Béatrice de Clermont Tonnerre is shaping the digital industry from her position as head of Business Development at Lagardère, a French Media conglomerate, and as member of the board of Lagardère’s digital companies. Béatrice graduated from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, but pursued a career in the media and high-tech industry, being one of the first media leaders to sign IPTV programme deals in France. She also has an MBA from the Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales and besides her work, she sits on the Board of French American Cultural Exchange (FACE), a foundation promoting contemporary art in the US and France.
How did you get started? What took you to where you are today?
I thought I would be a journalist, but then I had to pay for my studies. I joined Lagardère at an interesting time, when the European high tech industry was consolidating and Lagardère was a key player in it. Then the group shifted its investments to its fully controlled media businesses and high growth sectors such as digital and sports rights. There was so much work to do that even at junior levels one could contribute to very stimulating projects.
How have you changed or how has the work environment for women changed since you first started working?
All types of remote access to the work environment (for instance broadband internet access, laptop, and smartphone), are helping women. Technology has extended women’s working capacity and helped them bridge the gap between them and men, who receive more help for other aspects of their lives.
What management issues are driving your work?
The media industry is going through some turbulence in terms of consumer habits and product shifts. The industry is, all at once, consolidating its value proposition around brands, becoming IT-oriented and testing many different ways of generating cash through digital growth. One of the key issues in management is to integrate digital teams to fuel in growth and improved profitability. Getting key talent interested in the challenge and building a sustainable digital transformation within a highly competitive environment is forcing us to review our management skills around transparency, reactivity and clear strategic goals.
How can women be encouraged to take leadership roles?
Setting examples is the most efficient way. If you give women senior management positions and allow them to take chances, it opens the way.
How do you define being successful?
Being keen in the morning to get through the day ahead, and feeling that, day after day, you're contributing to something significant for yourself, your family and your community as a working person and citizen.
What are the achievements you are most proud of?
I'm generally quick at adapting to changing environments. Significant industrial achievements are usually the result of good team dynamics. Several times, I have been part of these "dream team" kind of commando dynamics, but I specifically enjoyed inventing concepts to get exclusive IPTV channel deals signed for Canalsatellite with Hollywood Studios. I had to define the network: internet technology in a closed environment, limited piracy risks. In four months I got 80 channel deals signed. But I feel the more significant achievements are ahead. I belong to the transition generation in the industry: trained in old media and comfortable with digital media dynamics. In the coming years I want to use this understanding of long-term industrial processes and to match them with decision-making in a fuzzy environment.
Some of our readers are "mentees" - young women at the beginning of their careers. Could you share with them one story that inspired you when setting up new initiatives?
In any difficult situation there is a way up. Even when you feel everyone around you is far more experienced and skilled than you, there is something you can do better than others. I started at 23 as a strategy analyst in the high tech sector. I was not an engineer and not that fond of high tech. So I found two ways to get a grip on my work: first, work on extracting useful, replicable organization cases from industry benchmarks; and, second, use my memory to become a kind of living encyclopedia of high tech acronyms in French and English. In the end, my exec summaries caught management attention and I could interact in important meetings.
And, lastly, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I read all kinds of literature in French, English and Spanish, and recently I went back to fencing. During my holidays, I go mountain hiking. And of course I'm building a huge list of things I'll do when I have time to.