“On a professional level, I like going out of my comfort zone”
Albert Franquesa is currently one of GFT’s main consultants in London. He spent 8 years working in Sant Cugat (Barcelona) on IT projects for the financial sector with UK based clients, but in order to develop and strengthen a relationship with those based in London, he realised that this professional challenge was a fantastic opportunity for him and his whole family to learn and to evolve. And so off they went. Franquesa is one of many examples of employees of GFT who, from one of the Spanish headquarter offices, have left for other markets in other parts of the world to expand the business of the Group. In many cases, they look after other international subsidiaries in Brazil, Germany, and the EU or as in this case the UK, which shows how far Catalan talent can reach within this company.
Francisco Blas: What is your role in the UK? What do you do?
Albert Franquesa: I spend my time primarily adapting the ServiceNow offering, a company which creates cloud based IT service management, with which we are associated, for the needs of the market. For this is it vital to speak constantly with the clients to understand how to adapt the offering to their needs and to refine the briefing that we use. To define my job is somewhat more complicated as having a job with GFT is really a unique experience. Aside from that, I have to help with sales, get involved with pre-sales activities, proposals and also delivery management activities for local ServiceNow projects.
FB: What role did you have in the company when you got the opportunity to live in the UK?
AF: At that time I also looked after the development of the offering but without the contact with the market, which seemed pretty complicated. On the other hand, I had much more involvement with the delivery of the projects. These days the team is much more self-sufficient in that sense. But really, although I was new to the UK, I had already spent 8 years working on UK projects.
FB: When you worked at GFT Sant Cugat, did you often have to travel for work?
AF: Lately yes, I used to travel a lot but mainly to develop the relationship we have with ServiceNow.
FB: How did you come to the decision to move and what did it mean to move from Barcelona to London for you and your professional career?
AF: On a personal level, my family was what concerned me most. One of my daughters didn’t take the new challenge very well, but now she really enjoys it. On the contrary, my other daughter jumped for joy the day we told her about it. My wife has always been fairly adventurous. On a professional level, I am the kind of person who likes to be out of their comfort zone. Having that said, my comfort zone is quite different from what most people know as a comfort zone as I am always finding new challenges.
FB: Explain us how the preparation for the move to London went for your family. What were the hardest parts? Did the company help out at all?
AF: Yes the help from GFT was key for a smooth move, above all in terms of the advice from colleagues, in particular Chris Ortiz, Managing Director of GFT UK. The rest went a lot more smoothly than I thought. The school experience for my daughters has been fantastic. There hasn’t been a day when they’ve said “I don’t want to go to school!”
FB: How were the first few weeks here as a family?
AF: I arrived in June 2013. My family came over at the end of July and we spent the summer here. I think it has been a good move for us. We now have all had the experience of a family project, with its first steps, little crises, and above all the happiness.
FB: Does everyone in your family speak English well? Your daughters?
AF: When we arrived, only my wife spoke English. Now my daughters are at an advanced level and sometimes they even correct us and make fun of our accents…
FB: Do you plan to stay long in London?
AF: We thought originally that this adventure would last two or three years. From there, it’s negotiable. Maybe one day the company will need “sherpas” to open offices in new countries (laughs)
FB: Have you at any point regretted this decision?
AF: Absolutely! Aside from the benefits of a big city like this and the professional challenge, going to London isn’t quite the same as going to New York, Brazil or Singapore. If you feel homesick though or start to miss family, you can take one of the many flights to Barcelona which depart on a daily basis.
FB: What do you like most about this city? And what the least of all?
AF: It’s hard to choose just one thing but every aspect of the cultural diversity; the people, food, culture etc., and the feeling of anonymity which is impossible if you live in Sant Cugat. The parks and the architecture of the city are all aspects that we value a lot. The worst thing is getting into conversations outside of work which require a previous ‘background’ in the English culture, so for example, famous people from here, TV series etc.
FB: Apart from your job, what is the best thing about working here?
AF: The flexibility, the constant contact with the market, the definition and development of the services which we offer etc.
FB: What differences can you see between Barcelona and London in terms of the ways of working?
AF: Basically, and I am referring to GFT, with being a salesman, the difference is really in the jobs you have to do. In terms of projects and clients perhaps it is similar, in the sense that you meet all sorts of people. At the same time though what is very different is that normally you have to deal with people from very different places and nationalities and this perhaps brings with it more open negotiations with clients.
FB: What do you miss about Barcelona? And working with GFT in Spain?
AF: I think what has been the worst is ‘losing’ a 45 minute lunch break away from the office. Here, people eat in front of their computer screens, and it’s always a sandwich, every day! I also miss the face to face contact with the ServiceNow team in Barcelona and in Valencia too but I try to remedy this with teleconferences and other means of communication. I take advantage of this to congratulate them on the fantastic work they are doing. In GFT, the fact you are working in an office with 20 people (although we are awaiting our new colleagues!) is a big difference, compared with the constant flow of colleagues in GFT Spain which can always help you to maintain contact.
FB: What would you say to any other GFT employee who is considering the option of moving and working in a different area?
AF: Not to get your head too much in a spin about it. It’s impossible to have it all planned before you actually go. It’s an excellent experience on every level, personally and professionally.