Toulouse, 8th March 2019 - Nominated among the top 3 finalists at the "Trophée des Femmes de l'Industrie” in the category “best project manager”, Vanessa Schmidt set up a project aimed at creating a brand-new H135 assembly line in China. In less than 2 years, this “woman of industry” managed to lead multi-skilled project teams and always succeeded in a totally diverse cultural context. On the occasion of International Women's day, we have asked her three questions on her amazing experience.
Vanessa, you have been working with Airbus for 17 years. What has your journey been up to this point? Could you describe your route, which was rather unconventional?
Vanessa Schmidt: I started my professional journey when I joined the Communications sector of Eurocopter in Marignane in 2001. For seven years, I was mainly involved in the department responsible for internal and external magazines.
Thanks to my double master degree in General Management, which I obtained in continuing education at the IAE University School of Management in Aix-en-Provence in 2007, I was able to join the Customer Service sector. This in turn allowed me to be in contact with our customers and create added value for the company's business affairs.
In May 2012, I made the big move to Russia to take over the responsibility of the Customer Service sector of Airbus Helicopters Vostok LLC.
Could you tell us more about your experience in Russia and how it was necessary for what you were going to do next?
V.S.: The job in Russia was a very intense experience. It was something I could really get my teeth into. I loved it! The mission was a success thanks to a very good team performance and customer satisfaction in a totally diverse cultural context (Russia & CIS). That prepared me for my current role. This deep understanding of the Russian culture allowed me clearly to better cope with the mindsets in China.
Since then, you have been responsible for large projects creating helicopter assembly lines abroad. Could you describe your main jobs for us?
V.S.: My first project dealt with setting up an H215 assembly line in Brasov (Romania) with a French-Romanian multi-functional project team consisting of around 150 people. In this frame, we created Airbus Helicopters Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus Helicopters, for the worldwide sale as well as local production of the H215. We inaugurated the new facility in 2016 with all the necessary industrial means, including the Romanian team that had been specifically trained for the local production.
In May 2017, I launched a new project to duplicate the German H135 assembly line in Qingdao (China). This project was launched in record time as only three weeks after the joint venture between Airbus Helicopters and its Chinese partner was signed, the first foundation stone had already been laid in Qingdao.
Since then I have managed the French-German-Chinese multi-skilled project team, more than fifty people making up the internal Airbus Helicopters team, an external team of our Chinese partner and a large number of contributors and stakeholders representing Chinese political and regulatory authorities, in order to put all the necessary industrial facilities and means in place.
In terms of results, we created a new subsidiary, Airbus Helicopters Qingdao Ltd., in June 2018, which is a joint venture with our Chinese partner UGAC to produce about a hundred H135s for the Chinese market. We also finished the FAL buildings, training of the Chinese blue collars in Germany and are now finalizing the last details of the industrial set up to start with the H135 final assembly line activities before mid of April 2019.
Despite the project's complexity, our plan is to launch 9 helicopters into local production this year and to stay perfectly in line with our delivery targets for the first assembled machines in Qingdao.
Creating brand new industrial production facilities from scratch in such complex international and cultural environments is a great experience, and I love it every day.