Interviewed by Anel Arapova
Meet our Member, Claire Paponneau, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Mauritius Telecom. In this interview, Claire shares with us herlove for mentoring, her vision of an inclusive leadership and her message for the younger generation.
You have worked at Orange for numerous years throughout your career. Moreover you have been involved with Amnesty International, serving as their International Treasurer for six years. How would you characterise this experience? What were some successes and/or challenges you have encountered?
The common feature of these two experiences is multiculturalism. I was very lucky because I got to work with great teams in Orange and Amnesty International, and I met fabulous people from all around the world. I found myself working with people from different countries, cultures, and native languages, as well as different types of competencies. These experiences were about opening up my mind to different ways of doing work and being respectful of those differences. Although I have learned a lot, the greatest challenge for me during my time in Amnesty International was combining my professional duties, personal life and commitments to human rights.
You are now a Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Mauritius Telecom. Could you please describe what this job entails, as well as what is your favorite part of it?
I am the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, as well as Chief Operating Official. The finest part of my job is being in charge and managing customer experience, in addition to day-to-day operations and results. I appreciate the chances I get to be with the staff in understanding our customers and their pain points. Our goal is to make the solutions simple for the customer, even if their enforcement is not as simple for us. I am happy about being in Mauritius where the culture is a diverse mix of French, English, Chinese, and Indian traditions. For example, 12 February marks the celebration of Chinese New Year, which is a Bank Holiday here.
Our goal is to make the solutions
simple for the customer, even if their enforcement
is not as simple for us.
You are a Career Development leader/mentor for the WIL’s WTP Programme, what motivated you to take on this role? How do you approach mentorship and what have been your greatest takeaways from this role?
In my view, all of us should give back to others what we have been lucky to receive. I see mentorship as a transgenerational gift which we must pass on. I was lucky to receive help in the beginning of my career, so now it is my time to help the younger generation. On a personal level, meeting and learning from the young female talents is a wonderful experience. As for the takeaways, it is about remaining open and flexible enough to understand specific needs and coordinate effectively during sessions. The key to open sessions is that at the end of the day if the session didn’t exactly go as planned, specific needs that arose in the moment were answered.
I see mentorship as a
gift we must pass on.
It is obvious that the pandemic has not only changed the workplace, but also the nature and role of leadership in organisations. What is your vision for female leadership of the future and how do you think it will evolve going forward?
My vision is not about the division of female or male leadership, but something broader. It is about inclusivity and the ability to listen, as well as being mindful of stakeholders’ needs. Both now, and in the future, we need leadership that creates value. The question that needs to be asked is how could leaders embark on their usual activities whilst also showing interest in more global aspects of their work? The leadership of tomorrow should not only care about the customers and the staff, but also, for example, the environment and the impact they have on communities facing the consequences.
The leadership of tomorrow should not
only care about the customers and the staff,
but also, for example, the environment
and the impact they have on communities
experiencing the consequences.
Based on the professional experience and success you have had, what advice would you give your younger self?
To my younger self, I would recommend to stop working so much and trying to do everything perfectly.
In school, I suffered from the pressure to complete everything requested of me. Later, I learned that in a professional position, trying to complete all the actions given on a to-do list is not the key. What is truly important is keeping time to focus on strategy. You need time to up your world and keep time to read, learn, and experience new things out of your comfort zone. For example, even when being interested in Communications, taking some time to learn about the food industry could be interesting and helpful in learning new tricks and strategies. Very often, young people are focused on lists and achievements, like making the perfect presentation, when all they need to do is to stop, look outside and open their minds.
Very often, young people are focused
on lists and achievements,
like making the perfect presentation, when all they
need to do is to stop, look outside
and open their minds.
We always conclude our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire: Who are your favorite heroines in fiction?
I am an avid reader of fiction, mostly in French, but also in English, depending on what type of resources I can access. The characters I appreciate the most are not the heroes of the big battles associated with success, but rather those day-to-day heroes who are doing their best in the life they have. I like the characters who are managing how to love and be happy while facing the events of their lives. In particular, I am thinking about a book written in 2018 by Gaëlle Josse called Une longue impatience (the English translation is A long impatience). It follows a fabulous female character and I highly recommend it!