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In Good Company: ABB Canada is writing the future of industrial digitalization thanks to the hard work of many Concordia graduates

Alumni Mircea Gingu, Celine St-Germain and Charles Mazza want the next generation of talent at ABB Canada to surpass their own accomplishments
September 5, 2018
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By Daniel Bartlett

In Good Company is a series on inspiring grads who work for corporations and non-profits that hire a large number of Concordia alumni. To be featured, please contact us at alumni@concordia.ca or @ConcordiaAlumni on social media.

Visitors waiting in the reception area of ABB Canada’s Montreal head office can expect a warm welcome from staff and a hot coffee from a robotic barista named YuMi. Developed at ABB as a way to allow humans and robots to work in close proximity, this YuMi robot prepares a fresh cup of coffee for anyone who stops by.

For more than four decades, ABB has been a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids. Serving customers globally in utilities, industry and transport and infrastructure, the company operates in more than 100 countries and with some 147,000 employees.

In 2017, ABB Canada merged its six Montreal-based facilities into one 300,000-square-foot facility now located in the Montreal Technoparc. The result has led to more collaboration among its 700 employees, many of whom are working on multiple projects with many stakeholders.

The new campus also hosts a Customer Information Centre, a state-of-art space that showcases ABB Ability, the company’s comprehensive digital offering.

The headquarters is also home to ABB’s North American Centre of Excellence in E-Mobility, created to share expertise with Canadian customers and stakeholders in the field of electric-powered transportation technologies.

Here are three Concordia alumni who are making an impact at ABB Canada.

Engineering new sales experiences

Mircea Gingu, BEng 12 Mircea Gingu, global sales and marketing configurator leader, enjoys interacting with ABB employees globally and helps drive efficiency, speed and simplicity into its customer-centric approach. | Photo: ABB Canada

There are no typical workdays for Mircea Gingu, BEng 13, at ABB Canada. He starts each morning by reviewing his calendar, attending his 6 a.m. overseas meetings and reading over his most recent emails. From there, Gingu creates a three-to-five-point strategy for the rest of the day, which includes firefighting the most pressing problems in his way and driving projects forward.

“My first three points, I have to achieve by the end of the day. Fourth and fifth — will be tackled accordingly in terms of their priority and current business needs,” explains Gingu, who is a global sales and marketing configurator leader at ABB Canada.

What’s more, Gingu needs to make sure he is available outside of regular work hours given that the company has customers around the world.

“You have to accommodate everybody, especially in a global company like ABB,” he says. “We work with Saudi Arabia and they have a different schedule — they work Sunday to Thursday and that collides with my Sunday. But if there’s an emergency, we’re over there to support them.”

Gingu’s journey to ABB Canada began during his last year at Concordia. While completing his degree in electrical engineering, he landed a four-month summer internship at the company in sales and marketing. His work at ABB Canada was so impressive that his manager decided to extend his internship another four months. He then joined the company as an electrical engineering specialist in 2013.

Today, Gingu works on the implementation team responsible for a customer management relationship software.

“When you go into Amazon, you can select your shoes, your pants, and so on and so forth,” he says. “We’re customizing or digitizing our inventory into such a platform.”

Thinking back on his days at the university, Gingu recalls how his courses helped him develop a systematic approach to solving problems — something that has been invaluable in his career. He also appreciates Concordia’s multicultural atmosphere and its hands-on approach to learning.

“All the labs that we used to do at Concordia helped me understand the concepts way better — that helped me succeed,” Gingu says.

He advises anyone who wants to follow a career path similar to his own to start by understanding the product they are working with. Then, they can gradually evolve into a role that includes front- and back-end interactions with customers, before eventually settling into sales and marketing.

Gingu admits that he did not always plan to shift towards sales and marketing but enjoys how his role combines all of his skills.

“How can we, for example, digitize our portfolio? And how can we explain it to the customer, but in a simple story?” Gingu asks. “It’s really interesting — it still has the technical side.”

Bringing it all together

Celine St-Germain, BComm 02 Celine St-Germain wears several hats as a project manager at ABB Canada. She organizes the assembly of large power equipment for customers such as Hydro-Québec. | Photo: ABB Canada

Celine St-Germain, BComm 02, launched her career while she was still a student in management at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business. During the final two years of her studies, she worked full-time at Wellstar Freight Systems Inc., a freight forwarding company owned by George Kalouf, BA 84.

“When I graduated, I started doing their accounting,” recalls St-Germain, who worked in importing before transitioning to accounts payable and receivable.

In 2003, St-Germain left the company to pursue an opportunity at Robco Inc., a Montreal-based manufacturer that supplies specialty fluid sealing products. She says it was during her five years at Robco that she developed many of the real-world skills that would prepare her in her role as a project manager at ABB Canada.

“I worked inside sales, procurement, cost estimation, customer service and project coordination. I became the customer service manager and the assistant office manager,” St-Germain says. “I was really exposed to different departments — that brought it all together.”

Now a 10-year veteran at ABB Canada, St-Germain is responsible for overseeing projects of customized high-voltage power equipment. This position requires that she supervise each project from the moment the company receives an order until it ships out the product to the customer for delivery. St-Germain is fully accountable for ensuring her team delivers the highest quality product, while exceeding customer expectations.

For St-Germain, being a project manager is both special and very rewarding.

“When you get to the end of a project and the customer’s satisfied, everyone just feels accomplished,” she says. “You’re just growing every day — learning different things — and you’re ready to take on a bigger, more complex project.”

Project management was not the discipline St-Germain originally envisioned for herself when she graduated from Concordia. At that time, she expected to work in industrial sales but quickly realized it was a field that did not interest her.

The idea to become a project manager only came years later.

“I didn’t know what a project manager was. I had never heard that title before and it sounded so vague,” St-Germain says. “Having been exposed to the inner workings of the business and different departments, you really need to have that experience to become a project manager. You have to understand that taking a decision could affect cash flow or production, or even the overall success of your project.”

St-Germain remembers how she struggled with group projects while at Concordia. Now, she says those same projects conjure up her most cherished memories at the university.

“It was really nice to collaborate with such a culturally diverse group of students,” she notes. “I kept that experience to heart because it’s exactly like that today, working at a global company like ABB — surrounded by talented professionals, each with their own experiences and perspectives on the world.”

A non-linear thinker

Charles Mazza, BSc 89 Charles Mazza, vice president and country head of sales at ABB Canada, is a self-described Concordia advocate: “The culture and the experience at Concordia had a strong, positive impact.” | Photo: ABB Canada

Throughout his career, many people have asked Charles Mazza, BSc 89, why he pursued a degree in chemistry rather than chemical engineering. His response is always the same.

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d do the exact same thing,” says Mazza, who is vice president and country head of sales at ABB Canada. “Chemistry provided me incredible breadth, open-mindedness and ways of seeing things in a non-linear fashion.”

Mazza describes his path to ABB Canada as non-traditional. After graduating from Concordia, he spent more than 20 years in the pulp and paper industry, where he transitioned from the technical side to sales, then from sales to management. He eventually took charge of running large corporate accounts, which he characterizes as a business in itself.

The shift from chemistry to business came naturally to Mazza because he was always interested in management. He would later earn a graduate diploma in management from Athabasca University in 2000.

“The sales side was always kind of natural to me, so it just felt normal and natural to do it,” he says. “I just saw that the career opportunities were strong and that the connection between science and business led to a unique skill set that could be leveraged.”

While serving as president and general manager of CIC Inc., Mazza re-examined his career and his place in the pulp and paper industry. He concluded that even though there were opportunities for him to continue his development, they required changes he was not willing to make.

That is when he reached out to ABB Canada, a company he had a strong history with as a supplier for the pulp and paper industry.

“I decided that the electrical industry had a tremendous future ahead of it and that I could use the skill set which I had developed through the years,” Mazza says. “ABB saw the skill set, but was also willing to take a risk on someone coming from outside the industry, which is not always easy to do.”

Prior to his current role as head of sales, Mazza was responsible for three of the largest ABB corporate accounts: Suncor, TransCanada and Hatch Engineering.

He also takes great pride in knowing that he’s helping prepare the next generation of talent in his role. “It’s a passion of mine to coach and to bring on the next generation to help them excel within the industry, but also beyond that,” he says. “We want them to succeed, so providing that opportunity is something I really enjoy doing.”



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