My name is Jeannette DuVal, I am part of Capgemini’s Group Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships (GSIP) where I am responsible for managing a portfolio of global partners in such diverse areas as Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence, DevOps and Microservices, Cloud Transformation, Internet of Things, and many others.
Next year will mark my 5 year anniversary with the company. This year is a really special year for all of us in Capgemini as we are celebrating 50 years since the company’s foundation in 1967 in Grenoble, France by Serge Kampf, our visionary founder.
To truly celebrate these two significant milestones, the personal and the public, I am going to literally bring Capgemini to the top of the world by planting a Capgemini flag at the highest peak in the Americas. My plan is to climb mountain Aconcagua, otherwise named the “Sentinel of Stone”. Aconcagua is one of the 7 Summits and one of the highest peaks on the seven continents. With an altitude of almost 7,000 meters and 23,000 feet, it is the second highest peak out of the 7 Summits, only giving way to Everest.
I believe there is a strong parallel between climbing to success in business and in the high altitude. Both require teamwork and trust, both require careful planning and organization as well as survival skills in the unpredictable business or high altitude environments. Finally, to reach the ultimate goal, be it conquering one of the world’s top summits or executing a successful partnership or winning a deal, all require stamina and ethical persistence, no matter what comes your way. After all, in the mountaineering getting to the top is only half of the way, and there is no one option for failure on the way back.
Thus, coping with the business challenges in the day to day life comes to an extreme in a serious mountaineering expedition. Trust in business transactions and relationships may be extended to trusting your life to a rope in the hands of your team member. Organizational skills may be as crucial as forgetting any one of the myriad of the indispensable equipment items, such as altitude matches, may interrupt the entire expedition and even put lives at risk, as you wouldn’t be able to melt snow and hence eat or drink. Leading others to success, and taking the right critical decisions at the right time, however hard they may be, is another strong parallel which I find is crucial both in business and at the altitude of 23,000 ft.
Being based in New York and having lived in Los Angeles, Shanghai, Moscow and San Francisco, I have not had much exposure to the high altitude or mountains. But I have always been in love with the endurance sports and challenging adventures. I believe the success, both in the corporate environment and in sports depends on our attitude and persistence in achieving the goals we set for ourselves.
During my childhood and high-school years I was exempt from any physical exercises for health reasons. Nevertheless, just a few years after high-school by pure chance I joined a bicycle club for a ride. That’s where my sports journey began. 2 years later, and only 4 months after being able to afford my first road bike, I have completed one of the longest cycling rides in the world “Paris-Brest-Paris” spanning 1200 km (746 mi) from Paris to the Atlantic Ocean and back. The entire ride took me just about 88 hours (even though the rain was pouring down all the way)!
Since then I have completed multiple endurance challenges on different continents: many marathons in China, Europe and Americas, swims from Alcatraz, an island in San Francisco Bay Area formerly hosting a high security prison which no prisoner ever escaped, many rides across all of French Alps, La Vuelta Puerto Rico (a ride around all of the Puerto Rico island), and even took a prize in a tower running up the Shanghai World Financial Center, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world! In addition I’ve completed couple times the challenge considered as the ultimate one by many, the full IronMan race consisting of a 2.4 mi (3.9 km) swim, a 112 mi (180 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26 mi (42 km) run.
This year, I was… bored. Bored from running and cycling all my life. I decided to make a change and take on a new type of adventure that ultimately lead me to Aconcagua. Inspired by Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”, about the disaster of Everest expedition in 1996, I did a trekking journey to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
This undertaking has opened a new world of survival skills and teamwork, both of which are indispensable in both business and wilderness. To further expand the boundaries of my comfort zone, I climbed Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, which is located at the intersection of the three storm tracks and has some of the world’s harshest weather with winds reaching up to 231 miles per hour in the extreme cold (we had to turn back on our approach to the summit for safety reasons):
Now my newest challenge: climb Aconcagua, the highest peak in both the Western and Southern hemispheres and the “Roof of the Americas”. With it I am joining Capgemini’s MoveFifty initiative as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, accumulating kilometers walked, run or climbed by Capgemini employees worldwide. And I also would like to bring attention to the importance of the gender balance in technology. Same as in mountaineering, there is still a gender gap in our industry, which I would like to address by proving that women and Women@Capgemini can reach even the highest summits.
People frequently ask the question, why climb mountains? Even though I am myself not an experienced mountaineer yet, I do agree with many of those who climbed some of the most challenging peaks in the world: it is to conquer thyself. René Descartes once said “Conquer yourself rather than the world.” I believe only after winning this battle are we fully equipped to address the other challenges!
While on my way to the Americas Summit with Capgemini’s new identity flag, I invite you to follow my journey via this live link with real-time location tracking. I would really appreciate if you send me an encouraging message, after all there is no better help than support from friends and colleagues! Just click on my name on the map and type a message and it will be delivered to my satellite device!
Given the good weather, the summit push is planned for January 5, 2018!