At the top of the Choiseul ranking – the list of 100 leaders in the French economy under 40 years old – the entrepreneur, Angélique Gérard, likes to trade her tailor for a hospitable gown.
In the street, passers-by take her for a pretty nurse. They do not know that she is the rare gem of Xavier Niel: the only woman among the six people who participated in the Free adventure since its inception. Not a real “marquise des anges”, rather angel of business, Angélique Gérard oversees the customer relations of the group Iliad (Free, Free Mobile) – 6,000 employees – and invests in start-ups in the high-tech, collaborative economy, hotels and restaurants.
Angélique Gérard’s Story
She joined the small company of Xavier Niel in 1999. She was 24 years old, supported the growth of the group and developed the strategy of customer relations. Her desire to slip into a social worker dress once a year came with an experience in the Philippines in 2006.
Her mission with the Virlanie Foundation took her to a detention center in Manila, the Reception and Action Center, where she worked for a month. “The first day, they all came to touch my blond hair. Some with their hands and purulent arms because they had scabies or tuberculosis.
There were a whole lot of atrocities going on there. “A shock for the girl barely thirty, businesswoman 2.0 dressed to the nines and marathon fan.”. “I thought: the beautiful beaches are nice, but life doesn’t sum up to that! “.
His friend Vincent Bartin, boss of the company Belenergia, specializing in renewable energy, which produces solar farms in France and Italy, co-opted her to become a hospital worker in Lourdes. There she was assigned to a room of three or four patients looking for a miracle. Meanwhile, her husband, Benjamin, kept the children at home.
The days started at 5am. “You have to wash them, feed them. Not easy. Sometimes we do things we imagined taboo! The day alternated between visits to sanctuaries, masses, conferences and pool services. In the evening, the hospital workers ended up late. Among them, a farmer, senior executives, entrepreneurs. “For us, this is an opportunity to give back some of what we have received from life.”
Over time, the links also tightened with the patients. “The first year, I was assigned to a disabled person by birth. It was believed that he could not communicate and that he had a tic because his head was always on the same side. In fact, he was pointing to the wheelchair pouch in which was a wooden tablet with an alphabet.
It is by pointing the letters with his tongue that he communicates. One evening, after a long day at the sick’s service, Angélique Gérard took off her shoes and asked if it doesn’t bother him that she stays barefoot while she gives him the meal. He points to his tablet and applies for twenty minutes to write: “Do you want me to massage your feet?” “We laughed a lot!”
“When I returned, I felt refreshed. As if I had done an internship to learn to enjoy life! I looked forward to hear a bird sing. This year, she gave birth to her third child and could not go to Lourdes. “A regret because it reframes me for the whole year ahead.”