Xavier Blanvillain

Xavier Blanvillain

Programme/year: OneMBA11
Nationality: French
Job Title: VP Programmes & Product Operations
Company: TomTom International BV 
Age: 41 




"The ‘best part’ of the OneMBA is that each time you complete another module you say: ‘that was the best.’ This programme is about personal and professional transformation on every level. Even if you’re an expert in your field and think you know your business, guess what - there is much more you need to know. The OneMBA gives you access to a whole new world of business, discovery after discovery."

As a former entrepreneur, and now V.P. of a major company – TomTom – what can the OneMBA offer you? 
First let me say that as an entrepreneur, I dealt with some great business leaders, and some were really great mentors. What I learned from them was that you have to have passion and commitment in business. As an entrepreneur or VP, you are very visible, very exposed. And you are expected to be on top of everything – finance, marketing, HR, all the business functions. 

That was my first motivation in taking part in the Global Executive OneMBA: consolidating all the knowledge I’ve acquired as an entrepreneur, and as a VP at TomTom. 

My second motivation: the network. This has really been an eye-opener. The team at RSM has done a good job in ensuring a lot of diversity in the class, so you’re interacting with very senior managers and learning a lot from them. OneMBA is definitely a good place to discover new types of business, new fields of expertise, new perspectives. 

The third motivation is very important: recognition. RSM is known for offering one of the best MBAs in the world, and I’m glad to be doing the OneMBA here, and proud to be a part of this particular class. 

One of the drawbacks to having your own company is that you ‘stay local’ in a way. Being at RSM, and studying on the OneMBA, really opens you up and gives you access to new worlds. 

Does TomTom support your choice to engage in the OneMBA?
They give me flexibility and time, which is very valuable for me. I’m running operations 24/7, so I’m available any time of day, and because of the international component of the programme I’m studying any time of day too…OneMBA is actually in line with what I’m doing. 

It’s an advantage for TomTom too; in the programme you are asked to find case studies and apply what you are learning. TomTom is a great candidate for that, as we’re running global projects – so through my OneMBA studies, there is a direct contribution to TomTom’s business. 

I’d also like to say that, between my OneMBA teammates and my team at TomTom, I am very lucky. Without the support of all of them, I’m not sure how I’d make it! One thing the OneMBA has given me: I’ve learned what true delegation means. I have a fantastic team, as I said, and they are willing to absorb some of my tasks and really step up. They love it – they have more autonomy, and a better view of our business, and they can have a bigger impact and we are working together as a true collaboration. 

The OneMBA helps me to have a more strategic, helicopter view of business. I’m still involved in the details, but I’m doing much more strategic thinking. 

You’re self-funded – what do you think your Return on Investment will be? 
Finance is not an issue here. I’m talking about personal investment. And actually, there are two immediate rewards from the OneMBA, one personal and one professional. 

Personal Leadership Development (PLD) gives you quality time for reflection and to create a personal life plan – and you really experience a transformation. So you can say the OneMBA is a transformational experience. PLD takes you deeper into who you really are. It says a lot that this is part of the framework of the OneMBA at RSM. 

On a professional level, I make better decisions and am more efficient; the result of this is surprisingly that I have more time, which I can dedicate to my studies. It’s very rewarding to see the immediate impact of OneMBA learnings, and how this helps you to leverage your career. 

How does OneMBA fit into your schedule, particularly the cross-continental group projects? 
One advantage is that the programme schedule itself is transparent: it is established in advance, our RSM Programme Managers give you all the milestones, and it’s very clear for your company which days you will be taking for the Local and Global Residencies. The OneMBA is really made for executives in that respect – it is a well designed and well-oiled programme. If I had to do it again, I would choose the OneMBA over all other programmes, without a doubt. Personally, I love to learn – this is where passion and commitment are essential, to help you meet the challenges of the programme. My partner is also very supportive. She helps me to reflect on my evolution, and she can really give valuable feedback, so I see myself growing. And I have quality time with her as well; matching professional and personal time with greater efficiency is one of the gifts of the OneMBA. 

You are a champion player of Oware, a 7000 year old game of strategy. How long have you played? Has the practice of Oware impacted your career or relationships? 
I’ve been playing Oware for 12 years. I love games in general, and used them when I was a trainer for project management and communications. But Oware is special. It is ancient, the oldest game in the world, traceable back to 5,000 BCE and some form of it exists in many, many different cultures (www.oware.org). Usually games reflect the culture they come from; in this particular case, life is a reflection of the game. Each time you meet someone who knows this game, they will teach you new rules and new philosophies; it’s a game meant for a lifetime of exploration and practice. It is simple, made from stones and seeds on a wooden board. The principle is that you sow the seeds and harvest them later on...bearing in mind that you can ‘starve’ your opponent. Oware is unique in the sense that you must develop emotional intelligence as you play. And it’s like business: there are three players at the Oware table, and the one you don’t know may surprise you in the middle of the game. Non-verbal cues are 50% of the success in this game; so the PLD in OneMBA has helped with this, definitely opened up more potential for me as a player. Oware is also a way for me to reflect upon myself; you have to be aware of your strengths and your foibles. I recognise that since the move to TomTom and beginning my studies at RSM, I’m a stronger player than ever.

The overall RSM values are Sustainability, Innovation, and Critical Thinking. Have you found these values expressed through the OneMBA?  
Critical thinking immediately comes to mind. Through every single module of this programme you are asked to step in, analyse the situation, make recommendations, and generally have a critical look at what you’re doing on a daily basis. This has really been a step up for me. 

Sustainability is a big ‘nut to crack’ for all MBA participants, and the OneMBA is a global programme so we are always aware of the effects of globalisation. RSM doesn’t just bring awareness, but incentivises you to search for the convergence between business and sustainability. At this high level of business education, we recognise that our key challenge is to find the economic vehicle for sustainability – we have a role to play there, and in fact we have a responsibility to future generations. In terms of innovation – well, the OneMBA itself is an innovative programme, in its design and in the way that you learn. 

How have you enjoyed the Global Residencies so far? 
This programme helps you to explore the world, and you see through the lenses of people who are living in other countries. This is an amazing part of the OneMBA programme – I’ve been to the European and U.S. residencies, and these have great experiences. You meet people from all over the world who are your OneMBA ‘classmates’, travelling from as far away as Dubai and Kenya. 

What has been the best part of OneMBA for your so far? And after OneMBA, what does the future hold? 
The ‘best part’ of the OneMBA is that each time you complete another module you say ‘that was the best.’ This programme is about personal and professional transformation on every level. Even if you’re an expert in your field and think you know your business, guess what - there is much more you need to know. The OneMBA gives you access to a whole new world of business, discovery after discovery.

 What makes OneMBA unique compared to other programmes I considered –and what makes RSM special compared to other business schools I visited – is that there is no negative competition. This is important, because if you really want to get through all the content and assignments you need to be surrounded by good classmates; without their help and sharing you don’t progress as much. What is also unique is that the classmates are so diverse – and that’s beyond culture: it’s professional experience, and the countries they live in. You learn so much from them. The way to learn is by sharing and challenging each other’s ideas. I think this is a very Dutch way of learning; I’m French and in France you stay quiet in class until called upon – here at RSM I was amazed that students challenge the lecturer instantly. 

Within the OneMBA programme, each participating university has its own flavour – and I like the RSM flavour best. RSM is an elite business school, but it’s not at all elitist.