The bank for a changing world

Portrait of an intrapreneur: Céline Pernot-Burlet, the drawing intrapreneur with an impact

  • Mathilde Cristiani Copywriter & storyteller
  • Paris
  • 14.11.2019

Since 2017, People'sLab4Good, the Company Engagement intrapreneurship programme, has hosted employee projects that have all had a positive impact on the Bank and on society. BNP Paribas presents a series of portraits dedicated to these #Intrapreneurs4Good.

Turn drawing into a recognised means of communicating internally and externally for a Bank? This is the challenge to which Celine Pernot-Burlet rose. In 2015, this young woman joined the first class of the People's LAB intrapreneur incubator with two goals: popularise graphic facilitation and promote the idea of slashing in the workplace. She launched the “agile tribe”, a service that enables employees with skills useful to the Group to perform short missions alongside their usual jobs. The tribe enabled her to promote graphic facilitation internally and demonstrate its usefulness through the creation of sharp visuals to popularize complex concepts, to summarize conferences, events, etc. Her new focus now is to make this popularization weapon available to 4Good, by facilitating understanding, and supporting projects with a positive impact. Portrait of a woman for whom intrapreneurship has been a means of reconciling creativity and professional life, through pursuing one goal: 4Good action. 

reconciling creativity and professional life, through pursuing one goal: 4Good action.

Creativity as a leitmotiv

Creativity is a bit like the common thread that connects all of the different parts of the intrapreneur's personal and professional life. “I've always drawn. I remember that I used to say that I wanted to become a children's book illustrator, when I was a girl,” she confided to us at the beginning of our conversation. But it took her a long time to listen to this little voice, this inner need. “When I started studying, I found myself pulled between my desire to embark on an artistic career, and my rational side, which told me that I had to have a serious job, to make a living." She chose the rational side, and set off to become an engineer, with an option in computer science, “so that I could specialize in computer graphics and digital technology. At the time, it was my way of linking my choice to my artistic side.” She then took her first steps into the world of work in creative companies, albeit in the IT departments. For over 15 years, she was mainly involved in creative projects outside of work, and this was where she discovered a world unknown to her at the time. “My slasher side started to emerge, and I began to work on visual communication as a side-line”. Communication became a passion for her and this way of working transversally above all confirmed her need to do something that she liked and that was useful, even if this meant looking beyond the strict framework of the job descriptions which she had always abhored.

An attempt at entrepreneurship

When expecting her second child she was dismissed as part of a restructuring. For her, this was a sign that it was time to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, which she saw as a way of finally making a living off her creativity. So, she set up her own company producing video clips for individuals. The business model didn't work economically and more importantly, the young woman realised that entrepreneurship didn't suit her. “I really did feel the need to do something that I liked and to be independent. But I also needed to know how much would be coming in at the end of every month.” She decided to find a position in a large company, convinced that she'd be able to find the latitude she needed, while taking advantage of a secure environment. This was a turning point in her career: she joined the BNP Paribas Group in 2005, initially to work on an IT project although she continued to offer her visual communication skills. In 2008, she officially joined the communication department, becoming head of communication in an IT department, and then in another department. “Looking back, I realize that I created my role as a communicator even though this wasn't what I set out to be.” 

The discovery of graphic facilitation

In her new role, she discovered that the employees in the 40 or so countries that make up the cluster in which she worked didn't really know what their peers were doing. For her, good communication also means getting to know oneself well, so she decided to create a common core of knowledge, and to simplify this core, she began to draw the concepts. “I then discovered that what I had instinctively done was called graphic facilitation.” This was such a revelation that she set out to make it her full-time job. 

To do this, it was necessary to popularize the discipline and show its usefulness internally. She then came up with the idea of the agile tribe, to enable employees to develop internally the skills they have honed and which may be of interest to other professions, such as graphic facilitation of course, but also collective intelligence, round table animation, photography or video production. The project was very popular and was included to the first class of BNP Paribas' intrapreneurial incubator, People'sLAB - now People'sLab4Good – in 2015. 

I formed a tribe of about thirty people and structured the services. I've popularized what is called internal or partner conference scribing, to give a visual summary of the key messages and of what happened. The impact? “The business lines quickly realised that these were good internal and external communication tools.” She also launched training courses in graphic facilitation in order to promote the discipline. 

I formed a tribe of about thirty people and structured the services. 

To finally feel fully intrapreneurial

Naming the concept allowed me to feel legitimate, to evolve with other people who had ways of functioning that remained atypical in a group.
It was also at this time that she understood that her way of functioning since the beginning was that of an intrapreneur. “Naming the concept allowed me to feel legitimate, to evolve with other people who had ways of functioning that remained atypical in a group.” In parallel, she understood the impact of this way of leading projects on the transformation of the company. “Not everyone is destined to become an intrapreneur, and I don't think that's desirable, but the rise of intrapreneurship shows that there are other ways of working and that there are different types of skills, all of which can have their place in business.”

From the HR impact to the impact on society

So, intrapreneurship means to turn your passion into your profession and have an impact on working methods. “For the first time, I felt that I was really in the right place for me,” she says with a smile. But for this intrapreneur, who is very concerned about social inclusion, integration in schools and environmental protection, graphic facilitation must be able to play other roles in the service of the company and society. Here again, the process is progressive. “I used to be convinced that you couldn't bring your values to work with you.” But something clicked when she started working on graphic facilitation missions externally, for the Group's partners and via the Maison des Artistes. As a result of these activities, she was spotted by Ashoka, an international association of social entrepreneurs, and by La France s'engage, which commissioned her to sketch some of their events. 

That's when I put my finger on this environment and started to grasp the impact of graphic facilitation to raise awareness on these social themes. I realised that I could have an impact internally, but also externally, thanks to my intrapreneurial activity.” She added: “Just at that time, People'sLab4Good was set up, and it's as if everything became intertwined.” She joined the team and began to sketch out intrapreneurs' projects, to facilitate their understanding and dissemination, and to cover events in the social and solidarity economy, whose messages she conveyed. 

I realised that I could have an impact internally, but also externally, thanks to my intrapreneurial activity.

In the summer of 2019, she took it up a notch when she co-organised and hosted the International Sketchnote Camp (#ISC19FR), the annual event of the sketch community that brought together 170 people this year. Her goal behind the project: give back to the community the support she received when she started out. But also, and above all, take the opportunity to spread the word on the positive impact and raise awareness among as many people as possible of the power they can have on the subject. “I'm convinced that we have a role to play in the positive transformation of society: we add a layer of understanding, we allow notions and projects, to be better understood and to hit the nail on the head faster. Organizing this event was a real acculturation and teaching project to raise awareness of 4Good and multiply its impact.”

I'm convinced that we have a role to play in the positive transformation of society.

Intrapreneurship to develop the impact of 4Good

What happens next? Céline continues to communicate the practice of graphic facilitation to as many employees as possible. “If we want to change the way we work, we must start with simple methods that have a strong impact." For this “augmented employee”, intrapreneurship is also a formidable lever for positive impact, both internally and externally

I can't see myself working any other way than in an intrapreneurial mode to develop 4Good, by supporting project leaders towards achieving greater visibility, and by helping more and more people to get to know and engage in positive impact business,” she says as a matter of course. “That's also what it means to be an intrapreneur!”

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