Jessica Leroy rejoint notre interview en anglais pour nous parler de son rôle en tant qu’avocate spécialisée dans le droit immobilier et le droit de l’énergie chez STEF. Elle nous explique comment sa maîtrise de l’anglais lui a ouvert des opportunités professionnelles tout au long de son parcours.
Jessica Leroy: “Speaking foreign languages, especially English, is like a form of freedom. It has become essential to have this tool in your pocket”.
In a world of increasing globalisation, the ability to communicate effectively in English has become a powerful asset for professionals seeking to expand their horizons and open doors to new opportunities. One such individual that personifies these qualities is Jessica Leroy, a seasoned lawyer specialising in real estate, property management and energy law at STEF, a renowned logistics and transportation company based in France. In this interview, Jessica offers us a glimpse into her world. She delves into her role at STEF, shares her personal journey with English, and how it has enhanced her professional life. She discusses how her proficiency in English empowers her to navigate international waters with precision and eloquence helping her to continuously achieve remarkable professional growth. During the course of the discussion, she also suggests some practical steps that other professionals could take when searching for ample resources that will help them in their English language journey.
“Our motto is to ensure the freshness of our goods and to control food temperatures, thereby promoting healthy eating and minimising the risk of consuming food with excessive temperatures”.
Stepping into the spotlight from her office, Jessica sheds some light on STEF, a logistics and transportation company focused on food and temperature-controlled goods, and the role she plays within the company. She paints a vivid picture of the significance of the work STEF performs and the considerable amount of planning and coordination needed to deliver such an essential service. When asked about STEF, she responds, “We are not really known by the public”. She acknowledges that although the company may not be widely recognised, the tasks they carry out are crucial to the everyday lives of consumers. The company is heavily involved in the handling, holding, and transportation of food, ensuring that it is kept at the right temperature and delivered to their various destinations in a timely manner. As Jessica explains, the groups extensive network that spans across Europe, with strategically located facilities and a fleet of vehicles, facilitating the seamless movement of goods, a clear picture of a well-oiled machine is in view. Beyond logistics, STEF also ventures into real estate recognising the importance of property ownership to support their clients’ supply chain requirements. Apart from matters pertaining to energy law, this is one of the key areas within the organisation where Jessica’s expertise comes into play.
“I now have a team of five people, we deal with both real estate law and energy law and we have expanded a lot lately”
Reflecting on her journey, Jessica recalls her early days as the sole legal expert in the company, “Ten years ago, I was alone working in this field for the group” she shares. However times have changed, Jessica currently spearheads a department of five legal specialists in real estate and energy law. “The idea of having a team with expertise in real estate and energy really became the essence of the group” she proudly states. STEF’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and proactive measures has been instrumental in driving the remarkable growth of the legal department. Jessica remains optimistic about the future, envisioning further expansion and development for the department. She clearly outlines the company’s recognition of the importance of focusing on the sustainability of its activities and highlights the company’s commitment to being creative and proactive in implementing these measures. Through legal channels, the company strives to achieve its sustainability goals.
“We obviously have foreign clients and with real estate being mixed with our core commercial business it is an opportunity for me to negotiate in English and write contracts in English”.
As the conversation shifts towards the role of English in Jessica’s professional growth. She reveals how STEF’s expansion beyond France compelled her to work extensively in English. “We expanded a lot out of France, especially in Italy, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland,” she explains. While she initially dealt primarily with French cases, the company’s expansion saw her having to deal with regulation and legislation outside of France. This required local expertise and collaboration with international counterparts, prompting her to pool resources with foreign law firms and engage in regular communication in English with her colleagues. Negotiating contracts and advising clients in English not only honed her legal acumen but also provided invaluable insight into cross-cultural communication and international business practices. Evidently, she attributes these experiences to her increased use of English in a professional environment. She recognises the opportunity that is presented to her, enabling her to refine her linguistic skills to a level that allows her to be efficient in her work. “So, it’s a good opportunity that the group has given me to work on that” she adds.
When asked about the initial challenges she faced when starting her career in English, a moment of contemplation followed. A gentle smile appears on her face, and she responds with a thoughtful ‘oh.’ Reflecting on her language journey she humbly acknowledges the ongoing nature of her progress. “I am not sure that I’ve passed these difficulties” she remarks, demonstrating her commitment to continuous improvement and growth in navigating the linguistic nuances of her role. As with any language journey there are challenges that are inevitable and Jessica recognises this. “Legalese is really complex” she admits. Certainly, as a lawyer additional challenges may be posed in regards to writing and structuring contracts in English. “It’s tricky when you have to structure your mind”, she explains. However, it is clear that she views these obstacles as exciting opportunities for growth and resourcefulness. “So, yes this is a challenge for me but also exciting, because when you are challenging yourself you also find that you have resources that you don’t even expect.”
“I am surrounded by English speaking colleagues and this is something that is really nice”
When discussing the support received from STEF, Jessica highlights the indirect assistance she received through daily interactions with English-speaking colleagues at work. She credits this exposure to native English speakers as a great help in her development. She discusses how indirectly STEF fostered an environment conducive to language improvement and cultural understanding. Recognising the need for specialised language training, the company made provisions for Jessica to undertake supplementary English lessons. However, for legal-specific language learning, Jessica sought external assistance. “My first concern was finding a serious company” she explains. She details her experience in finding suitable companies for Legal English language lessons. Telling us that her primary source of research was the internet, but she faced challenges in identifying reputable companies due to the lack of feedback and information available at the time. However, she managed to find a reliable company a number of years ago that met her needs, and more recently discovered another company that she trusted enough to help her achieve her language goals.
When presented with the question of how these companies managed to gain her trust, she responds with a playful and mischievous chuckle. After this light-hearted moment, she shares a perspective shaped by her profession, stating, « As a lawyer, I have to say that I like to have things clearly organised, written, with a schedule clearly displayed.” These are elements that instil trust. Additionally, she emphasises the significance of these companies engaging with in-house lawyers and legal professionals who specialise in specific subjects and idiomatic expressions. This targeted approach captures their attention and establishes credibility. Also, she emphasises the importance of cultural immersion, highlighting that becoming bilingual is challenging without exposure to a native English-speaking environment. By involving native English speakers, the language learning experience extends beyond technicalities, embracing the cultural nuances that enrich communication.
“In France, we don’t like making mistakes and lawyers also don’t like making mistakes”
Reflecting on the impact of her English proficiency in her professional life, Jessica emphasises the sense of confidence it has instilled in her. Communicating effectively in a foreign language and being taken seriously in professional settings have been empowering experiences. The ability to negotiate, write contracts, and engage in cross-cultural discussions has expanded her professional horizons and allowed her to build diverse and successful teams. The heightened value that English can bring to a professional’s career prospects is unparalleled, and Jessica shares this sentiment “I think the way I see speaking foreign languages especially English it’s kind of like a freedom. You are able to communicate with others and be taken seriously”, she reveals. Jessica makes it known that by displaying confidence through your linguistic skills, you have the ability to inspire and motivate others, which is a quality that can positively impact your teams and contribute to their growth. She concludes by asserting how essential a tool it is to have in your pocket.
The story of Jessica at STEF serves as an inspiration to all French professionals seeking to advance their careers through the use of English. Her personal journey demonstrates how mastering a foreign language can unlock a world of opportunities, fostering personal growth, and driving professional success. As globalisation continues to shape the professional landscape, English proficiency has become an indispensable tool, bridging gaps, nurturing connections, and propelling individuals like Jessica towards greater achievements.
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