60 Seconds with a PIT Member – Fernando Alves

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Maritime Connection Days program welcome lunch in May with the first participants of this strategic French-Australian initiative 2018

Fernando Alves, Head of Industry Department for Australia, NZ & PNG, Business France 

How long have you worked in International Trade & Investment?

In July 2018, I will have worked in International Trade & Investment for a year. I previously worked in the private sector, within Economic Advisory and Public Policy.

Question 2: How did you get into the sector?

At a young age, I moved from Portugal to France, and finally to England, and was therefore exposed to several hard transitions, linguistically and culturally. Fortunately, this allowed me to be sensitive to cultural cues and later to easily bridge the gap between different sets of business ethics.

I came to Australia to study for a master’s of business management at the University of Sydney. I had applied for an industry placement competition and after a challenging interview process (8 rounds), I was given an internship at the Tech and Services department at the French Trade Commission (Business France) here in Sydney. It was a great experience which combined consulting, lobbying and business development.

Once I had finished my placement I was given the opportunity to work as a Trade Advisor for the Industry and Cleantech Department at the French Trade Commission.

I was working directly under the Head of the Industry Department and was further mentored in international development through the organisation of large trade missions with a focus in the maritime industry and individual projects spanning through various industrial sectors ( defence, mining, construction, transport, renewable energy etc).

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Trade Mission Pole Mer– Bae Systems Perth Australia 2017

As a trade advisor, I also had the chance to travel with clients to other countries to promote their international strategies and to attend end of year seminars.

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Business France – French Embassy in Jakarta Australia 2017

Since then I have been promoted to the Head of Industry Department where my main activity now lies in the maritime industry, renewable energy and construction sector.

I am now as well as managing individual projects, I am organising the first French Acceleration Program dedicated to the Australian Maritime Industry which the main goal is to ensure that the selected 8 French companies set up a local presence and are aligned with a strategic local partner in Australia. This program was inaugurated by the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in May 2018 in light of the French President Emmanuel Macron official visit in Australia.

Question 3: What do you think are the biggest challenges of working in international business?

Managing Client expectations on both exporting internationally and their expectations in regards to meetings. I have had during multiple times, clients wanting me to set up meetings on a Saturday or Sunday with Australian CEOs. Timezones. The time difference between France and Australia spans between 8 and 10 hours difference. This can be challenging when it comes to clients meetings, attending steering committees or zone meetings. Different approaches to doing business. The way French companies approach their business ethics differs greatly from the Australians. Some French businesses operate internationally with the policies and procedures they have developed at home without adapting their own practices to the Australian market. This is something we focus on in order to ensure that the company understands the business ethics where it operates.

Question 4: Do you have any funny stories to share from your experience working across different cultures?

After the French President Emmanuel Macron accidentally referred to the Australian Prime Minister’s wife as ‘Delicious’ on his recent visit to Australia. I have had many comments from the Australian colleagues and companies that I work with asking me if when they come over to France if it is appropriate for them to call other peoples wifes delicious.

 Question 5: What do you enjoy the most about your current role?

I thoroughly enjoy the plethora of different range of projects within the industry sector. One day I am organising a trade mission comprised of 15 companies within the maritime sectors, and on the same day, I am preparing for a meeting with a company which manufactures explosives for the mining industry.

In my current role as the head of the department, I also thoroughly enjoy the freedom to be able to choose the upcoming trade missions and the strategies to best promote the French companies in Australia, New Zealand and PNG.

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Trade Mission Pole Mer– AMC Perth Australia 2017

Question 6: In your opinion, how can one best succeed in a career of international business?

Network. Ensure that you surround yourself with people in different sectors, being private or government in order to have a vast network in which you can rely upon should you need to.

Cooperation. In international trade, cooperating with other governments, public authorities is key to successfully engage with others to build a strong network of contacts and to gain industry knowledge.

A good mentor. I was lucky to be mentored by professional that had many years of experience, a plethora of knowledge and contacts. Without his help and wisdom I would have the skills I have today.

Creativity. Some companies have great products which are complex to promote in foreign markets as their intrinsic value isn’t easily marketable. Finding creative ways to commercially promote those products needs creativity.

Language. I have had the luck to be able to live in 4 different countries which have allowed me to learn 4 languages natively. Being multilingual is a key skill in international business as it is easier to connect with people and convey a message to people in their native language

In your opinion, how can one best succeed in a career of international business?

I believe that having ambition, drive and always wanting more allows one to reach their potential. I also think that without a good network and group surrounding you allowing to grow, it is harder to be thoroughly successful and this is why I highly recommend becoming a member of PIT!

Connect with Fernando on LinkedIn

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Read other Member 60 Seconds Interviews:

Sophie 1
Sophie Marshall – ProChile
Daniel Spencer – Enterprise Ireland


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Fernando Alves – Business France
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Lachlan Bagus – UK Department of


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