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07 juin 2021

Johan DE BUCK (TBS 2012) - Voler plus haut

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 An Airbus leader who sees himself as a future entrepreneur !


Johan De Buck is a highly committed and pragmatic leader who believes in empowering others and ensuring they have what they need to deliver. He shapes strategy into pragmatic directions to create an overall and individual sense of purpose. He understands the importance of adapting to changing environments and of supporting change.

Johan holds degrees in Organic Chemistry and in Aerospace Engineering. He started his career in Belgium and took on various positions at Sabena Technics in maintenance-related activities. In 2005, he joined Airbus in Toulouse where he was rapidly identified as a high-potential owing to his remarkable performance and problem-solving efficiency. Airbus therefore encouraged Johan do in the Aerospace MBA.

After 15 years as a leader at Airbus, Johan De Buck is about to start a new position as COO for SABCA, with Airbus as his main customer.

On 16th March, just before leaving for his homeland, Belgium, he talked to Jean-Michel Barthez, (TBS 2006, Aerospace MBA) and Christophe Benaroya, (TBS 1993), Professor Marketing TBS, Head of Aerospace & Mobility Center of Excellence.


Why did you decide to enroll in the Aerospace MBA program?

I had the feeling that I had done quite a lot of technical studies, chemistry, engineering, science, teaching, etc. and I really felt that if I wanted to move on in Airbus, I would have to be able to speak from different angles, to learn business skills beyond those that I learned through my work. I was able to apply for the very unique Aerospace MBA in its part-time mode, allowing to manage both the MBA and carry on Airbus activities. I knew this course had a good reputation in France and it ticked pretty much all the boxes, close to where I worked and lived.

Johan enrolled in the Aerospace MBA program to acquire the business skills and wide-ranging set of tools required to handle complex contexts with agility and enduring motivation. His internship in Airbus Finance on the A320 Neo Program was a great introduction into the field of risk management and finance in general.

Johan was awarded the "Top of the class” award at the graduation ceremony.


Do you have any anecdotes you would like to share in the frame of the Aerospace MBA?

When I started these studies, the part that struck me most at the time was the finance courses which were a totally new world to me. I was never really in contact with financial industry or financial people or financial training or whatever. Our professor was the late Nicolas Nalpas. There' is a dedication to him in my office because I found him amazing at TBS. The fun memory was he came into the classroom and started with his finance course. It was very, very mathematical. In my cohort, a lot of people didn't have a very strong mathematical background. In the class of 20, only two or three people were really mesmerized by all the formulas and then the how he derived them, all the rest of us were completely lost! He was simply building up a financial theory from the basic maths, which I thought was just brilliant. He just kept on going for one and a half days. And I loved the guy enormously. Honestly, when I heard that he died, I was really sad knowing that no one else would have this opportunity.


Johan De Buck shares his belief in the future of aeronautics and how he believes in people


What have been the main changes in the aeronautics industry that you have observed over the past decade? 

I have the feeling that this industry has been slowly moving towards becoming a commodity industry. It means airplanes are no longer considered the way they were in the sixties or seventies, like brilliant pieces of machinery and all the Glamorous aspects of Aviation. Now, they have become a commodity. It has significant impact on the whole supply chain, from the suppliers to the manufacturers such as Airbus or Boeing, going through the operators. Making margins is crucial and I wonder if we haven't pushed it a bit too much into a simple commodity. The aviation industry is more complex than that. It's a global industry requiring to be more cooperative owing to the challenges ahead.

This Coronavirus crisis is just like a pie being thrown in our faces at full speed. We all need to consider sustainability when it comes to looking at the broader picture of developing, producing, assembling and operating a plane. The market will change for sure. Do we really need to take the aircraft to go to the other side of the world for a summer trip? I'm not sure. Younger generations start to think differently. We need to bring something to the table that will make sense in their eyes. There is a new page to be written and youth want to be part of it. Together, we want to truly take into consideration the environmental impact.


What are the key features of your management and leadership? 

It is important to remain humble and talk to your team members. You can learn a great deal from them. When you engage with people, you are able to make the right decisions. You save time and energy but most importantly you get the people on board. Everyone is then happy to see the work done. I can’t make change alone. I need good people around me that make it work. Teamwork leads to great things as long as you are aware of that and as long as you stand behind your decision.

If you work with passion, if you work hard for something you believe in, you will remain yourself and authentic. Hence, I truly believe that you can do a lot of great things in life, driven by passion and focusing on meaningful objectives. You need to feel a certain level of freedom to move things. People with passion, common sense and getting the whole general picture. These are the kind of people I look for in my team, able to understand someone else’s point of view, to work together and to build bridges with others.

I don't think I'm a reference when it comes to soft skills, I am very analytical and very straight to the point. I need to work a bit more on this. However, I would like to point out that the soft skills are extremely important. You cannot work with a full team of bulldozers!


Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years from now?

 I would not usually answer that question because whatever I might say right now, it may never happen. However, I believe, I feel I will be involved in some form of entrepreneurship. I need to do things with full passion! I don't know exactly where I'm going, having my own company, or being self-employed? but I'm going to be an entrepreneur!


Do you have a message for our Alumni, graduates and students?

I’d like to pass on a message to current students : We are experiencing the worst crisis in aviation many might be wondering about their investment in time and money.

I believe this is the land of opportunities. As Winston Churchill said, “Never waste a good crisis!”. Soon, opportunities will be created for people who still believe in this business and who are still passionate it.  I truly believe that this is the moment to invest.

I compare today’s situation to a compressed sphere. Many people are leaving. There are cracks and holes which you cannot see yet because it is compressed right now. When things will blossom again, today’s students will see the cracks and those who are courageous enough to add something to the equation will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Opportunities will arise for enthusiastic people.



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