A shadow is supposed to be an area of darkness created when a source of light is blocked? After having spent the day with our JA student Nikola, I am more than convinced that we should change that wording! To me Nikola has not been a shadow but a mirror-image. All along this one-day-journey we’ve been exchanging ideas and convictions as if Nikola were my younger alter ego, time-travelling forward into the present day. I loved every minute of it.

Sure, it was about passing on the advice that we would have liked to receive many years ago, when we still had most of our choices to make. But it cuts both ways. Exchanging with a mature young entrepreneur that has the age of my children made both of us reflect and look back upon the choices leaders make. The wisdom of ages always comes at a price. What sacrifices or compromises do leaders make to get there? Then what do those choices bring us in exchange in terms of rich experiences, opportunities and valuable encounters that we are privileged to have?

Dear JA students, dear Nikola, come as you are….the experience is highly recommended.


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"Britcham and JA Europe have put together a great initiative to develop young leaders. UCB was pleased to take part and support it. We would highly recommend other leaders and companies to consider joining it next year as it provides a great experience to the young leader."




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We received Ms. Kosara Yankova early in the morning at DG Environment. She took part in our team meeting where I explained to her our agenda for the day. In the morning, we attended the meeting of the Council of Members of the European Organization for Packaging and the Environment.  In the afternoon, she participated in the "Away Day" of Directorate A, aimed at motivating the staff and stimulating methods and best practices to work better together. Afterwards, we visited the company Umicore, a production plant specialised in refining precious metals, where we realised the importance of recycling for the Circular Economy. During our trip back to Brussels, we shared our experiences and opinions. 


And more specifically:

  • I really enjoyed Kosara's fresh input to many complex files as well as to the way we work.
  • It could have been useful to have spent the day before with her, to give her some guidelines and orientations for the coming day. 
  • I would certainly recommend this experience to other leaders as a way to receive feedback and to show to young people the challenges we face in our daily work. 


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It was a wonderful day while I crossed the path of Anastasia. She was so professional and straight to the point with clear and meaningful questions for me and for the people we met all along the day. Even if her area of studies is far from marketing, she involved immediately in trying to find “what is behind” the purpose of our meetings. She was able to invest herself in the understanding of the relationships and I was impressed also by her capabilities to be focused and how she made her speech as a very good synthesis of the way I do management. Probably, with a little bit more time to prepare this day, for both parties, things would go deeper in the details and the story of the company and so on. But on another hand, what is really fantastic in such a day, is the “unprepared”, so spontaneous way to exchange. Straight talk and informal exchanges happened.

I strongly recommend any leader to be part of such experience. It gives freshness and hope about all the potential of our young talented people.

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Vasco arrived in the office well prepared.  He had looked at the company website and if not entirely au fait with what The Fry Group did he had a good enough grasp. Vasco had a good level of confidence and what I enjoyed was the number of questions he asked and the fact that, from time to time he noted the answers.

After a quick ‘get to know you’ we moved directly onto our weekly management meeting, as Vasco is studying  graphic design I thought some feedback on our brochures might be useful – he looked, he made notes, he feedback and it was an interesting exercise.  From here we moved to a lunch where a fund manager was presenting his global economic outlook and provided us with a nice lunch.  Back to the office for some more client work and then some client ‘phone calls - keeping in touch the cornerstone of relationships.  Sadly I missed the reception due to a prior commitment – such is life in a small business!!

There are many skills required to be an entrepreneur, some you can teach, albeit some with mixed success, others you cannot.  Two things that I hope Vasco learnt were that you need to be able to carry out more than one task at a time or at least move between tasks very quickly and (importantly as I mentioned to him ) efficiently.  You also need a good amount of energy and drive – a desire to succeed.  This applies to entrepreneurs in big business as much as it does in small start-ups.  If Vasco has these two qualities together with his enquiring mind and very personable character he will be a natural leader.

It was an enjoyable day for me – different, rewarding and ultimately enjoyable.  I can certainly recommend it to others.


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