own true aspirations and goals. Some people even want to accomplish the “success” that others define as success so that they can be seen with high value. It’s easy to set a goal for the wrong reasons and then find yourself far down the road feeling like it’s impossible to go back. This is why I stress on the importance of defining what success means to you first and then go getting it.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur?
I’m sure that some would say that I have already accomplished quite a deal of things while others would probably consider that I have not even touched the surface yet. Success for me is becoming a leader on an international scale and making a difference in communities around the world inspiring young adults and teenagers that the world of entrepreneurship can be for anyone. As Napoleon Hill mentioned in the book ‘Think and grow rich’, “being exceptional in life is all about having a burning desire to succeed, having a specialized skill or knowledge, and learning to make the right decisions”. Anyone can be inspiring, daring or strong and accomplish great things, and this is what I want to communicate to our next generation.
Being exceptional in life is all about having a burning desire to succeed, having a specialized skill or knowledge, and learning to make the right decisions
So you defend investing in yourself but also in your inner circle of influence, don’t you?
Exactly. The idea here is about consistently investing in yourself, in your skills, but, at the same time, in your inner circle of influence. People often want more money and therefore want to add more jobs but instead they should focus on making their selves more valuable so the opportunities will come to them. When I will be traveling the world running projects to inspire communities to be entrepreneurial and teach them how to take their life into their own hands, I will have considered myself successful. So when I have left a platform behind me for generations to grow, I will feel I have accomplished my mission in life. However, in order to truly be able to do that, I need to travel this route myself first because you cannot teach people to go somewhere were you have not yet been.
You have a lot of experience in leadership projects. What do you understand for leadership?
As leadership guru Dr. John Maxwell says, “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less”. If you don’t have a level of influence on people you cannot lead them. People think that leadership is a title or a position but in fact it is about influence. Anyone can become a leader. Although some have natural leadership characteristics, it doesn’t mean that others cannot become extremely successful leaders. But it is true there are lots of steps to take in order to become a person of influence and grow your own circle of influence. Trust is the foundation of leadership and, in order to gain trust, you need to have character. And also to become and stay a leader you need to consistently be working on yourself.
People think that leadership is a tittle or a position but in fact it is about influence. Anyone can become a leader.
Do you think nowadays is more difficult to be a leader because of the crisis?
I think now is one of the best times for leaders to emerge. Leaders always thrive on challenges. Indeed, some of the greatest leaders in the world have been recognized because they led in times of turmoil. Every time there is a crisis a leader emerges. So we are in the best times for leaders to show their faces and add value to the world.
After working at Dell as a Sales manager right now you are pursuing new challenges in San Francisco. Could you explain me this turning point in your career and what projects are you considering?
Sure. After a great experience at Dell leading a market expansion project to Canada for the Dell Software Group, I decided that it was the right time to move forward and relocate to California and, particularly, to the Silicon Valley in San Francisco. This is the environment that I seek and that would embrace a person like me because I can join a start-up and help grow a company from the front lines. I also thought that this would be the best place in the USA to help me to achieve my first pillar of success, which is getting my time back. With that in mind, I have recently partnered with the best-selling author and leadership expert Dr. John C. Maxwell as a certified trainer, an international keynote speaker and coach. I help empower, teach and coach individuals and organizations to tap into their full potential and achieve inspiring success.
And what about your plans for the next years?
I am in the works of starting an investment trading company in 2015 that I can use to create more positive cash flow in my portfolio. There are lots of leaders and mentors to meet in California and this will be a perfect location for me to start my many projects. Besides, I plan to start a social enterprise and train teenagers and young adults to start thinking like entrepreneurs, and not job seekers. Yes we still need doctors, lawyers, police officers and so on but we also need more entrepreneurs in our world if we want to turn our global economy around. My goal is to demonstrate that entrepreneurship can be for anyone. So I want to teach people to take control of their life and steer it towards the direction of their dreams.
Yes we still need doctors, lawyers, police officers and so on but we also need more entrepreneurs in our world if we want to turn our global economy around
What are the main learnings from EADA that you have applied alongside your career?
Most importantly, EADA taught us to be leaders in our industry. This was the most relevant outcome of my International Master in Management. In addition, I remember how the teachers focused on looking at trends and making calculated decisions based on careful analysis of the company, the customer, the channel, the competitors and the context –the market–. This is called the 5C’s analysis. I specially remember the classes of Alexis Mavrommatis, an exceptional professor who would push you in multiple directions and put you on the spot. His enthusiasm, wisdom, experience and competitive nature all came together in one melting pot of a program.
Finally, what did you feel when you received the EADA’s award for the 2012 Best Master in Management Final Project?
There’s an amazing story behind receiving the EADA award. When our International Master in Management program started the students from the previous year were graduating the same week so we had the opportunity to attend their graduation ceremony. When I saw the students who won EADA’s award for ‘Best Project of the Year’ on the stage I told my classmate: “We have one mission during this program, and it’s to win that award”. So, from the beginning of the program, we had our eyes on the prize award and we were extremely lucky because our group was a mix of exceptional people. It was an unforgettable experience with a lot of challenges and set backs but when we got to stage and lifted that award that was one of the best moments in my life. This showed the importance of setting goals, because without setting goals you cannot set a pace to work at. You cannot track your progress based on how your efforts compare to your goals, and you have nothing to push forward to.