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40 years
of ABG

The job of playground manager at the Grenoble business school

Playground manager in a business school: an original and unusual job description. Isabelle Patroix, PhD in litterature, holds this position at the Grenoble business school.
In this interview, she takes the time to answer our questions, to tell us - with enthusiasm! - about her job, her career and her background and to give some advice to PhD candidates and Phds.  



Transition from research to playground manager @GEM

The recruitment process




Hello Isabelle. Can you introduce yourself.... tell us about your background?

I am Isabelle Patroix, I obtained my doctorate in French and comparative literature in May 2014 at the University of Grenoble Alpes. I studied Wajdi Mouawad's work through the prisms of identity and creation (contemporary French-language theatre).

I currently work as Playground Manager at the Grenoble Business School (Grenoble Ecole de Management: GEM)

I did all my studies in literature (Bac L, Bachelor of Modern Literature, Master of French and Comparative Literature). For my thesis I worked on Raymond Queneau's Le vol d'Icare, I analyzed the inspirations of an author, his way of seizing his object to make a novel.

In order to pay my studies, I worked in an Orange (telecommunications operator) boutique part-time during the master's years. After my PhD defence I was self-employed for a year and I set up a short-circuit products networks that links between local producers and consumers because because the local consumption issue was close to my heart and because I wanted to challenge myself with another "life-size" project. Having a project to carry out, to realize, to concretize, "to see it become real" is very important after the thesis is finished.

What does your job consist of currently?


I am responsible for the serious games activity of GEM. Our business school creates serious games i.e. pedagogical games used in initial training programs for students and in continuing training programs for companies. The Playground I lead is the department that deals with game creation and deployment.

My responsibilities are therefore very varied. I create the games with the project team composed of professors, students and company representatives. I am involved in educational engineering, this means that I imagine the programs in which the games will be deployed. I am also in charge of the promotion of these games (organization of playtests, conferences, etc.), I contribute to their commercialization for companies and I facilitate the use of these games by the trainees. Moreover, I sometimes publish articles on these topics and give conferences. Serious games are becoming a real focus of research.



Tell us about what you like and what you don't like about this job.

I love my job. It is very pleasant to see new games being created and used. I enjoy following them from beginning to the end and seeing the impact of these games on the trainees. I'm proud when a game hits its target.

What are the essential skills needed to be a playground manager? 


This job is very comprehensive:

- It takes a good analytical mind to understand the problem that will be at stake. It can be the problem of a professor e.g. how to make students understand what a supply chain is; how to support students in building their ethics towards finance, or a company e.g. how to understand a process of innovation, how to solicit creativity, imagine new products and services, etc.

- Creativity is also needed for game development

- Having a global vision and being able to manage a project from A to Z

- A good sense of communication, coordination, mediation and the ability to listen and understand each of the stakeholders

- It is also necessary to be able to argue and convince when it comes to offering companies tailor-made training including a game.

- Good writing skills and critical thinking are required to write research articles


What does your research experience bring to you today in carrying out your responsibilities?

Everything! I wouldn't be in this position if I hadn't done a PhD. Self-confidence, autonomy, perseverance, understanding a variety of issues, creating and following a method, providing an appropriate reasoned response...



transition from Research to playground manager @GEM



What were your reasons for leaving research for your current position? What dynamics have driven you in this transition?

I do not consider myself to have "left" research, I still teach regularly, some of my assignments are still related to research, my current position is more complete in my eyes. It fits me better.



How did you find your current position?

I invited "the whole world to my doctoral defence^_^"... The network did the rest. Word of mouth helped me to apply for a post-doc at GEM. For a year I worked on ways in which play mechanisms can be used to enhance creativity.

I have also always had an appetite for project management. I had also been a member of the board of an association of doctoral candidates called Les têtes chercheuses,

in Lyon with whom I managed the publication of a journal and the organization of conferences. Besides, I was representative of doctoral candidates in my research laboratory during my doctoral years.

These different experiences combined with my other pro experiences (Orange, university library, etc.) then allowed me to take over the management of the "serious games" department. There is a lot of “me” in this position. It has been modulated and built according to what I like to achieve, my skills and experiences.


How did you market your skills and experiences, in order to make them clear and attractive outside the academic sector? Have you asked for help in order to be guided and supported in this process?


Yes, I was coached for a few sessions by a consultant of APEC (Association for Employment of executives in France). He helped me to translate my professional experience into business jargon. The sessions were a guiding thread in my thinking and I also had a lot of exchanges with GEM colleagues. They advised me on the transition from post-doc to permanent contract.

the recruitment process

Was your doctorate a prerequisite or asset at the time of recruitment?

I wouldn't have been hired without my doctorate. It was a sine qua non condition.

How did the recruitment process work? And how did you prepare for it?

A rather classic recruitment: interviews with the project manager for the post-doc then with the dean of the business school, then the vice-principal. I also met with some DFR officials.

I prepared it with the person who wanted to hire a post doc for his department. We worked together on job descriptions (in view of the creation of the position of "serious games" department manager).


Have you solicited your network in this process? If so, how?

I worked a lot on my CV with former employers at Orange for example and I applied for other similar positions, a position in the Orange Innovation Lab for example and FabLab department.



What advice would you give to PhDs interested in the job of playgroune manager?  Or about the network?


Generally speaking, I have three tips:

  • Diversify your activities

Even if I love research and teaching, it is by working in a shop but also by taking part in the associative life of the university that I discovered a lot of things! I discovered new worlds and I also realized that I had other skills, other desires and that finally I wanted a "more complete" job that really corresponds to my professional personality.

  • Have a cross-cutting vision

Doing a doctorate requires so many skills other than research, so many resources, so many personal skills... You have to be able to identify these skills and understand how they can be assets for other jobs.

  • Use the network to explore new horizons and opportunities

You need to get help by discussing with professionals that have jobs that may suit you: understand what their job is, how it may or may not correspond to what you are looking for. Discussing with them makes it possible to "translate" the skills of a young PhD into those of a young professional. It is a way of identifying the assignments that you would like and that correspond to your skills and thus to appropriate them and put them in a CV.


Basically, you need to get to know yourself!


I am available to discuss with young PhDs who would ask themselves thousands of questions: do not hesitate to contact me.


You would you like to know more about the job of playground manager at the Grenoble School of Management? Or on Isabelle Patroix's journey?


Feel free to contact her via LinkedInor ask to be put in touch with her by email by writing to us atwebmaster@abg.asso.fr.