As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Cédric Picaud.
Cédric Picaud serves as Chief Executive Officer of CRYOPDP, a wholly owned Cryoport operating company that provides innovative temperature-controlled logistics solutions to the clinical research and cell & gene therapy communities.
Previously, he served as Vice President of Global Clinical Specimens at Marken, a global clinical supply chain solutions provider, and prior to that, he was Head of the Life Sciences Industry at DHL Global Coordination Center in Brussels, Belgium. He holds an Executive Certificate of Strategy from HEC, Paris an MBA in Commercial Development & Entrepreneurship, and a Master’s of Management from a French business school.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I started my career at the age of 22 when I created my own logistics company, which was a result of looking to create my own job as a way to finance my master’s degree in management. This was my first real work experience and after a couple of years, I joined DHL where I went on to spend a large part of my career — approximately 14 years. During my time at DHL, I held several management positions, one of which was leading their life sciences initiatives across 33 countries. Most of my career has been within the life sciences logistics space, and that is what ultimately led me to where I am today, serving as CEO of CRYOPDP, a leading provider of innovative temperature-controlled logistics solutions to the clinical research and cell and gene therapy markets.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In 2017, we had a customer who requested us to manage the logistics of its highly sensitive biological samples across approximately 15 countries in Asia. It was a very interesting and difficult request because at the time, the logistics dynamics within these countries, such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, were highly complex in nature. To support this request, we built an entire logistics solution that consisted of a uniform and dedicated platform which would serve all 15 countries. It took us eight months to build our platform solution and, in the end, we were able to manage the logistics of approximately 8,000 biological samples each month across the 15 countries from start to finish. This included everything from the kit preparation to the logistics to get the materials to the patient site. It was a great success, and it’s probably one of the most interesting challenges for CRYOPDP since we started in 2015.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the initial mistakes that I made as a young manager was during a specific meeting where I was tasked with making a very difficult business decision. To be honest, I had no idea what decision to make, so I asked each of my team members what they would do and none of them had an answer. This was a good first lesson that taught me that, to be a strong leader, you need to be able to make tough decisions on the spot and cannot escape making these decisions by asking for everyone else’s opinions.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In 2000, one of my managers at DHL in Belgium promoted me to the position of Head of the Life Sciences Industry to manage a large portion of the company with a team spread out in 33 countries. I was 30 years old and deemed rather young for the role, but this manager took on the risk of promoting me and presenting me with great responsibility. In return, I ensured that I delivered the best results I could and worked extremely hard to bring the company to a strong position as a global leader in clinical trial logistics.
The lesson I learned through this experience was about the management of talent. It’s important to give a chance to somebody that you identify potential in. It’s also equally important that you not only think about the short-term comfort zone of having great talent that is delivering successful results in his or her current position, but also that you focus on the long-term talent developments of that individual that could also be beneficial for the company.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
In my past 20 years of working in various managerial positions, I have learned that the wealth of a team lies in its differences. The more that your team varies in values, gender, age, religion, culture, etc., the stronger your team will be in tackling challenges. When members of a team come from different backgrounds and experiences, they are able to bring their individual and unique perspectives to the table, and I’ve found that to be incredibly important at CRYOPDP.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
It’s an important topic, because the natural reflex of many people is to surround themselves with people similar to themselves— same age, race, education, etc. — because it gives them a sense of comfort. The more that people open their teams to diversity, the more it will enable them and others to step out of this comfort zone and embrace different perspectives, different visions and different ways of approaching the day-to-day.
Within CRYOPDP, my executive committee team is made of people with completely different backgrounds. You cannot imagine how rich and interesting the outcome of our discussions are.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
There are two specific aspects that are a bit different from the responsibilities of others. The first one is the “leadership” aspect of the CEO role. You need to guide your organization, defining a very clear mission and vision for your team, and make it live in the day-to-day. The second aspect is what I would call the “service mindset.” As a CEO, you are at the service of your employees, shareholders, customers and many others. You need to support and contribute to creating value every single day at your organization.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth is the power that the CEO holds. As a CEO, you have no power unless you are able to onboard your team with a true sense of purpose of what your company aims to do. If your team does not align with the organization’s mission, vision and a true sense of what the company is contributing to, your power is just an illusion.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
There really aren’t any differences between how I perceived my role and how I act today. As CEO, you are creating your own profile, position and contribution to the role with what you are and who you are. Your qualities, faults and experiences all help to define the CEO position that you are in.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I don’t think everyone is suited to be an executive. That being said, being an executive is not always better than being a classic worker. I don’t view one role as superior over the other. There is also not one role that is more noble than the other. It’s simply a different mission.
As a CEO, it is really important to have a passion to support and serve others. You constantly have to listen to others to help them and without a passion for doing this, it would be extremely difficult. Secondly, CEOs have to be very dedicated with their time and energy. They need to possess the proactivity and the ability to focus on the organization’s long-term goals.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
As a strong leader, you must define the mission of your company and the mission of your team. You should often question — even possibly redefine — the “why” of your business. What is the business’ contribution to the world? That “why” should be the reason your employees are inspired to spend time, energy and sometimes even sacrifice themselves to your business.
At CRYOPDP, our mission is to improve the health of people around the world, and this is the reason why my team is dedicated and passionate about their work.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
We’re dedicated to providing solutions for the logistics of temperature-sensitive products in the life sciences and healthcare markets to benefit the health of people around the world.
We are pretty lucky, because on a daily basis, we have the opportunity to help people by shipping life-saving drugs to those in need. We’re also able to help drive the world of clinical research every day by moving these highly sensitive shipments, which I think is a very positive contribution to humanity.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview.What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You must be ready to be a strong leader. You’ll need to inspire others and lead by example.
- Be ready to rely on others. Nothing can be achieved without a team, and an important aspect of reaching success as a manager is learning to trust others.
- Be ready to sacrifice yourself for others to reach the organization’s overall goals. You have to sacrifice time, holidays, etc.
- Prepare to face failure. You have to be able to bounce back in the face of failure.
- Be patient and have tenacity. You have to be tenacious enough to look at the organization’s long-term goals yet balance the short-term deliverables of the company, as well.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement, it would be to have people spending just one hour a week contributing to a better world. Whether that be volunteering for a mission that they care about or otherwise, society would be better off.
Can you please give us your favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is “nothing is impossible unless you think it is.” It’s not only a quote but a mindset to adopt to be successful in life. Your limits in life are the limits that you set yourself. You should always question your life purpose, goals and where you want to be in life. Once you have these objectives, you can start to initiate change. If you stick to your action plan, you can make your dream life happen.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’d love to meet Elon Musk. I greatly admire his mindset, background and achievements, but mainly, I admire his dreams.