Before moving abroad, you have to know your host environment well

Before moving abroad, you have to know your host environment well

15 December 2020
EnergyTransition Engineer Uzbekistan
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Since May 2019 Assystem has been supporting Uzbekistan in its energy transition thanks to the implementation of the country’s new energy mix (new production infrastructures, transport networks and electricity distribution…). It is within this framework that Alexandre Ponsardin joined Assystem as Operation Manager in July 2020. His mission: to coordinate the activities of the teams in the field and ensure the project management of the operations. While the country wants to double its energy capacities within 10 years, Alexandre affirms: “it is the ideal time to be on the spot”. Interview.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I started my career in the nuclear sector as a design engineer. After that, I wanted to set up my own company in a completely different world: that of selling custom-made furniture online, which was a very enriching experience that lasted two years. After this entrepreneurial interlude, I joined Assystem as a team leader and business manager with activities in the management of maintenance contracts in nuclear power stations. I was subsequently able to contribute to the SWITCH transformation programme, which aimed to develop collaborative and digital engineering. It was after this experience that Assystem offered me the opportunity to join Uzbekistan as Operation Manager, in order to coordinate projects around the implementation of a new energy mix in the country.

Can you describe your missions?

My main mission is to set up the organisation that will enable us to deliver projects in the best possible conditions. My team currently consists of 35 engineers and I am constantly looking for other talents with the support of human resources to strengthen the skills of the teams according to our needs.

On a daily basis, I assist all of my staff in delivering projects according to three components: respecting the level of customer requirements, complying with the budget planned in advance, and agreeing with the established schedule. What I like most about my work is the freedom and trust that Assystem gives me to organise my team and manage my project portfolio myself. It is a model that is close to the situation I was in when I had my startup.

What skills are required for your job and more generally for the project you are working on?

Communicate well! It is essential in my job to be able to listen to others and to be able to fully understand our clients’ problems in order to provide appropriate solutions.

My job also requires experience because, to understand the different aspects of an operation, you have to see the organisation as a whole, know what resources you need, but also understand the relationships between the different activities such as marketing, finance, commercial operations and human resources.

What difficulties did you encounter and how did you manage to overcome them?

Even if everyday life is not so different from Parisian life, we notice cultural differences at all levels, whether in the way we negotiate contracts on technical proposals, to our interactions with customers during the signing process, or even in our interactions with our local staff who speak either Uzbek or Russian, whereas we mostly speak English. Fortunately, the language barrier is overcome by the work of the interpreters.

But business in Uzbekistan is also very different from what we know in Europe. And it is precisely our mission to provide our staff, project after project, with an international culture and expertise.   That’s why we try to be as close as possible to the people on the ground.

Is there anything you need to know before going to Uzbekistan?

Before moving abroad, it is important to be familiar with your host environment and to talk to a multitude of people, whether former colleagues or the embassy. Fortunately, Assystem accompanies us to help us to apprehend the transition as smoothly as possible, by informing us for example about the hygiene standards or the cultural habits of the host country.

What advice would you give to an engineer who wants to settle in Uzbekistan?

In my opinion, the motivation for leaving should not be exclusively professional. You should consult with your whole family to make sure beforehand that everyone wants to take part in the adventure. If the professional opportunity is good but the expatriation itself is experienced as a personal constraint, the trip will not last long.

As far as our reception conditions in Uzbekistan are concerned, they are exemplary: my children attend a French school in Tashkent and our daily services are very close to European standards. Also, the setting in which we live offers us a total change of scenery, an incredible cultural richness but also a safe environment. For us it is the ideal combination of comfort and adventure.

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