A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to go on a secondment to the LEWIS office in Paris. Secondment – a term that I was not familiar with the first time that I heard it – is defined as a situation “where an employee temporarily transfers to another job for a defined period of time for a specific purpose, to the mutual benefit of all parties.”
“Benefit” does not begin to describe it – spending a week in the Paris office was a great experience for me on many levels. Looking back, I wanted to recount a few of the things that I gained from this trip and offer some tips for those who may make a secondment trip in the future.
First, there are numerous benefits to a secondment, including:
- Learning from your international colleagues – I was amazed at the hospitality of the leadership and staff in the Paris office. I am very thankful for the time that they spent with me in meetings, taking me to lunch and having informal discussions in the hallway. The LEWIS Paris team was able to give me a great view into how business operates in France and offer helpful advice that made my stay a memorable experience.
- Visiting a new city – I had never been to Paris before, and it is a fantastic city. I was extremely impressed with how helpful everyone was – the people at the airport, in the subways, at the hotel – or even just walking down the street. Since I don’t speak French, I was asking for help a lot and I am grateful to everyone who helped me navigate my way through the city. I was also impressed by how organized and efficient Paris is – their subway system is very easy to use (even for someone who does not speak French) and allowed me to easily get all over the city. At the end of the workday, it was amazing to visit the major attractions in Paris, but I also enjoyed being a part of the daily workforce while going to and from the office. Paris is a very “walkable” city, and it was great to walk to the office each morning or take the train. As a commuter from New England, and someone who has driven to the office for their entire career, it was a welcome break to not be in a car for almost an entire week (and escape the Boston area traffic for a few days)!
- Sharing best practices – Being in the Paris office was a great opportunity for me to discuss how we work with various clients in the U.S. and share how we integrate services (PR, social media, marketing) and organize our teams. At the same time, I benefitted from learning how the Paris team works with clients in France and on international teams that serve global accounts. Being able to step away from some of my regular daily activities for a few days and learn about this global approach really opened my eyes to the international strengths and capabilities of LEWIS.
For those who have the opportunity to go on a secondment trip in the future, I have the following tips:
- Plan in advance – Learn as much as you can about the city that you are traveling to, well before your trip starts. This is especially important if you do not speak the local language. I spent a lot of time looking at maps, learning about the public transportation system, and researching the city and its culture. This made things go a lot faster (and easier) when I arrived there. Fortunately, my passport was already up to date – one less thing to get ready!
- Research (and use) the technology – My U.S. cell phone was not going to work in Paris, so I made other arrangements in advance and was able to take advantage of using Skype and other Internet-based tools. Our IT department, both in the US and Europe, did a great job getting me ready in advance, so I was up and working as soon as I arrived at the Paris office the first day.
- Get out of the office and the hotel – It was important for me to get out of the office and explore Paris. This really gave me a sense of what the city was truly like and helped me to make the most of my trip. As I mentioned earlier, Paris has a great subway and train system, and it is easy to walk everywhere as well. I was able to cover a lot of ground in the time that I had…and a take a few photos along the way too.
In all, my secondment to Paris was the best business trip I have ever taken. This program is one of the many benefits of working at LEWIS. Many thanks to everyone at LEWIS Paris for all of your hospitality, and I look forward to working with my international colleagues more in the future.