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Peng Shen: #ExceptionalCareers at Air Liquide

10 years of dynamic movement at Air Liquide

Published on February 03, 2022

Peng Shen is celebrating 10 years at Air Liquide and an enriching career. He joined the Group first as an intern before returning as a researcher in the Electronics division. After eight years, he jumped to the Business line, holding several roles before serving as Special Projects Manager to Air Liquide Japan’s CEO, Virginie Cavalli. This past year, Peng moved to the Industrial Merchant business line, where he worked as Deputy General Manager before being promoted to General Manager, a role he will take on in March 2022.

2007: Air Liquide through the eyes of an intern

Without knowing a word of Japanese, Peng moved to Tokyo from China to pursue his graduate studies in chemical engineering and advanced nanotechnology. Along with diving into a new language and culture, he embarked on a summer internship... Or the start of his learning journey at Air Liquide!

"Air Liquide’s work on advanced specialty materials was interesting and similar to what I was doing at university. But beyond that, I could tell that Air Liquide respected the technology. Employees aren’t pushed to simply generate a product; they are given the room to think about why it’s needed and the support to make it happen. There aren't many companies working in this way, and I left my internship convinced that Air Liquide was one of the best. I also believed I had knowledge to contribute. After I earned my PhD, I chose to join the Group as an employee, returning in 2011."

2011: becoming an expert innovator

Over his eight years in Electronics Research, Peng received Air Liquide’s BeInnovation award twice. This award is given annually to employees who are spearheading particularly innovative projects.  His first award, received in 2016, was for building up a family of products that reduce CO2 emissions. The second, in 2020, was for one of his patents.

"We started this award-winning research project in 2012, around when I joined the company. Air Liquide already held a pioneering view of innovating for the environment and planet, and was giving us the resources and long-term support to do it. My second award was a moment of double recognition, as I was also nominated to serve on the committee of an international conference in Japan. I was proud to be the only committee member from a gas company or material supplier. Air Liquide provided me with a platform to meet our customers, allowing me to be recognized by the industry as an expert in semiconductor work."

2019: from R&D to business

Peng knew that there was more to learn at Air Liquide, and was eager to accept opportunities that arose.

"For a long time, I wasn’t interested in becoming an expert in only one domain. I wanted to learn different things, which meant taking challenges outside of research. Air Liquide listened to my ambitions: in meetings with HR and the Talent Development team, I explained the kind of areas I wanted to work in and they told me the skills I needed to develop. These were always great interactions, clear and efficient.

A key moment for me was when I was given the opportunity to change my job scope. I moved from R&D to Business, a huge jump! In my two years in business, I held three positions. My learning was on-the-job, happening during meetings or discussions, and I had many opportunities to interact with people and to absorb a lot of information in a very short time. 

Letting the people from R&D enter the business side is brave. I think it says a lot about Air Liquide: they truly want to develop their employees’ competencies and encourage them to learn new things. When I moved, I wasn’t a fresh graduate in a career rotation program. I had been in R&D for eight years!"

2020: Special Projects Manager to Air Liquide Japan’s CEO

Peng’s ambition led to an opportunity to work directly with the CEO of Air Liquide Japan.

"After another career conversation, I was told by Air Liquide Japan CEO Virginie Cavalli that she was looking for a Special Projects Manager, and that they were considering me! I covered every Business line in this role, from customer service to communications and HR. It involved imagining myself in the CEO’s shoes, asking “How would she do this? What kind of information do I need?” and then acting. It was special to spend time with Virginie, who taught me a lot. I was also in touch with the general managers, who showed me how to enter situations with a strategic view. I really grew in the role; it was one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had."

2021: the journey continues

Peng still has new doors to open at Air Liquide!

"Serving as Special Projects Manager completely opened my perspective to continuing my career outside of Electronics. I wanted to see what else was happening at Air Liquide, which brought me to the Industrial Merchant Division in July 2021.

My career path is a great example of how people open their minds here. I came from R&D and am now in a General Management position! There is a whole world available to explore at the company. There is a ‘dual-ladder’ model for employees, which means that not only can you advance to a higher level in management or become an expert, you can also jump between different activities.

 People are given opportunities to stretch themselves at Air Liquide. It’s not just me, but everyone! When you put in the effort, you will feel the response from the company, the signal that they see your effort, trust you, and want you to grow."