We caught up with Operations Performance Manager, Laurie Franquesa, to discuss her time spent working internationally with Ayming. Laurie began her career at Ayming’s HQ in Paris, before spending time in Shanghai, China. She currently works for Ayming UK in our London office.
Talk us through your career at Ayming to date
I started my career at Ayming in March 2012, as an intern in the procurement and supply management consulting team, in the Paris office. This was the last internship I had to complete to validate my Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering. My Master’s thesis was on lean manufacturing, focusing specifically on the reconfiguration of production lines based upon process simulation. During my internship, I started developing my productivity and efficiency improvement knowledge, learning how to establish smarter processes and take advantage of using better resources. This large research project allowed me to really understand many of the mechanisms that underlie supply chains, learning about the functionality, specifications and costs of a product. I was keen to apply this knowledge in business and during my internship with Ayming, I felt that working in supply chain and procurement best suited these skills in helping companies to optimise costs and processes. As I came to the end of my internship with the company, I was sure that procurement and supply chain was where I wanted to continue to grow and progress my career. At this time, Ayming offered me a permanent position and as a student who couldn’t wait to kick start off my career, I eagerly accepted.
What initially attracted you to working at Ayming?
I had no wish to start a career in the technical field of mechanical engineering, as I wanted to work with something more business focused, not just working with figures and materials. With procurement and supply chain being at the centre of most companies, I was eager to join Ayming due to its track record on procurement & supply chain optimisation with more than 30 years’ experience across Europe and North America. Additionally, with Ayming being a business performance expert specialising in R&D tax consultancy, I was attracted to the work that it had to offer as in such a short space of time you begin to learn a lot, because you are working for different clients across different industries. I have now been with Ayming for seven years and have worked across a range of small medium and large companies. As well as working within a diversity of sections such as retail, finance, construction and manufacturing. Each time I have learnt to apply my skills and knowledge to different sectors and new clients.
What differences did you notice in the offices and teams as you have moved internationally with Ayming?
I first began my career in the Paris office in my permanent role as an analyst in procurement and supply chain, where I was for five years, consulting across a range of different projects and industries. This office is the biggest as it is Ayming’s headquarters. It was nice to have the entire building dedicated solely to Ayming where the same team spirit and work ethic was all around you.
It was during my time spent working in Paris, that my team had won its first ever procurement project in China. This was a really exciting opportunity for the team and as part of Ayming’s international mobility programme, I was asked to go and work for the client in the Shanghai office. As a global company Ayming is always open to varied career paths where my job could be aligned with my aspiration to travel, which I felt very grateful for. I decided to seize the opportunity and I made the bold move to China where I was involved in several procurement and sourcing projects, helping clients to find and qualify suppliers. The Shanghai office was in People’s Square, right in the centre of the city. The office itself was significantly smaller than our Paris HQ, and with a much smaller team. After working in France, this was considerably different from the large scale building and number of staff that I was used to working with! Despite the size, everyone was really friendly and very welcoming, which made it easier to settle into the new working environment. It was here that I managed to land another success with the team, after winning a worldwide project for a luxury brand. It was nice to be able to experience that same feeling of converting another huge opportunity but with a new team of people. What made it even more special is that the success never went unnoticed. Ayming always tries to encourage individual development, where after giving me the opportunity to work in two countries, the company had provided me with the entrepreneurial skills to head up an international project opportunity between London, France and Germany, based in the UK. After working in China for two years between 2016 and 2018, I came to work in Ayming’s London office where I took on this new challenge.
In Shanghai, I was the only international member of staff and when I worked in Paris the majority of the team there were French. So, it was a nice surprise when I moved to the UK to be joining an incredibly diverse, cosmopolitan environment in central London. It’s a very multicultural office, where everyone learns from one another. For example, there are 8 different nationalities in my team – Mexican, Bulgarian, Polish, Vietnamese, Dutch, Belgium, English and French. My move from China to the UK happened very quickly and everyone was really welcoming and supportive. Which was lucky because my containers that held all of my things, took 3 months to arrive in the UK! The team was quick to help me settle in my apartment and lend me some of the essentials, which was really nice of people that I had only just met!
Each office had a different culture where I was able to enhance my professional ability and deepen my cultural awareness through working abroad. I learnt how Ayming’s international counterparts operate, embracing the customs of foreign workplaces and had the chance to build relationships with international peers (mainly with my Chinese, Japanese and English colleagues) which have given me real lasting rewards.
What did you find most challenging about working in different countries?
Despite already being familiar with China from studying part of my degree out there, I would say working in China was the most challenging, as this was a totally different experience! An interesting example was the Chinese concept known as ‘face’. Essentially, you must hide how you truly feel regardless of whether you agree or disagree in order to stop someone from ‘losing face’. Just asking someone for directions to the train station is hard because if someone doesn’t know, then they will tell you any direction, just to be nice. When speaking with clients especially, this posed the most difficulty, as this often led to miscommunication. Admirably, Chinese culture means that in client meetings they don’t want to offend anyone, so they would say one thing but think another. This was something that I really had to adapt to because in terms of finalising deals within business, this often became an issue. I had to learn to urge the client to tell me what they really wanted, so that I could steer them in the right direction.
What did you find most rewarding?
I feel very lucky to have worked for the same company in three different countries because every time was a new experience for me, where I was able to meet my clients’ needs and secure some big successes for the company. These opportunities hold some intense and exciting memories.
For example in France at the end of one year, we received the final call from a client that validated millions of euros in savings in a procurement project. This resulted in a boost in revenue for the company which was a nice way to see the year out with the team. Another interesting memory is when I had the opportunity to work for a tomato producer in Morocco for 3 months. The hustle and bustle of Morocco compared to the calm, austere and quite strict world of working with a luxury brand was very different!
In China we continued to sell worldwide projects and worked with a luxury brand that had 40 stores worldwide based in the US, Europe and Asia. Being able to work across a range of industries and counting, exposed me to so many more opportunities. I would never have imagined, coming from the South of France, having the opportunity one day to work in Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul or even London. I was able to transfer my skillset across different projects as well as pick up new ones as I continued to learn the different processes and operations between sectors.
How have you grown personally over the years and in your different roles?
Working in an international company has allowed me to become more flexible when working in different countries. There is always that fear of the unknown as each country really changed in culture as I moved from one to the next, but moving from place to place has helped me to adapt to new living and working environments. It has also helped to boost my confidence and become more independent, as I feel more comfortable in handling whatever life throws at me! Also when you arrive in each new place you don’t know anyone, so I learnt how important it is to stay humble, as you have to start over and re-introduce yourself to new people.
Although, I cannot fault the management from Ayming. I was supported throughout my journey from beginning to end, with management frequently checking up on me, where they really prioritised my well-being as an employee. Each step taken to help me move across the world, was organised perfectly. I was put at ease throughout my journey with ongoing support and encouragement from the management and team. Being given the opportunity to work abroad has been an incredible learning experience and my personal and professional life has undeniably been strengthened by it.
Want to join the Ayming team?
We’d love to meet you at our next Ayming Job Date event taking place on 20 November in Shoreditch.
We live in a modern world and traditional, linear career paths are often replaced in favour of remote-working, international mobility, and flexible working hours. At Ayming, we’re open to changing cultural and social needs, and we understand that traditional career journeys aren’t for everyone. Our ‘Move With Us’ program helps match our employees goals with opportunities to work internationally, helping us move Further Together.