#LoveMySafranJob: Life’s an adventure!
According to Armel, 47, “life’s no long quiet river” – as the French say. In fact, when it comes to rivers, he prefers it when they’re frozen so he can cycle or ski down them! We talked to this adventurer, who combines his professional life with a passion for extreme sports.
Tell us about your career so far with Safran…
After two years of higher education in technical subjects, I started out in tourism, somewhat by chance. I joined Safran Nacelles a few years later, first in logistics then in program management. I’m currently in charge of nacelles for the A380 program. I love this job because it gives me the “big picture” of operations. I feel like an orchestra conductor who pulls together all the individual expertise, sets the direction and coordinates everyone as a unified team. That said, I’m not attached to any particular role — I think you have to be agile and know how to adapt.
Is this philosophy inspired by your experience in extreme sports?
Yes. As a child, I used to cycle to the Normandy coast and explore the old wartime bunkers. Later, I started running and then competing in ever tougher marathons. In that kind of event, you have to push your limits and adapt to the issues you face. After a few years, I wanted to organize my own expeditions. I climbed Mont Blanc, having first cycled there from Le Havre [a distance of 500 miles]. I pulled off a similar feat by climbing Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland, after cycling there from France [about 800 miles]. I’ve worked my way round the Alps and climbed the highest peaks in each of the countries. Then two years ago, I cycled 500 kilometers (310 mi) down the frozen River Amur in Siberia in the middle of winter. All these adventures have been deeply enriching.
How do your adventures connect with your work?
My expeditions and professional life really do inform and feed into each other. The skills I’ve learned in program management help me organize my travels, anticipate risks, find sponsors and communicate about my plans. Conversely, my expeditions help me do my job better in terms of how I manage objectives, support the team and adapt to issues as they arise. Venturing off on your own doesn’t mean you become a loner — quite the opposite! You learn about yourself but also about others, and you come back a changed person in so many positive ways. Plus, I don’t keep my experiences to myself, I want to share them.
How do you do that?
I chat informally to colleagues about what I do, of course, and give in-house talks arranged by the company. I also speak at cycle touring and adventure movie festivals as well as at my children’s school. Whatever age the audience, I’m keen to convey certain values and messages — especially that everyone has their own adventures to pursue, whether in their personal or professional lives. You need to break out of your comfort zone, learn to be agile and embrace new challenges.
So, what’s your next challenge?
I’m planning to return to Siberia to complete the part of the journey I couldn’t do the first time. There’s an 800-kilometer (500 mi) section of river down to the Sea of Okhotsk, north of the Pacific Ocean, which I want to do on skis with a powerkite. My objective is the same: travel through the wilderness, meet local people and share my experience with anyone who’ll listen!
Armel’s story in a few key dates:
1994: French BTS vocational certificate in industrial product design.
1995–1996: Volunteer peacekeeper in former Yugoslavia.
2001: Joined Safran Nacelles as a logistics manager at Meudon-la-Forêt, France.
2006: Operational manager on the BR710 program (nacelles for business jets).
Took part in the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail, the Sand Marathon in Morocco, and several desert treks.
2008: Master’s degree in supply chain management.
2010–2014: SaM146 program manager (nacelles for regional aircraft).
Climbed Mont Blanc (France) and Ben Nevis (Scotland).
Since 2014: A380 program manager.
Did the Alpine Arch and climbed the highest peaks in seven countries.
2018: Cycled down the Amur River (Siberia) in winter.
2019: Made his own film entitled A Little Story from Siberia (available as VOD on Vimeo).