An exemplary driver with the Compagnie des Autobus de Monaco, Philippe Gerardin is a man who really loves his job. A profession that he came to late in life, following a career change. A second career that keeps him busy, since this 59-year-old from Nice has turned the key in the ignition nearly 45,000 times since joining the CAM. And he’s got no intention of stopping soon! Here’s his story.
Fortunately, he didn’t go the same way as Alain Delambre, the fictional character played by Eric Cantona in the drama miniseries “Dérapages”. However, like him, Philippe Gerardin was also the victim of a redundancy plan following the 2008 economic downturn. At 48, after a little over 30 years’ faithful service, the Niçois had to pick himself up. And start over again.
Philippe Gerardin and Auchan: a long love story
It all started in the 1970s. After studying metallurgy, Philippe Gerardin happened to come across a classified ad. The large distribution group Auchan was about to come to La Trinité, his hometown. The teenager set out, driven by youthful dreams of doing business.
“I must have been 16,” he smiles. The store opened on March 6, 1979. “Four days before the opening, they took me on.” Off he headed to the “frozen” section of the shopping centre where rapper Nekfeu and columnist Bertrand Chameroy spent their afternoons on the merry-go-round in the entrance hall, or in the book section reading mangas. “I was very dedicated. And since I was younger than the others, I had to prove myself.”
Personnel management, responsibilities, pressure to meet objectives… I didn’t want that any morePhilippe Gerardin
Philippe Gerardin got so caught up in the game that he climbed the ladder rung by rung. Section assistant, section manager, manager, deputy to the regional manager, he held a variety of positions, and rose through the ranks in the brand founded by Gérard Mulliez in 1961, today the twelfth largest distributor in the world.
“It was a wonderful experience”. But even the best stories have to come to an end. Sometimes suddenly. “In 2009, after the crisis, I was offered positions that did not suit me. I decided I’d rather leave”. With regrets? “No, I needed to try something new. Personnel management, responsibilities, pressure to meet objectives… I didn’t want that any more.”
It was then that an idea started to take root. Because in life, Philippe Gerardin loves sports, interior design, ancient monuments. But most of all, he loves to drive. “I’ve always liked being behind the wheel,” he jokes. “And when I would look at buses, I used to think that the drivers were hardworking.”
The Compagnie des Autobus de Monaco hired him in 2010
With the support of APEC (executive job centre) after his departure from Auchan, the Niçois decided to start training. “My advisor was quite surprised,” he smiles. “But she told me she understood my choice. I was very keen, so I sat my license.”
During his first few outings, when reversing for the first time each day, Philippe Gerard would turn around, instinctively, like in a car. “I had never even driven a minivan in my life,” he laughs. “They told me that in a bus, it’s all about the mirrors.”
The CAM is the Rolls-Royce of transport companiesPhilippe Gerardin
In 2010, the former Auchan executive, who for ten years also ran a bakery in Nice with his parents, joined the Compagnie des Autobus de Monaco. The grail. “CAM is the Rolls-Royce of transport companies”, he says, with stars in his eyes. “I will always thank them for having taken a chance on me, at my age, when I was in the process of retraining.”
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For almost twelve years now, Philippe Gerardin has carried thousands of Monegasques, on all routes in the Principality, both day and night. “I am aware that it is a job with responsibilities, when we may be carrying nearly sixty children, but it’s also about education, when disabled people get on the bus for example. We need to be attentive and protective.”
A mission he has taken to heart, since he plans to extend his service for two years, even though he could take retirement next year. “I’m still just as happy and keen to come to work, so why stop now? I want the happiness to a last a little longer. I’m in good health, so I might as well take advantage of it!”