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09/09/2019

Christophe, a Kedger living in Buenos Aires

Five students of the "KEDGE Alumni Success" Pro-Act are currently in South America, where they have gone to meet our graduates.

Could you tell us about your educational background, and what you studied at KEDGE? What programme did you do at KEDGE?

I took an economics prep class in Tarbes, and then passed the exam and started at KEDGE Euromed in Marseille. I was very involved with student associations at KEDGE, and was on the Student Council (BDE). It was very intense, very exciting, and very helpful. I took the classics, with specialisations in Marketing, Negotiations, and Sales. I spent my gap year training in a sales support in sales administration at Quick Silver in France and London, and worked on business intelligence and process optimization projects in the European market and its headquarters on how to report information effectively.

In England worked on a specific project which entailed meeting with English clients in order to know what their challenges and their expectations were. I wrote a report on “Quality-Quantity”, mainly focusing on the business side. For my Master 2, I did a double degree at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires.

 

Why did you decide to go live in Buenos Aires? Did you really want to go, or was it just that an opportunity came up and you seized it?

It’s a long story. I first went to Argentina during my Master 2 when I was finishing my double degree at the Buenos Aires campus. That was an excellent experience thanks to KEDGE, which let me to validate my second part of double degree by completing my thesis, without having to return to France take classes. I took the opportunity to travel and meet people during 2009, and met my partner. We’re still together. In 2012, I went back to France and worked as a business manager at Hilti. But I wanted to go back to Argentina with my partner, and we completely changed our lives. 

When I came back to Buenos Aires, I worked for “British American Tobacco” for six years, which I left last year to go work for a start-up technology company, “Red Cloud Technology”, as Business Developer Manager. There are 17 of us here; the main part of the company is in London. This is new. There are many things to do in Argentina with several technological challenges, especially in terms of making digital payments from your phone.

Here we have many problems with cash. It’s still impossible to pay by card in many places, but Argentina has the political will to modernise this so that everyone can accept digital payments. We’re trying to take advantage of this. I work in a coworking space called “We work”. It’s very accessible to technology, our neighbours are Amazon, and Coca-Cola. The idea is to network, meet new people, and (why not) make new customers.

What differences do you distinguish between the manner of working in Argentina compared to France?

Good question. I’m going to make some generalities. The French are very efficient and focused on themselves. They arrives at the office, sit down, does their work for the day, and leave. Here there is a more social aspect. People like to be at work, to be comfortable with themselves, to talk with colleagues. It may sound lazy, but it’s not at all, it’s just cultural. But when you’re French, and you start working here, you’re a little surprised at the beginning. The French are much more pragmatic. We don’t necessarily pay attention to formalities, exchange news, and converse. Here, if you don’t do this on a day-to-day basis, you’ll never be able to ask for anything from a colleague, a superior, or a supplier. After all, it’s not polite. There are customs to be followed, and you’ll quickly figure out that it is much more user-friendly and "relaxed" here than in France. Then there’s always the exception. We are an English company, and the English are much worse than the French in that regard (laughs). They are even colder and stricter. It’s a shock to the Argentines. 

But that doesn’t mean they’re less effective. It’s just a different way of looking at work. For example, sometimes in meetings with clients we talk about football or politics for an hour.

What are your plans for the future?  Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?

Personally, I see myself going back to Europe to be closer to France, such as going to Barcelona, Spain. But it’s just an idea for now. Professionally, I don’t have a preference as to what field to work in, but I think I’ll stay with business / sales, maybe in senior manager or director positions. Instead, I’ll be guided by my desire to go back and will take whatever comes my way.

Did KEDGE help you achieve to goals after you moved to Brazil?

I think KEDGE is a good teacher. In a way, it allows us to confront the reality of the labour market through internships, the gap year, and the fabric of the student associations.

It gets your head out of the books and the Pyramid of Maslow and makes you realise that your life and your job consists of human relationships. We can be successful in business because we know how to talk to people and how to network. The school helped me understand the importance of human relationships. I think KEDGE is a good decompression chamber between prep classes or other courses and the world of work.

Did you have any apprehensions before you left?

Not really. It was my first time going outside of Europe to live, so I had some doubts, but more about logistics, like housing. But when you get where you are going, KEDGE helps you so you’re well supported. Especially when you are going to a partner university.

There’s also the charm of traveling, of finding things out once you are there. You have just a few fears in terms of security, but at the end you see that 14 million people live very well here. I really wanted to come – I wasn’t forced to, and so everything went well.

What advice can you give to a young KEDGE graduate who is hesitant to start a career in Latin America?

There are life experiences outside checking all the boxes to finish your degree. You learn a lot about yourself outside the academic system. You quickly learn to deal with difficult situations, such as getting used to the language. You have to leave your comfort zone and you shouldn’t hesitate from doing so.

It’s so rewarding to travel and discover something different that I advise everyone to do the same. It really lets you grow, and talk about more than grades and rankings. You learn from others, you make contacts, and you keep them. All this opens your mind. When you leave France, you see what is being done elsewhere, and you gain a different outlook. We should do this more often to put things into perspective.

What do you think are the growth sectors in this country? For example, are there positions for new graduates?

Anything that revolves around technology. In any case, it’s a boom that is worldwide, including here. All the big companies, such as Amazon and Google, are slowly making it this way. There are plenty of business opportunities here. Argentina is also a major player in the agriculture and industry sectors. On the other hand, I don’t recommend importing/exporting because the currency is constantly devalued here. The market is in constant flux.

What did you find here that you would not find in France?

At the professional level, the Argentinians are given a lot of freedom. They are more about letting things take their course. There isn’t much hierarchy, or many codes of conduct of contact. It’s pretty easy to advance, even in multinationals and big companies. You develop faster. Personally and culturally, the right energy is everywhere. It’s super stimulating on a day-to-day. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city to live in – it’s beautiful all year round – and you can travel, especially as a Frenchman you have purchasing power. You can say it’s a good life.

What is your role as an Alumni?  You went through KEDGE and are now part of our global network.

The branch wasn’t created very long ago but I’ve already found it nice to be able to meet between French, between Kedgers, in order to talk about our lives. We are all facing the same reality - we’re 14,000 miles from France - so it’s good to talk about our country of origin and things we can’t forget. It lets you network and meet new people.

 

 

Interview conducted in Buenos Aires by the five KEDGE Alumni Success Pro-Act students.

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