Louis Desbois was calling from a 1,200-year-old castle in the south of France, where for more than a century his family has produced wine.
“I am a cliché,” said Desbois, laughing.
He might have been happy remaining in Bordeaux and continuing to help generate bottles of Château Saint-Georges. “It would have been a great life,” he said.
Instead, Desbois attended business school in France before finishing his international business degree at Northeastern in 2014.
“I went from being super-French to having a kind of global opinion,” he said. “I became a better negotiator and a better diplomat.”
Negotiations and diplomacy have become relevant to his future. Since April, Desbois, 26, has been focused on the tech industry as a business development director for the nascent government agency Business France. From his base in the San Francisco Bay area, he reports the news and trends of Silicon Valley to French government officials. He also helps American tech companies explore the French market.
“When I look at all the opportunities that have been given in my life, whether through America, France, or Northeastern, I will have to give back.”
“They do invest a lot of money and create jobs in France,” Desbois said of Google, Apple, Facebook, and other tech giants. “We want to give them the best support so they can keep doing so.
“But it’s also about the very small companies, like the startups where they have a team of two or three people that will move to France. And I will try to find them some programs, so they can open a new office here, and not have to pay for anything administrative-related for a few months. So they can just focus on the technology they are developing, and not being bothered by all the rest of the things that you have to go through when you move from one country to another.”
Desbois previously served as a parliamentary assistant to Frédéric Lefebvre, a French congressman representing the expatriate French people of America. His current assignment in San Francisco has given him hope that governments and tech firms will join together to resolve issues of cybersecurity and privacy. His perspective was strengthened when he recently joined Northeastern’s Young Global Leaders program, which comprises more than 100 recent graduates who advise university leadership and help to strengthen Northeastern’s network of international alumni.
“Some of us will become global actors, like I am right now,” he said. “But we also have to keep remembering that we have a common goal, which is trying to do something good for society and humanity as a whole.”
Over the course of his career, Desbois plans to switch back and forth between the public and private sectors, the better to understand the opposing points of view. Eventually, he imagines, he will go into politics.
“I have this very JFK idea,” he said of his political idol, John F. Kennedy, “which is you have to give back at some point. When I look at all the opportunities that have been given in my life, whether through America, France, or Northeastern, I will have to give back.
“But I know I will always keep going between America and France, because I love these two countries.”