b<>com's people: Interview with Imad Alawe

An intern at b<>com, then a PhD student assigned by TDF, Imad works on mobile network issues. He is now celebrating his two-year anniversary at b<>com and tells us about his life as a b<>comer.

Can you tell us how you got here?

I joined b<>com in Lannion in 2015 for my graduate internship when I was a student at ESIR (Ecole Supérieure d’Ingénieurs de Rennes). My internship was for SDN architecture on optical networks. b<>com worked in partnership with Ekinops for this subject. At the end of the internship, b<>com introduced me to TDF. They were looking to assign a PhD student to b<>com to study and prepare the architecture of the next 5G mobile network. After several interviews, my application was approved. After a month of immersion at TDF in order to meet the teams, get up to speed on the latest developments, and upgrade my knowledge of the fundamentals of mobile networks, I joined b<>com on assignment. Now I spend 80% of my working hours at the b<>com campus in Rennes in the Network Architecture laboratory, and work in a team of about twenty people made up of b<>com employees, academics, and people assigned by Orange and TDF. I spend the other 20% at IRISA, which allows me to dialog with academic experts about specific issues.

What did you find most appealing about b<>com?

One of the benefits of being at b<>com is the ability to work with people from academia and industry. This configuration helps create a real professional network, but on top of that, it also brings together people with different perspectives, who have the same goals but not the same techniques! In my case, my thesis work is being monitored by Amélie Kerbellec, R&D Engineer at TDF who is on assignment at b<>com 50% of the time. This configuration lets me link together my own research and TDF's industrial needs. At b<>com, we also have substantial technical resources, which enables us to work under the best of conditions.

And what surprised you the most?

Most of all, the topics studied here. My own graduate internship was in SDN, which at the time was a brand-new, innovative network architecture. The subjects studied at b<>com are cutting-edge, and I found that it was possible to combine research and agile methods. New ideas are always welcome. We don't just do our own work, we're encouraged to innovate. I was also surprised to discover the nap rooms! I ended up a fan of those. Our work requires a great deal of concentration in our routine tasks, and when you're pondering a problem, it's nice to be able to get away and relax for a few minutes. In the same spirit, I was also pleasantly surprised by the open space. Like many, I got the hang of working there, and I ended up liking it a lot. The arrangement allows us to work in peace while still having the ability to talk with our neighbors if we have a question or problem.

Do you have a ritual at b<>com?

A coffee break in the 5th floor cafeteria! This is always the chance to meet people who work in other laboratories, on other issues, or in support services. Whether in a social or professional context, it's a rich mixture that I don't believe exists in all companies.

So to sum it up, it's mostly positive overall?

Very positive! On a technical level, my skills have grown exponentially over the past two years, and on a social level, b<>com is a very welcoming company. The people are friendly, there's no crushing hierarchy, and most of all, you always get a friendly reply when you come across a problem!