My relocation to the States in May 2015 has been both challenging and rewarding. I was excited to move to New Jersey, although I was a little apprehensive about being able to converse in English as I was cautious not to be misunderstood, because at the time, I was not fluent in English. There is no better way to learn a new language than by being completely immersed in it. In my case, I feel that I have been able to greatly improve my English language skills by interacting with coworkers, watching television and socializing.
On a personal level, moving away from my family was perhaps the hardest thing for me to do. However, thanks to modern technology and social media, I am still able to keep in close contact with family and friends, which has been very important to me.
Another challenge for me in adapting to a new country was not being able to eat French cuisine. There are many foods that I used to eat at home but are impossible to find here, but like any good formulator, I have been creative and tried many recipes on my own. At times I have shared my creations with friends and coworkers; they have always been delighted and returned for another meal. Alternatively, thanks to the multi-cultural atmosphere at Sika, I have been exposed to various international cuisine types, which has made up for the lack of French food.
After a few challenging months in the beginning, I fell that I have adapted well to my new environment and enjoy living and working in the States.
MY CAREER WITH SIKA
My career began when I started as an intern in October, 2012 for Sika France working on cement based mortars. At first I did not know cement chemistry but being exposed to its complexity and understanding how to formulate, it turned out to be a great experience for me. After working for two years in Sika France, I was fortunate to be offered the opportunity to relocate to Sika Corporation as a Junior Chemist.
As far as work is concerned, there also have been challenges. However, thanks to a great team in the mortars lab as well as the entire Sika family, my transition has been relatively smooth. This experience has given me the opportunity to learn new test methods, work on multiple projects and support several plants at the same time, while discovering the entire range of Sika US mortar products.
Nevertheless, my experience in both countries was a little bit different. In Sika France, the team is twice the size of the team in the USA. That means more work and less resource. Therefore, I had to be able to multi-task very well, juggling many projects at once while trying to maintain a clear focus on the bigger goal.
France is a much smaller country with two mortar plants, one in Gournay-en-Bray close to the R&D laboratories and a second plant in south of France, Marguerittes. With two plants that are within train distance makes production scale up and support much easier. The challenge in the USA is the size of the country and the many facilities to support; Marion (OH), Santa-Fe-Springs (CA), Fairless Hills (PA), Atlanta (GA) many tollers and new plants planned in the south plus recent support for Sika Canada. The situation in the US requires much more travel. When a new product is introduced into a plant, it is necessary for someone in R&D to be physically present to support and train plant personnel.
LIFE IN THE USA
Around New York, lots of things have to happen fast, and this is true both at work and in life. It's like you have to find your place among chaos, at first the path through the chaos is unclear but eventually you understand how things work and then it starts to make sense. This is when you realize you have assimilated, or at least understand the local culture!
Overall, this experience has been rewarding and has allowed me a great opportunity to get involved in all facets of developing a product and bringing it into the market. I have gained valuable experience in formulating, PDP process, customer field testing, production scale up, working with purchasing to find suppliers, and independent organizations like ASTM.
When I started at Sika France, construction and this particular field area was totally unknown to me. But I discovered it, learned about cement chemistry and now really appreciate it.
Well, here I am today, in Lyndhurst, New Jersey developing products for RSB and Interior Finishing markets while living in a foreign country. So you never know where life may lead you!