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Interview

Jaouad Bounifi (PGE 2020), officer in the French Army

05 October 2021

Jaouad Bounifi is graduated of the SKEMA Business School Class of 2020 (PGE). In this interview, he talks about his atypical career path between business school and the French Army.

 

Could you introduce yourself in a few words?

I am a graduate of the SKEMA Business School Class of 2020 and I decided to enlist in the French Army as a commissioned officer under contract (OSC-E). Right now, I am coming to the end of my training at the Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan military academy, and next year I will attend a school (école d’application) where I will specialise and join the signal corps.

 

Can you tell us about your educational background and your choice to attend SKEMA?

After my years of preparatory classes in economics and management at Lycée Turgot in Paris, and once I had obtained my undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne, I joined SKEMA’s Grande Ecole programme in 2016 to work towards a master’s degree.

I chose the school for its “global DNA”, its global-mindedness, and the diversity of its professors and students. The school also has several top-ranking degree courses leading to professional qualifications, and very good infrastructures on all of its campuses.

I completed my first semester on the Paris campus, then interned in Casablanca as a sales manager for a digital communication agency. After finishing up there, I went to work in Amsterdam for over a year. There, I worked for an English bank, as a broker on the foreign exchange market. Then, in my final year, I decided to join the Project and Programme Management & Business Development programme on the Paris and Belo Horizonte campuses. At the same time, I did some consulting work for a variety of international companies in industries ranging from mining to fintech. When I got back to France from Brazil, I decided to continue my studies at the Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan military academy to become an officer in the Army.

I am currently finishing a specialised master’s degree in command and leadership, and writing a thesis on artificial intelligence and leadership.

 

JAOUAD BOUNIFI - LINKEDIN

 

What did you learn during your time at SKEMA?

First and foremost, I would say that I learned to work as a team with people from a variety of backgrounds and with different views on things. I feel that, through its international, cross-disciplinary and collective approach, the school prepares its students for what awaits them in the future, by really looking into the issues facing the different spheres and industries (private, public, military - HR, marketing, finance, etc.). Also, having specialised in project management, I learned how important soft skills are to the success of any action, especially as a manager; ideas and values have to be communicated effectively, and this goes both ways!

 

You then decided to join the French Army. What prompted this choice?

I primarily chose the Army for the human element and the adventure! No two missions are alike and this pushes us to constantly challenge ourselves. Missions are sacred, so you have to think and do everything in your power to make sure they are successful. This means that you need to be able to adapt, to see the big picture, to be resourceful. Pushing your limits, team work, a sense of responsibility, rigour, discipline, loyalty, and respect for both your superiors and your subordinates are all values that compelled me to serve my fellow countrymen.

“Honour is conscience, but exalted conscience. It is respect for one's self and for the beauty of life, carried to the purest elevation and to the most ardent passion.”- The Warrior’s Life by Alfred de Vigny (1835)

 

Can you tell us more about your role as a military officer? What does a day in the life of an officer look like?

There are several ranks within the officer corps, ranging from cadet to general of the army. I will focus on the rank of “lieutenant”, because that’s the rank I will have once I have finished my studies.

A lieutenant is an officer who leads a section composed of some thirty soldiers on average (enlisted rank and non-commissioned officers), and as a leader I have to be exemplary! Leaders need to be consistent if they want to be followed. We have to know how to position ourselves in relation to our subordinates, who have the technical skills. Because officers have an overarching view and can see the big picture, they must be able to provide solutions. Dialogue with their subordinates is essential to ensure the solutions they offer are viable.

Officers are nothing without their subordinates! They ensure their unit is cohesive and they must take the time to really get to know the soldiers placed under their command. Because it’s with these men and women that they will engaged in operations tomorrow.

Day to day, the section leader’s job is to supervise the technical work carried out by their subordinates while drawing on the experience of the non-commissioned officers in each specialty. Through fitness and tactical training, section leaders also ensure that their personnel is ready for operations. They also monitor their personnel’s career evolution very closely (training needs, opportunities for promotion within the institution, etc.).

So becoming an officer is more than a career choice; it’s a life choice. The officer is the person everyone turns to. They must be able to find the right words to convince and motivate. Their decisions affect their own life and the lives of their subordinates.

 

JAOUAD BOUNIFI - LINKEDIN

 

Qu’avez-vous appris durant votre scolarité à SKEMA ?

Je dirai en premier lieu, apprendre à travailler en équipe avec des personnes venant d'horizons divers et ayant une vision différente des choses. Je trouve que l'école, par son approche internationale, transversale et collective, prépare ses élèves à ce qui les attendra demain, en se questionnant sur les problématiques rencontrées par les différents organismes (privés, publics, militaires - RH, Marketing, Finance, etc.). De plus, m'étant spécialisé dans le management de projet, j'ai retenu l'importance de l'humain à la réussite de chaque action, surtout en tant que Manager, en veillant à la bonne communication des idées et de valeurs  à tout niveau hiérarchique.

 

Vous avez ensuite décidé d’intégrer l’Armée de Terre, pourquoi ce choix ?

J’ai choisi l’Armée de Terre avant tout pour l’humain et l’aventure ! Aucune mission ne se ressemble, ce qui nous pousse à nous remettre en question en permanence. La mission est sacrée, il faut donc réfléchir et œuvrer corps et âme pour la mener à bien. Cela se traduit par savoir faire preuve de capacité d’adaptation, d’esprit de synthèse et de débrouillardise. Le dépassement de soi, le travail d’équipe, le sens des responsabilités, la rigueur, la discipline, la loyauté et surtout le respect de ses supérieurs comme de ses subordonnés sont autant de valeurs qui m’ont poussé à servir mes concitoyens.

« L'Honneur, c'est la conscience, mais la conscience exaltée. - C'est le respect de soi-même et de la beauté de sa vie, porté jusqu'à la plus pure élévation et jusqu'à la passion la plus ardente. » Servitude et grandeur militaires (1835) d’Alfred de Vigny

 

Pouvez-vous nous en dire plus sur votre grade d’officier ? Quel est le quotidien d'un officier ?

Le corps des officiers comporte plusieurs grades, allant d'aspirant à général d’armée. Je m'attarderai sur le grade de « lieutenant » car c’est celui auquel j’accéderai à ma sortie d'école.

Un lieutenant est un chef, il dirige une section composée en moyenne d'une trentaine de soldat (militaires du rang et sous-officiers). En tant que chef, il se doit d'être exemplaire ! Un chef n’est pas suivi quand il manque de cohérence. Il doit savoir se positionner par rapport à ses  subordonnés, détenteurs de compétences techniques. Par sa hauteur de vue et sa vision globale, l’officier doit être force de proposition. Le dialogue avec ses hommes est primordial pour proposer des solutions viables.

Un officier n’est rien sans ses hommes ! Il est le garant de la cohésion de son unité et il doit prendre le temps de connaître parfaitement les soldats placés sous son commandement car c’est avec ces hommes et ces femmes qu’il sera engagé en opération demain.

Au quotidien, le chef de section a pour tâche de superviser le travail technique effectué par ses subordonnés en s'appuyant sur l'expérience des sous-officiers de chaque spécialité. Il s'assure également de la préparation opérationnelle de son personnel par l'aspect sportif et l'entraînement tactique. De plus, il suit de très près l’évolution de carrière de son personnel (mises en formations, propositions d'évolutions au sein de l'institution, etc.).

Devenir officier est donc un choix de vie plus qu’un choix de métier. L’officier est celui vers qui tous les regards se tournent. Il doit savoir trouver les mots pour convaincre et motiver. Ses décisions engagent sa vie comme celle de ses subordonnés.

L'ACADEMIE MILITAIRE DE SAINT-CYR COËTQUIDAN

 

What are your development plans for the future?

First, I want to develop strong skills in my chosen branch, i.e. the signal corps. During my next year at the école d’application, I am going to do everything I can to get the best possible results. This will allow me to choose from the regiments I’m most interested in. In the medium term, I’d like to lead a combat company (around 150 soldiers) after having proved myself as a lieutenant and successfully led the missions assigned to my section. Longer term, I will have to decide whether to renew my contract (seven years) and which path to take next (take the competitive entrance exam for the Ecole de Guerre - the French national war school, transfer, or change careers). But that still seems far off to me and for the time being I have other priorities. I will have time to think about that later.

 

What would you like to say to our students and alumni wanting to enlist in the Army?

Don’t hesitate to contact a recruitment office (CIRFA) for advice on the possibilities offered by the military (Army, Navy, Air Force), to figure out what would be the right fit for you. Then do a work experience course (PMD or PMS in France) to get a taste of what life is like in the armed forces. These courses are run for volunteers during the school holidays and they are a great way to find out whether or not the military is right for you.

Lastly, you must believe in your abilities and show determination, because to become an officer you have to commit for at least seven years (this varies depending on the type of recruitment). You have to be in it for the long term and you mustn’t take this commitment lightly.

 

Contact: Jaouad Bounifi, officer in the French Army

 

 

 

 

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