Why millennials are drawn to this French technology firm – and flourishing in it

Thales Group's innovativeness, vast opportunities for career growth and emphasis on work-life balance strike a chord with young professionals

Thales has set up a variety of clubs and initiatives to foster a sense of camaraderie among its employees, to impart the message that it's not all work and no play. PHOTO: THALES GROUP

At Thales Group, it may surprise you to find that 40 per cent of its 2,000-strong Singapore workforce is aged between 23 and 38.

The figure is an anomaly, considering that the French technology multinational is in the business of designing and building high-technology solutions that serve the aerospace, defence and security, space, transportation and digital identity and security markets.

In such sectors, you would often find veteran staff who have spent years honing their skills in the technical ins and outs of the industry.

But take a closer look at Thales’ forays into the exciting field of digital technology, and you will understand why it attracts millennials  and how it has cultivated an environment that allows them flourish. This has resulted in the company's ranking at 50th out of 200 on the Singapore’s Best Employers 2021 list, and first in the Professional Services category. 

Thales' more recent market offerings include video analytics solution DIVA (Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics), which leverages CCTV tracking to facilitate crowd control; the world’s first eco-SIM card for smartphones made out of 100 per cent polystyrene from old refrigerators; and 3D printing or additive manufacturing technology that is revolutionising the design and manufacture of metal mechanical parts for the aerospace industry.

From aerospace and transport to beyond

Thales was established in Singapore in 1973 to support the expansion of aerospace-related activities in the Asia-Pacific region. It counts the likes of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Land Transport Authority and SMRT as its clients, leveraging its Digital Factory and multiple joint labs to develop solutions in support of Singapore’s digital and Smart Nation push.

“Over the last decade, we have embarked on a great deal of co-innovation and development with customers in Singapore, working in a unique collaboration model,” says Thales' country director and chief executive Kevin Chow.  

 

Thales' country director and chief executive Kevin Chow describes the company's work approach as one of co-innovation and development with customers, within an environment where employees are accountable for delivering results, and the management team and their peers help them achieve that. PHOTO: THALES GROUP

Giving staff international exposure

Working on a wide range of cutting-edge projects allows staff to push the boundaries of their professional capabilities, giving them ample opportunities to learn and grow.

One avenue to help them future-proof their careers is the Professional Conversion Programme for its avionics business. The programme covers areas such as business process analysis and optimisation, and digital skills such as cyber security and robotic process automation.

“We want to provide reskilling and upskilling programmes to enable staff to take up new roles and prepare for the civil aerospace sector’s eventual rebound after the pandemic,” says Thales' South-east Asia human resources director Jeannie Wong. 

To take full advantage of its wealth of expertise and talent, Thales relies on employees looking to gain international experience, by offering them opportunities to develop their careers within a global organisation that comprises 81,000 employees in 68 countries.

“Our hiring philosophy centres on candidates having strong technical expertise, vision in innovation and comfort in navigating complexity.

 

Thales' South-east Asia human resources director Jeannie Wong says reskilling and upskilling programmes enabled staff to take up new roles and prepare for the civil aerospace sector’s eventual rebound after the pandemic. PHOTO: THALES GROUP

"We encourage employees to take on new challenges and move out of their comfort zone, whether internationally or outside of their current business unit, so they can grow professionally and broaden their network,” says Thales' South-east Asia head of talent acquisition Fion Lam.

One employee who has benefited from these initiatives is Mr Aloysius Aldo Gani, 29, technical leader at Thales' Digital Identity and Security engineering competence centre, who credits his professional growth to the many opportunities he has been given over the years.

He says: “I joined the company in 2012 as an embedded software engineer. I was attracted by its strong worldwide presence, and this gave me the opportunity for an international attachment at the company's headquarters in France in 2016.

"I believe that my journey with the company has supported my career progression from an engineer to a technical leader today, and the exposure has also helped me grow on a personal level. 

“I have learnt to remain calm under pressure and to be more open to feedback, and I have broadened my horizons in general, particularly due to the three years living and working in France.”

 

 

Mr Aloysius Aldo Gani enjoyed an international attachment opportunity in France, where he lived and worked for three years. PHOTO: THALES GROUP

Not all work and no play

Beyond supporting its employees in the workplace, Thales also believes that providing them with work-life balance is an essential part of the company’s growth. 

To that end, Thales has set up a variety of clubs and initiatives to foster a sense of camaraderie among its employees, to impart the message that it's not all work and no play.

These include the Young Employees Society, which promotes the professional development of young talents in the company through casual networking events and organised workshops, and We In Thales, an association that champions the diversity and inclusion agenda, notably gender diversity.

“With over 2,000 people across four sites in Singapore, we need to engage a very diverse employee base, ranging from millennials to employees who have been with the company since its inception and seen it evolve,” says Mr Chow.

This staff-oriented focus has enabled Thales to provide a conducive working environment for its staff, and employees like Mr Gani appreciate these efforts.

“I think that Thales has a strong people culture. It looks internally first when it comes to employee promotion, and has put a lot of effort on diversity and gender equality.

"Work-life balance is a standout point for me personally as well,” he says. “I have been able to achieve this through flexible work arrangements, and through initiatives and recreational activities proposed by the company.”

An environment of trust

As part of Thales' people-centric culture, teamwork is encouraged and the company cultivates an environment of trust among its employees through open communication  channels and by reminding staff about maintaining accountability. 

This has enabled the company to deliver results, even during challenging times.

“In the past year (due to the pandemic), where we had to adapt to a hybrid work arrangement, trust is imperative,” says Mr Chow. “At the end of the day, employees are accountable for delivering results and keeping to their commitments, and the management team and their peers are available to help them do that.”

Through trust and teamwork, employees have been able to fully utilise their skills in the course of their work, and are encouraged to take on different responsibilities.

 

Ms Charolette Lee, a trainer and coach, is impressed by how Thales' different local projects play a key role in building Singapore’s economy and driving the future of technology here. PHOTO: THALES GROUP

Ms Charolette Lee, 27, a testing and commissioning engineer in the ground transportation business unit, says: “Thales has given me the opportunity to explore different sides of myself. What attracted me to join the company is how all its different local projects play a key role in building Singapore’s economy and driving the future of technology here.

“Since then, I have not only learnt how to be a trainer and coach, but also a listener and trainee to my fellow team members. My colleagues and I also embrace the company motto ‘One Team One Thales’, so we know that no one is  alone to face difficulties, and we share any achievements, big or small, together as a team.

“I enjoy working here because it gives me a sense of achievement knowing that daily operations run smoothly. Though we are not at the front line serving commuters, we experience different levels of fulfilment knowing that the work we put in is helping to improve the reliability of the system.”

 

This article first appeared in The Straits Times on 13 April 2021

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