For Philippe-Antoine Laurence, AKA “PAL”, digital has always been a huge part of his life. From getting his first computer — a Commodore 64 — to finishing his BA in computer science at Sherbrooke University, PAL was destined to work for SM360.
Proof? His lifelong friendship with Daniel Martin (cofounder of SM360). Beginning as a developer, then a software architect, he finally ended up as the Vice-President of Technology at Atlas Telecom Mobile. However, when Daniel decided to launch a startup, PAL knew he had to be along for the ride.
At SM360, PAL started out as CTO of when was then a small start-up of only 2-3 employees. Working as developer, tech-support, software architect, and more, PAL never shied away from getting his hands dirty. And as the company continued to grow, PAL’s role as the “Swiss Army Knife” of the organization gave way to a more managerial position. But PAL has never settled for being a conventional manager: He’s always strived for new challenges, greater innovation and fresh ideas. Five years and 100 employees later, he’s now the Vice President of the new products and innovation department of SM360.
His mission: To advance the company’s products in the short, medium and long term, taking into account market developments, the needs of our customers and competition. He is responsible for concretely realizing the vision of Louis-Yves Cloutier, the brain and co-founder of the agency. He is also working to prepare the company for its entry into the US market in the near future.
3 key words that define your mission:
Product. Innovation. Quality.
The products are at the heart of our business, and my responsibility is to ensure they are the best in the industry. Innovation is part of our 360-degree approach to covering all the needs of our customers for the sale of vehicles by digital media. This requires us to be constantly developing new ideas and approaches. Also, I’m always working to ensure that all products we offer to clients are high-quality and meet the promise that we made to them. I’m a perfectionist and I aim a very high level of quality.
What will your department look like in 5 years?
In less than five years, we’ll be able to set up the purchase and delivery of a vehicle by digital technologies without even setting foot in a dealership… Realistically, the new generation is virtual. People are already informed when they enter a dealership — they have already watched videos or 360° views, played with color configurations or options online and chosen a financing method. At that point, the actual purchase is just a formality. I want to bring this shopping experience to the next level. For me, it’s the future of automotive sales.
In 5 years? Our growth will have led us to other countries — the United States, Europe perhaps. Our position in the market is truly remarkable.
An anecdote about SM360?
I’ll always remember the beginning in the 50 m2 basement of Louis-Yves Cloutier (cofounder of SM360). In those days, it was just 17 employees in a cramped space, but we had fun and enjoyed each other’s company. Often we had to turn off the lights to avoid blowing a fuse because there wasn’t enough electricity for all our connected devices! Moments like these remind me not only of the company’s humble beginnings, but also of its incredible rate of growth since those days. We learned to compromise back then, and we sometimes still do today. But mostly, during those days, we built up what would become the core of the company, a core of loyal employees on whom we rely regularly to grow our company.
The car of your dreams?
I’ve always been a car lover, so it was only natural that I’d end up in this industry! When it comes to pure driving pleasure, I dream of the BMW M4. And, as a futurist, I also like to imagine myself with a Tesla Model X, which goes from 0 to 110km/h in under 3 seconds, and can drive itself.
That’s right: My black BMW next to my white Tesla…
The last application that you downloaded or that you use the most?
It may sound like a plug for our products, but I would say XMS mobile (laughs). Otherwise, the Google Apps suite, like Docs, Sheets, Mail and Calender. I’m rarely at my workstation, and it’s apps like these that allow me to stay effective on the go. These days, the train is like my second office! In terms of new trends, I have a 13-year-old son who comes home from school every day with new apps that he and his friends use. I find it really interesting to see the enthusiasm that the next generation has for mobile technology and innovation. They’re always the early adopters and future users of our products.
And I must confess a certain addiction to Facebook too, but I treat myself (laughs).
If you had to choose another career path?
I would probably become a photographer. I love aesthetics and beauty in all its forms. The pleasure that I feel with my eyes is huge. For several years I had the time to take a lot of pictures. These days, though, my cameras collect a lot of dust.
Your tips to unwind after a long week?
Each morning and evening, I do spinal training to help me get through my days. It’s a kind of Yoga. It relaxes the back muscles and it helps me clear my mind.
What’s a mistake you’ll easily forgive, and one that’s unforgivable?
I firmly believe that to err is human. A mistake that occurs despite someone’s hard work and good intentions is very forgivable. If you wanted it to work and you’ve given all your efforts and that ultimately it failed, it does not matter… just don’t do it again! Lol! What I forgive the least are the spelling errors. I see mistakes everywhere and I hate it!
Your recipe for happiness or what you lack to be completely happy?
I’m a pretty happy person by nature, and I think most people who meet me can tell. My motto: ” Create happiness around you, because it tends to bounce back”. I always try to make sure that the people around me are in good spirits and happy to be working with me.
«My recipe for happiness is to try to instill it in other people…»
You are sent forward in time to the year 3025…
It might be a lot like the movie ‘The Matrix,’ with the inevitable takeover of human life by artificial intelligence. I’m convinced that AI will dominate humanity well before 3025.
The best advice you would give to someone who wants enter the IT field?
First, you have to love the line of work and you need to be ready to work really hard because it takes a lot of time. A good computer scientist who works hard can change the world. But I think it’s also a gift. In my experience, I’ve met people who loved computers and worked really hard, but it wasn’t enough. It’s a way of thinking, a particular way of seeing the world. Some have the gift, others don’t. That said, the work done will never be lost. The future will be digital in one way or another and I am confident that the knowledge gained in the field will allow anyone to find its place in the future.