How Did I Get Here? with Patricia Provot

Photo By
Kathryn Davis

Patricia Provot
North American
Continental Leader at Armstrong International

1978 | Born in Belgium

I was the first of four children born to a French-speaking dad and Dutch-speaking mom. My delivery happened while my parents were on vacation for a month in Belgium. My father was a diplomat for the Belgian government, and my parents were living in Bizerte, Tunisia. When I was just 10 days old, we took the boat back to Tunisia.

1984 | Family moved to Ecuador 

We lived in Tunisia for six years, then moved to Ecuador. We spoke Dutch at home, but my siblings and I went to a Spanish-speaking school for the seven years we spent in the country. I remember that on the first day of school, the noise in the classroom overwhelmed me as I was trying to figure out what people were saying. 

I was quite angry with my father for making me go to school in Ecuador, but over the years, I really came to appreciate my childhood. When I was older, I thanked him. Experiences like these made me who I am today. Now I speak four languages and have moved 17 times to date. Growing up outside of my comfort zone made me adaptable, flexible, and unafraid of being thrown into a new environment. 

My father’s job as a diplomat also allowed us kids to interact with a lot of high-ranking personalities. But at the same time, I had a lot of friends from school who were very poor—some hardly had a house. This range helped me feel comfortable in any social environment. It also made me realize that no matter where you are on the planet or on the social scale, we are all human beings. 

1990 | Attended boarding school in Belgium

We then went back to Belgium for two years. When I was 15 years old, my parents and family left for South America again. I decided to stay behind and study at a boarding school in Belgium. One year later, I was living on my own. Being independent made me grow up quickly—I had to purchase food, clean the house, and take care of myself. 

2000 | Graduated from Institut Supérieur Industriel de Bruxelles with a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering

When I was a kid, I wanted to become an air stewardess to see the world or work for Greenpeace to save the planet. Even at 18, I had a hard time deciding what to study. In the end, I chose the same path as my father: engineering. But I was not a [total] fan of engineering, so I took chemistry. 

2000 | Joined Armstrong International as a Chemical Engineer

I still had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished school. I wanted to work at Armstrong because I was attracted by its mission of saving energy and family culture. I joined as an energy auditor, and for the first seven years, my work was auditing refineries and chemical plants, helping them resolve safety and energy-saving issues with their steam systems. I was in that role for three years before I was promoted to Energy Service Manager.

2007 | Transferred to Florida Headquarters

I met with the CEO, David Armstrong, who asked me to come to Florida to work at Armstrong’s headquarters. He threw me right into the thick of things. My first challenge was to install an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. I have an engineering background, not a business background, so I had to be adaptable and figure it out. My time there helped me advance to Global Engineering Manager in 2008.

2011 | Oversaw Expansion in India

Next, I moved to India to help oversee the development of our new Indian operations. Whenever the company goes abroad, it takes its values with it. It’s interesting to see how universal it is across cultures. For example, Armstrong is a company built on trust—we don’t have time cards, and our cafeterias are run on the honor system. When we opened in India, a lot of our Indian colleagues were saying, “Those kinds of policies are not going to work in India, no way. You have to lock the facility and your money up or people are going to steal it!” In reality, that wasn’t true at all. I like how the Armstrong family stood super steadfast in those values.

2015 | Relocated to China

I moved to China to help with the company’s engineering activities there. My experiences moving as a child ended up helping me navigate these international moves. I was able to just go there and figure it out. And like me, my now seven-year-old son was born and grew up in a foreign country. He was made in India, and born in Belgium, but I like to say he was perfected in the U.S.

2017 | U.S. Steam and Condensate President 

Two years ago, the president of Armstrong’s Three Rivers division retired. I was asked by now CEO Patrick Armstrong if I was interested in taking over the leadership. It just felt right to me. It felt like the right time to do it. At the time, I was the corporate director of engineering, leading about 70 engineers globally. However, they were all reporting to their own managers and presidents, so it was quite a jump to directly lead an organization of 250 people.

2019 | North American Continental Leader

Even though the transition ended up being smooth, I still wish I had listened to some of the advice I heard when I started in this role. People told me, “Don’t take on too much!” But I’m a bit stubborn, so I didn’t listen. I did take on too much. I decided to meet with each of the employees, trying to understand what they would like to see improved. I used what I learned to create a strategic plan for the next three years. It was worth it, but I stretched myself a little thin in the first year. I learned that leading an organization takes an incredible amount of your energy and attention, so it’s important to remember, “Work is what you do, it’s not who you are.”

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