Catherine Goujon-Ginglinger, Manager Chemistry Research
I work in the Product Research department and manage the Chemistry Research team. One of my key goals, apart from supporting my team, is to build advanced scientific knowledge on substrates and aerosol chemistry of our current smoke-free products and future opportunities. As my role is to ensure that the team is delivering solutions and knowledge applicable to many business projects, I spend a lot of time interacting and exchanging ideas with my peers across various business units, removing barriers, anticipating risks, discussing results, and thinking about new projects. To summarize, I am serving my team. As a consequence, a typical day is full of meetings. After the lockdown started, I must say, I had even more meetings as I was checking how my team members handled the situation. I was also part of regular discussions with R&D management, EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) and WX (Workplace Experience) departments to take decisions about the "new normal" situation for the labs. So, my workload was even more intense than what it was before the lockdown.
The COVID-19 crisis forced us to think differently about the way we work. As the team had limited access to the labs, we planned all our practical work in advance, whenever possible, and we thought even more carefully before doing an experiment to ensure we generated reliable data. This is a philosophy we are keeping. I don’t think our research will be highly impacted in the long term but the interaction with the scientific community might be more complicated. A lot of conferences are postponed or even cancelled and I am afraid that a complete transformation is required in this domain. Video conferences are the new way of attending scientific events but it doesn’t facilitate connection between people. For the “new normal” situation, I am keeping and implementing the positive learnings from the lockdown.
One thing I have appreciated a lot and that I would like to maintain is the cross-functional interactions to address common problems and find pragmatic solutions applicable and useful for the entire R&D community. I also organized info sessions with my team to enhance their knowledge about our smoke-free products, new projects and lessons learned that would benefit their development and their job. And I was enthusiastic about the willingness and commitment of the colleagues invited to the info sessions to present their work.
I mainly focused on reading my books, related to management and leadership, to gain experience in managing a team in crisis. I have the privilege to have bright scientists and colleagues who kept me up to date with relevant scientific papers. Two of my last books were “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown and “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” from Jocko Willink.
My feeling is that our approach to business travel will be totally revisited and that video conference, with the camera switched on, will remain the standard way of interaction for any meetings abroad, especially if they last for couple of days. Personally, I do not consider making any long trips in the near future.
My husband was back to work after 6 weeks in home office and my teenagers were at home until mid-June. Each family member had equipment and a dedicated area to work without disturbing the others. My kids were very respectful of the COVID-19 rules, even if they were frustrated to not meet their friends. Their best friend during COVID-19 was Netflix, I have to admit. We always had lunch together and I really appreciated this break and the conversations we had. It’s was a gift!