Anne-Julie Navarre (SKEMA 2018), Area Manager at Amazon Logistics

22 April 2024 Interview

Anne-Julie Navarre holds an MSc in International Business from SKEMA Business School and is currently Area Manager at Amazon Logistics in France, with 4 years' experience in the transport and logistics sector. In this interview, she talks to us about her career path, including a wonderful interlude in China. 

Thank you for joining this interview. Does your Chinese name (Sun Wen) have a specific connotation?


Yeah, well, back in 2016 during my first Chinese class, we had to choose a Chinese name. At the beginning, since I hadn't learned any Chinese before coming here, I thought it would be easiest to write. Also, it's a reference to Sun Yat-sen's politics in China. I thought it would be a fun and interesting fact to mention when Chinese people asked about my Chinese name, to say, "Oh, you know, just like the Sun Yat-sen politician." And yeah, I think it sounds good, and it was easy to write at the time since I didn't know any Chinese. It has a good meaning, right? Following the steps of a historical hero in China. I enjoy these kinds of things, and it makes it easier when introducing yourself to a Chinese person to have a discussion and break the ice.


And you mentioned that you took your first Chinese class in 2016. Is that when you came to SKEMA Suzhou for your programme?


Yes, actually, it was in August 2016. I flew to Shanghai. It wasn't my first time in China, to be honest. I had visited China in 2005 with my parents for a trip, but this time was different. This time, I was there to live and study, which was surprising because I didn't expect to live there. To me, China was just a holiday destination, not a place to live and study.


Everything was new, everything was a first, like eating Chinese food, not just as a tourist, but living in a Chinese environment and attending school with Chinese lecturers. It was my first Chinese class, and I was worried I wouldn't keep up because I had never studied Chinese before. I thought I'd have to start writing characters from the first class, which was daunting. But the lecturers were amazing, and I was the only one who had never studied Chinese before.


It's been five years since I was last in China, and I'm proud of myself for all I've learned at Suzhou. I'm still here, and I can have small talk with people in restaurants, supermarkets, and industries. It's nice, you know? Even if I can't speak perfectly, I can still communicate effectively.


How long did you spend at SKEMA Suzhou? Was it for one semester or a full year duration?


So basically, after high school, I pursued a two-year degree because I wasn't much of a school person, to be honest with you. I opted for a two-year degree in international business, which seemed interesting due to its various topics. However, I soon realized that it wasn't enough, and I truly enjoyed learning new things and wanted to delve deeper. That's why I applied to SKEMA because, in my opinion, it was the best in terms of international experience and had campuses worldwide.


Initially, I began my bachelor's degree at SKEMA in Sophia Antipolis. I vividly remember a conversation I had with a professor, who suggested considering Raleigh or Suzhou campus based on my academic performance. At first, I thought going to China was impossible for me because of its vastness and differences, especially the language, as I had never learned Chinese before. However, after a few months, I realized that going to China for my bachelor's final project would be the best decision, considering China's rapid growth in all aspects. For anyone aiming to pursue a career in business, having an experience in China, whether it's living, working, studying, or doing business, is crucial.


I'm extremely glad I made that decision because after just one semester, I wanted to stay there for the rest of my life. I was so eager to live there permanently. After successfully completing my bachelor's degree, I decided to extend my stay for an additional year to pursue my master's degree. So, in total, I spent one year for my bachelor's and an additional year for my master's degree here in Suzhou.


That sounds like quite a journey. Looking back, were there any courses, professors, or experiences at SKEMA that had a significant impact on you?


Most of the professors who taught me and my classmates were amazing and highly professional, which made a huge difference during my time at SKEMA. Whether during my bachelor's or master's, our classes included not only lecturers but also professionals, some of whom had their own businesses and extensive working experience in China.


Some professors, like Aurelien Millot and David Dufour, stood out because they shared their real-life experiences and insights on how things work in China and what we should consider if we plan to start our own businesses in the future. As someone who wasn't particularly fond of traditional schooling, I found it incredibly valuable to learn from these experiences. Additionally, we had the opportunity to visit factories, which was eye-opening and helped me explore potential career paths, such as logistics.


Apart from academics, were there any specific memories from your time in Suzhou or China that stand out to you, like the food, lifestyle, or trips?


There are so many experiences, at least, quite extensive. A lot of things come to mind, especially regarding traveling and payment systems, for example. At the beginning, I was quite apprehensive about everyone using WeChat Pay, and I was like, "What's going on? How are you able to do everything just with your phone?" It was something we weren't used to in Europe, but then I realized it's a must-have. WeChat is incredibly versatile, and once you have your account, you have it for life and can do so much with it. When I look back at myself in 2016 compared to now, I'm amazed at how far I've come technologically, being able to use these advancements.


Another incredible aspect of China is how well-organized everything is, how easy it is. The infrastructure, like the high-speed trains, may seem like a small thing, but it really impressed me. Everything moves so quickly and comfortably. I remember my first trip, which was to the Mount Huangshan for the Moon Festival with my roommate. We didn't plan much, just booked train tickets two days before, and it was the most amazing experience. It was then that I realized China is where I want to be. I felt comfortable, safe, surrounded by great people, and in the right place.


Let us move to your professional roles at Amaton and your current role as an area manager in Amazon Logistics. Your roles at Amazon involved managing sortation areas, shipping activities, and serving as the TOM. Could you explain further?


Being a manager at Amazon is a unique and fulfilling experience. , as an area manager, I was responsible for various aspects of the warehouse. Depending on the size and activity level of the area, my responsibilities differed. When I started, I was at a smaller site, launching a site near Paris called CDG9, which was a sortation center. There, I managed a team of 120 people on the morning shift from 5 AM to 1 PM. My responsibilities included overseeing productivity, quality, team management, employee well-being, and most importantly, safety.


Safety is crucial in a warehouse environment, where physical work is common. We had to ensure everything was organized and safe for our associates. One method we used was the 5S method to organize the area, ensuring every item had a designated place. What I appreciate most about Amazon is its commitment to safety and putting employees first. It's a continuous challenge, but it's also rewarding to see how everyone, including associates, can contribute to warehouse improvement and safety. Working at Amazon, despite its challenges, is a fulfilling experience. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a comprehensive job that includes management, safety, and quality aspects.


Your international experiences have played a significant role in shaping your career path. How have these experiences influenced you, especially considering your plans to move abroad again for a new challenge?


Absolutely, my international experiences have been transformative. Traveling from a young age with my parents instilled in me a love for exploration and a sense of openness to different cultures. My time in England after high school was eye-opening, and my experience in China was indescribable. It truly changed my perspective on the world. Now, as I plan to move to Canada, I see it as a blend of familiarity and adventure. Canada offers a balance between the European aspects I'm accustomed to and the sense of security I found in China. So, yes, my international experiences have been instrumental in shaping my career decisions and aspirations.


It's always intriguing to consider what lies ahead. We must venture forth and explore all possibilities. If you successfully immigrate to Canada, do you anticipate changing your professional field, or would you seek a fresh start within the logistics industry?


To be honest, I feel quite attached to what I'm doing. Working in a warehouse isn't easy due to the specific shift timings, such as early mornings or night shifts. I've experienced eight months of night shifts, which took a toll on my personal life. If I were to embark on something new, it would likely still be within logistics but perhaps not in an area manager role. Maybe I'd transition to a safety or training department, which still involves interaction with operations but offers a better work-life balance. Despite being addicted to the work and always wanting to do more, I've come to realize the importance of self-care and setting boundaries.


As a graduate with varied experiences, what advice would you offer to Schema students? Perhaps you've already touched on some points during our conversation, but are there any additional suggestions you'd like to share?


My advice is simple: have fun and listen to your teachers, even when it feels tedious. They've been in your shoes and offer valuable insights. For students in foreign countries, don't hesitate to step out of your comfort zone. I'm glad I did, and it's an experience I cherish. So, close your books, interact with people, and explore new horizons. We often appreciate our professors' wisdom in hindsight, don't we? And if you need further assistance or advice, feel free to reach out ( I've had a great time at SKEMA Suzhou and in China, and I'm more than willing to help.


Contact: Anne-Julie Navarre, Area Manager at Amazon Logistics.