In his 14-year career as an industrial and electrical engineer, Carlos Founaud has worked or done business in Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Portugal, Germany, Britain, Australia, and Italy before returning to his native Spain.
”I called myself a multicultural interface,” he laughs. ”If something broke down, the Spanish way was to focus on the problem—let’s have a look, make a decision, and do it. The Austrian way was to find out who’s guilty. The British way was to open the manuals and find the different procedures for fixing it—and afterward go to the pub.”
Founaud has found that this multicultural approach to problem solving, while maddening at times, has also made him better at his job. Now general managing director of iA Soft Aragón, a Saragossa firm that develops public administration software, he seeks out foreign programmers specifically to challenge the procedural mind-set on his home turf.
Foreign postings often offer more autonomy and responsibility, a faster pace, higher pay, and tax breaks, as well as the adventure of foreign lands and languages. The posts can also improve your skills.
”I believe working abroad exposes you to new technologies and creative approaches, and working with multicultural teams makes you more flexible,” Founaud says. ”You have to cope with ways of thinking that you could never imagine”—like thinking ahead to your next gig. ”Nobody is going to promise you a job when you return,” he notes. ”Things change so quickly in engineering; companies go up and down. Decisions promised today are not valid tomorrow, and contracts don’t mean anything. You have to look at going abroad as an adventure.”