CERN Alumnus: Olivier Denis
At CERN from 2003 to 2008 Project Engineer in the Accelerator and Technology sector.
Today: Head of Sales and Marketing in a high-tech Swiss company.
Olivier knew when he joined CERN back in 2003 that his contract was limited to three years, and was determined to make the most of his experience with the Organization, gaining precious knowledge in domains such as cryogenics, working shoulder to shoulder with true experts in their various fields. Describing himself as having gained a solid understanding of technologies employed at CERN he added that working at CERN was “the most interesting and varied job I have ever had”.
Whilst at CERN, Olivier worked as a Project Engineer, managing the specifications, contract follow-up and quality assurance of components (originating from four different European companies) used in the LHC quadruple and dipole magnets. At the time, he harbored a few regrets that he left the Organization prior to the LHC being switched on, but these feelings are now eclipsed by his heartfelt appreciation of “the collaborative and international environment fostered at CERN”. He also argues, “The lack of emphasis on profitability at CERN, compared to more intense pressures in commercial companies, leads to more intellectual freedom and greater creativity”. Working at CERN also opened his mind to different cultures and customs, making him realise that conventions linked to nationality are “neither right nor wrong, but simply different”. This is a concept that has stood him in good stead in his current professional role, where he travels the world, prospecting potential customers, following-up on leads and representing his company in international trade fairs.
After one three-year contract and two one-year extensions it was time for Olivier to leave CERN, how did he manage his transition from CERN to industry? “I realised that I had a talent and a taste for a more commercial role and was keen to remain in Switzerland, so I took a diploma in Sales and Marketing as well as German lessons, culminating in a three-month intensive course in Germany”.
Olivier now works in a company, which develops technology for security checkpoints, more precisely, products to detect metal in passengers’ shoes at airports. “Anyone travelling through Geneva airport recently will have used our time-saving products”, smiles Olivier. He beams even more when he hears that the CEO of Geneva airport, Andre Schneider is also a CERN Alumnus! “This is why the CERN Alumni Network is so powerful and I want to be part of it”, explains Olivier. “On a personal level it enables me to engage with other members who might be doing a job similar to mine and we can exchange ideas and discuss different approaches”. Olivier is also keen to benefit from the network to recruit for his company from within the CERN Alumni pool. “We are looking for a specific profile, which we are convinced we can find on the CERN Alumni Network. As a start-up, we need people who are capable of managing a project from A to Z, and at CERN, I recall it’s not uncommon to find such profiles, in the Cryolab & Instrumentation Section, for example where there was an immense amount of innovation going on, ideas were conceived and developed through to the final, working product.”
Olivier begins to reminisce, “My favourite memories of CERN are the team-work and the spirit of pulling together to help everyone else. I also made some amazing friends with whom I am still in contact, thanks to CERN Clubs which help those with no roots in the area create very strong links. Professionally CERN was a springboard for my career and has had a lasting effect on me. This is why it is really great to be able to formalise my links with the Organization via the CERN Alumni Network”.