Le Façon de Travailler Francais

In September 2000 I walked for the first time through the grounds which surrounded Marconi’s sprawling premises at Edge Lane in Liverpool. Having graduated from university the previous June I was about to start my first proper job, as a project engineer in the telecoms industry. I’d joined Marconi, which would go bust shortly after under the appalling leadership of Lord Simpson, because their graduate training programme looked good and, being a big blue-chip company, they took in lots of engineers.

As I walked along the path I bumped into a young Scottish chap who I’d met on the 2-day assessment centre the previous July. I said hello and we started talking about what to expect on our first day in a big company.

“Oh,” he said. “This isn’t my first job. I graduated in 1999 and spent a year working for Company X in Aberdeen. The French outfit.”

“How come you left?” I asked.

“Hmm. Let’s just say I will never, ever work for a French company again.”

By chance I happened to join that very same company years later, when I’d quit telecoms and via a roundabout route entered the international oil industry. As I returned home from signing the contract, the words of that young Scottish chap came back to me; I guess I was going to find out for myself.

Yesterday I officially finished working for them, 8 years to the day after I joined. I don’t have any regrets about not heeding the Scotsman’s warning, but – how can I put this? – I can see what he meant.


14 thoughts on “Le Façon de Travailler Francais

  1. In my long working life the only problems I had were to do with the French and I’ve worked with and for many internationals and in multi national teams.

    The small boutique consultancy I worked for was bought by one of the big management consultancies. They eventually went bust and we were bought by a French company.

    In my first meeting with my new boss I was instructed to put an advert in the trade press for recruiting Telecoms engineers form the mobile companies, even though we weren’t recruiting. I was then to quiz those who applied about the technical problems their companies were having and use this information to pitch for work. I resigned.

    Another was while leading the technical side of a GSM bid in South Africa. The client brought in a French company to do the build project management if we won. Right from the off we didn’t get on and he questioned my every decision in front of the client, even though he had no GSM engineering experience. Fortunately I’d been there for a while and had the client’s trust. At one point he called me a racist (The client were ex ANC/MK, so this was a big deal.) I took this up with a couple of the young French engineers from Nortel who were financing the bid, they dismissed him as being a typical Parisian. It still rattled me, though, fortunately the client asked for him to be replaced.

    On the plus side I did a project with the Paris office of the multi national consultancy and they were very professional.

  2. It’s all part of the rich tapestry of life and all they had to do was pay you in exchange for your time to meet their obligations which I am sure that they did. So all in all it has to have been a good experience for both parties. I know that I have told you before about my experience working with Degremont but again it’s all part of it.

    By the way my dad worked for Marconi in the sixties doing out there things with radar and the air forces.

  3. Tim,

    Three careers? Telecoms, the oil industry and now HR?

    You have had an interesting life.

  4. Three careers? Telecoms, the oil industry and now HR?

    Alas, I’ve not had one: I quit telecoms after a year having achieved and learned nothing, and to say I’ve had a career in the oil industry – as opposed to a series of jobs – would be pushing it.

    You have had an interesting life.

    That bit is true. 🙂

  5. You need to expound a bit more on some of your experiences Tim. Anecdote teaches the lesson better than aphorism.

    Bardon–Bob Hawke eh–the whinging wire-haired springer himself.

  6. You could at least write your title properly….la façon (or la manière) de travailler des français would look better!

  7. A company I worked for was taken over by a French firm. The senior managers (myself included) were promptly whisked off to Paris for a week’s indoctrination. During a week with three official holidays. Much fun was had in Paris, on expenses and nobody around to give us any work to do. I think we worked most of the Tuesday and a bit of Friday morning.

    I was made redundant some 8 months later …

  8. During a week with three official holidays.

    Ah yes, May is a good time to be working in France.

    I was made redundant some 8 months later …


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