Up Close … with Veronique Laporte, chief executive of the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation-‘I like making things happen’


07-February-2012

Though not her dream job, Ms Laporte says her current post at the SPTC has been the biggest professional challenge and today she has no regret in taking this chief executive post given the immense experience and personal development she has gone through.

“It was a difficult choice to make,” she says, but seeing an opportunity to tackle the challenges presented to her, she accepted the offer with her commitment to improve the services of SPTC.

Having worked with both government and the private sector, at SPTC she says “it is a different type of team I had to create and I have to continue to work very hard to change the perspective of the biggest stakeholder and that is the general public itself”.

But where did it all start for this chief executive?

Like most Seychellois children, Ms Laporte followed the state’s education system.
“I went to Mont Fleuri primary and secondary school and then to the National Youth Service (NYS) for two years -- at Port Launay and Ste Anne 2,” she says.

For her school was fun, even if she had her share of punishment too.
“Our teachers at Mont Fleuri were very strict, and I recalled Mrs Mondon (the current Education Minister Macsuzy Mondon) who did quite a very good job in trying to discipline us and urging us to do our best.

“After NYS, I went to the Seychelles Polytechnic where I did my A’ level studies in Maths, Chemistry and Biology at the School of Humanities and Sciences.”

Later, she did her Bachelor of Business Administration and Human Resources Management in the UK sponsored by the government of Seychelles.

Ms Laporte did not stop there; she wanted to achieve more. In 2001, she undertook a Masters Degree in Business at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, sponsored by the Commonwealth. 

How she got to where she is now

After her Polytechnic studies, she started off at the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) as a Loans Officer, while waiting for feedback on her overseas undergraduate studies. At DBS, she was assigned to manage loan applications for small businesses in all economic sectors. Ms Laporte was there for a year only and then went for her undergraduate studies in the UK, specialising in Business Administration and Human Resources Management.

Back from her studies, she joined the then Ministry of Industry and International Business (MIIB), a government ministry that was restructured to form the Seychelles Investment Bureau (SIB) in 2004.

She was responsible for the International Business Unit, then a newly created section of the MIIB that was set up to coordinate the development of international business activities in Seychelles. She was then part of the SIB team as the director for Investment Facilitation.

“I was also part of the team that built SIB,” she says, something that she is very proud of.

But she did not stay long at SIB and moved to the private sector. It was a difficult and sad choice, she says, because she was (and still is) very passionate about investment, trade and business promotion and SIB itself. At that time, however, she felt that she could not contribute a lot to move SIB forward.

“I felt I could not make any real change. I like making change. I like making things happen and make things happen fast,” she says.

“If I can’t make change happen it’s a big demotivator for me professionally. So eventually I decided that although I was leaving something I’m very passionate about, I was going into a new environment where I know I would be able to make change happen and I did.”

From SIB, Ms Laporte took up the position as a Group General Manager and she was responsible for the performance of three companies belonging to the same ownership, namely,  Civil Construction Company Ltd (CCCL) – a quarry,  Island Motors Company Ltd – an automobile workshop and retail shop and finally the British Motors Company Ltd – a local agent for Mitsubishi automobiles.

“There it was mostly my management skill that was in demand, not really the technical aspects of the work,” she says.

“I gained such a great experience in terms of change management and this personal development contributed immensely to my work here at the SPTC. I will always thank my previous employer, Sunny Kan, for this great opportunity,” she says.

Having to deal with a lot of men and dealing with construction workers crushing down stones at CCCL or mechanics fixing vehicles at island motors, Ms Laporte says “many people viewed this as a men’s world but I gained tremendous experience and built a great team there. It was difficult but it was great too and this will always remain my very first professional challenge I had to undertake, for which I remain grateful.

The move to SPTC

Ms Laporte says that in her interview for the post at SPTC she was informed that government required a change management at SPTC to improve its performance and efficiency because the public deserve a better service.

She says she accepted, thinking “why not try another bigger challenge as I was moving from a total of 60 employees to 460, and because things were moving well at her previous employment and the team there was in place already”.

In addition, she says, it was another challenge that would allow her to implement another approach of change management as it would test her abilities to improve the service delivery of a bus company. Having spent two years at SPTC, she is able to say “today I’m still here and the feedback I get so far is that there have been improvements”.

“I meet a lot of people who congratulate me on the performance of SPTC and for that I do feel a sense of achievement and gratitude to all my staff and colleagues in government,” she says.

How she works

Ms Laporte is somebody who doesn’t sit in the office.
“I’m on the field all the time to know my people and what they do, that’s how I work. Even in my previous employment you would rarely see me in the office; I would always be at the quarry at CCCL or  in the garage at Island Motors,” she says.
 

During the two years she has spent at SPTC, she ensured that she got to know the abilities of her staff. “One thing about change management is that you need to know your key people. The only way you can do that is by understanding what they do everyday, ensuring that they know their responsibilities and can deliver them, listening to them but at the same time ensuring that at all times a professional approach is maintained and that the company rules and regulations are being abided by.”

A woman with no particular interests

Describing herself as “the most boring person”, Ms Laporte says “if I don’t have my professional life, I’m going to be a depressed person, although maybe to a lesser extent now with my Emma (her daughter)”. “If professionally I’m happy it has a positive impact over my social life.”

Happily, she notes that now with her daughter Emma, her social life is really changing.
“Before I’d go home late from work and also work during the weekends. Now I have to put into practice my time management skills and get to do other things at the same time as work.” 

She organises her life so that she ensures she spends quality time with her daughter whom she even sometimes brings to work with her on weekends when she is undertaking spot checks at the Victoria terminal and at the other bus depots.
“I also love nice food and I love my red wine,” she says.

She has also been learning to cook recently and “now I am certain I can make a nice curry”.
“I’m starting to enjoy cooking, to be honest.”

She also says that she enjoys nice romantic movies.
“My favourite classics which I can watch time and time again, especially when I am feeling down, would be Ghost, Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman, and Sound of Music. One of my favourite actresses is Julia Roberts but I also like movies with Sean Connery and Richard Gere.”

About her childhood 

Ms Laporte comes from a big family of eight -- four brothers and four sisters. Being the youngest, she says she was mummy’s girl. She grew up at Forêt Noire in the Mont Fleuri district.

“I think I’m a very lucky person because I’ve always had people making sure that I’m alright.”
 “I had my parents and siblings ensuring my well being while I was growing up.”

“At school I had my teachers and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my teachers at Mont Fleuri school, NYS and the Polytechnic. They all believed in me and encouraged me to learn. I will always be grateful to them all,” she says.

“Even when I went to university, I also got the support of my tutors providing directions, how to do things, and giving me options to choose in life,” she says gratefully.

“Another group of people I would sincere like to thank are my employers and colleagues and more recently the President and Vice-President who provided me with the opportunity at SPTC. I’ve done well so far I think - well I hope I did,” she says laughing.

“So I think overall I’ve been very lucky in so many ways to have all these people believing in my abilities. For that I say a big thank you.”

Her wishes

When asked what her future wishes are, her response is: “My wish, I have it already. I’ve been praying so hard for the past couple of years to ask God to let me have a baby girl before I’m 40 and now I will turn 40 in April and I do have my beautiful little angel.”

“I know it’s not a career wish, but I know it’s the wish I’ve had and I’ve been blessed with a beautiful little princess who gives me purpose in life,” she says happily.

“I go home now and my flat is not empty anymore, but there is always a little voice calling out ‘mama’. Emma makes my life complete at the moment,” she says.

“In terms of professional development, I still believe that I have a lot to learn and still have a lot of energy to take on new challenges whereby I am able to directly take decisions to make change happen and build an efficient team.”

She admits that she played a role in the improvement at SPTC but modestly says “if SPTC is performing today it’s not because of me alone, but also because of my hardworking team there. I would like to sincerely thank them for their support and request that they continue to work hard and give their best at all times.”

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