Portraits

She chose the world as her challenge

Sabine Beslay, based in Shanghai, is Senior Manager for Project Engineering covering the Asia-Pacific Region for BASF. She graduated from UTC in the elective specialty Process Engineering and we invited her to comment on her rich professional track-record including numerous stays abroad.

She chose the world as her challenge

Back in her high school and college days, science and technical classes were her preferred courses. Sabine Beslay chose to do engineering because of its concrete contents with rapidly visible results, so she registered at UTC in 1985 and chose the elective Process Engineering.

To tell the truth, chemistry was not my favourite area, but it had the advantage of opening doors to a future engineering career”, she notes. What she like above all at Compiegne was the polyvalent training students get there and the practical orientation towards operations tasks and design of production units – technical draughtsman work and handling of spatial problems.

 Intellectual and human opportunities

“I have excellent recollections of UTC both in terms of the training received and also from a human point of view. UTC ensures you gain an independent mind and it teaches a rigorous approach to work”, sums up Sabine. She then insists on the variety of themes and subjects covered at UTC that allowed her to acquire a large range of skills and knowledge without being dissipated. Numerous corporate internships during the cursus were seen as highly value adding experiences and useful for her future professional career. Direct application of her new academic knowledge was very appealing:

“My preferred courses were in the lab and workshop sessions where we were invite to directly develop and complete full-projects”.  

The UTC “melting pot” saw students form all sorts of cursus, social; backgrounds and nationalities mix together. “This led to a certain opening of the mind which you need if you want to work in international affairs”. Another strong point of her 3 ½ year stay at Compiegne was the stimulating atmosphere without an exacerbated sensation of competing with each other. “Contrary to what happens in other major engineering schools in France, UTC students have both time to do their studies and enjoy their leisure-time too.” 

A truly international career

Graduating from UTC in 1989, Sabine Beslay began her professional career as a process engineer in Rhône-Poulenc (later Sanofi) factory in the Lyon area, producing silica with its numerous industrial applications. “In Lyon, I was faced with a wide range of tasks to accomplish and I had to use what I learned in my course work and also what I learned “in the field”, recalls Sabine, who is now responsible for a geographic area as large as Europe. Autonomy, challenges, short and mid-term projects, turned those early days into a background of moments of passion which marked the rest of her career. “The links and exchanges with both colleagues at work and with our customers gave me lots of opportunities to travel. Thereafter I have also tried to avoid getting into a dull routine and am always looking for new challenges”.

After working for a while in England, Sabine Beslay was appointed to the Middle Empire in the early 2000 years, again with Aventis. Her first contact with China played an important role in her decision to prolong her stay there. “I began at Hangzhou, in a splendid setting which is so different from the gigantic, noisy Shanghai where I live presently”. The enthusiasm of her Chinese colleagues, their desire to learn and to share knowledge and know-how, allowed Sabine to integrate the local scene quickly. Her early years in China also taught here some useful communication rules: “I learned, for example, that a simple and polite “yes” does not necessarily means that the person has understood and you must not hesitate to repeat yourself”. Since she arrived 15 years ago, the practice of English has progressed. The relationships you have with the Chinese authorities is still somewhat difficult unless you have some fluency in Chinese. Her advice to students tempted today by a career with a Chinese horizon, is that they seek an appointment with a foreign company.

Managing a team which comprises a majority of Chinese nationals also allowed her to discover and understand local management practice. Sabine note that her staff had a strong inclination to learn and displayed real enthusiasm for the job, but they were lacking in autonomy and the desire to take any initiatives. Much more than elsewhere, planning and regular monitoring of work in progress are fundamental to complete a project satisfactorily: “the hierarchy and a total respect for orders play a far more important role than in Europe. You simply cannot set a target without giving precisely all the methodology to be applied to get there”. Her conclusion is that in China, for the time being, the role of an individual is something that has yet to be defined.

 

Bio-Notes

1985-1989                     Graduated from UTC with the elective specialty Process Engineering

1989-1992                     Process engineer Rhône-Poulenc Fine inorganic chemicals, Lyons

1992-1996                     Process engineer Rhône-Poulenc Fibres & Polymers (Alsachimie)

1996-2000                     Process Development & Quality Control team, Aventis Cropscience, UK

2001 – 2004                  Process Site Manager, HSE & Quality (including Quality Control) for Aventis then Bayer, Hangzhou, China

2004 to date                  Regional manager Asia Pacific Region, BASF, Shanghai, China