Practicing and Teaching French: The Personal and Professional Joy
“Concentrating on the language means you need to listen more and try harder to understand another person.” Find out more about how practicing and teaching French have helped Celeste’s skills in the workplace.
The out of hours interests, pastimes and hobbies of Shell employees is as diverse as the workforce itself. Shell encourages these pursuits. Not only can they help with an individual’s work/life balance but they can also benefit their careers at Shell. Celeste’s ongoing quest to develop her French language skills gives her much joy while helping improve skills she applies at work.
Celeste Wang loves speaking French. After studying the language in France earlier in her education, Celeste knew that after returning home to China she needed to make an effort to maintain her proficiency in the language.
Celeste works in Shanghai where she is a Key Account Manager in Shell’s Lubricant’s business in China: it’s primarily a B2B focused role she’s been in for six months. Celeste has been working with Shell for two years, joining directly after graduation.
“I knew that, as they say, if I didn’t use it I would lose it. That would have been a pity because I get such joy from French,” Celeste noted. “So I actively looked around for venues in Shanghai where I could continue my French education. Fortunately I found a number of outlets where I could converse in French and, often, enjoy the culture and society that goes with that.”
So Celeste took on honorary work as the general secretary for Groupement des Centraliens en Chine: an organisation for the alumni for all Centraliens (graduates of Ecole Centrale) in China. “This gives alumni a forum to network, converse in French and get to know each other better. It also organises conferences and seminars on various subjects,” Celeste said.
Further, during her annual leave, Celeste participated in a French-speaking contest organised by CCTV (China Central Television). To Celeste’s delight, she came second.
She also occasionally helps the French Consulate in Shanghai. “I helped consulate staff organise some events and participated in French singing competitions where I acted as one of the judges. It was lovely listening to a variety of performers singing in French and a great way to use the language with other French speakers,” Celeste said.
A broader view of cultures, differences and diversity
Celeste sees her experiences during the French speaking contest as important learnings. “I had to take on very challenging tasks: to be calm and resilient when facing them. During that contest, CCTV organised training for us by CCTV broadcasters who gave us public speaking skills training. Those experiences have all been of great help to my work.”
“I also realised that French was helping me learn much more than just the language. I believe learning and knowing the language allows you to better understand the culture it comes from. French is giving me a broader view of cultures, differences and diversity. These lessons also help me in my day job at Shell; as a Key Account Manager, I work with a range of Shell customers. They are often a mix of nationalities and cultures. My French skills mean I am more open to clients differences and am more patient in understanding and engaging with them.”
Celeste also volunteers to teach French to a mixed group of professionals who are interested in French culture and the language. ‘Our group meets up each Sunday,” Celeste said. “While it’s informal it certainly helps with my coaching skills: focusing on explaining things clearly and thoroughly.”
French out of hours benefiting the day job at Shell
As Celeste’s Shell role is focused on sales, communication skills are vital to her job. She is responsible for a number of direct customers.
“Concentrating on the language means you need to listen more and try harder to understand another person. This helps develop patience and focus. Also, the discipline and process of learning French over time has helped shaped my communication skills and influencing style. Just organising events in another language has helped improve my leadership skills – and patience,” Celeste said with a grin.
“Active listening is vital to my job because my focus is on developing the relationships Shell has with our customers and helping the team find new opportunities to increase sales volume. This covers a breadth of transactions including pricing and contract negotiation, taking orders, delivery and billing: everything to do with B2B sales.”
Singing for Shell
For Celeste there’s been one special overlap of her love of French and her Shell work. “When I joined Shell in Shanghai, I published an announcement on the internet seeking participants to form a French singing band. With the support of musicians from French, Chinese and Columbian backgrounds, our band was created and we performed at Shell’s annual party in Shanghai. It was great fun.
“I’ve really appreciated the support Shell has shown me, not just in singing at our party but generally: by being so positive about my personal interest in French. My line manager and Shell management generally have been especially supportive,” she said.
“But I’m not unique. I know my work colleagues also feel encouraged by Shell to find and develop their out of hours interests or hobbies which they love. And I’d like to think my interest in French has also been part of that encouragement,” Celeste added.
Celeste is also involved in supporting a number of community oriented projects in Shanghai in addition to improving her French.
“Shell’s encouragement means a lot. It has a positive impact on how we see and regard each other at work. You understand individuality and personal differences better: that we are more than our day jobs,” Celeste said. “So we tend to be more open with each other about what interests us more broadly: out of hours. It means we chat about a range of different things we do and get to know each other better. That makes work more interesting. I like that.”