Julien Duhautois (pronounced “DU-o-TWAH”) grew up north of Lille, France, near the French border with Belgium. He describes the culture there as friendly and similar to that of the American Midwest with rich culinary traditions. “My favorite Belgian beer is Karmeliet. It’s a pretty awesome beer.”
Julien made a fateful decision a little over six years ago when he became an exchange student and spent a year in the United States attending Coe College in Cedar Rapids and improving his English language skills before returning to France to pursue his MBA. “I was 20 years old, and I wanted get out of my comfort zone. Nothing in my current life would have been possible without this change,” said Julien. Julien never pursued that MBA, but, instead, pursued his wife Ashlyn, native of Madrid whom he met within a few weeks of his arrival in the United States. Julien recalls that night in fine detail, “She was a friend of a friend. We did not know each other coming into that bar on a Ladies’ Night. I was single and ‘out and about’, and I thought, ‘She’s just a little bit out of my league. Stay away from her.’ I was talking to another girl when she walked up and said she liked my jacket. And that was it. I stayed with her the rest of the evening.”
Julien’s Two Cents
What do you love most about Gravitate?
I have been here for only two months, so it is difficult to answer. I love everything about it so far including the following:
- The members. At Gravitate you are surrounded by a lot of smart people with strong personalities. Being at Gravitate gives me the opportunity to learn and better myself both personally and professionally.
- The location. Lots of FOOD and BEER downtown.
- The events. I love that the Gravitate team makes this constant effort to maintain a high level of engagement by the members in the community. I try to join as many of these events as possible like the monthly potluck, GOT Monday, etc.. I’m also a big fan of the “lunch and learns”. They are always worth our while.
How would your closest friend describe you?
That’s funny. I figured I’d ask my best friend directly. I asked for a single paragraph, and he wrote a 1,000 word paper. It’s probably more reading than you signed up for, so I included below what is probably the most on point.
- “Always there for his friends, sun, rain or shine”. There’s nothing more important than a good friendship.
- “He'll make any situation fun; incorporating your ideas on a downtown adventure, where you are sure to create moments that you will never forget.” YOLO!
- “Whether it's pajamas, or an outfit to go out he always thinks about what he's going to wear and looks sharp.” I do tend to overdress.
- “The man will put his heart into anything he wants. He will continue to think of solutions; as there is not a person who is more determined than him. He will figure it out, even when you want him to stop.” I’d rather do one thing 100% than 5 things and get them 20% done.
Who are your favorite thought leaders?
I can’t say I ever gave a lot of thought into picking a thought leader or following one in particular. To me everyone has a world inside him or her, and everyone is worth being listened to. Whether it is to get a new perspective on life, religion, science, politics, economics or marketing. My thought leader may just be TED.
I have to say Chris McCandless, “hero” from the movie, book and true story “Into the wild”, has inspired me a lot and has had a huge impact on my life. “Happiness is only real when shared,” is one the things he wrote in his diary after realizing he was stuck in Alaska and might die alone. It has influenced me to focus on life experiences over being materialistic like the world pushes us to be nowadays.
The two eventually married and settled in Cedar Rapids, where Julien found a position at SmartLead in August of 2012. SmartLead describes itself as, “...a lead management company focused on getting the right leads, to the right people, at the right time with a solid foundation of helping clients compete in the marketplace.” Julien is an Account Manager at SmartLead, and he’s very happy there. “I get to play a consulting and project manager role for sales and marketing managers, directors and sometimes executives,” said Julien. “There is a lot one can learn from these very well grounded and knowledgeable professionals. It’s also been a great opportunity to build a solid network.”
Julien’s wife, Ashlyn, returned to school at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids to become a web developer after working for several years in store management at Starbucks. The two knew, then, they could start their new lives anywhere in the world. They chose Des Moines. “Our decision was driven by the legendary Midwestern hospitality, proximity to Ashlyn’s family, real estate prices, cost of living and web development job opportunities.” Ashlyn now works in the East Village at Flying Hippo as a web developer. Julien raves about Des Moines’ East Village, “You should see it. There is a lot of construction and potential for Des Moines to grow and keep growing.”
Julien has cultivated some very devoted friendships, as well. Take his good friend, Drew, for instance. Julien asked Drew to write a short paragraph that would describe him to others. He wrote a two-page tribute. Julien can provide you with a copy, but, suffice to say, Drew is a fan. Drew used the alphabet as a literary device, hearkening back to his first few meetings with Julien which included discussions about the mysteries of the English language. A sampling of Drew’s piece includes,
“Adventurous, affectionate...ambitious and amusing... He'll make any situation fun; incorporating your ideas on a downtown adventure where you are sure to create moments that you will never forget.” The accolades progress to, “Warmhearted” and “witty”. It ends there, but you get the point. Julien is well loved in almost 26 ways and then some.
Julien describes his signature professional style as, essentially, being “data driven”. “I take a very scientific approach to sales and marketing,” said Julien. “A lot of people think marketing is just about the ads, campaign and digital presence. In reality, 80% of it is about finding out whether it’s working or not, and why. These answers can only be found using (big) data.”
Julien knew that he would need a work place in his new city that would put him in contact with other remote workers and entrepreneurs. He credits colleagues and leadership at SmartLead with showing great flexibility and connecting him to Gravitate. Julien commutes occasionally to Cedar Rapids for meetings, but is pleased with his newfound community. “So far,” said Julien, “Gravitate has exceeded my expectations!” Julien Duhautois has traveled far from his hometown in France, but he feels right at home in Des Moines at Gravitate.