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The International Link team consists of Elodie Gysler-Buchheim, Head of International Link and Laurine Chiarini, International Link Officer.

I have had the great pleasure of working with Laurine and Elodie on several occasions at International Link and their dedication and commitment is second to none. Their mission is an initiative created by the CVCI, (Chambre Vaudoise du Commerce et de l'Industrie), which aims to represent and support international entities of the canton of Vaud. International Link promote excellence generated and shared by companies, organizations and universities, thus helping to create a common strategy and convey a positive image for both local and global entities. Moreover, facilitating integration into the local economy and providing a platform for sharing experiences is a key part to their best practices.

Amongst all this, the International Link activities are intended for the following groups:
•    Management of international entities
•    Representatives and staff of international entities
•    International employees
•    Spouses of international employees

I was lucky enough to sit down with them and discuss their fabulous work, including the upcoming event, the Vaud International Business Award.

I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

Sunita Sehmi: When did International Link start?
Elodie and Laurine: The Vaud Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CVCI) created International Link about 5 years ago. The canton of Vaud is home to several international companies, Swiss and foreign, often with needs different from those of local SMEs.
Sunita Sehmi: What are its aims?
Elodie and Laurine: Our aim is to represent and support international entities in the canton of Vaud. We provide a platform for sharing experiences and best practices through the organization of various events. This could include a round table on specific topics, a golf tournament or meetings with the local authorities. We also work to support their integration into the local economy.
Sunita Sehmi: How long have you been there?
Laurine: I joined the CVCI and International Link 3 years ago. Before that, I worked for a Swiss NGO. Originally, my background is in languages and literature. I had the opportunity to study abroad for two years both in Russia and in Scotland. This has really helped me when it comes to understanding the needs and challenges linked with adapting to a new environment. Plus my background in economics helps too!

Elodie: I worked as a consultant for several years at PwC, mainly in the bank and public sectors.  I then joined the CVCI as head of International Link about two years ago. I am now also general secretary of the CVCI.  
Sunita Sehmi: What type of support do you offer?
Elodie and Laurine: We organize events on specific topics depending on our member companies’ needs and requests, for instance in the fields of HR, tax or recently the effects of the strong Swiss franc. We also organize Reloc’coffees every month and Welcome Days three times a year for newly arrived expatriates and their partners. We consider that the integration of foreign employees and their families in the local community plays an important role in the successful integration of a company and subsequently into the local community.
Sunita Sehmi: Describe some difficult challenges for expatriates?
Elodie and Laurine: One of the most difficult things is probably to integrate knowing that you will be in the country for a limited period of time, which does happen in cases of short-term assignments. Depending on where you lived previously, some things can be surprising and you need to make more of an effort to adapt. For example expats struggle with the Swiss stores opening times or the childcare system.
Sunita Sehmi: In your opinion why do people find it difficult to adjust?
Elodie and Laurine: The local culture can sometimes seem complicated at first. There are so many rules to follow, and making « real » friends can take some time. Even speaking the language is not always necessarily a guarantee that one will adjust easily….  
Sunita Sehmi: All the literature tells us to communicate with more compassion and more empathy but how can we practice that?
Elodie and Laurine: I think it starts with everybody’s own responsibility. Respecting people and doing one’s best to answer their queries is a state of mind, something that can be practised every day no matter who the person is: customers, service providers, members or partners.
Sunita Sehmi: Could you share some of your strategies that expatriates could use to help integrate easily into the region?
Elodie and Laurine: Learning the local language obviously helps. Otherwise, try to be part of a group, be it by starting a conversation with other parents at school, joining a group or a local sports club or by participating in events for expatriates and spouses. The Welcome Days and Reloc’coffees we organize at International Link are often a great way to meet new people who are in the same position.
Sunita Sehmi: What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Elodie and Laurine: Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Sunita Sehmi: What’s the next challenge for locals and globals?
Elodie and Laurine: I think nowadays, everybody has to be able to adapt quickly and show flexibility. Staying open-minded is important both for locals and globals. Foreign companies and their employees bring a lot to the region in terms of job creation, research and development or collaboration with local partners. In terms of the image they give abroad, they are great ambassadors for the canton.
Sunita Sehmi: What's next for you?
Elodie and Laurine: One of our objectives with International Link is to promote the excellence generated and shared by international companies as well as universities in the canton of Vaud. We also work to convey a positive image of these entities. This year, the second edition of the Vaud International Business Award (PVEI – Prix Vaudois des Entreprises Internationales, in French) will take place. Its aim is to highlight the contribution of international entities and thank them for their commitment and loyalty.

For more information about this year’s edition of the Vaud International Business Award you can register online directly here: http://www.cvci.ch/award/.

And for more information about International Link, contact:
International Link - http://www.cvci.ch/en/international-link
Chambre vaudoise du commerce et de l'industrie

Av.d'Ouchy 47
Case postale 315
1001 Lausanne
Tél.: +41 21 613 36 63 / Fax: +41 21 613 35 05


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Sunita is an Executive Coach, Trainer and Consultant. She is of Indian origin and was born in London before moving to Geneva in 1992. She has a Psychology background (specialising in Occupational Psychology) and a Post Graduate in the Development and Training of Adults. She also completed a Masters in Ressources Humaines, Coaching et Gestion des Carrières at the University of Geneva.

During her 25 years experience Sunita's drive has always been to help people to do their best and hence led her to create Walk The Talk.

In her free time Sunita is a Mentor for the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship and a proud member of the School in The Cloud Team.