I graduated from my undergrad in June 2015, and I was ready for an adventure. I had always dreamed of working internationally and I woke up one day and realized, why not? My intent was to take a gap year before returning to MIT for my Master's. I had just a few simple criteria which helped me identify Capgemini as the right choice: 1. HQ in France 2. Technical Consulting 3. Large international corporation. 1 + 2 + 3 = Capgemini :) With little more information than that and even fewer expectations, I embarked on what would become the most incredible 6 months of my young working life.
Working as an IT consultant at Capgemini proved to be the most enriching, exciting, and fast-paced work experience I had ever had. I worked in Capgemini's lab'innovation, an exciting environment dedicated to bringing technology innovation to clients. From working directly on a client digital transformation project to running a series of TechTalks, and helping organize a phenomenal client soirée at Paris' famous Grand Palais museum, the projects I worked on fascinated and inspired me.
I had the phenomenal opportunity to work directly with an international $20B food-services and facilities management firm undergoing a massive digital transformation. Our client identified several "quick wins" which our consulting team worked to accelerate to completion. It was my responsibility to help the Innovation Team with their "quick win" - the selection and deployment of an "ideation platform" - a website enabling the clients' 200,000+ employees to post their innovative ideas to improve the quality of life for themselves and their customers. It was a tremendously rewarding experience to play an integral role in this process, working with a number of stakeholders to identify requirements, solicit and assess vendor proposals, and ultimately accommodany the team through the selection of their ideal platform. It was my first introduction to consulting, and because I enjoyed it so much, I knew it wouldn't be my last.
The lab'innovation in Capgemini is designed to support an ecosystem of innovation both externally for clients and internally for consultants. I felt at home in this environment, as I found many similarities with the MIT ecosystem of innovation that I had been immersed in for the past four years. One aspect of the MIT ecosystem that I loved was the abundance of TechTalks - brief presentations given by folks often external to the MIT ecosystem about a topic in technology. I felt this could be a fascinating new format to introduce to the lab'innovation, and my boss did too! I hosted 7 TechTalks, and invited several of my personal contacts that gave some really incredible presentations. Just a sampling: smart cities conversation with lab director of the MIT Senseable Cities lab and consultant from Cappgemni consulting, aerospace & virtual reality discussion with a NASA lab and Capgemini aerospace representative, discussion on music games with co-inventor of RockBand/Guitar Hero, and finally a discussion on assistive technologies with Capgemini collaborators. TechTalks provided a format for new conversations, collaborations, and initiatives.
Every year Capgemini invites its clients to an exclusive evening party in the Grand Palais, one of Paris' finest exhibition halls located on the Champs-Élysées. This year, Capgemini decided to enhance the evening with a number of innovative digital experiences to delight and surprise the guests. I worked along with a small multidisciplinary and distributed team among Capgemini to ensure the successful coordination and execution of these experiences. The evening was a tremendous success, and our digital experiences proved a success - guests were greeted by Nao the robot, whom we had worked to develop a humorous and crafty script to interact with guests. Guests then enjoyed the digitally enhanced PIcasso exhibit on display at the Grand Palais, with the opportunity to experience artwork using Google Glass. Later in the evening, we assisted guests to explore the mobile application built by the Grand Palais, producing pictures in the style of Picasso. And finally - and most exciting of all experiences - guests had the opportunity to virtually visit a Picasso art piece rarely visited by the public using a mobile application Capgemini collaborators developed uniquely for this event. Using google cardboard, guests viewed the masterpiece in 3D and felt as if they really were immersed in the masterpiece. The evening proved to be a tremendous success - and I personally felt amazing to have been involved in the process of organization such a fun event at the intersection of design, digital, and client experience.
I had the great fortune to work on some incredibly innovative projects. But most importantly, I worked with a phenomenal team of colleagues who truly adopted me as one of their own and ensured every day was a learning experience. They taught me about the French culture and language, and what it means to be globally aware. In tern, I shared my culture and experience with them - I hosted weekly English-speaking lunches, and I surprised my colleagues on Halloween with treats throughout the workspace. I baked pancakes for them when they taught me what it means to be "croissanted", and I baked chocolate chip cookies for my going-away party. But above all - I brought a joyous, positive attitude to work every day, and as an American I saw the positive in everything. One of my colleagues told me that among all the things about me, they'd miss my smile and my laugh the most. We learned from eachother, and we inspired eachother.
Outside of work, I made some terrific friendships among the wonderful people I met in the dormitory-style home where I lived. My most cherished moments were the conversations we had - on culture, language, the economy, business, food, education, fashion, ethics, religion, history... I spent many evenings and weekends chatting with friends - mostly in French except when they specifically asked to practice their English. Everyone had a story to tell and an insight to share, and I took the time to learn from them.
I kept an extremely open mind, but at the same time I became more conscious of who I was as a person - my culture, my personality, my passions...As an example, I hosted a tremendous Thanksgiving feast for my international friends. Nearly twenty of my friends gathered with me to prepare, cook, and give thanks for a tremendous feast among friends.
I spent many weekends travelling and exploring France, exploring not only the tourist-destinations but also the well-hidden gems. City highlights: Lille, Giverny, Fécamp, Etretat, Caen, Honfleur, Deauville, Mont St Michel, Orléans, Meung-sur-Loire, Versailles, Fontainbleu, Chartres, Trappes, Bougival, Île de loisirs de Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, Strasbourg, Saverne, Colmar, Lyon, Givors, Brussels, Louvain la Neuve, and La Roche-en-Ardenne.
I kept a blog of my adventures, and thus kept in touch with my friends and family back home. These were some of the happiest and enriching six months of my life, and I would absolutely recommend living abroad to anyone seeking an adventure.
"It has been a great pleasure to work with you and you must be proud of your first job, as you have greatly contributed to the advancement of the Innovation Flows…A part from your knowledge and technical skills, your strong point is your very positive attitude and your smile. I think you’re destined to great things: you’re a very smart girl, but if you want a piece of advice never lose your smile and your attitude : they are the real thing….You meet people in life that give you pearls of wisdom that make you and bring with you for the rest of your life… my Elizabeth’s pearl of wisdom that will stick with me is “hello!!! I’m always happy: I’m an American living in Paris!!!!! Your energy, intelligence, maturity and delight in life were such a pleasure for us."
"Un grand merci pour l’engagement et l’énergie que tu as mis au service du Lab afin de rendre notre accueil et celui de nos clients/partenaires le meilleur possible." (A big thank you for the engagement and energy that you provided to the lab so as to ensure our clients and partners were provided the best welcome possible.
"Tu nous manqueras, c’était agréable d’avoir ta bonne humeur et énergie dans nos bureaux. (We will miss you, it was nice to have your good humor and energy in our office.
"Tu es une personne vraiment extraordinaire, et remarquable...J'ai partagé de grand moment que ce soit amicale, culturel,intellectuelle avec de grandes qualités d'adaptation, d'ingéniosité, de réflexion et d'idée novatrice. Reste comme tu es, et ne change jamais. Le monde a besoin de personne comme toi" (You are a really extraordinary person, et remarkable...I spend some great moments with you...whether they be friendly, cultural, intellectual with great ability of adaption, of generosity, or reflection and innovative ideas. Stay as you are, and never change. The world needs people like you)
Friend from the foyer
"Je t'écris ces quelques mots pour exprimer l'enthousiasme que j'ai eu à te connaitre. J'ai appris qu'il faut rester positif. Il faut toujours essayer les choses et ne jamais penser du coté négatif. J'ai aimé ta façon d'apporter de l'aide aux autres quand ils ont besoin de toi. Tu sais privilégier ceux qui ont le plus besoin de toi. J'ai retenu qu'il faut profiter de l'instant présent et de sauter à la moindre occasion qui se présente. [..] Tu es quelqu'un de bien..." (I am writing these few words to express the enthusiasm that I had to know you. I learned from you that one must remain positive. One must try things and never thing of the negative side. I loved your way of helping others that needed it most. You know how to help the ones that need you the most. I know now that one must take advantage of the instant at hand, and jump at even the slightest opportunity...You are a good person.)
Friend from the foyer