At Volvo Aero

E. Jardin & C. Schoch

After a PhD in engineering sciences from the University of Limoges, Aurélien Tricoire had a few job offers in the center France region, but he opted for the North... of Europe.

1/ What happened between the time you defended your thesis in October 2005 and you started with Volvo Aero, one year later?

Before the defense, I had started sending my resume to test the reactions of companies and narrow down my applications. In mid-September 2005, I had an interview with Messier-Bugatti, but they took their time deciding, and I got tired of calling them back.
After my thesis, I did a one-month training session organized by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Limoges on soliciting job interviews by phone. I snagged an SME (PSG Industrie) specialized in surface treatment which offered me an 18-month contract. Two days after the interview, I got a positive answer from Volvo Aero and at the same time I was contacted by a former colleague who offered me a job in Germany. I was pretty lucky!

2/ How did you get your job at Volvo Aero?
I never applied to Volvo Aero. I had met the head of the thermal projection research and development (R&D) department during a conference in May 2005. He told me that a one-year contract was supposed to open up. He had kept my card and I called him back at regular intervals.

The decision was long in coming. Around Christmas 2005, six months after our meeting, he gave me the go-ahead. The trouble was that meanwhile, the one-year contract had become a three-month contract. I was in a quandary: Was it worth going to Sweden for only three months of work? Didn't it make more sense to choose the contract offered by the SME? I thought it over and told myself "I'm young, nothing ventured nothing gained, as they say." So I left for Sweden. Looking back, I think I made the right choice.

3/ Why did you opt for Volvo, who required you to move abroad?
That's a good question. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the job interview at the SME. Certainly the job wasn't very far from where my fiancé lived, but deep down I wanted to leave France. I had lived abroad during my two internships in engineering school: one of them was in the Czech Republic and the other was in Finland. I was ready to leave again.

4/ What happened after those three months with Volvo Aero?
They offered me another one-month contract, followed by another three-month contract. I ended up signing three short-term contracts before getting a long-term contract on October 1, 2006.

5/ What counted most in getting hired?
No doubt about it: my thesis topic. I've been there a year now, and they see me as an expert in my field because I did my thesis on the topic.

6/ Didn't the fact that you had already lived in a northern country count at all?
No. They use the short-term contracts to test my ability to adjust.

7/ Was there pressure on you to learn Swedish?
No. In Sweden, like in Finland, everyone speaks English. I work in English. With my string of short-term contracts, I hesitated to learn Swedish. But I started learning the language six months ago, and I think that at the end of 2007 I'll speak Swedish.

8/ What are your work conditions like?
Here, at Volvo Aero, there's very little sense of rank. We all work in open space offices, and the door to the "boss's" office is always open. On top of that, there's not a huge difference between salaries for a worker, an engineer and a PhD.

9/ Who are your colleagues? Do they have a scientific background?
In the thermal projection R&D department, there are 12 of us, including four engineers, 3 students, four technicians and a manager who does not have any scientific background at all. We work in R&D and do support for the thermal projection production department, which is made up of 35 people. I am the first science PhD in the department and unlike in France, the status of a PhD is recognized in Sweden. A PhD earns a better salary than an engineer.

10/  What administrative paperwork do you have to go through to work in Sweden?
Since April 1, 2006, a law stipulates that all European Union nationals no longer have any particular procedure to go through except to declare their address and place of work in Sweden.

11/ You just have to make a statement?
Yes and then, with your pay slip, you can apply for a Social Security number. With that number you can do everything here.

12/ If a young French PhD wants to move to Sweden and asked you for advice, what would you tell him or her?
First of all, you have to be independent and adaptable, that's essential. Second, you have to speak English, because it's hard to find someone who speaks French. Third, you have to be prepared to experience a different culture and climate. In Sweden, the days are much shorter in winter and much longer in summer. This sets a whole different pace to life. My workday finishes at five o'clock and I'm the last one to finish at that hour! Usually the workday ends at four o'clock and begins at six o'clock that morning.

Interview conducted on February 15, 2007, by Evelyne Jardin.