AFAM: hello, Jean and thank you for your time. How have you become acquainted with AFAM?

Jean: ah, like many things in the Gadz'Arts community, and business in general, around a meal! Shortly after I moved to the Bay Area in 1998, I met Frédéric (Garderes) and Xavier (Wartelle) and we formed a habit to meet for lunch in Mountain View. A few years later, when Xavier co-founded AFAM with Eric (Benhamou), he knew who to call to give a hand!

AFAM: When and why did you decide to help American Friends of Arts et Metiers? What was your main motivation?

Jean: great question! When you live 9 hours and more than 5,500 miles away from Paris, the ties with the mother ship for our Gadz'Arts alumni organization, La Soce, can appear rather weak and distant. Add to this the busyness of the life of an expatriate in a startup, with a young family, and you have the recipe to forget about the ideals of our community. With its dynamism, financial means and local presence, AFAM gives all Gadz'Arts in the US a pragmatic opportunity to reconnect and help the next generations and classes experience the passion which got us to cross the pond ourselves in the first place. And, beyond this passion, ton of logistical support to make the hop or plunge easier! A joined AFAM for this opportunity to reconnect and give back with more impact and scale.

AFAM: What did you do for AFAM at the beginning for your volunteering experience? What is your role inside the organization now?

Jean: I first joined as a paid member, processing both membership to AFAM and La Soce through AFAM. I then joined our Shasta team, Shasta being our AFAM program focused on providing assistance and support to Arts et Métiers students who are seeking internships in the US. We are also helping those who want to study in universities in the US. Later, in 2017, I got elected to the AFAM Board. It's so rewarding to see for instance one of my mentees blossom and now work for Tesla!

AFAM: Do you have any previous experience helping non-profit organizations? Any non-profit you knew of and helped to when you were a student at Arts et Metiers?

Jean: yes, quite a few actually, and I'd start with all the volunteering opportunities which were provided to us right during our 3 years with Arts et Métiers. From representing students with the staff (DDE), organizing meals and events and later representing my class (DDP), I never counted the hours, but that was clearly not for profit! One of our sons organized a trip and we spent 3 weeks in Ethiopia helping a 2,000-people community displaced by a major drought. Later, through IBM's Corporate Corps program, I spent 4 weeks in Senegal helping Coders for Africa. I also volunteer in the Toastmasters organization, and I'm an official and sub committee chair with USA Track and Field. Plus a few other engagements so, on top of two big jobs, an executive position at IBM and highly competitive ultra marathon running, never a dull moment!

AFAM: Anything you’d like to wish to AFAM?

Jean: saying success looks quite cheesy, who wants to fail, right? But, still, success of AFAM's mission, definitely! Both reinforcing the connections among Gadz'Arts in the US, and the local friends and supporters of our School, as well as expanding the recognition of the Arts & Métiers brand. While the name has such an outstanding reputation in France, it doesn't as much outside of the Hexagon. Glad to give back to our community this way, and hoping other Gadz'Arts will also get the calling to join us, either financially or volunteering their time to assist the next generations, or both!



Jean during one of his beloved marathon races in California (photo courtesy: Jean Pommier)

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 Michel Vulpillat (Ch 183), our new representative in Southern California

With Valentin Fehr (Cl 212), our new representative in Atlanta region

With Alain Mutschler ( Ch 190), our Shasta mentor

With Jean-Luc Nauleau ( An 81), AFAM board member