b<>com's people: Interview with Nicole Le Minous

This new column will interview b<>com's people eager to share their experience at the IRT. For this first edition, we met with Nicole Le Minous, a Project Manager at Orange who's on hand 3 to 4 days a week at b<>com.

Tell us about your background

After attending INSA, I've been working at Orange for over 20 years. Currently, I'm Project Manager for Orange TV focusing on improving sound in TV decoders. I've been on hand at b<>com for a year now, in the Immersive Interactions lab.

Could you explain what you do and who the lab's teams are?

I joined b<>com to work on Virtual and Augmented Reality issues. One of our goals is to identify and address technical obstacles in those technologies. For Virtual Reality, we are currently developing a prototype to test immersiveness. For the Augmented Reality project I'm heading, we mainly work on developing or standardizing bricks, and would like to bring companies from different sectors together on this issue: Smart homes, industry, health, and architecture, to name a few. The lab staff is very diverse in terms of age, experience, and professional skills. The same laboratory also houses R&D engineers, doctors, developers, and graphic designers, some of whom are visiting from elsewhere, while others are b<>com employees. We also work routinely with ergonomics experts from the Usages & Acceptability lab.

Une partie des équipes du laboratoire Interactions Immersives en pleine démonstration.

In your view, what are the benefits of the b<>com model?

Obviously, the ability to share knowledge and experience. Take for instance the Virtual Reality project I'm working on; the team is multidisciplinary and comes from various backgrounds. The knowledge that each one has on the subject is highly diverse. While some are already very well versed in the technology, the others provide their sound coding, video coding, or networking skills, for example. Cooperation will allow the visiting members to contribute to the project while gaining new skills that they might be able to use to benefit their own company. For instance, right now I'm preparing a presentation about virtual and augmented reality for Orange, because these technologies are also of interest to the TV teams.

What cultural differences have you been able to perceive between Orange and b<>com?

Two come to mind immediately. First, being close to decision-makers at b<>com. The human scale of an IRT allows a flatter organizational structure than larger entities like Orange, where it's uncommon to come across high-level executives in the hallway! The layout of the premises is also quite different. While Orange has highly partitioned offices, everything at b<>com is in open-space format. Although this might be a bit daunting at first, you quickly come to realize that this configuration leverages dialog and collaboration.

What are your initial takeaways from your experience after one year?

Working at b<>com has been a real breath of fresh air. Besides the new skills I've been able to acquire, I've had the chance to learn about a new organization, new people, and most importantly, a longer-term vision, where one is freer to launch new projects. This means doing a bit of organizing at the start, and getting used to opening two e-mail accounts each morning, but overall the experience has been very positive and motivating. If I had to do it again, I gladly would, and not just because it's so nice to have lunch on b<>com's rooftop at noon!