AFAM starts a new series of interviews "Giving back to your community". It is a series about dedicated and engaged gadzarts in the US, helping AFAM and our community being our donors, mentors and volunteers.
Our first interviewee is Michel Vulpillat ( Ch 183), Sourthern California AFAM representative and member of the Operations Committee since 2021.
AFAM: Hello, Michel. Thank you for this interview. You joined AFAM as our new Southern California representative this year. Today you are also a part of AFAM operations committee which goal is to generate and manage projects and activities for the gadz community in the US and in France. Please let us know how did you know about AFAM and how did you join the team?
Michel: Being in the US for more than 30 years and always wanting to regroup the gadz community I've kept an eye on what was happening, thus I witnessed the AFAM creation and blooming. Once I contacted them to let them know I was trying to develop the community relations in Southern California, they brought me on board. Since my goals are consistent with AFAM's objectives, it's a great and a natural fit.
AFAM: How do you see you volunteering work for AFAM in the future? What results would you like to see?
Michel: What really matters is what our target demographic (our "customers" in a sense) would like to see, and how well as an organization we respond to that need and demand. As long as the organization is on point, effective and not bogged down in politics, everything will be just great. It's like a rugby game, both teams and all players have to be good, for you or your team to be your best. It's not a single isolated element. So, if me and the team coalesce properly and are doing a great job, we should achieve great results. If I'm not a great player I won't last long, if I am a great player but the team otherwise does not play a great game, it will not last long either. Since AFAM has been around for quite a while and has been quite effective, I already know how good the teams are, now it's up to me to fit, we shall see.
AFAM: Do you have any previous experience volunteering, here in the US or back in France (may be even when you were an Art et Metiers student)?
Michel: Other than my main job, as soon as I could have some spare time, I've always volunteered in all kind of organizations. Between the curiosity of different worlds, cultures, etc. and the fact that it's a very rewarding thing, it's always been something that interested me. Besides one never has more freedom than when volunteering. As a matter of fact, I started volunteering when I was still in high school, in motor-sport, which was a great entry card and gave me connections for my future career at the time. I was also volunteering in the burgeoning personal computer and software industry. Volunteering really framed my whole path in life, I just got lucky that sometimes people were willing to pay me for it.
Having had more and more free time over time, I have kept volunteering and participating in all kind of endeavors, always a great experience, and always meeting interesting people. Nowadays I volunteer in many organizations, like first responders (search and rescue, etc.) for our area, sport organizations, metal and wood workers groups, alumni, business and investment networks in Los Angeles, Director of technology for the National Museum of the Surface Navy here in Los Angeles.
AFAM: You are based in Los Angeles area. Do you like the region? What do you like to do in your spare time?
Michel: Coming to LA (Los Angeles): that was an easy decision. When I started the video game company, it was to expand to the Americas for a French company, so there were many possible options to consider. Strategically however, it was much easier to choose, LA was the center of "entertainment" in many forms (movie, music, etc..) which was not only related, but also a source of cross marketing and licensing for our products (both inward and outward), and a fertile environment to source various creative talents. California was also a good place to be as it was and still is a major hub for the computer and software industries. LA was also strategic as we were to expand to Asia soon after (which I did in Japan first, the year after) so another good stepping stone as the Western USA has a lot of ties with Asia naturally. LA was a direct destination from Paris. And finally, all the people involved were so happy to either live here (climate and more) or have to come here every now and then.
Los Angeles, in particular the area open to the ocean (not behind a mountain range) is just an idyllic climate, and we have access to everything possible under the sun. Name one thing you need, or you'd like to do, even winter sports like skiing, and I can get you to it within a 2-hour range.
There is really nothing not to like. Besides, personally I really don't like cities, never did, I'm a mountain man. So, while oddly enough I'm fond of Tokyo, which I cannot explain why really, as it would look to be the worse city for me, Los Angeles is my favorite city in the world, because it's a city that doesn't feel like a city. Things are wide open, very few high-rise buildings, lots of vegetation, very easy to drive around and park anywhere (well mostly, I still don't go to places where there is traffic and it's hard to park). And yet we have access to everything, within a very reasonable distance.
So here I am, 30 plus years later, and still ecstatic and very lucky to live here, in paradise.
As for the region, some of my activities led me to discover and know the "Southwest" in depth, meaning from California to Colorado East and to Oregon, Utah, North. This is a fabulous region with so many things to see, or do. I've done it so many times, with people visiting, with groups of French tourists, in cars, buses, even motorbikes through back-roads and dirt roads, I know most, if not all, the roads and trails, the parks, places to stay and eat and to visit.
The Southwest has two things in particular that never leave people without strong feelings, either for or against: the desert (Mojave, or Sonoran), and Las Vegas. For absolute different reasons, these two produce an emotional feeling unseen for other places. There are also many magnificent places around: Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, to name a few. Personally, I absolutely love the desert. I also used to love the pre-2010 Vegas, now that it is more of an amusement park style, and they widened their focus from gambling to entertainment, the old spirit is lost and I don't like it as much.
Concerning my spare time, I've never sorted things out in terms of work/not work, to me it's all life, so it can be looked at as no spare time, or it's all "spare time". So, I do eat (love that), sleep, and do multiple activities that I like (which always included “work"). What particular activity that is, varies over time and needs, it's also a constant and evolving journey of discovery. My global scope of interest is business, science and technology, but I really have no hard-set boundaries, or even directions, I'm always curious about everything that people are interested in, and also in their particular cultural experience. So, in the end, these points of interests, and the people around me, and the opportunities (positive or negative), all have lit up the path that I have been taking at any point in time.
It's not what we do, it's who we do it with!
Thank you for your time and for the love of LA you shared with us! See you soon!
USS Iowa, the National Museum of the Surface Navy, in San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles
Port of Los Angeles, at dawn, looking south east
Algodones Dunes at the Mexican, and Arizona borders
Mojave Desert, near Kelso, Kelso Dunes in the distance
All pictures: courtesy of Michel Vulpillat
How you can help AFAM, our community and our students?
You can easily donate to AFAM: here
You can help AFAM: by becoming a Shasta mentor or our expert/referrer
You can share your ideas with AFAM community manager or any member of our team
Please read other interviews of "Giving back to your community" series:
With Valentin Fehr (Cl 212), our new representive in Atlanta region
With Alain Mutschler ( Ch 190), our Shasta mentor
With Jean Pommier (An 183), AFAM board member, Shasta committee member and Shasta mentor
With Jean-Luc Nauleau ( An 81), AFAM board member