As General Manager of infrastructure company Wicked, Julie Doucet has overseen work on some of the UAE’s biggest sporting events – including the DP World Championship and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. From her childhood in France to leading Wicked in the UAE, Doucet reflects on her life and career in sport with Sport Industry Insider.
I was on golf courses from a very young age….just not playing golf!
It’s quite surreal that I’ve ended up working on one of the world’s biggest golf events with Wicked as my earliest memory of a golf course is being seating on my dad’s golf bag (the one with the big wheels!) and being dragged along to watch as he was playing. He loved the game and now that I’m involved so heavily with golf I really wish he’d taught me how to play. That would have been really useful. I keep saying that I’ll try to learn but people tell me I’m not patient enough and will probably get frustrated. Still, it’s on my list of things to do and maybe I’ll get to it one day!
Skiing has always been my favourite sport.
I started at a very young age and was lucky enough to go on family holidays every year in the French Alps. Later they became friends’ holidays as we shared the same passion. The highlight was when I went to hotel management school and did a season in Val d’Isere. This was maybe the best time of my life as I got to go to ski every day in such a vast and beautiful resort. I truly got to experience the best a ski resort has to offer and got to meet some amazing people.
Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong was a great Winter Olympic story.
He was a Ghanaian skier who competed at the 2010 games in Vancouver and although he came towards the very back of the field, I admired his tenacity so much. At the beginning you just want to laugh because someone from Africa and snow is not the usual combination but then you see that for him, simply competing in something he was so passionate about was like winning the gold medal. You just want to give people like that a hug and say, ‘you know what, you are awesome’. There are many of these amazing sporting stories at the Olympics and when it’s on I literally just watch everything. People competing for their country, travelling a long way to do it and of course what goes on behind it in terms of the amount of effort that athletes put in. It’s very inspiring.
When I started at Wicked there were only three people.
Now we have 100 staff but it still feels very much like a family company. We’ve built the business by working really hard and by being creative, innovative, and trying to do what other people didn’t do on the market. We have always wanted to come up with new ideas and not just build the same old boring structures. People would come to us and say, ‘we took this idea to another company and they said they didn’t think it was possible – do you think you can do it?’ And we’re like, ‘Hell yes, we’ll do it’. Obviously not everything is possible, but at Wicked we will always try to find ways to make things happen. That’s what makes our work exciting.
Company culture is very important to us.
We’ve never been very corporate in our approach and have always tried to have our own identity and personality. It’s a fun workplace – we’ve had a ping pong table and a pool table in the office, and some people skateboard in the yard. There’s a fun element to the hard work that we put into our daily tasks. We have this big lunch table too where we eat together – it’s literally like a family. Wicked has a very low turnover of staff and that is partly because of the culture we have created and also because we’ve been lucky enough to have the right people on board who believe in the same values we do.
The DP World Championship is Wicked’s sporting baby.
It was the first golf tournament that Wicked ever won and was really tricky because we were a lot smaller at the time but we put our heart and soul into the pitch; when we won it, it was such a big deal for us. We were just involved in the structural part of the DP World Championship at the start and it was challenging from time to time mainly based on the venue going through changes but the European Tour responded well to our ideas and now we take control of the majority of the chalet interiors, too. It’s a creative role in which we are trying to find the best way to display the sponsors’ identity.
Keeping everyone happy can be a challenge.
Sponsors often want very different things and it is up to us to help them achieve that vision. Some have their own strong corporate identity, which can be quite strict, and if they are an international brand wherever you go around the world in any of their chalets you would pretty much see very similar things. Others are happy to vary and adapt depend on the country they are in which gives us a lot more freedom in our creativity. We’ve had some very nice comments coming from overseas guests which is always a good thing to hear.
The Special Olympics was an inspirational event to be a part of.
Wicked was the main structural provider and it was a real honour. You see all these kids who have often been told they wouldn’t be able anything to achieve anything good in their life and sports has changed things for them. They push boundaries every day and working on the event, we wanted to make sure we did everything we could to make things easier for them. When you can say ‘we worked on the Special Olympics‘, this is very special. There were a lot of logistical challenges as it’s an event unlike any other but to be part of the opening ceremony and watching all the joy and happiness of the athletes and their families was incredible.
The UAE definitely has the infrastructure to host the summer Olympics.
When this country wants something to happen, it can happen. I’ve worked in the UAE with a lot of different entities, especially in the event industry, and have learned that nothing is impossible. What is important is that there are the right people who can drive it forward and have enough knowledge to make sure that things will happen properly. I think we have the quality of suppliers here to make sure that a summer Olympics could be delivered.
We’d love to work on an event like the Dakar Rally.
Something like that has so many moving parts – quite literally as you are going from one location one day to another the next day. We worked on the UAE Tour cycling and it was quite similar in that regard – different stages that have to follow one another. You have to go fast and be ready on time as no matter what the race is going to happen. It’s very challenging and you can almost get the same amount of adrenaline getting the venue ready than the competitors going through their race day! It would definitely be a huge achievement to work on this event and new projects like that are always exciting; we are fortunate that there are so many in the region.