Maria Néau speaks three languages and has lived in ten cities across three countries throughout her life. After navigating the professional world for a while, she tells us why becoming a global citizen is the best thing she could have done for her career -- and herself.
It's 6 AM in San Francisco. Maria has been awake for one hour, preparing for a meeting in French over Skype with her team based out of Paris. Later that morning, she will be interviewing two American startup founders, in English. That afternoon, while on Twitter, she will tweet in Spanish to a Mexican journalist covering French startups at CES 2018.
While Maria's schedule may sound crazy, having a similar itinerary is common for employees working at international companies. In this day and age, the workplace is always connected, ideas are easily exchanged, and foreign cultures are just a click away. Additionally, more and more exciting opportunities include extensive travel or even relocating to different countries.
Going international can be overwhelming, but Maria, who is a a PR and Digital Strategy consultant, says it is necessary in the modern world. She is not the only one - a recent study by The Economist reveals that two-thirds of 572 international company executives say their teams' multicultural nature increased their organization's innovation. We sat down to chat about the many advantages of global citizenship - both personal and professional.
HFA: Hi Maria! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
MN: Hi! I'm originally from the Texas/Mexico border. After completing high school in Mexico, I went to college at Texas A&M International and Kedge Business School (in Marseille). Afterwards, I completed a Masters in International Business at GEM (Grenoble Ecole de Management), in France. Ever since, I've worked as a Key Account Manager for an American video game company in France, a Business Development Rep for a Singaporean security startup in Texas, and an Account Manager Norwegian-American security startup in the Silicon Valley.
HFA: I noticed you've had an extensive sales career before going into Marketing. Can you tell us a little about how traveling and speaking different languages helped your sales career?
MN: Definitely. Knowledge of the French language is imperative in France, particularly when selling to the retail sector which is a little more traditional than tech, for example. When I started working in Business Development, both companies that I worked in were relatively new to the American market, and were still developing much of their go-to-market strategies. Being multicultural helped because we had to adapt much of the messaging that had worked in other countries to the American market. For this, you have to be able to draw parallels as to what people are receptive to in Europe, but would also work in America. Communication also has to be transformed, for example - Americans like messaging that is more direct and a little bit informal at times, whereas in Europe, people expect for a tech security company to issue a much more formal kind of messaging.
Additionally, when you speak different languages, you often find yourself simplifying things when translating from one language to the other. This has been helpful, for example, when I have a white paper that is highly technical, but that I need to pitch at a tech conference in a much less technical slang.
HFA: Can you tell us a little more about how being multicultural impacted your results in sales?
MN: Sure! At my first company in the US, we were able to narrow our messaging for the American market in a month, and by the third month, I was overachieving my quota by 150%. In my second company, I was able to launch customer reachout campaigns that spiked event attendance and qualified leads, growing by almost 170% in 6 months.
HFA: What would you say is your favorite outcome of working with cross-cultural teams?
MN: It is definitely the creative process generated in order to find a solution. Working with a group of individuals coming from different places and cultures while communicating through different social norms, makes an interesting collaborative environment. People tend to list priorities differently and suggest ideas you would have never thought of in the first place. On a more personal perspective, I believe the collaboration can get very genuine - which I think is great. When people are doing their best to understand each others' differences, everyone listens carefully and ensures every concern is addressed.
HFA: Obviously, language is a big part of how these exchanges take place. You're trilingual (English, Spanish, French), does it mean these exchanges are easier for you at all? What would you say to someone who is thinking of learning a new language to make himself/herself more hireable?
MN: It is certainly helpful. All languages are different and sometimes, for example, you can't find the words in English for something that can only be said in French. Also, learning a language makes you a better communicator because it teaches you to craft your message according to the audience you want to reach, while giving that message a unique value. Everyone wants to understand and be understood, after all!
HFA: What would you recommend to non-French people living in France that want to make the most of their professional experience?
MN: I'd say, try immersing yourself in French culture by meeting and spending a solid amount of time with French people. Not only this will help you master the French language, but it will also grow your understanding of culture, business, and social norms. Most importantly, it will help you become a more open-minded person and a better global citizen!
HFA: Last question - what do you think it means to be a High Flyer?
MN: I think is someone who is highly ambitious. It is a person with high potential because he or she creates that potential. It's someone who doesn't settle ever!
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