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Career Q&A series: How to have an international career

This Q&A is part of a special series of interviews with successful, internationally minded professionals and career gurus, and centered around the Career Beyond Borders seminars to be held in London, Singapore, New York and San Francisco in 2015-16.

“There’s no way of doing any kind of career if you’re not speaking fluent English – it’s the base of everything.

– Louise d’Amécourt

Raised between London and Paris, Louise studied English history and literature at La Sorbonne (Paris) and the University of Edinburgh (Scotland). She worked for HCL Technologies in India for four years before completing her MBA at INSEAD (France). Today, Louise is a European Sales Optimization Manager at Braintree, a Paypal company. In November, she will be a speaker at the Careers Beyond Borders Seminar in London.

We caught Louise between work trips and talked to her about how languages, wanderlust, and curiosity helped her career.

Louise, you studied history and literature and now you are a European Sales Optimization Manager – how did that happen?

I always believed that your studies are not what makes you who you’re going to be – they don’t drive your professional life. I’ve always been interested in literature and history, and I’ve always read a lot, so I knew that was something I wanted to study. However, at the same time, I knew that I wouldn’t be a writer or a historian, so very early on, when I was 16, I started doing a lot of internships in London and Paris. My life was already anchored in the corporate environment, and I started working quickly after my studies. That’s also why I did my MBA – I knew I needed more academic and fundamental skills: I studied very abstract topics, so these internships were very hands-on and I learned a lot of technical skills while working for banks, for example. When you do internships, you really learn how to behave in a corporate world.

What has studying and living abroad taught you?

Living and studying abroad has taught me how to listen before speaking. I adapt very quickly to new cultures, and I thrive in international contexts. I like working with multicultural and diverse teams, and when I manage a project, I know how to bring people together, so everyone benefits from the different backgrounds and nationalities. When I worked in India for four years, I learned how to be flexible, have patience and adapt to new cultures. I realized that there’s always a solution for everything.

How did your cosmopolitan background help you with your career?

It’s a good ice-breaker in interviews, that’s for sure, but it also helped me a lot when talking about leadership – people are always interested in international stories. In my day-to-day life, my international experiences really help me when working with teams. They changed my behavior in the workplace in a positive way. It can only be positive to have international experience: you’re more mature and more open.

What advice would you give to young people looking for jobs?

Of course it always depends on the context and where you come from, but when we start out and take on our first jobs, we’re always a little scared and think that we have to work for a well-known brand or do something that will look good on our CV. I really don’t think that’s true. I think this mindset has really changed, and recruiters are looking for people who have done different things: recruiters want to see people – as cliché as it sounds – who do things that they love and are interested in, instead of just working for a big company because they think it looks good on a CV. Do what you feel like doing. And you know, go abroad for sure. It’s so important, especially at a young age, to have that experience because it teaches you a lot and you come back to your own country with a maturity that other people your age might not have.

What’s the importance of languages in today’s working world?

I work for an American company in London, so we all speak English; but even before, when I worked in India, everything was in English. It definitely helps to speak different languages – I always have a special connection when I work with a French team. However, you can’t speak every language in the world, so first and foremost, it’s important to speak very good English. Not just to speak it actually, but to be able to think in English without translating, and of course, to be funny in English – that’s when you know you’ve mastered a language!

London is a very competitive environment, do you have any advice for people who want to work in a big city?

I definitely recommend living in a big city once in your life. Even if you don’t know how long you’re going to stay, try to enjoy it fully. Try to embrace the city as much as you can – through work, your personal life, and also through networking opportunities. Big cities present a lot of networking opportunities. Sometimes, people look at living in a big city as being really hard, but I enjoy it, it’s fantastic. You have to look at all the positive sides big cities have to offer – even if it seems overwhelming at times. Keep an open mind, be happy, and realize how lucky you are to live in a big city!

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