Céline Brémaud is the Vice President of Microsoft’s Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) organization in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions. Working across Microsoft's business groups, SMS&P drives sales and marketing efforts and provides comprehensive IT solutions for small to medium-sized businesses and corporate accounts (including some public sector customers).
WIL was lucky to catch up with Ms. Brémaud for a '5 minutes with' where we discussed her experience working abroad and her insights on ICT SMES and women the ICT Sector- take a look at the interview below!
WIL Europe (WIL): Originally from France, your time within Microsoft has led you to have a very international career, living in Dubai for some years. What would say are some of the challenges to working internationally? What benefits does international experience bring to a career?
Celine Bremaud (CB): Working internationally is of great benefit. It is a wonderful opportunity to open your mind, to work with very diverse people whom you can learn a great deal from, to adapt to new cultures, adjust work and communication styles, and to build up new competencies relating to collaboration, flexibility and impact. The way you impact internationally is very different and the paths to be impactful are full of learning, adjustment and self-reflection.
The challenge of working as an international first sit on the personal side. Landing in a new country with the family (or without a family) can cause stress and frictions. It takes time to get used to it, to build new life standards and to create a new social network. it does not happen overnight. When moving with a family, every member of the family may have landed with very different personal expectations! It is therefore important to try and be as transparent as possible with everyone’s expectations, to create an open dialog and to give it some time to work out. Some realignment on the joint expected benefits of this new experience abroad is often needed.
This is not far from the challenges on the business side. You need to accept that you have a lot to learn and be in a listening and observation mode again full time, at least to start with… it takes time for your judgment, actions and decisions to be relevant in such a new environment! Working internationally is a big experience of humility. Most probably you went internationally with a good level of self-confidence that helped you make this difficult decision. That self-confidence can also be a good self-protection system at a time you’re out of your comfort zone! But this needs to be managed carefully: working internationally is all about accepting to reboot yourself!
WIL: Within your current role as Vice President of Small and mid-market Solutions, and Partner group (SMS&P) for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), you are responsible for driving a 10 billion dollars business. For those reading, who are the customers you and your team are dealing with? What is their role within the large Microsoft ecosystem?
CB: My group, SMS&P, is addressing the IT needs of the millions of companies, small, medium or large, operating in EMEA, with the exception of the very large enterprises, listed or assimilated, the central governments and the very large state-owned enterprises, and the largest multinational companies.
The small to mid and large size customers have very different IT needs and they are their very own ecosystem. Hundreds of thousands of partners are reselling, deploying, customizing, creating IP and supporting our customers to consume the IT solutions they need and ask for.
Most of these companies are growing fast, and in the context of accelerated globalization, all of them need to react even faster to any market opportunity, or threat to survive, compete effectively and/or accelerate their growth even further. Accordingly, their IT needs are evolving big time. They want more flexibility, more agility, less Capex, more compatibility, more security (a no compromise commitment of Microsoft)… We are working hand in hand with our partner ecosystem to bring them all, expanding offers and shifting business models. With regards to the Cloud, those customers are the ones moving to the Cloud the fastest because they understand all of its benefits, which are huge for them. They are demanding and are using the latest technologies with avidity, like digital marketing or social networking. They are a fundamental pillar of our own ecosystem and they force us and our Partners to operate with increased speed and agility.
WIL: What do you see as some of the main challenges currently facing Microsoft’s SME partners operating in the EMEA region?
CB: Our partner ecosystem is transforming, as we are transforming and as the IT world is too. Our partners are moving fast, embracing the Cloud, shifting business models and offering our customers a greater and greater variety of solutions to fit their needs. The challenge is always the speed of innovation. At Microsoft, we see our future with our Partners, as they play a critical role for us and for our customers in our Mobile first, Cloud first world. But we know that transforming, innovating and bringing the innovations to market takes time and we don’t have time. Customer demands are already high, and there are many competitors in market, so the biggest challenge today is the speed of innovation, the speed of transformation. The consumption economics do not necessarily make it easy, for our legacy partner ecosystem like for the “born in the cloud” ones. We will certainly see new kinds of partners emerge, new partnership and further merges and acquisitions happen in the ecosystem; we will certainly see the ecosystem continuously shifting towards new value paradigms, and new skills to emerge to remain relevant and add critical value.
WIL: In your opinion, where do you see technology leading us in the future and where are companies like Microsoft focusing?
CB: The future of technology should be more intuitive, more native, more secure, more interactive, simpler and seamless to use. The user experience and the content should come first, not the device or appliance delivering it, which should offer more and more choices though. The way to consume the information and to collaborate should be broader and broader. Microsoft is focusing on delivering this leading experience. The recent Windows 10 announcement reflects it, as its correlated first holographic computing platform. Everything should come together in a way that enhances user productivity, fun and experience over all! I think this is ultimately what we are expecting the future of IT brings to everyone, me included.
WIL: How would you describe the dynamics of women’s presence in the area of ICT SMEs and large Corporations?
CB: I undoubtedly see women’s presence in the ICT industry evolving the right way, but, it is still obviously a men’s world. A lot of Microsoft subsidiaries across the world have invested in bringing more women into IT in Education, and at Microsoft we are also making good steps towards more diversity and inclusion which is a critical pillar of our culture. But the opportunity ahead of us in IT is massive in the matter. I see a great opportunity for women to increase their presence in IT with the move to the Cloud and with the way IT will get more and more consumed. The need for more targeted marketing skills, for new digital competencies, for more engagement with business decision makers, the need for new apps and devices targeting the users in an always more direct way, the natural consumer orientation of the Internet of things should all help make more space for more diversity and new kinds of talents in the industry and in corporations. Women in IT should even be one of the key paths to success for every IT company that wants to transform and any corporation that wants to benefit from this transformation too.