A Final Reflection on My #CEO1Month Experience

In September, Olivia Poulin, Canada’s 2018 CEO for One Month winner, was selected as a top 10 finalist for the Adecco Group’s Global CEO for One Month competition. She traveled to London, England to participate in the 3-day Global Bootcamp with 9 other finalists from across the world — and eventually made it to the top 5! Here, she shares her final reflection on her Global CEO for One Month experience.

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Olivia hard at work on a computer

Selection Process

During the month I shadowed Adecco Canada President Gilbert Boileau, I also completed a series of weekly challenges for the global CEO for One Month competition. These challenges — including personality tests, preparing a competitor analysis report and presenting my innovation project — tested my skills and let me demonstrate some of the things I was learning. It was these challenges, plus an interview with the Adecco Global Team, that were used to select the top 10 finalists out of 47 country CEOs to participate in the global CEO for One Month Bootcamp in London, England.

The night before the announcement, I hardly slept. Watching the Facebook Live announcement with my family at 6:30 a.m., we anxiously waited for The Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze to announce the lucky 10. We held our breath as he said, “then we travel across the ocean to… Canada: Olivia Poulin”. We exploded with joy! You can check out the video here. I was in shock but thrilled — and I had just 4 days to prepare for my trip to England!

Bootcamp, Day 0 – September 17th, 2018

Yes, it’s called Day 0! On Monday, all the finalists started arriving at the hotel. The first person I met was Beatrice Partain from Sweden. We went to her favourite chocolate shop and explored the streets of London while we waited for the others. It didn’t feel like I was meeting anyone for the first time; I felt like I had known these friends my entire life! As everyone continued to arrive, we spent lots of time talking and getting to know each other better. Then, we gathered to be introduced to the jury (the team that would evaluate our challenges and decide who would become Global CEO for One Month), play some ice breaker games, and get an idea for how the week would work. We went to dinner as a group and I finally got to hear more about the incredible lives and experiences of my fellow finalists. What impressive people they are!

Get to know everyone with these CEO for One Month Bootcamp videos.

Bootcamp, Day 1 – September 18th, 2018

Showtime! On Day 1, we walked to a business incubator where most of our activities over the next few days would take place. Challenge 1 was playing a “game” on our phones that would judge our strategizing capabilities and emotional intelligence. Then we had an Adecco Group X session with a presentation by Christian Howes, a social media and big data expert. He brought a lot of energy to the room and taught us about how data is used to tailor media to specific consumers and how social media can be used to predict outcomes of real world events. After that, we participated in a virtual reality challenge using Google’s Tilt Brush program (basically Microsoft Paint, but for VR). In teams, one person wore the headset while the others described what they had to draw based on a photo they were looking at. It was tough listening to many voices providing instructions all at once, drawing in 3D and learning to use the system all at the same time, but it helped all of us improve our communication skills and teamwork.

After a quick lunch, we had 1 hour to prepare our innovation projects and 5 minutes to present to the finalists and the jury. Personally, I loved this challenge because I was so passionate about my idea for my innovation project and I enjoy presenting. I was super impressed by everyone else’s ideas too. It was then that I realized how influential my 9 friends would be to the future of the world and business. For our third challenge of the day, we were put into teams and tasked with solving a data breach crisis. We had to explain how we would respond and what we would say to stakeholders and shareholders.

Next, we walked to a “surprise” destination: the LinkedIn London Office building. We watched a presentation about new LinkedIn products not yet available, went on a tour where we saw their incredible themed meeting rooms (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Candyland etc.) and workout facilities, and we learned about the culture of trust at LinkedIn.

It’s hard to believe that we managed to pack all of that into one day, but we did — and it was amazing. It felt like we had been together for a week already based on the strength of the relationships we had formed.

Bootcamp, Day 2 – September 19th, 2018

On Day 2, I had my first interview with the jury. It was certainly not like any other interview I’ve had: it was only 15 minutes and they asked us two very unconventional questions. After that we had some time for photos and videos, followed by a team lunch. Our fourth challenge at boot camp tasked us with pitching a startup by researching a new venture and giving a 5-minute presentation to the jury, Dragons’-Den-style. Challenge 5 was a roundtable discussion with David Malkinson, the Chief Marketing Officer of The Adecco Group for UK & Ireland. We discussed the role technology plays and would continue to play in the future of life and work.

After that, we walked to our dinner restaurant. We were shocked to see Alain Dehaze (Global CEO of the Adecco Group), Stephan Howeg (Global Chief Marketing & Communications Officer), Jake Schwartz (co-founder of General Assembly), Cynthia Hansen (Head of the Adecco Group Foundation) and others from the Adecco Group. We had the opportunity to talk with them and hear more about their work and wisdom, while also having the opportunity to tell them about our experiences. It was incredible to be in a room with such amazing leaders and people. Alain was there to provide input on who he thought should be in the top 5 in preparation for the announcement. After dinner, we returned to the hotel and waited for the CEO for One Month team to meet us. We gathered together in the dark room and anxiously waited to hear our names called for the top 5. My name was called first and I breathed a big sigh of relief while trying to contain my excitement! The other finalists were Miguel from Spain, Lisa from Germany, Yolian from the USA and Zoey from Singapore. As the final five, we were given instructions to prepare a 3-minute speech for the morning and told that we would have an interview with Alain Dehaze before the announcement. I returned to my room to FaceTime my family and share the exciting news. Messages of encouragement and support flooded in. It was amazing!

Bootcamp, Day 3 – September 20th, 2018

I woke up early to get ready and head to the final venue with Miguel, Lisa, Yolian and Zoey. We each had a 15-minute private interview with Alain Dehaze, and then had time to socialize with all who gathered for the final announcement. The event started and the final five had a few minutes to give their speeches and talk about what the program meant to each of us. It was a wonderful opportunity to address the group and show them the impact the program had on our lives. As Alain and Aly Sparks (Global Head of Talent Acquisition with the Adecco Group and President of the Jury) prepared to make the announcement, I stood with the other finalists on stage, eager to hear who it would be. Alain spoke highly of his selected candidate, and, when he announced the name of my friend Lisa Frommhold from Germany, I turned and gave her a big hug! I was so happy for her and believe she truly is so deserving.

While Lisa ran around London getting amazing photo and video shots for the announcement, the rest of the group used our precious few hours of remaining time in London to see the sights — Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. Our last dinner together was emotional; we were all sad that we’d have to leave each other the next day, so we made the most of the evening by going dancing and staying up late to savour every minute together. Syed, the UK CEO for One Month, also joined us, and it was amazing to meet yet another talented friend.

Post-Bootcamp – Returning Home

The morning after the big announcement, everyone had scattered departure times. My heart honestly ached as I said my goodbyes and walked away from them to head to the airport. In Canada, my brother and sister picked me up in Toronto to drive me home to Niagara Falls. That’s when I realized just how quickly everything had happened and that — just like that — life would go right back to normal. The only difference was that I had changed. The things I learned, the people I met, the experiences I had — these things will stay with me forever.

Other Thoughts & Lessons Learned

I was so incredibly impressed by how wonderful the other 9 finalists are. Their ambitions, experiences and wisdom taught me a lot in the few days we spent together. Many of them had travelled or lived in other countries, spoke multiple languages, were studying impressive subjects in school, and were passionate about their hobbies and culture. We grew so close and shared many challenging experiences that strengthened our bond and I truly believe that we will be friends forever. I can’t wait to see how they will have a positive impact on whatever they choose to do with their lives.

The collaboration exhibited by the finalists was also impressive. Though we were all technically competing for spots in the Top 5 and wanted to be selected as Global CEO, not once did I see any jealousy or anyone being “too competitive” to outshine the others. We all encouraged each other to do our best and use our strengths to work together.

In the spirit of honesty, I will admit that I assumed that if I wasn’t selected as Global CEO for One Month that I would feel like I had failed or would feel disappointed in myself. I couldn’t believe how much the opposite was true. I was SO happy and excited for my friend Lisa that I didn’t even have time to think about myself. Interacting with her throughout the boot camp was always enjoyable, and her warm heart and stable leadership style were outstanding. As I reflected on how I felt after all the chaos of the announcement, I realized that I was not sad or disappointed — I was still so grateful and happy for the things I experienced and the people I met. I was proud to represent Canada and make it to the top 5. I couldn’t have asked for more from the program!

The Adecco Group truly does live by its values. These values resonated very strongly with me and are what made me want to participate in the program. Entrepreneurship, customer focus, responsibility, passion and team work were exemplified by each person that represented The Adecco Group. It is a forward-thinking company that wants to improve lives and shape the future of work for the better. I’m grateful to have seen firsthand the positive impact Adecco has around the world.

My favourite quote has always been: “Every single thing that has happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.” I love this quote because it reflects the importance of the journey in getting to where you are. None of us woke up one day and just became CEO for One Month top 10 finalists. We all had experiences to draw on that led us to that very moment. Starting a company, holding leadership positions at school, public speaking at my Church, suffering a major leg injury with a yearlong rehab, winning case competitions, struggling through classes I didn’t enjoy, shadowing other senior executives — all of these things gave me experiences worth talking about that shaped who I am and put me in a position to learn from this program. All that, plus a little bit of luck and good fortune! It all matters along the way. 

This program changed my life and I want to spread the word to students across the world: apply to the CEO For One Month Program. You will learn and experience so much. Yes, it might feel like a shot in the dark… but somebody has to be selected. Why not you?

Olivia can be found on Instagram (@poulin09) and Twitter (@oliviapoulin).

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