María Quiñones, Commercial Performance Controller for Schneider Electric France, started her career with the company in 2012 in Argentina. María was born and raised in Buenos Aires and had always dreamed of living in Paris. Four years ago, she left the City of Fury to live and work in the City of Lights.
Natalia Pachón: How has your career evolved since the day you joined the company?
María Quiñones: [Schneider] was my first full time job in Buenos Aires, [Argentina]. I was very excited to start, and it was a very good experience. I started in Finance with the different Project Controllers and [performing] some administrative tasks. Then I changed to controlling to learn a bit more about the different processes we have in Schneider. I think I grew the most in those three years that I was there, it was [a] very rich experience.
Argentina is a very strong but small front office, so I was working with different directors and managers. And then in 2015 I took the challenge to move to Paris [when] I found a position in the Corporate Team. Again, it was a very rich experience. I was working in English with French and international people and I learned the different processes we have from the corporate point of view.
Finally, at the end of 2018, I wanted to take a new challenge to work in French. So, now I’m part of France operations, I’m in the Pricing and Controlling Team and I’m in charge of the transactional entity for France.
NP: So far, two countries. Do you have a favorite?
MQ: I really like Paris. It was like a dream to come to work here and now I’m creating my home. But I really miss Argentina, so I think Buenos Aires is my favorite place so far.
NP: What is the first thing that you do when you move into a new home?
MQ: Personally, what I do first is to check the lighting. Lighting is very important to me when I go to hotels and other places. And regarding Schneider, I always check if they have our products. Normally [I check for] residential products but I like to talk to the people that are in charge of the building or the hotel, [and ask them] if they like to work with us, [and] how they feel about Schneider.
I’m glad because most of the time they have Schneider products. The few times that there are no Schneider products I like to say that I work for Schneider and I’d like to know why they pick the other products and not ours, and in this case, I try to see how we can get this new customer.
María’s favorite part of the job:
“the people… working with different teams and different people in my seven years is definitely the best part of it.”
What are some of your favorite moments of your career?
Schneider has a very important part which is the people, so working with different teams and different people in my seven years is definitely the best part of it.
Here in Paris, I think it would [have to] be my first Christmas or New Year with my new team. All the people were being really kind.
NP: What are some of your fondest memories of growing up?
MQ: In Argentina one of my cherished moments will be my family holidays in [the] summer, altogether on the beach. Family in Argentina is very important, so we used to go there with my grandparents, cousins and uncles. We used to go together with some friends too to dream how the future will be. And then of course the food, the family reunions every weekend.
“For me home is where my people are. Now my husband, but also my parents, my brother and my friends. I will say home is where you feel that, and where you want to be. Today I feel like I have two [homes].”
NP: What does home mean to you?
MQ: For me home is where my people are. Now my husband, but also my parents, my brother and my friends. I will say home is where you feel that, and where you want to be. Today I feel like I have two [homes]. So, with my husband here in Paris we are building our home and in Argentina with my family and friends I have my childhood home, which will always remain home to me.
NP: At the end of the day, after all these countries and continents, do you have a place at home where you always feel more at home?
MQ: I don’t have a special place, maybe the living room. I think when you’re in your own place, and you look around and see that you are comfortable, this is how you feel most at home. But also, here at Schneider after seven years where I spend more than 10 hours a day, it feels like home. Le Hive is my second home. So, I think it is very important for me and for everyone when you like where you work.
NP: Comfort and safety, how do you conciliate both of them at home?
MQ: In both countries where I’ve lived, safety and comfort are very important. For me it is the Schneider rule: safety first. I trust our products one hundred percent. Now [that we are becoming] leaders in the market on the comfort side, I’m really happy when I see myself and other people looking at Schneider products with a really modern approach and nice taste.
“In both countries where I’ve lived, safety and comfort are very important. For me it is the Schneider rule: safety first. I trust our products one hundred percent.”
NP: How will you celebrate Christmas this year?
MQ: This year we will celebrate with my husband and my small family in France. I have an aunt and two cousins here, so we are staying together in my aunt’s house, it’s a very familiar celebration for us. We will go to church probably and then we’ll have dinner.
NP: What is Christmas like in Argentina?
MQ: In Argentina it is summer. For the last years it has been really hot, almost 30 degrees Celsius. We normally stay in the pool with our bikinis until very late at night and then we like to prepare all the food and celebrate all together. We are a lot of people: 20 or 25, so it’s a big celebration.
NP: What do you want for Christmas?
That’s not always an easy question. I will say health and happiness for my family and friends first of all. And personally, I will like a puppy as I am a dog fan and some books in French and Spanish.
NP: If I would ask you to choose three words to define what it is like to work at Schneider, what words would you choose?
MQ: I would say passion. [You need passion] to work here, people are very passionate.
I would say change. In my seven years with Schneider, I’ve been changing almost all the time, and the company as well is growing, changing and looking into the future.
And finally, I think I will say human. I think Schneider is very human and one of the biggest assets is its employees.
NP: Do you have any cravings from back home? Any guilty pleasures?
MQ: I try not to. But I think I’ll go back to the food. From time to time, I’d like to either prepare or buy Argentinian food, I really miss it. On top of the family, and the friends, food is what I miss the most.
In Argentina we have a lot of very sweet dishes, so the most common is called Alfajor, a chocolate cookie with caramel inside. That’s what we ate when we were kids.
In the salty part, we try to eat Empanadas, a salty pastry with a filling inside of meat, vegetables, etc. And, of course, the meat. Argentinian meat is wonderful, I really miss the barbecues, or Asados as we use to call it.
This blog post is part of the series ‘What Does ‘Home’ Mean to You?’, created to understand the concept of home and its meaning by discovering the unique stories of expatriate employees located in China, France and the United States. They all have left their native countries to start a life in foreign lands and to build a home outside their own. To know more about the series, visit the other entries below: