Andrea Hin is an ILS engineer and Service Architect. Guilliano Poepon has a background as a Test Consultant and Validation Coordinator. Both worked near Paris from 2019 to 2021 for a Security Operations Center of CGI NL Space, the space branch of CGI. Much, but not exclusively, security-related work happens here. They talk about the work culture, the combination of work with their private lives in the Netherlands and how easy it is to start working abroad as a CGI employee - in Paris or in another city!
Andrea has been back in the Netherlands since December 2021, after working as a consultant in Paris for 2.5 years. Wish she had stayed longer: "The work was completed according to contract, so we went our separate ways again. Sometimes there is a changing of the guard, depending on what is needed for the project. I still have good contact with the people I worked with, though."
In fact, for Guilliano, the international program is one of the reasons he came back to CGI. "For me, it has always been a dream and desire to work abroad. During my studies, internationals were already looking for each other; I wanted the same at work. My international ambitions have only grown over the years. The first foreign assignment I had was a clear confirmation that I had made the right choice to return to CGI."
Working abroad involves living within a travelable distance, Andrea explains. "Of course it's exciting for a while when you actually go. I organized a lot myself because I wanted to be in control. At the beginning I had hotels and B&Bs in different neighborhoods for a while and enjoyed exploring the area. For example, I saw what each place had to offer and what the commute to work was like. That was nice, but in the long run, of course, you'd rather have your own apartment so you don't have to live out of your suitcase too much. By looking around, I found a place where I could get through the winter well and leave my stuff if I wanted to take the public transport home for a weekend."
Guilliano lived in a smaller community between his work and Paris. "I chose from some pre-selected apartments so I could focus on work. These met all my criteria: it was nice living in a nice neighborhood, there were things to do, public transport was close, but I could also park my car. Ideal!"
Anyone can work abroad: young and old, children or not. Andrea and Guilliano prove that. Guilliano has a girlfriend; like him, she lives abroad. "I try to see people every other week, sometimes in the Netherlands, sometimes abroad." CGI has been in Paris for a long time and has good customer relations, he says. "There is great mutual trust. In addition, my work allows me to work from multiple locations. Even during corona it all went very easily."
Andrea has a husband and teenagers living at home. Yet this didn't feel like an obstacle to going, she says: "I previously had the opportunity to go abroad, but I didn't do it then. This really came my way. Opportunities that come along, you have to take them. My family is healthy, there are no major worries in the family and the children are fairly independent. They were already in high school and going their own way. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, you can be 'with' them in no time either. Of course they came to visit me in Paris, then we went to one of the many museums or Disneyland, for example. If it was necessary or desirable, I could also easily go back and forth. Both the client and the management handled the situation with complete understanding."
Guilliano and Andrea are already used to working together internationally from their work in the CGI NL Space. Andrea explains the benefits of that: "It's good when different nationalities work together. When everyone looks alike, you're in a kind of horse-drawn vehicle that always rolls in the same direction. Now you get an exciting dynamic with discussions and different sides being highlighted." They also worked with a variety of different backgrounds and cultures in Paris. Colleagues came from Italy, Spain, Romania, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Poland, among others, they say.
Andrea: "Of course there were also a lot of French people and quite a few CGI colleagues from the Netherlands. That is very nice, it gives a different atmosphere than when you are abroad on your own. Now you have new things and also a bit of a CGI 'family feeling'. With the Dutch we often did a Wednesday sushi lunch, which we called 'wushi'. More and more colleagues from other countries wanted to join us for lunch and it really became a household word. It broke up the week and formal with colleagues suddenly became informal at those times."
Guilliano adds: "I like working in an international environment because of the different cultures. Working with each other is fun and you learn from it. In the Netherlands everyone has their handbook, at a certain point you realize that. For example, we are quite direct. Internationally you have other people and cultures and therefore also other handbooks. You learn so much from it." As an example, he cites the punctuality of the Dutch. "Other Europeans are less of the hard deadlines. The Dutch are also fairly fixed in terms of meal times: between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. French prefer to eat after 20.00 and Spanish people after 22.00. That takes some getting used to!" he laughs.
Tastes like more
The two CGI colleagues are eager for more through their experience abroad. Andrea says that she plans to go abroad again: "Talks are being held now, so who knows, maybe it will be soon..." Guilliano currently works a lot with colleagues in Toulouse and regularly goes back and forth. "In Toulouse lives a CGI colleague with whom I also worked in Paris, I went to see him and it immediately felt like we were back. I formed a special bond with the people I worked with in Paris. I spent almost three years there, but time goes by so fast."
When will you go?
Guilliano would like to encourage doubters: "Working abroad is a unique experience anyway. Even if you don't like it, you learn something about yourself. And in principle, you are back home in no time. With projects that are in the start-up or bid phase, you are usually only away for a few months, but there are also deployments for several years. If you like it, you immediately feel like doing another project. It really is an adventure, an opportunity to be seized!" Andrea totally agrees with Guilliano and adds: "Do it! Start and see how you like it! But most of all, do it!"