Career advices

Benoît Lespagnol

CEO, BOSCH Thermotechnik, Luxembourg

Originally from France, I am now Managing Director of the Luxembourg subsidiary of Bosch Thermotechnology, the heating division of the German group Robert Bosch.

My Franco-German career was in fact a gradual process: studies in Paris, London and Munich at the European Business School (EBS), a first exciting experience on the other side of the Rhine during my military service as a reserve officer in the Franco-German brigade, and an end-of-study internship in a consulting firm in Stuttgart. This initiatory course gave me the desire and the required assets to join the Robert Bosch Group’s „manager development program“ in 1995. The 3 stations of 3 to 9 months each allowed me to discover all the facets of the group’s sales and marketing organization during 18 months: at the German headquarters of a division (Bosch Thermotechnik), in the marketing team of a regional company (Robert Bosch Spain), and finally at the group’s worldwide headquarters near Stuttgart. This was an ideal starting point for a career in international management.

Because of my desire to take on new challenges and my high level of geographical mobility (and that of my Hungarian wife, whom I met in 1997 in Stuttgart), the Thermotechnik division of the group was able to offer me proportionate and graded challenges: Based in the Stuttgart region for 3 years as export manager for the Italy & ex-Yugoslavia zone, then, in Hong Kong and Canton, in charge of the Asia-Pacific export zone for 18 months, the group entrusted me in 2002 with the creation in Beijing of our thermotechnology department for continental China. In 2004, my Hungarian affiliations were a decisive factor for my return to Europe as Sales Manager of one of our main brands of heating equipment in Hungary, within our regional company and at the head of a small team of about 15 employees.

After 5 years of strong managerial experience, rewarded by an important development of our position on the Hungarian market, I am still ready to challenge myself in a new position with even wider responsibilities but with more limited professional travels (our couple having meanwhile enriched with 3 young children). In 2010, the group responded by entrusting me with the general and commercial management of our Luxembourg subsidiary, where I have flourished for nearly 7 years, managing a multicultural team of about 30 Luxembourg, French and German employees.

So what advice and recommendations can you draw from your first 20 years of a Franco-German professional career in an international context? A Franco-German career is an exciting challenge: in addition to the professional challenge, there is also the intercultural challenge: relationships are generally frank and objective, which allows for more effective communication and personal development if you know how to make allowances and, in the event of criticism, put your self-esteem on the back burner. In addition to this intercultural openness, expect to be judged and evaluated on your concrete achievements (facts & figures), more than on your diplomas or networks. Also, repeated and systematic successes in each position/assignment are very effective means to allow a progressive rise in competence that will logically lead to being entrusted with more and more extensive responsibilities. All my best wishes for success!

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