Profile of French alumni n°1 : Léon GE, Operations Specialist, Google
Read profile n°2 : WANG Zihan, Fonder, VivaLing.
Read profile n°3 : Chia Yew Boon, CEO and Founder of Catalyst Advisors
Read profile n°4 : Yvonne Guo, Doctoral student
Read profile n°5 : Tang Hwa Kwee, Journalist
Read profile n°6 : Lim Kah Bin, Programme manager of the French Double Degree Programme at National University of Singapore (NUS)
Read profile n°7 : Zhiheng PNG, Ministry of Finance
Read profile n°8 : Zainudin Nordin, former Member of Parliament and President of the Football Association of Singapore
Born in China, Léon GE Dongliang started his studies in Singapore before leaving for France. Upon returning to Singapore, he is today Operations Specialist at Google. The profile of this French alumnus is the first in a series of interviews, leading to the launch of the France Alumni platform on 14 January.
Please introduce yourself in a few words
My name is Léon, I come from China. It has been 9 years now since I arrived in Singapore. From 2008 to 2012, I lived in France, in Paris, Grenoble, Vichy etc… first of all, to learn French and to immerse myself in French culture, and later to train in Engineering at the Ecole des Mines in Paris. I now work as Project Manager for Google in Singapore. In my free time, I am much involved with the French alumni associations : I am Vice President of the French Grandes Ecoles Alumni Association at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I also like to participate in different cultural activities linked to France and the Francophonie.
Why did you choose to study in France ?
In all honetsy, coming from a small village 300km from Shanghai where we do not even have electricity, I never imagined to go overseas. It is a series of "Chinese miracles" which gave me this opportunity, first of all, to be part of 20 selected participants for an exchange programme between the Chinese and Singaporean Ministries of Education and later to be accepted to the FDDP (French Double Degree Program) programme between the Singapore university and the Ecole des Mines. I had the opportunity to join a comprehensive programme, for 3 years, which offered a complete immersion in the country. During my course, I had the opportunity to do several internships, especially at l’Oréal and later at a consulting firm called Metis Consulting.
Which differences have you noticed between the Singaporean and French university systems?
In Singapore, the model is anglo-saxon : the universities have several thousand students, the infrastructure is very adequate, the resources for research very important. In France and especially at Mines, the scale is smaller, but the teaching resources is extremely important and impressive. Another difference is the link between specialisation and generalisation. In Singapore, we specialise from the first year. In France however, we are exposed to a large number of subjects and knowledge, from sociology to quantum physics to fine arts. This diversity allows what the school calls the development of students. Personally, I am absolutely convinced by this aproach. I think that the possibility to acquire as much varied knowledge is an extraordinary thing.
Today you are working with Google. How has the link with France influenced your career ?
I have been Operations Specilist for almost two years at Google. We are a team of operational performance management in the Human Resources Department. My work basically involves optimising and continually improving the collaboration process among our teams in 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
France had an impact on my career on two levels. First of all, it is thanks to this same French alumni network where I was able to meet the person who became my boss and to get interviews at Google ! Subsequently, Google being a global enterprise, I have several French colleagues, and being able to speak directly with them in their language immediately creates a strong and important connection at work. It is really an effective tool.
Can you share with us some anecdotes, some memories with France ?
Three things come to mind : the food, the people gens and the language . Firstly, French dining culture is a means of connecting with very important people for me. It is only in France where I could, over a meal lasting several hours, discuss topics ranging from politics, to art or philosophy. It is something which I miss very much. It goes along with a connected people. I believe that this is what one calls the French brotherhood.
Secondly, the French. To many, the French are a foreign and strange people. They are very different from other Westerners, and one criticises them sometimes, as they are very critical. There is an enormous amount of things to learn from them as they are extremely rational people. Each Frenchman has an anlytical side. This way of thinking is fascinating to me.
Finally, the French language. In the beginning, I did not find it beautiful, because I was very used to English. But over time, I developed an obsession for the language. For instance, I like that the adjectives are placed after the noun, which leaves us time to reflect. In comparison, the Chinese language does not have grammar can appear too vague. I think that each person on Earth should learn a bit of French to acquire a new way of thinking.
Finally, can you tell us about your commitment in the alumni community and your expectations of the future platform ?
At Google, I learnt that the knowhow is extremely exprensive to produce, but cheap to reproduce. This task of dissemination of the knowledge is close to my heart. My engagement as alumnus is motived by the same reasons. Each has his/her own knowledge, but by connecting them, it becomes much more powerful, for the individuals in the group as well as for the group collectively. I replied to your request for an interview through solidarity : i know how much the help of former alumni was important to me at my start. More personally, I am very fond of discovering new subjects, new people and I thus find my pleasure in this network. i hope that the France Alumni project will be at a very high level and easy to use for all. It is important that we work together to make this project known. It is initiated by the Embassy of France, the Institut français and Campus France Singapour but I hope that each will do its part to make this project progress. I encourage all alumni, according to their abilities, to invest themselves in this community. The world will be better if diverse, and the Francophonie has a big part to play.