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Growing up in Cameroon and becoming Managing Partner of a global consulting firm

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Jean-François Arsenault | July 17, 2020

Get to know the people powering CPCS. Meet Managing Partner Jean-François Arsenault who leads the firm’s finance and global operations. 

I’m the firefighter, obstacle remover and the firm’s number-cruncher-in-chief.

My average week at CPCS looks like this:

  • Negotiate contract terms with a client
  • Hold a virtual conference to close a project
  • Brainstorm with a project team on how to solve a particularly thorny situation
  • Crunch numbers and match budgets
  • Meet with a CEO to discuss a business opportunity

I enjoy the variety my role offers. It makes my job intellectually stimulating.

Of course, leading a management consulting firm that finds and develops practical solutions to pressing infrastructure problems can be stressful at times.

Mainly for three reasons:

  • We deal with tight deadlines
  • We handle situations around the world on a daily basis
  • And the work we do can have an impact on people and communities for years to come

So yes, a career at CPCS is fulfilling and rewarding, but it’s not for everyone.

Growing up in Cameroon 

I spent years of my childhood in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Wildlife over there is quite something.

I recall having my food robbed by monkeys on a regular basis. I also remember catching malaria at a beach resort in Kribi.

All this “monkeying” around as a child made me a more daring and curious person.

Indeed, seeking thrills and novel professional experiences would be a defining aspect during the early days of my career.

CPCS gave me what my previous jobs couldn’t: impact and autonomy

After earning my degree in economics at Cambridge University, I’ve worked at the Bank of Canada, Industry Canada (since renamed Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) and the Center for the Study of Living Standards

In 2009, I joined CPCS as a senior consultant, which turned out to be my best career move by far.

I left a comfortable job to go to a mid-sized private firm, because CPCS promised me what my previous jobs couldn’t.

What CPCS gave me:

  • Room for autonomy and ownership
  • Ability to move fast in a flat organization
  • Trust to make important decisions
  • Opportunities to see the immediate and long-term results of my work – a key point when many people don’t get to see the fruits of their contributions on a day-to-day basis.

But what sealed the deal for me was the firm’s breadth and depth of work:

The firm’s presence in multiple markets across the globe and its deep technical know-how in important infrastructure sectors make it a stimulating workplace for someone like myself.  

Two heads are better than one: Making CPCS stronger as co-Managing Partners 

From senior consultant to principal and then vice president, I finally became a managing partner in 2018.

The short story is that our firm’s board of directors was looking to elect a managing partner to oversee the company. I was one of the candidates shortlisted and ended up being one of the two finalists.

The other finalist was Marc-André Roy.

Over multiple discussions, Marc-André and I came up with the idea of co-managing.

Our board agreed. And so we became the first co-managing partners in CPCS’s 50-year history.

The model plays to our strengths by divvying up responsibilities.

Marc-André oversees the firm’s long-term strategy (knowledge and talent management, inclusion or social responsibility), whereas I drive the company’s financial and operational activities.

I also focus on ensuring the consulting work we do is rewarding to both employees and clients. I strive to bring stimulating projects to my colleagues and remove frustrating obstacles they encounter.

Joint leadership forces us to communicate often, leaves room for more deliberation, increases company resiliency and is less stressful.

If Marc-André is the hammer, then I’m the chisel. Though we do different things, we collaborate on big decisions. We’re always working together to shape CPCS based on a shared vision.

Let’s connect

If you have an infrastructure project in mind or if you’re thinking of starting a career in management consulting, please contact me. I’ll be happy to tell you more about CPCS and my experience.

Related: Meet Marc-André Roy: From Consultant to Managing Partner

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