Meet Youssef Chraïbi, Market Operations Manager at ENGIE
An IT and technology enthusiast ever since he was a boy, Youssef Chraïbi has followed his passion through his studies and then in his varied professional experiences. He has proved himself to be highly versatile, taking on posts in a number of different divisions and departments, with responsibilities on both a national and international level. Currently he is meeting a new challenge, running the ENGIE Group start-up, NextFlex. Read about his career to date.
When you are open-minded, change is always an opportunity
Trained in electrical engineering, Youssef began his career in computing before becoming an energy contract specialist and then into a start-up intrapreneur. To put it another way, he’s multi-talented!
Youssef describes himself as a “greedy learner”. Insatiably inquisitive, he was interested in everything, especially if it was related to his main passion: energy. His appetite for knowledge took him to the National Institute for Applied Sciences in Lyon, and then briefly to Alstom. Youssef then took advantage of an academic exchange with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, to complete his studies, specializing in renewable energies. But to understand how his career then developed, you have to go back a few years.
A born analyst
By age 11, Youssef, already a confirmed geek, was developing his first app. “I designed a program to calculate the sale price of a slice of cake based on the cost of the ingredients. This allowed us to show enough profit to buy prizes for participants in games.” The ease with which Youssef could cope with software issues explains why he chose to join Gaz de France’s Major Infrastructures division once he had completed his doctorate. He took charge of the management of a portfolio of customer applications and coordinated a team of ten tech specialists. He found out all about the many facets of the energy industry, particularly the gas sector, through the prism of information technology. Among the fifteen or so customer applications for which he was responsible, he maintained the application monitoring the levels of LNG terminals which governs the movements of methane tankers. “It was a job I really liked, particularly because there was a very rich human component, with many different people involved.” After working in applications for two years, Youssef was given the chance to go below the surface to explore the lower depths. For a long time he had wanted to get up close and personal with servers and data centers. The Infrastructures and Production department gave him the chance. It was at a time when a new logistical organization was being implemented. Youssef was given a free hand to physically determine the servers needing to be deployed and the resources required to manage them. He specified the infrastructures that were indispensable for the operation of Group applications, not only for specialist operations but also for the software systems used for office applications, HR, payroll, etc. “It did take me away from energy as such, but as I knew the industry I could determine the critical points more easily.” He started out alone, but within twelve months he was heading a team of fifteen.
Return to energy
By 2010, Youssef had built up a solid reputation as a project manager in information systems, but he had a radical change of business and of entity. No more IT! He was now in charge of the Supply Management team for France, as part of the Energy Management business unit. “What I really love is change and learning a new business! It’s like opening a new book!” His role consisted in operational management of framework contracts for energy supply, and monitoring them on a day-to-day basis. And when Energy France became Energy Europe, Youssef was on the front line! Three entities merged and he took charge of a department spread over France and Belgium. There were more team-members; management took on an international dimension; the stakes were on a different scale. Youssef implemented a new organization and new systems.
Now part of NextFlex, Youssef is facing a new challenge. This in-house start-up is one of the first four projects in the incubation program launched by the ENGIE Group to explore new energy markets. The offer consists in promoting flexibility on the electricity market. “Unlike gas, which can be stored, the electricity market is always balanced. Production must precisely match consumption at a given moment. NextFlex supplies solutions, offering flexibility to heavy consumers.” Users such as manufacturers, hospitals and shopping centers, who are paid a fee in compensation, sign contracts undertaking to reduce part of their electricity consumption when necessary, generally for a period of several hours. NextFlex attaches a value to this flexibility in dealings with such players as RTE (the French power grid operator). Youssef and his two colleagues do everything. “We have to identify customers, perform tests, define tailored contractual agreements, run the system on a day-to-day basis, maintain relations with RTE and with our technology partners in the United Kingdom, and so on. I also handle customer service and support.” To develop this new business he is able to call upon Group resources, particularly those of ENGIE Ineo and ENGIE Cofely, which both operate throughout France.
Youssef is very much a people person. “I used to manage a department of 40 people. It was my role to drive them always to do better, to ensure that each person could progress at his or her level.” His team-playing spirit owes a lot to playing volleyball. “In football and basketball, there’s room for individual brilliance, but in volleyball it’s all team-work.” In Grenoble, where he is now based, Youssef has discovered a new hobby: capoeira. His many professional and personal projects include developing NextFlex, of course, but also expressing himself through his photographs, having a rich family life and investing himself in education programs. “Education is the key to the development of a society.” He also teaches junior high students about energy through the ENGIE internal network, and he is working on an educational project with a school in Grenoble.