Portraits

The art of being rigorous and open-minded

Catherine Choplin’s work lies somewhere between the timeless Mickey dolls and future models derived from next Xmas’s annual film, or between Space Mountain and Alice in Wonderland; she is the current Director for Merchandise Planning and it is her responsibility to organise the offer and line-up of products for over-the-counter sales in the shops at Disneyland Paris.

The art of being rigorous and open-minded

For the past 5 months, Catherine's life has been in tune with the activities of the Park. "I simply love the events and amusements here; they are part of the job" she adds enthusiastically. However, she wasn't really predestined for this position at Disneyland. Catherine graduated in chemical engineering at UTC, with an optional speciality in "rational use of energy" and did a postgraduate degree in industrial process engineering, these diplomas being contemporary with the oil crises that placed energy saving issues in the limelight.

"After graduating, my first orientation was re-engineering of industrial processes with energy-saving objectives, but unfortunately the attractiveness for this market slot was extremely short-lived. I wanted to move on and that was how I turned to the advisory/consultancy world", she recalls. Catherine's first employer was a consultancy office specialised in logistic affairs, where indeed she worked for 12 years. That was where she learned all about warehousing and storage operations. However, given that she felt she could not progress career-wise in such a small structure, she decided to apply for a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers. This brought her a change in scale and a change in responsibilities: "I really did learn a lot about consultancy, advising and accompanying enterprises during change", she explained. "My posting was in the areas of distribution and general public consumer products and I carried out a very important mission for the Fnac". After what we can call a sequences of lucky events, after 4 years in the advisory business, Catherine was recruited by the Fnac Supply Chain where she could implement her previous recommendations, responsible for the co-ordination of the entire supply chain. "This new posting was the perfect answer to my frustrations, common to those who work in an advisory capacity inasmuch as they never see the results of their recommendations" adds Catherine, with a smile. She was the appointed to the Supply Chain Directorate at Conforama, at a time when this brand (as indeed the Fnac) belonged to the PPR Group . She was responsible for a team of around thirty collaborators but with a strong unsatisfied urge to leave fork-lifts behind her in the warehouses and to move closer to shop outlets and consumers.

Among numerous postings offered, one stood out: from Disneyland Paris, to become their next Director of Merchandise Planning. "The objective I follow here is to assess the potential of each line of products and to overview their complete supply path to the customer outlets, from product procurement to the shop shelves. There necessarily is a lot of reactivity between my department and the shops and this is the rewarding part of the business. You must know that 70 to 80% of the goods we offer for sale in our Paris park are exclusive models!" she adds, delighted as she is to hold a position that allows her to rub shoulders with other worlds than those of 'pure' engineering. For example, reporting to Merchandise Planning, we find the teams of designers and artists who create future souvenirs and gifts. "This way, I work at the core of creative activities, heading a Department that brings together a great variety of personalities and professional skills in a typically rich Anglo-Saxon style and atmosphere. It's a wonderful experience, since you have to find and work together using a common language. We engineers can expand our vision professionally when we open our minds, accept the viewpoints of non-engineers and keep a rigorous approach throughout. UTC Compiegne taught me this rigour, consisting of being able to identify targets and solve problems within a given time horizon, involving appropriate team work."

For students who may be tempted by this sort of job, Catherine recommends strongly that they start with a job in an advisory cabinet and then move on to those products or processes that they specially like and favour.

Bio-Notes:

  • 1962 : Born in Paris
  • 1979 – 1981 : Baccalaureate D, then C, and the prep. classes for engineering school competitive entrance exams (Lycée Chaptal, Paris), based mainly on high level maths and physics
  • 1981 : Admitted to UTC Compiegne
  • 1986 : Graduated in Chemical Engineering followed by a DEA in Industrial Process Engineering
  • 1987 : Became a Supply Chain Management consultant (cabinet DIAGMA) then Retail/General public products Manager wth PriceWaterHouse Coopers
  • 2002 : Joins the Fnac as Director for Operational Coordination (of the supply chain and after-sales services)
  • 2008 : Director of the Supply Chain, and Member of the Executive Board of CONFORAMA
  • 2012 : Appointed Director of Merchandise Planning at DISNEYLAND Paris