Colleagues and their career path: Gregory tells his story
Back in the day Gregory Deprez (41) joined Unilin Group without a degree. As a temp he worked at Unilin Flooring Wielsbeke (BE). Two decades, a host of training programmes and plenty of coaching later, he is the Operations Manager there. Thanks to his willingness to learn, and a healthy dose of ambition and open-mindedness.
“Go work in the factory for a while until you know what you want from life’, my dad told me when I dropped out of teacher training. I initially operated the tiling machine in the laminate department. From day one the business culture suited my personality. Unilin Flooring was in full expansion and that drive and goal-orientedness strongly appealed to me. I also need a goal to work towards and I’ll do everything in my power to get the job done. I quickly felt there was room for personal growth here”, says Gregory, with as much passion as on day one.
Build your expertise first
Gregory’s career seems to run parallel with the development of Unilin Group. Every time Unilin Group was hiring to manage the next expansion, Gregory seized the opportunity to give a fresh impetus to his career.
“With my first training I learned to operate my machine. One year later I took a training course to become an operator. That was fast but I was ready for the next step. Then when they needed trainers, I worked as an in-house trainer for a few years.” Gregory gradually built his expertise, not just as a trainer but also with regard to the processes of the various production lines.
Subsequently Gregory graduated into a leadership role as team lead. “I discovered I had a knack for managing a team. I already knew all there was to know about processes and machines but managing people also requires other skills. So I followed every single training and coaching track Unilin Group had to offer in order to develop my soft skills (laughs).”
“I’ve never made a secret of my professional ambitions. I was willing to invest personally in the growth of our company and in return Unilin Group always invested in my training and coaching. Of course, I had to prove my mettle along the way because I lacked the degrees to back up my ambitions”, he smiles.
Gregory was also able to bring his expertise to bear on an international level. “I helped oversee the start-up of the Russian production site and the Brazilian joint venture. It was a lot of fun to get to know other cultures and share my knowledge.”
As the number of foreign assignments grew, so did his leadership role. As production manager he embarked on a new career path with the relevant training courses: the leadership track. “When the opportunity arose to become plant manager of LVT2, a vinyl plant in Wielsbeke, I didn’t hesitate a single second. I wanted a first-hand introduction to new aspects of plant management: the financial side and the world of marketing and sales. That really appealed to me.” Once again Gregory enrolled in a series of courses. “There’s an extensive in-house training offer thanks to The Dive. In addition, Unilin Group also warmed me up to external trainings. That is so typical of this company: that open business culture.”
Never thought I’d get this far
Gregory clearly attaches great importance to lifelong learning. Not just for himself but for every new employee. “That is why we invest so much time and effort in an onboarding track with training courses to support new staff in a structured way, and why we stimulate constant learning. When I myself started out the mentality was one of on-the-job learning, and obviously that is still the case to a certain extent. Nowadays, though, new employees are perfectly aware of what is in store for them.”
Meanwhile he has already zeroed in on his next professional adventure. “Unilin Group knows I need to keep learning. They know me well and that’s why they always come up with fresh opportunities to keep evolving, or sometimes I myself see new opportunities. By screening their talents with an open mind and proposing a career path to every employee, you are constantly looking to the future. I think that’s fantastic. At the same time you also have the space to be more ambitious on a personal level and take up that challenge, and that’s a two-way street that really works for me. Better than anyone, I know from personal experience that you are the pilot of your own career. When I started out as a temp two decades ago I never would have thought I’d be where I am today”, he says with pride. “And neither did my dad (roars with laughter).”
Want to know more about lifelong learning at Unilin Group? Go to our jobsite and read all about the different career paths you can choose from and how we approach lifelong learning in practice.