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Soraya, V.I.E. program, Japan

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Soraya, and I'm 27 years old.
After preparatory classes, I entered the Montpellier School of Chemistry (ENSCM Montpellier).
I spent a gap year at Arkema's American headquarters near Philadelphia, working on batteries. I then started my VIE in Korea, for 8 months, to continue it at Arkema's research center in Kyoto, Japan, still in the battery field, where I hold the position of Technical Support Engineer.

What does your job involve? What skills do you need?

I'm in charge of developing new products for battery separators, as well as providing technical support on products for the battery market.
I'd already had experience in this field at Arkema, before I graduated, which was useful for my current position.
Beyond that, having good communication skills, knowing how to network internally and - obviously - speaking English are the main skills needed.

How did your recruitment and integration go?

Quite simply, to tell the truth: an unsolicited application, an interview with an HR person in France, then with the team manager in Japan.
As far as integration is concerned, when you arrive, you're well looked after. In Korea, HR found me an apartment, gave me a SIM card and helped me open a bank account. And as far as the teams are concerned, there's a dinner right away to meet them and talk things over.
In Japan too, I was helped to find accommodation and with the administrative formalities.

What were your first impressions when you started your mission?

A lot! There were a few surprises (good ones!), like the beauty of the scenery, the absolutely delicious food, and Korea's astonishing modernity.
There are also some challenges to overcome: the language barrier is one, of course. And while the food is very good, I was surprised at how little room there was for vegetarians.
Japanese and Korean cultures are very different from Western ones. The rigidity that emanates from them and the weight of society on individuals are undoubtedly the most disturbing aspects when you immerse yourself in them. In both countries, respect for hierarchy and rules are very important!

How would you sum up your VIE at Arkema in 3 words?

Discovery, surprise and challenge!

What advice would you give to those who would like to do a V.I.E at Arkema?

I'd say don't hesitate to get out of your comfort zone. For me, it's the best way to progress in life, to challenge yourself and learn more about yourself and others.
It's also a great way of opening up your mind and understanding others. And that, in my opinion, is an important quality for an engineer. Go for it, V.I.E. is really incredible!

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