Bernard Gauvain

A brief history of your career since leaving the University of Birmingham

Previously from 2004 until 2008 I was a Sales Manager for the French military shipyard Naval Group. Initially I was stationed in Brest, then the Paris headquarters. After, from 2008-2013, I was Commercial Manager for Thales Air Systems at Rungis in Paris, and since 2013 I’ve worked as a Commercial Manager for Thales Avionics in Toulouse, France. I work on managing large projects that usually cost tens or hundreds of millions of Euros.

Skills and knowledge from your postgraduate degree have you used in your career so far

I use an extremely diverse skill set in this role. Every single course I received at Priorsfield has been put to good use throughout my career.

Main work activities in your current role

The short version of my role is negotiating with Airbus. This involves negotiating the writing of contracts, amendments, and licences. Negotiation can also take place over the phone, in person, or even in writing. I can sometimes be negotiating with the customer, and also within the company. In my role I also produce letters and documentation and write reports based on analysis.

A typical day in your job

You’re required to read, read again, cross-check with multiple source, and then analyse information. You have to cross-check the results again, then write carefully about your findings. You then share the written analysis in a way that will convince everybody else about what you’ve found. All this is also interspersed with various other activities, such as: meetings and responding to emails, on-demand instant analysis, communicating with engineers to find out more about their findings, and asking for any further advice, so you know as much in advance of presenting information as possible.

Main challenges in your role

There’s a lot to get your head around. You have to understand the product, the customer, the engineers, all the stakeholders involved, the management team, and the myriad of regulations. My role involved getting a grip on the stakes, identifying the real risks lurking in a pool of minor inconveniences, and then choosing the ones I think are worth the fight.

Why did this type of work appeal to you?

It's a bit like being a fireman. The bigger the fire, the greater the thrill. But in the end, you're really doing your best when preventing the fire from igniting in the first place. Putting in measures to prevent the fire usually goes unnoticed, but when people start coming to you, on their own, asking for advice and guidance, then you know the work you’re doing is worthwhile, and beneficial to them.

Advice for students looking to enter this area of work?

It can take a long time, and lots of experience, but my group is now hiring profiles that are more diverse than they’ve ever been in terms of age, gender, origin, training and experience, so nothing it out of reach. After all, I made it, so you definitely can.