People at Sartorius: Meet Floris De Smet
Unlocking career and business potential abroad
Floris De Smet, Head of Application Services, has been on two international assignments during his time at Sartorius. In addition to discovering a new home, he found opportunities to advance his career and new ways of thinking in the United States and China.
This article is posted on Sartorius Blog.
When Floris joined Sartorius after his university studies 13 years ago, little did he know how much his career with the company would shape his life. Starting off as a Sales Representative in his home country of Belgium, he was eager to explore the world. “When Sartorius offered me the opportunity to work abroad I took it – in fact twice,” he explains. Two very different experiences.
Finding a new home abroad
After two years in his first position, Floris was willing to grow professionally. “I wanted to move on to Account Management and since there was no position in Belgium, Sartorius offered me one in the United States,” he recalls. “My professional ambitions and personal aspirations came together very nicely. I had always been fascinated by the U.S. and felt that if I ever got the chance to live there, I would definitely do it.” So he did and moved to New York. The assignment was planned for three years but then real life struck: “The U.S. was easy to adapt to and then I met my wife here – and before you know it, three years became a “lifetime.” To me, the U.S. is now more home than Belgium,” he continues.
Growing outside the comfort zone
This, however, did not stop him from embarking on another adventure abroad. In 2018, Sartorius offered him the chance to go to China and lead a team of application, product and platform development specialists, who support customers in implementing Sartorius technologies in their processes. Another step forward. “The goal was to get to know the Chinese organization better, see what they do successfully, to gain an understanding of the Chinese market and customers, and try to bring China and headquarters closer together in a mutually beneficial way,” Floris explains. “I was curious about stepping out of my comfort zone and eager to gain a new perspective on the business and how we do things – so I agreed.” Again, Floris stacked moving boxes. Destination: Shanghai. This time, of course, he did not go on his own. His wife and his two-month-old son accompanied him. “Sartorius helped us a lot with the administration and logistics. They have a good framework to assist with international assignments and they give you all the support you need along the way. It really took the stress out of organizing such a complex move,” Floris says.
Combining the best of two worlds to support the customer
Leading a team in China, Floris quickly recognized the different ways of working and the strengths of our Chinese colleagues* work culture. “In Europe and the U.S., we sometimes have a more theoretical approach and take our time developing conceptual frameworks.” The Chinese, on the other hand, have a very practical mindset. Given that quality and safety are not compromised, this can help us gain time. “Acting fast and providing efficient solutions are crucial in our work since we aim to help our customers minimize the time it takes for medical discoveries to reach the patient. That’s why combining these theoretical and practical approaches is a perfect fit for my team’s work in the field.”
At the beginning of this year, Floris and his family returned to the U.S. Summing up his time abroad, he states, “What I liked most is also what I liked least. You are forced to step into a foreign culture, where you explore different perspectives. This is both exciting and challenging. You miss the comfort, familiarity of well-known approaches and doing the things you know you are doing well. But then this is exactly what will help you grow.”
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