Thierry TEA, Founder & CEO at PhilJets Group

What was your background before you joined INSEEC MSc & MBA?

Before I joined INSEEC MSc & MBA, I had just completed my Bachelor Degree at Novancia Business School (ex-Negocia-ACI) and I previously had an exchange program in Philadelphia at Drexel University, then another exchange program in Singapore at Nanyang Polytechnic and took advantage of some holidays to work selling French wine before going back to France. In my last year I did an internship working in Hong Kong.

Why did you decide to join INSEEC MSc & MBA, and why did you choose the International Business Program?

I really wanted to complement my experience and studies at an ambitious business school and INSEEC was attractive to me. The International Business Program was what I was looking for. It had a component where we had to do an internship that allowed me to work overseas. I was selected by Messe Duesseldorf China, to join their Head Office in Shanghai. I had the opportunity to balance practical educational courses with teachers from the private sector, and be able to accomplish one more internship this time in China. I wanted to work in an international environment, and I had chosen a program where students are from different background.

Did your expectations meet the reality when you joined INSEEC, in terms of program curriculum and teaching?

Yes indeed. Now the friends that I recommended to enroll at INSEEC are all having successful careers. The teachers have business backgrounds, and it is always interesting to listen to their experience. I have been able to use some of the classes during my career.

What were your positions after obtaining your master’s degree at INSEEC?

After INSEEC, I joined Airbus Helicopters (ex-Eurocopter), first as an intern with a mission contract in Paris in charge of market studies for the Southeast Asian market. I left for Singapore with a French system of International Internships for students (V.I.E), and I was sent to the Philippines as Assistant Sales Manager. After three months I was promoted to Sales Manager. I sold my first helicopter when I was 22 years old and the year after I became Regional Sales Manager for Civil Helicopters covering Hong Kong, Micronesia and the Philippines. After three years I was nominated as President & CEO of Airbus Helicopters Philippines, managing the P&L, and building the team. We developed the customer service and maintenance business in addition to aircrafts sales. We multiplied the turnover by 3. I was then appointed Head of the Airbus Group’s business in the Philippines concurrently keeping the role of CEO of the Helicopter Division. The same year in 2009, I became French Foreign Trade Advisor. During my role as Head of Airbus Group for Philippines, I was part of the team that successfully sold 70 Airbus planes to Philippine Airlines (A320, A321, and A330).

You are currently Founder & CEO at PhilJets Group. What are your main responsibilities? And why did you choose to start your own business?

Basically, I always wanted to realize the dream of putting up my own business. After almost 10 years within the Airbus Group, I proved to myself I could work and perform within a large company despite coming from a humble background. I had the choice of continuing a promising corporate career or jumping into the unknown. I decided I had to take the risk now, otherwise it would be too late and my wife encouraged me.

I created the PhilJets Group first to keep my network in the Philippines with the aim of developing businesses in Cambodia. But when you start your business you have to do everything and you are the accountable person for everything as well. I also believe it is easier to start from scratch than when you are already experiencing comfort and a good situation. The main challenge remains the insecurity, instability compared to working for a big company. And you have to build a strong team with limited resources.

Today we are on the right track and we’re growing our fleet of aircrafts (4 helicopters, 1 fixed wing) managing $10million in Assets and we are involved in 13 helicopter sales transactions, I am in charge of the global strategy and the objectives of the 3 companies. I need to recruit and develop talents to build the Group. We are an aviation solution company providing Aircraft Management, Maintenance, Aircraft Sales, Time Share, Charter Services, Touristic Tours, but also Consulting.

In Cambodia, I finally created in 2014 an investment company. We have invested in Vanilla and Mango plantations, and we’re launching some retail brands both in the luxury and in the middle class segment. We started by distributing Jewelmer Joaillerie, a leading worldwide Golden Pearls Brand. We need to build a good team in Cambodia as well. Next we will give back to the society and contribute to help the communities that need education.

What is your fondest memory or most surprising experience as a student at INSEEC MSc & MBA?

 I was impressed by the multicultural class we had. This was exactly what I enrolled for. We had classmates from all horizons, either from Universities or Business Schools, and from different background like Russian, Columbian, Tunisian, Chinese, Moroccan, Hong Kong, French, Spanish, Vietnamese… Sometimes it was challenging, but most of the time we pretty much were all open minded. Today, I keep in touch with some ex classmates. I think we all had successful careers, and it’s good to exchange even if we’re now in different countries. Maybe one day, I’ll go back and try to teach at INSEEC!

What would be your advice for future students?

I would say INSEEC is worth the investment. The school is developing well, and I’ve had having some interns from INSEEC too. It provides good programs but it is always up to the student to optimize or not what the school can offer. At the end of the day, it depends on their motivation to get the most out of the curriculum and the internship opportunities. They need to develop their competitive advantages already at INSEEC, and develop their network.