“It is particularly stimulating when you’re allowed to come up with your own solutions to keep your project on track”

Charlotte Canard, Project Manager (VIE)
Behind the scenes
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26 October 2018

VIE stands for Volunteer for International Experience. It is a programme for young graduates set up by the French Government. The aim is, on the one hand, to encourage French companies to develop their activities abroad and, on the other, to give graduates the opportunity to pursue an international career. Read more about it here.

Charlotte Canard is 28. She comes from France and, after travelling around Finland and Myanmar, has decided to settle permanently in Belgium. A VIE vacancy at Air Liquide played a decisive role in this respect.
“I think most people would expect almost all important tasks in a major industrial company like Air Liquide to be entrusted to people with a scientific or engineering background, but that’s not the case. My own position as Project Manager in the Project Management Office is a good example of this. I studied Social Sciences and Literature in Strasbourg and then followed a course in Management at the ESSEC International Business School in Paris. These are clearly not hard science studies and yet I feel perfectly at home here.”

 

(Almost) in Northern Europe

“Before I joined Air Liquide—a year ago now—I spent two years working for a company that does consultancy work on urbanisation projects in Paris. After that I worked for an NGO in Myanmar. But because I’d previously also lived in Helsinki for a few years and felt very comfortable with the quality of life in a typical northern European environment, I finally decided to return. When I came across the VIE offer from Air Liquide in Belgium, I jumped at the chance. And yes, while Belgium isn’t really the North, from the point of view of a French person, it’s certainly in the right direction,” she laughs.

 

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Improved efficiency thanks to digital technology

One of the main objectives of the Project Management Office where Charlotte works is to optimise efficiency within the company. This is largely accomplished with the use of digital tools. Charlotte, for example, was in charge of the implementation of an Android application that helps engineers perform customer maintenance tasks. The application gives them immediate access to their planning, which is entered into the ERP system by the coordinators and enables engineers to draw up intervention reports that are sent directly to customers.
Another interesting project Charlotte is working on is a digital sales application in which digital contracts can be drawn up and signed. “I need to fully understand the nuances of the needs or problems that are presented to me. Only then can I translate them into suitable solutions. This is usually a process that consists of five distinct steps.”


Change management: the challenges
 

“In a first phase I map out the problem. Then I try to define the problem correctly and find a solution. Once we’ve found and validated a solution – after extensive consultation with all parties involved – I help to implement it and support the teams involved with appropriate training courses. Finally, I’m also responsible for what I call the ‘after-sales’. That is when I make sure that any problems that may arise after implementation, including bugs, are resolved quickly and that the transfer from Project Office to field operations is carried out correctly.“

“I also keep an eye on the planning and monitor the budgets. But the most challenging part of my job is change management. This is because digital solutions often require users to adjust their mindset, especially when they are accustomed to performing certain tasks in a certain manner. The fact that I’m a little on the young side given my responsibilities and have only been working for the company for a year, makes the change management challenges just that little bit bigger...”
 


A day in the life of...

A large part of Charlotte’s working day consists of organising and facilitating meetings: discussing new requests, meeting potential suppliers, suggesting possible solutions, providing training and workshops, et cetera. She not only has a great deal of contact with the different departments within the Benelux, but also with other European subsidiaries. She also devotes a great deal of time to prospecting and researching possible solutions so that she remains proactive in an environment that is constantly changing.

 

The E in VIE

“There is no question that I’ve learned a great deal since I started here a year ago as a VIE. Air Liquide is a company in which new products, applications and processes are constantly being developed. I therefore need to keep abreast of these innovations and their potential applications as well as deepen my knowledge, especially on the technical side. But I’ve also learned a number of things on the social front. I’ve gained more self-confidence, which enables me to defend my opinions more effectively. In the past, I wasn’t always sure of myself in relation to management, but now I know it is a matter of daring.”

“One of the strengths of the VIE programme is that it gives responsibilities to young graduates, without them needing to have previous experience in that particular field. I certainly took advantage of that, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that was offered to me.”
 

From VIE to a permanent job?

“It’s a pleasure to work at Air Liquide, for several reasons. For example, I see it as a plus that the company attracts people with different study backgrounds and work experiences. They also dare to entrust important tasks to young people. Another plus is that you can have your own opinion and decide for yourself how to manage a project. Creativity and a sense of initiative are strongly encouraged. In addition, cooperation among my colleagues—I work in a team of six—is excellent. We constantly provide each other with creative ideas for solutions to the problems we are working on. Sometimes someone suggests a different approach that I hadn’t thought of myself, and that helps things move forward.”

“I hope to continue my career with Air Liquide after the end of my VIE contract. Not only because I enjoy working here, but also because Air Liquide is a company with a pleasant and respectful work atmosphere and the dynamics really appeal to me. It is a company that regularly launches new ideas and innovations. There will always be plenty of challenges which I would like to take up.”


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