The Chaotic Arrival
About my arrival, I won’t detail all of my story about my move to the UK. You will be able to find it in the appropriate section. I will really focus on my VIE experience (and not as an expat in general).
The 1st was a Saturday (Business France always – almost – start your contract on the 1st of the month). I was starting the VIE on Monday the 3rd. Just 2 days to take my marks in the city and to fin my bearings with the public transportation (and give my English skills a new lease of life).
My induction was chaotic. So much. The confusion. The disappointment… It sets the tone, huh?! 😉
If you don’t want to read everything in detail, let me offer you this summary:
1st day: the HR team I’ve met wasn’t here to welcome me.
1 week to get my security pass that allows me to move along the site (toilets included).
10 days to get my computer and desk phone, and get access to the local HR drive.
3 weeks to have an email address (well yeah I had a laptop but no email).
5 months to get access to the company intranet and to the HR tools (yeah yeah, the HR tools, you correctly read… My work tool! 5 months!).
6 months to have the ability to claim back my expenses (shall I remind I don’t have any salary and just an allowance that doesn’t allow me to travel but just to pay the rent and some food?!).
And all along my VIE, I had to fight everyday to clarify my position and ask for missions to all my colleagues I’ve met… It was exhausting.
I assure you, I succeeded to develop my competences too, just not as intensively as I expected. But I also developed my network and learn new ways of working.
If you want have more details, let me tell you my story…
(Hey you really read! You’re so curious!)
I had received an email from the HR Assistant, my future colleague, the week before my 1st day, to tell me that everything was ready and the entire team was impatiently expecting me. It was great!
Let’s start with the wonderful month of July (could you feel the irony???)
Monday morning, I receive a text from my manager telling me she had to go to the HQ, in France, and she unfortunately won’t be there for my 1st day but she wished me a very nice start. Well, that’s ok, I will see her tomorrow. It was really nice to take the time to text me, I thought.
8:30am: I’m at the reception of this huge campus. There is 6 big letters that form the name of this French company. The decoration is simple but still impressive. Well, they don’t sell printers (I have nothing against printers, they still useful today) but mainly planes, helicopters and satellites. 3D pictures on the walls make an impression.
But the excitement goes down. The receptionist announces me that no, there no Morning Induction today. I’ll come back to that later, but this Induction is really important because you receive your security brief, your pass, your accesses, etc. Nothing can be given to you before you received and approve the security information. I won’t detail anything about this campus, but let just say that courtesy calls are not allowed and it is very complicated to organise a school trip 😉
Anyway, I am still facing the receptionist and I ask her to call the HR department so someone can get me. Well, I don’t have my badge! And I’ve been there only once.
I’ve waited 40 minutes before HR staff takes the call and come and get me. 40 minutes… It’s a long time. Yeah, because the Director was not here and the Assistant took a day off. The HRBP I’ve met at my interview, came at the reception, gave me a site tour, and takes me to the HR office where he tells me he can’t stay longer with me (he has a few meetings). The HR team is small. They’re 4. Do the math… There is only one person I haven’t talk about. Another HRBP, who welcomes me with a great smile but who didn’t know it was my first day today and didn’t know about my missions. I have nothing to do. I don’t know my agenda. No computer. No badge to move and meet the managers… Fortunately (hopefully), this HRBP was nice and I could shadow her that day and attend her meetings.
The next day, the Director and the Assistant were there. My induction could start. Yes but here the thing… The pain doesn’t stop. The Assistant tells me the security brief takes place only once a week, on Mondays. I have to wait one week to attend the next one. So no badge, no computer, etc. The week will be awesome… Ah yeah I haven’t told you. I can’t even go to the toilets without a badge!!!
But it’s not done. My boss plans a meeting and announces me that from the 1st of July, the new CEO launched a new organisation. It changes the way of working, and to give you the short version, the new organisation modifies the HR scope and HR responsibilities. In 2 months, waiting for my contract, the company gave my job to another person! Nice start, isn’t it? But my line manager reassures me and tells me that now, with this organisation, it will be easier to me to get closer to other HRBPs and so to have a more global position on several business lines. Ok, that sounds cool anyway, however I was still disappointed by this change of situation of course. I never seen such a mess for a new starter. More than one would terminate the contract or raise a complaint to BF (which is not useful as they don’t lift a finger when you have an issue with the employer…).
During this month of July, I continued with the pain. The recruitment process with my position wasn’t followed correctly so the IT department couldn’t affect my equipment. I spent 10 days reading stuff. Presentations about the company, the program lines, the products, etc. Let said I was fed… I was tired about reading.
Between July and November, my time was shared between fixing my IT problems (50% actually…) and support to HR operations and/or on national/european projects.
But why all these access issues??? Let me clarify a few things.
First, I work for a company operating in a sensitive field, that has to protect itself against malicious activities. I work for a division specialised in Defence. This last word should give you a clue about the level of security. Also I work in a governmental campus. It’s not owned by this private company.
So I am a VIE, who can’t be considered as an employee because of this new organisation. I am external to the company. I am French working in an ultra-secured area in a campus where most of engineers work on UK government projects (only UK nationals have access to certain parts of the campus and have access to these projects). Could you the secured mess I can’t fit into?! And where all security processes have all reasons to kick me out and to refuse me any access?!
Then, since the 1st of July and this new organisation, the company takes advantage of this opportunity to modify the VIE status in the organisation. Before, VIEs were equivalent to employees and had the same accesses as a permanent employee (badge, IT, tools, etc.). Just not the same perks, but you already know that because you read my description about the VIE contract.
With the new organisation, the fantastic process-makers forgot about the VIE status. Yeah, yeah… forgot. Quite simply. I’ve learnt that several weeks after my start date, while I was trying to fix my access issues. In a big international firm like this one, everyone follows the processes and don’t take any personal initiatives. Especially when an unknown guy asks accesses to info/tools in the most secured area of the company. So how to resolve this impressive mess when you realise you’re not equivalent to an employee but you’re external to the company and you have to start your requests again following a more complicated process for externals. But you don’t fit in any process for the different externals. Because the VIE was forgotten! It haven’t even been transferred to an external status. You’re just inexistent. Not fitting in any box. Surrounded by a lot of nice people but helpless because they don’t know how to help you without circumvent the rules.
I had to fix my issues almost alone. Creating my own processes and trying to understand each step of each process so I contact each person in charge of each task to ask him/her to circumvent a little bit the rule. No one was really responsible and, finally, I had my accesses, my tools.
With this “oversight”, I also had to “harass” the finance department during 6 months to claim back my professional expenses, and a lot has been accumulated… I was living on my savings because the allowance was not enough to pay my rent, my bills… and pay in advance all business trips. A shame…
Month after month, I was desperately trying to place myself inside the organisation and to get rid of this “ghost” position. Well yeah, my job was given to another person and none of my line managers succeeded to build a new job with me. Not easy to introduce yourself to my colleagues when you don’t have an official position (and in this company, the job title brings a lot of value to the individual).
And not easy neither to ask for some work to do when most of your colleagues are split around the UK and they don’t think about you when they need help. However I couldn’t be mad at them. We might be in a digital era, the human being asks for some help to the people around him/her. And not to someone who’s hundreds of miles from them. It’s human. If I had a specific position with a recognized expertise inside the organisation, yes. But in my situation, then no, I just started.
What an image. A very good picture communicated to a new starter. What an induction programme worthy of a company like this one. I don’t talk about a start up company that doesn’t have the human or material/immaterial resources to organise all of this. I actually talk about a multinational company hiring hundreds of thousand of people, fulfilled HR departments, that welcomes VIE resources since many years!!! What a disappointment when you realise that the whole organisation is just a joke that keep going on only thanks to its passionate and motivated employees. Proceeding between pointless and out of date processes. What a disappointment when you were dreaming about working for such a company and you realise the mess it is.
I could leave actually. The termination of a VIE contract when the missions don’t correspond to the job description is a valid reason to resign. I could give up. Technically I could do it. I was tired about fixing my problems instead of the appropriate departments. Tired about asking missions to everyone. Tired about the lack of regard of my status.