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How could smiling too much ever be a problem?

ORMIT Alumni - Multicompany Management Traineeship

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By Mathilde Remy

Business Developer Services at Hilti

When you saw Mathilde at BNP Paribas Fortis, working together with the Chief of Staff and reporting to the CFO, you would probably not have guessed that two years later, she’d love to be wearing her red Hilti-shirt, selling building equipment and software to building professionals. And yet, that’s what this traineeship is all about: finding out where you can add the most value, and then adding some more.

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We should have a value called ‘optimism’

You can browse through our values on this website or in the presentations given by our account managers – the word optimism will not be in there as a core value. Sure, proactivity is, and rightly so. As is entrepreneurship. But it has always struck me how optimism is a quality we all share as ORMIT-trainees.

In my case, it was most obvious when I found myself really stuck at the end of my first assignment. It was an interesting case at Engie, I was given the task to work myself into a large back-office team, and help them transform their processes from mostly manual to automated. I managed to integrate myself really well into the team and we made some real progress too, but at a certain point, my role seemed to be reduced to sitting behind my computer, clicking on buttons and executing processes. Not what I set out to do!

I could have stayed put – after all, in two months the project would have been over anyway. But I didn’t. I talked to my manager about it and started proactively looking for other opportunities, while still executing these tasks dutifully. If anything, this attitude helped me cope with the standstill. But it also set in motion a few changes which made my work more interesting again. To me, that’s what optimism brings you.

Different companies + different roles = unexpected growth

Engie, BNP Paribas Fortis and Hilti are three massively different companies. Cultures couldn’t be further apart. And I got to play different roles too. After my period at Engie, I got a job as assistant to the BNP Paribas Fortis Chief of Staff. A very high-level assignment with high visibility and a true helicopter view on one of our country's largest organisations. Very interesting stuff. But I really wanted to experience another world too. To get my hands (or, as it turned out, my boots) dirty. So I asked to get an opportunity in the industry, and got a final assignment at Hilti, selling the world’s best building equipment to building professionals.

I am confident that this immense variety of projects, and the big differences between the colleagues and managers that have crossed my path, have made me a better professional. Can you imagine for instance how big of a change it was for me to suddenly become a salesperson? How intense it was to see if I had the stamina and the persistence to be one, after all I had done before was work in an office environment?

Applying at ORMIT

I first saw ORMIT at a school presentation in November, and I immediately knew this was it. I applied and signed my contract in February, long before I had my degree, to get started in November. Why only then? Because in the meantime, I had won an online contest to become an airline ambassador, resulting in me getting forty(!) airplane tickets. So I took four months off and traveled far and wide. Luckily I could give the tickets away too, so I never had to travel alone. It was a fabulous period!

I always love to come back to the ORMIT-HQ. Not only for nostalgic reasons, but for the permanent vibe of growth and personal development that lingers here. I just love it!

The ORMIT atmosphere

If you have a chat with 10 ORMIT'ers or alumni, chances are that nine of them will have some kind of background in student associations or scouts or sport clubs. It’s typical for us to love to build fun and interesting things around us, and to inspire people to join in. Obviously, that atmosphere doesn’t stop when we arrive here. On the contrary: the side-activities at ORMIT are alive and kicking. When I was still here, we managed to collect a very large amount of food and clothes for the poor and needy in Brussels. Something that I am still very proud of.

ORMIT keeps you focused

The key about this ORMIT traineeship is that it keeps you on your toes at all times. I’m sure other traineeships and jobs can sometimes offer equally challenging projects and environments. But they don’t offer you the luxury of taking a step back and discussing what you’ve been doing with a coach. Managers are great to help you progress professionally, and I’ve had some brilliant managers. But it takes an outsider's’ view, like the one from an ORMIT-coach, to help you retain the truly valuable lessons.

In my case, it meant for instance that I needed to make myself heard more. I am a teamplayer by nature and it comes easy for me to do whatever the team asks of me. And although that seems noble and is a trait that is always valued highly by managers – it’s not what’s best for me. Nor for the team.

“You smile too much”

During one of my first one-on-one sessions with my ORMIT-coach, he told me I smiled too much. Too me that sounded like such a weird thing to say to somebody. How could smiling too much ever be a problem? I’m just a positive type of girl, right?

But it turned out to be crucial for my professional growth and development that I took that lesson by heart and worked on it. As it turns out, I do smile close to always. When I’m happy, obviously. But also when I’m nervous. Or sad. Or angry. In these cases, smiling is kind of a shield for me, to hide those real emotions. And that’s far from productive. Just imagine how difficult it is to work with someone whose emotions you can never fully read and understand? It’s impossible to get a true connection with them.

Not only did I get many of these valuable insights during my traineeship – they came pretty fast at me as well. They had to: 26 months are over before you know it.