Q&A: Francois Guerin

Francois is one of the people who make the world go round. His incredibly successful career in media spanned across many countries – from his native France, through Mexico, Spain and all the way to the United States where he lives now. Francois’s keen insights into cultural differences, advertising industry and the future of work are a gift to every global citizen.

Follow Francois on his Twitter account https://twitter.com/fr_guerin

Around The World

You lived in several very different countries. Could you tell a few words about them?
I grew up in France, and although I’ve been living abroad for more than 10 years now, I hold France deep in my heart. The education system is still one of the best, and it opened many doors for me. France’ values continue to shine and the country still offers many opportunities to whoever knows how to size them. Combined with a great work/life balance and a wealth of beautiful countrysides, France is still a great place to live, in particular for people who like passionate debates and an intense cultural life.

I had the opportunity to study and travel to Mexico several times. Mexico has been a mind-opening place to me. It’s a young, forward-looking country, full of colours, surprises and home to the nicest people I know. It is slowly becoming one of the future superpowers, connected with both the Latin American as well as North American cultures, and I strongly encourage everybody to visit and even live in Mexico. I simply don’t know anyone who has experienced Mexico and did not like it.

“I simply don’t know anyone who has experienced Mexico and did not like it.”

I’ve spent close to 4 years in Madrid, Spain, another incredibly diverse and colourful country. Spain’s quality of life is on par with France and its people are among the most welcoming and optimistic I got to know. To me, Spain was just the right balance between Mexico and Europe.

Finally, I’ve been living in Los Angeles, California (USA) for more than 4 years. California is a beautiful place, blessed with nature, and where one can thrive as an individual. Social life is not as intense as it is in Europe or Mexico, but it is still the birthplace of many opportunities for a lot of people. 

What motivates you to move around the world? Did you have a check-list of places where you wanted to live or did you just go with the flow?
Traveling the world is the greatest opportunity for you to change the way you see life. Nothing compares with in-situ experiences. 15 years ago, I would never have imagined I would have lived and worked in 4 different countries, so one could say I went with the flow. However, I always knew I will live in Spain and Latin America, as these places fascinated me as a teenager. California was more of a work opportunity I couldn’t say no to, in particular when you work in the tech/digital media industry.

What was your most unforgettable “culture shock” experience?
Mexico, without a doubt.  Mexico is one of the most misrepresented countries in the media and public opinion. As a European, you learn to reconsider the concepts of space and time, stop “planning” everything you do, and discover places that are different from anything you’ve seen before.

“The world is made of humans and happiness is fuelled by social interactions. Protect these.”

Do you think you will move back to France at some stage?
Going back to France in not something I am considering today. Although I believe recent political events hold a great promise for the future of the country, I see myself living in other places for the future.

The Professional

How did you get into online advertising? Did you have a plan to join the industry or did you just stumble into it?
I always had passion for the media industry. I’ve been curious about how a newspaper, a TV channel or a digital media property is produced, and what is going on behind the scenes. Advertising is at the core of many media companies’ business model. It was a crucial professional step for me to understand how it works.

What is it that attracts you to advertising? Do you believe it can be a force for good? Can we make the world a better place with ads?
Advertising fuels media diversity and has an important place in the ecosystem. However, digital advertising needs to be reinvented and redistributed, to not stay in the hands of a few actors. It needs to provide value for users. The complexity of the advertising ecosystem is breaking this promise today.

What are the best and the worst parts of our industry?
The best: the culture of innovation, the willingness to challenge status quo, the diversity of profiles within your coworkers, the work/life balance. 

The worst: a certain appetite for wealth and disconnected start-up valuations, the (wrong) belief that what is good for Silicon Valley and the tech industry is good for the rest of world. 

All things being equal, what is an ideal work environment for you: A large company, a new start-up or a solo freelancer life?
All three have their advantages and inconveniences. Also, large companies can take cultural principles from start-ups and vice-versa. Happiness at work is not really about the right setup but is more about what you do means to you.

Fast Forward

As someone who is keenly attuned to current trends, where do you think the world is heading? Will there be any region – US, Europe, Asia, Latin America or Africa – that will lead the 21st century? 
I truly believe in a certain rebalancing between the developed and the developing world. However I am very worried about the impact of robotics on jobs in some regions and in the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor.

“Follow your passions and be curious enough to challenge everything you believe in.”

As much of what we do at work gets automated, which skills do you think will be more valuable as time goes by – Humanities or STEMs? 
The world is made of humans and happiness is fuelled by social interactions. Protect these.

Consejos

What is your advice to someone who is starting their life journey, wants to explore the world and at the same time do meaningful work?
Follow your passions and be curious enough to challenge everything you believe in.

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