After ten years working in export for the petroleum industry, Xavier Soulhol is leaving the heat of the United Arab Emirates for the extreme cold of Canada, where he has just opened Mobility’s Calgary subsidiary.
You have recently moved to Canada for Mobility. What does your work entail?
The Canadian government is investing $100 billion over 10 years in transport infrastructure. This means that Vinci, and Eurovia in particular, have high hopes for this part of the world. In this context, the city of Regina has a launched a PPP project for the construction of its bypass; the contract was won by a consortium led by Eurovia. Mobility’s contract is to provide the supervision system and to deploy ITS equipment for this section of highway.
This contract, and the determination to work with our Vinci group partners as they expand their business in North America, has resulted in the creation of our Canadian subsidiary; Mobility Way Inc. In the future, Mobility will be bidding on a number of major LRT projects across the country, from Montreal to Vancouver via Calgary.
As Mobility’s local representative, I have a threefold role: monitoring the Regina project, ensuring that Mobility finds its place in the consortia, and developing local business with smaller projects that cannot be identified from France.
Have you worked abroad in the past? What is your background?
Yes, I worked in export for nine years, mostly in the Emirates!
After attending an engineering school, I took a postgraduate course in project management. I started my career at Vinci Energies Oil & Gas in early 2003 and, as part of the “Nurturing talent” programme I was given a two-month assignment in Kuwait. The two months became two years, working on a petrochemical plant modernisation project. In 2005, I spent a year in Senegal as a worksite supervisor for the revamping of a refinery in Dakar, then headed to Abu Dhabi as project leader for an electrical network extension project for two offshore petroleum complexes.
At the end of 2011, my wife and I decided that we wanted to return to France. Our first two children were born abroad and, after five years in the Emirates we wanted to move closer to our families. After almost ten years abroad, we decided that the time had come to move back to France if we did not want to be expatriates for life!
I took the helm of Actemium Oil & Gas Major Projects for just over four years (working on projects with worth $15 to $100 million). At the beginning of 2016, following the impact of the oil crisis, the business was reorganised from Abu Dhabi to enhance our competitiveness. The time had come for me to leave the oil and gas sector and, furthermore, we had been itching to go abroad again for some time.
So, after the desert heat, you chose the extreme cold of Canada...
Exactly! I joined Mobility in September 2016. I was drawn by several aspects of the company’s business: attractive major projects, and the export aspect with the development of an organisation in Canada. For the time being, the cold is a curiosity. One unusual feature of Calgary is the temperature variations, as the Chinook, a warm wind, can cause temperatures to rise by 20°C in a matter of hours!
Apart from the thermal shock, how are you settling in to Canadian life?
Our arrival was very smooth. Canadians are very hospitable, and it is easier to meet people and have a social life than in the Gulf states. Our children are learning English and my wife hopes to find a job as a teacher.
What drives you in your professional life?
I enjoy export projects, as they are synonymous with autonomy, responsibility and specific issues (contracts, HR,and so on). Everything is more enriching, more intense, which is the beauty of the work. As a subsidiary manager, my work now has a strategic dimension in addition to operational aspects, for a more global role. Working abroad helps you to you develop, both professionally and personally.