I’ve now been with Esker UK for three months, working as an Internal Account Manager specialising in our P2P solution. Settling in has been really enjoyable as I’m surrounded by a fantastic team who really do contribute to making Esker a great place to work. It’s been a steep learning curve and one of the highlights of this was visiting our Headquarters in Lyon, France back at the beginning of March to take part in Esker’s onboarding training. Here’s my diary of the week:
Sunday: Back in the days when we could still travel, I flew around lunchtime from a very busy Heathrow airport to Lyon. My colleagues in the UK had briefed me on the best transport links so the journey into the City was an absolute breeze. My first impression of Lyon is that it is totally and utterly closed down on Sundays! Again, I had been briefed about this by my UK colleagues, only I didn’t realise the extent to which they actually meant it. After wandering around to get my local bearings, I managed to find the only café that was open and who were kind enough to rustle me up a last-minute baguette before they closed. Even the hotel bar and restaurant were closed so it was a self-imposed early night for me.
Monday: The Esker building in France consists of eight storeys, each with an east and a west wing. There are approximately 380 staff based there, nine of whom were on the training course that week. Along with colleagues from Argentina and Spain, there was a group of twelve shiny, new Eskerians. The first day of training involved getting to grips with Esker as a company, the software solutions on offer and how each of our roles contributes within the grand scheme of Esker.
One of the most important things we learnt was about how rigorous Esker’s Security procedures are and how seriously this is taken by each and every member of staff. To impress this basic requirement upon us there was an easy and effective solution. If we even briefly wandered away from our laptop, without first locking it, the training team would swoop in and send us an email advising that we were to provide breakfast pastries for the whole group the next day. We got through two lots of baked goods that week but it definitely worked to demonstrate that we’re all responsible for implementing good security procedures.
In the evening I took a five minute tram ride into the City centre and had a walk around to discover more of Lyon. It appears to be a City of two halves – the area to the west of the River Rhône is very much geared up to the cultural experience, whereas the area to the east is far more urban. On my journey I passed two very peaceful demonstrations – on speaking with my French colleagues, they explained it’s a regular occurrence and always conducted in a very civilised way. Another thing to note about the Lyonnais is that they are very passionate about both their food and their status as a gastronomic centre.
Tuesday: Firstly, breakfast pastries provided by the owner of an unlocked laptop – no names mentioned! I was introduced to a speciality of Lyon, the Bugne, which are pancakes to mark the beginning of Lent. These are eaten throughout the whole period and the recipe dates back to Roman times. They’re essentially a thin, rectangular pastry, lightly flavoured with lemon, deep fried in oil so that they’re flaky and crunchy, with the whole thing coated in a dusting of icing sugar. So simple and yet so delicious. And moreish!
This was followed by The Game! In order for new Eskerians to visualise how our solutions work in a real scenario, the Training Team have developed what can best be described as a cash conversion cycle role playing game. Each team of six players gets assigned a character who plays a certain part in the P2P–O2C cycle and the play is based on how two fictitious companies work through the cash conversion cycle. It’s a great way to experience what real-life issues can be encountered and how our solutions can eliminate these.
It’s normal in Lyon to work from 8am to 6pm with up to a two hour lunch break, usually from around midday. People will go for a proper meal, they can be seen in gyms or running around the park or maybe catching up with chores such as grocery shopping. It was very different to the usual “cramming a sandwich at my desk” experience and makes absolute sense in terms of encouraging a positive work-life balance. People are refreshed when they return to work in the afternoon and are ready to crack on and be productive.
Wednesday: On Wednesday morning we met with our equivalent French colleagues to learn how the Eskerians work. This was a fantastic session and was great to see everything we’d learnt put into practice. Halfway through the session the European Sales Director casually popped his head round the door and was chatting away like we’d known each other for years. This really impressed me – I’m based in the UK, had only been with the company for a short time and yet he’d heard I’d be visiting and made a point of welcoming me. I’ve found that you’re made to feel like a valued member of the extended team from day one at Esker.
Lyon seems to be a very outdoorsy city, with bikes and scooters available to hire from frequently positioned stands. So after work I found myself an outlet, hired myself bike and had a cycle around the Parc de la Tête d’or. It’s a 117 hectare space to the north of the City and has a lake, an 8 acre botanical garden, a zoo, a horse riding centre, a nature reserve and a mini golf course within it. It was late commuting time by this point and it was great to see so many people able to enjoy cycling or walking home through the park.
Thursday: Today we were able to carry out our own real-time demonstrations of our Order Management and Procure to Pay solutions. Having played The Game on Tuesday, and experiencing all the hurdles involved in the cash conversion cycle, we were able to experience first-hand how our software solution eliminates these issues.
I’ve become somewhat evangelical about our solutions and I cannot now fathom how a busy finance department would manage without it.
One big difference I had noticed whilst in Lyon was the significant lack of public houses compared to the UK – people tend to socialise more in restaurants or cafés. My training colleagues recognised this and organised a cultural evening out in one of the few local pubs, where I was able to enjoy a lovely IPA. Brewed in London!
Friday: I had one more demonstration session in the morning, this time focusing on or Order To Cash solution. Once again, I was fascinated by how our software solution can resolve some very standard issues. I believe that automation is definitely key going forward – recent events have very much bought this to the fore. One of the most significant things I found was that our solutions become increasingly efficient over time, using RPA, machine learning, deep learning and AI. It all sounded very Sci Fi and technical to start with but, realistically, finance departments are headed in this direction and Esker’s Agile methodology puts us in a position to adapt and respond to future challenges.
I flew back to Heathrow in the evening and was back to work (and to decompress) at our site in Derby on Monday. Since visiting, my group of new Eskerians have had several video catch up sessions to consolidate our progress and the fabulous Training Team are always on hand to direct us when required. I’ve really enjoyed my first few months with Esker – I’ve already been encouraged to carry out a project based on what I learnt from our French colleagues. I’m very excited to be part of the future of Esker.