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From Base Intern to Managing Director in Nine Years: Meet Lola!

Lola Philippart hasn’t just moved up the career ladder at Base, but hopped multiple rungs on the way to leading our Brussels studio. Here she chats to us about her journey and how she envisions the future.

Congratulations on your promotion! What does your new role encompass?

It's not easy to explain because it covers a lot of things! But my title is Managing Director of Base Brussels. What it involves is ensuring the right balance between team wellbeing, creative output, and financial sustainability. And, of course, to follow the objectives set by the Base Group. As Managing Director, there’s a responsibility to ensure that the objectives coming from the partners and from the group are achieved and implemented, and making sure everything is in place in order to meet those objectives.

You started with Base as an intern. Tell us about your journey with the company.

Yes, I started as an intern nine years ago. I had to do an internship for the last year of my studies in Business Engineering, and to be able to complete my master's thesis. And at the end, some team members and decision makers at Base asked me to stay. When I started full time my title was Business Controller, and I was in charge of managing some of the company’s finances—with the help of the partners—as well as planning for the team, helping on some client budgets.

I learned about what I liked and I was able to design my own path

After about a year, I took on a more external role as a Project Manager working with Base’s client accounts. I then became Operations Director on top of that, until recently, when the partners asked me if I wanted to take on the Managing Director position.


What is it about Base that has enabled you to thrive professionally?

Base is kind of a playground, where everyone has clear and defined responsibilities, but it’s also up to you to define what you want to do, and how you want to progress. That’s exactly what I did – I learned about what I liked and I was able to design my own path, even at some points it was a little unclear where I could go next.

Starting with my internship interview, I knew I liked what Base stood for in terms of openness and transparency. It must’ve been fate, because I really believe in the Base values, DNA, culture and philosophy. It really aligns with my own philosophy, my way of seeing life and of working. This was my first real job, and I haven’t known of another, but I couldn't have dreamed of a better place to work in so far.

Base has helped me to become the person I am today

I’ve learned so much since I've been here, and I really feel that Base has helped me to become the person I am today. I’ve met some extraordinary, smart people at Base and through its network, and I’ve made friends both inside and outside the company.

I know this sounds like a lot of positive vibes, and I don't want to say that this is the best workplace on Earth. But so far, it’s been the best for me and I'm really so grateful to the partners for trusting me and allowing me to take the position of Managing Director at the age of 31, and as a woman, is really the greatest opportunity I could think of.

What have you learned about yourself, your strengths, and your skill set during this time?

It's not easy to identify your own strengths and skills. But Thierry and I had a discussion some years ago during a mentoring session, and came to the conclusion that both at work and in my personal life, I’m best at creating bonds and connections between people, and making sure everyone is working well together. Since then, it's really something that I’ve kept at the front of my mind. I want to help attract new talent, I want us to learn, exchange, improve ourselves, and fulfill any objectives we have – such as becoming an employer of choice.

I'm really a people person, and I thrive when I’m creating links and bonds between people

So I think what I've learned about myself is that I'm really a people person, and I thrive when I’m creating links and bonds between people. Of course, I’m also an organized and structured person, but what’s more important to me is dealing with people.


Are there any projects you’ve particularly enjoyed working on at Base?

Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed thinking about how we work together on internal processes. When our other business developer and project manager left, I became the only project manager alone. So I had to build a new team, which grew to a team of three project managers, with myself also taking care of other responsibilities.

I’ve also really enjoyed working on this year’s BaseSummit, which will gather all of the global Base studios in Brussels for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm really looking forward to welcoming the Basers here to have fun, learn and collaborate together. It’s been challenging, with so many moving pieces, but it’s been so amazing to organize an event that will, again, create bonds between the team members and gather everybody together.


Which have been your favorite moments and highlights over the years?

Right after I signed my contract, we all flew to New York for the BaseSummit. It was amazing, and so nice to meet the other studios so early on. We created really strong links and bonds between each other, on both a local and global level, which is why I'm looking forward to the next one happening very soon.

I’ve really enjoyed thinking about how we work together on internal processes

A more recent highlight is the announcement of me taking the position of Managing Director. It was really emotional for me, I was quite stressed because I didn't know how the team would react, but I prepared for it with the help of the partners.

These two moments, nine years apart, have really bookended an amazing experience, with I’m sure much more to come!


You're a big believer in the Base “rituals”. What are these exactly, and how do they help to make Base, Base?

Our rituals are the key moments we have during the week. The first is Challenges, so every Monday morning we start our routine with 15-20 minutes all together in the same room to share each team member’s main challenges and priorities for the coming week, and also give feedback on the week before.

Every two weeks we have a team meeting all together on Wednesday morning, which is led by a different person each time—whether it's an intern, a partner, a digital director, or a project manager. We start with “inclusions,” where everyone present shares how they’re feeling and what they hope to achieve from the meeting, and the leader repeats these back. For people who have never experienced this, it can be super weird, but it feels like group therapy. I think it’s incredibly valuable to hear how everyone is feeling and to gauge the mood of the studio. Then we ask someone either internal or from outside Base to share a project or their work.

It’s incredibly valuable to hear how everyone is feeling, give them a few minutes to talk, and to gauge the mood of the studio

Also every other two weeks we have Wednesday lunch, when three or four members of the team cook for everyone else and we come together around food. I'm a believer in these rituals because they offer so much to the different team members, and to us as a group and as a company. I think this is what makes Base different from others.


What are you most excited about for your career and future with Base?

Right now my head is full of information. I did an audit of the studio in Brussels, and now I'm thinking about what we can improve, what we need to keep and what should change. There are a lot of meetings and discussions that I need to have now in order to transition into my new position.

I'm excited to keep learning and growing, because if that doesn’t happen, I won't be excited to stay here. The change of my position is still new. So I'm really excited to now fully take on the Managing Director position, and achieve great things and work on great projects within Base. Obviously I want us to be financially sustainable, since that’s the fuel we need to complete our work. But I also want us to continue to grow and build on our creative output, as an employer of choice, while of course keeping our strong culture and DNA – this is really important for me.


What are the challenges for the months and years to come?

I really want to take advantage of this moment of change, to figure out what we have today and where we want to go tomorrow. We have an opportunity to update the way we do business development, to work on our creative processes, to work on our team processes, to work on our project management… This will be a transition year for me to fully adapt to my new position and apply these changes. I’m excited!

Text by Dan Howarth.