On the 16th of March, the 1st episode of the “Going International” Campus took place, focusing on the United Kingdom. To find out more about this conference and the challenges surrounding international mobility, we spoke to Valérie Bernhardt, General Director of terrasol and President of the setec group’s UK Committee, and Julie Cambar (Nguyen), International Mobility Officer.

Thank you for accepting this interview. Can you tell us about the Campus,  “Going International “?

Julie Cambar (Nguyen): Campus, Going International takes the form of an online conference, with the principal speakers being abroad from their home base. I organised this conference to give the opportunity to speak to two of our expatriate employees in England: Julie Gaubert and Eric Ganesh.
The idea is to encourage discussions between them and employees who might be interested in international mobility. The stories told by the expatriates can inspire others to try this adventure.

Valérie Bernhardt: Our employees who go abroad are often delighted to talk about their experience. Even if the UK is not that far away from France, there is a lot of information to share about everyday life and life at the workplace. At the end of the conference, we also planned to focus on the opportunities available in the UK, to show participants the different career possibilities that currently exist.

Why choose the UK for the first session of this Campus?

Julie: We had heard about a presentation by Eric Ganesh on the HS2 project in the UK. People really enjoyed this presentation and thought it would be interesting to develop the subject further, adding a more personal ‘experience-sharing’ aspect.
We also thought of Julie Gaubert as someone who could take part, as she is working on our second major project in the UK and has been an expat for less than a year. Their profiles are therefore complementary, Eric being the first member of setec to have relocated to England.

In your opinion, what does an international adventure bring to those who take the step?

Valérie: We can speak of a real hybridisation of skills, which will nourish not only the expatriate employee, but also the team on site. Our expatriate employees bring their knowledge of the group, the teams, their professions, the tools they use, etc. to the people and projects on site. At the same time, they are confronted with new working methods, new standards, new teams… and they bring back their knowledge when they return.

This kind of experience helps employees to grow, both professionally and personally. It makes you more open-minded and mature, and enables you to become more independent rapidly. Not to mention, of course, improving your English! It’s worth noting that this year we were able to send two trainees from France to the UK for the first time, to work on the HS2 project. We look forward to continuing this initiative in the years to come!

What can you say to encourage those who are hesitant about embarking on an international adventure?

Julie: We frequently offer expatriates the chance to try out the experience for just a year, for example. This allows them to leave without making long-term commitments, and to see what it’s like to live and work there.
Experience shows that almost all expatriates extend their local experience well beyond this first year. In addition, the setec group has an international mobility policy, and offers full support, including on administrative and logistical aspects (e.g. moving house: from offering furniture storage to taking complete charge of the move to the new country).

Valérie: In the UK, we currently have a dozen Group employees relocated from 5 different French setec companies, working on the HS2 and Hinkley Point C projects. The new expatriates are therefore not alone on site, and benefit from the advice and support of the teams already there. In addition, administrative procedures are now well established. Of course, going abroad requires a certain ability to adapt, to be in new environments: that’s what makes it particularly a stimulating experience, which will be worth all the more when you return. If you’re interested in projects in the UK, don’t hesitate to apply!

What are the next Going International Campuses?

Julie: The next campus will take place in September. The idea is to use these conferences to cover all of the countries in which the setec group operates. We want to showcase our international experience by giving a voice to our local employees.

Verbatim Expats:

Julie Gaubert: Hinkley Point project (setec Nucléaire, expatraite SCEL, based in Bristol).

Professionally, you have to be flexible and adaptable. I’ve changed jobs, gained more responsibility and been given a broader view of the project. This has allowed me to explore new horizons.

Eric Ganesh: HS2  project, (setec Ferroviaire, expatriate SCEL based in Birmingham).

Socially, it took me very little time to adapt to my new British colleagues. I was setec‘s first expatriate in the UK. I wanted to have international experience and speak English on a daily basis. It was also a way of discovering other possibilities of working and acquiring new skills.