Stephanie Laforest, Senior Director, Corporate Strategy, is Bombardier’s Lead of the Integration Management Office for the Airbus / C Series partnership.
This role is a momentous challenge by any standards. A decade of hard work and taking on ambitious professional challenges at Bombardier has prepared Stephanie to tackle it head on – and to deliver results.
We recently sat down with Stephanie to find out more about her career path, why diversity is something she’s passionate about and what advice she would give to someone looking to grow their career at Bombardier.
Here’s what she shared with us.
Gaining different perspectives
When asked why she was chosen as Lead of the Integration Management Office for the Airbus / C Series partnership late last year, at first Stephanie laughs, and then she stops to think. “A good question,” she said.
Stephanie credits the experience she gained at Bombardier over the last 10 years as a foundation she draws on to tackle her current role. She first joined Bombardier as a member of the Product Development and Engineering (PDE) team. Next, she moved to Bombardier Commercial Aircraft (BCA) in marketing for the C Series, the Q400 and the CRJ Series family. She then joined Bombardier Transportation (BT) and lived in Berlin and Zurich to work at CASRA, and later was part of the difficult restructuring at BT.
“I always loved the C Series, from the first time I heard of it in 2008. Having the opportunity to bring my Bombardier experience to oversee this integration was something I had to jump on,” she said. “Having a diverse experience within the company has allowed me to build an overall understanding of our business and the global scale of our operations. In my current role, this helps me understand the big picture, connect the dots and bring the right stakeholders together to achieve our goals.”
As the Lead of the Integration Management Office of our Airbus / C Series partnership, Stephanie is spearheading the team responsible for preparing Bombardier for the closing of our partnership with Airbus. Ultimately, she’s accountable for ensuring that all the pieces are in place and that we’re ready for the transition on day one.
Appointed last November, Stephanie hit the ground running and has had her eye firmly focused on the task at hand since.
What’s it been like so far?
“When they first asked me, I knew it was going to be an exciting few months ahead. Of course, there was also the thought: ‘How am I going to do this?’ I think it’s human nature to ask yourself that question, but the key is not to let it slow you down or distract you from what you have to do. I’m thankful for the opportunity and humbled because I know projects of this scale don’t come along every day. Also, there are thousands of people working on the C Series today and I want to ensure that this transition is a success for BBD, Airbus and all these employees,” Stephanie said.
“From a day-to-day perspective, the project is a complex undertaking which means that you have to reevaluate and be ready to problem-solve as you go,” she explained. “There’s also a person on the Airbus side and a person on the Bombardier side working together for each aspect of the project so you’re always discussing with the other team, making sure you can reach compromise. In the end, I’m going to be satisfied when the integration planning is done and we’re able to say it works. That’s my job.”
Stephanie sees the partnership with Airbus as a win-win situation for both companies.
“Having seen the C Series evolve since I joined the company in 2008, it’s exciting to see that this next step will position us to maximize the value of the program,” she said. “With Airbus being a major commercial aircraft player, it will really help us to grow the program and make the aircraft an even greater success.”
A bright future ahead
Over the last 10 years, Stephanie has witnessed a lot of changes at Bombardier. When asked about what’s next, she’s optimistic about the next chapter for our company.
“For the last eight quarters, we’ve been hitting all our targets and we’re on plan for the turnaround,” she said. “I truly believe we have the right plan in place to deliver on our 2020 targets. But to be successful we have to keep at it. We cannot lean back right now because we still have a lot of challenges ahead of us.”
One area where we have great runway to make progress is diversity, a topic Stephanie is passionate about.
“In my opinion, Bombardier is not yet where it must be in terms of diversity and inclusion. There is still a lot to do to increase the mix of genders, ethnicities, ages, etcetera in the workplace,” she said, noting that, ultimately, all managers have a role to play in building a more diverse workforce.
“Managers at all levels can proactively drive change whenever they have the opportunity to bring more diversity to their teams,” she explained. “This is how we’re going to improve. People will start to see how this brings broader perspectives into the team’s dynamic.”
Building a career path at Bombardier
When asked about what advice she would give to someone looking to grow at Bombardier, Stephanie shares her belief that moving across different business segments and teams at Bombardier is an excellent way for employees to develop their skills and qualifications.
“What’s interesting about our company is that it offers the possibility of gaining a diversified experience which can contribute to sharpening the skills you need to become a well-rounded manager,” she said. “I think we should go even one step beyond and really encourage employees to move from one business segment to another. This provides employees with richer learning opportunities that will, in turn, make strong leaders.”
When asked what’s next in her own career, Stephanie is clear that right now she’s completely focused on successfully completing the Airbus integration.
Beyond that, Stephanie sees herself continuing to grow at Bombardier.
“For the next step, I want to continue supporting the company in any capacity to achieve the turnaround plan,” she said. “I love working here, I love the people, I love their passion and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and make a change. I want to play a part in making this the greatest company in the world… I want to be part of that.”
Inspiring words we can all take to heart as we work together to continue to write Bombardier’s great success story.