Only a few years after participating in our Women Talent Pool (WTP) program, Ariane Gorin converted the try and is now the President of Expedia Partner Solutions.*
When she participated in our WTP program in 2012, she was Director of the Office Product Division for Microsoft France, after having learned the ropes in the United States, first at Goldman Sachs and then at the Boston Consulting Group. She has broad international experience in sales, as well as in marketing and strategy
and is also member of the Advisory Board of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and member of the Board of Directors of Adecco.
We are very proud to welcome her among our members, and on this occasion, to have the opportunity to learn more about her already impressive career and her insight on what it takes to become a successful leader!
* The interview took place in September 2017, before the appointment of Ariane Gorin as the President of Expedia Partner Solutions in December 2017.
Since 2014, you have been the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of the Expedia Affiliate Network brand. Can you tell us more about your current role and in which ways it fulfills your ambitions?
Expedia is a global travel and technology company, and Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN) is our global B2B partnership brand, powering the hotel business of hundreds of partners worldwide such as airlines, online travel agencies and corporate travel companies, Through EAN, millions of travelers are able to find the perfect hotels for their trips. At our core, we are a technology business, with the bulk of our business done through our APIs (Application Program Interface).
As leader of EAN, I am accountable for the end-to-end results of the division. I recently read an article in which senior female executives explained that their careers accelerated the most when they were accountable for a number and that’s what I’ve experienced. It’s a great feeling to point to the numbers, whether they are financial results or employee engagement survey data and know that I’ve accomplished this with my team. What brings me the most joy in my job, though, is seeing my team accomplish goals they’d initially viewed as out of reach, as well as seeing individuals develop themselves in new and unexpected ways.
You moved from the USA to France and then to the UK; from Microsoft EMEA to Microsoft France and then to Expedia; from marketing to sales and now general management. Do you think that getting out of your comfort zone has been key to your professional success?
Absolutely. Whether it was changing geographies or going from strategy to sales to marketing, getting a lot of different experiences helped me become more confident, make better decisions, get more comfortable taking risks and ultimately be a better leader. Getting out of your comfort zone early in your career allows you to absorb and learn from different experiences, failures and successes that you can then use later.
When I took on my first sales role, leading distribution sales for Microsoft France, I wasn’t sure I could run a sales unit, as my experience had always been in strategy and marketing roles. However, I proved to myself and to other people that I could quickly learn the distribution landscape, build win-win partner relationships and manage an experienced sales team. The learnings from that first sales experience still serve me today.
Getting out of your comfort zone early in your career allows you to absorb and learn from different experiences, failures and successes that you can then use later.
Do you think that women can sometimes censor themselves? For example, they may think that they are not ready for a promotion, or do not have the adequate skills. Regarding this matter and based on your personal experience, what would be your advice to negotiate a promotion?
Studies have shown that women apply for a promotion only when they meet 100 percent of the qualifications, while men apply when they meet just 50 percent. This would suggest that women tend to be less confident in their abilities than men.
This is mirrored in my personal experience. Five or six years ago, when I was at Microsoft, a role that I was interested in became available but I thought that I wasn’t ready yet so I didn’t raise my hand. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get the job, while the person who did get the job wasn’t any more qualified than I was, but he raised his hand and asked for it. I was disappointed and even mad at myself. After that, I promised myself to always raise my hand for opportunities, even if I feel like I may not be qualified enough. It helps to have mentors and support networks that can help women get over any lack of confidence and to go for stretch opportunities.
The advice that I would give to young women is the following: get out of your comfort zone, trust your instincts and most importantly, go where there is growth.
In 2012, you participated in our Women Talent Pool program aimed at supporting high potential women to become leaders, and as Senior Vice President of Expedia Affiliate Network brand, no one can deny that you have become one! What would be your key advice for young women eager to develop their leadership skills?
I remember one of the WTP events I went to at the French Sénat, with Delphine Arnault (Assistant General Manager of Vuitton since 2003): the participants, all of them women in high-level positions, were very impressive and shared valuable advice which has helped me and inspired me. I thought that one day I wanted to be able to give back in the same way and share my own experiences. Getting to be on talent pools and in contact with such role models certainly contributed to my taking more risks and bigger roles, and I find it gratifying to now be part of the network.
The advice that I would give to young women is the following: get out of your comfort zone, trust your instincts and most importantly, go where there is growth. There will naturally be more opportunities – and more excitement – in an industry that is growing well. Finally, surround yourself with a support network of family, friend and mentors. I love the concept of a “posse” – a group of peers who support each other.
How would you describe yourself as a manager? What do you think are the key competences for leading a team successfully ?
It’s important to tell your team where you want them to go, not how to get there. Nothing demotivates a team like micro-management - this is a sure recipe for disengagement.
It’s also important to ensure people on your team invest in their own development – whether through stretch assignments, classroom training or mentoring.
Finally, being a great manager is also about focusing on team dynamics – making sure that you have a balanced and diverse team, that the environment is such that everyone can contribute equally and that the team trusts each other. With my teams, we talk a lot about assuming positive intent, not judging each other, but rather creating a safe and supportive environment for risk-taking.
You worked both in France and in the US. Which differences did you notice in the workplace regarding the status of women? Where is it more difficult to manage both work and professional life?
Compared to many of my friends in the USA, I found managing work while building a family easier in France than in the USA - whether it is paid maternity leave, childcare or health care - the infrastructure is much more developed in France than in the US. Fortunately, many companies in the US are catching up, but in France, I found that society at large – and not just employers - place a strong value on allowing women to be parents while continuing to thrive professionally.
On the other hand, when I moved to France 15 years ago, I remember networks of women professionals were just beginning to emerge, unlike the US where a strong women-centric networking culture already existed. Since then, networks for professional women have developed a lot, whether through WIL or other organizations.
In 2016, you stated in an interview that 33.3% of Expedia’s leadership roles are held by women ; in which way does Expedia promote inclusion? Which politics are they implementing in order to have more female Executives?
Like many companies in the tech sector, women are under-represented in leadership roles and acknowledging that gap is the first step. At Expedia, we believe that having a balanced workforce leads to better business outcomes.
We firmly believe that the conversation about inclusion needs to be one across all managers, male and female, to make an impact within the organization. In June, we released data specific to gender representation noting that we have parity across pay and representation at Expedia, but where we see the drop-off in gender representation parity is at the senior leadership level. As part of this, we are working to educate our workforce and are doing things like offering micro-inequities training to all managers to help identify areas of unconscious bias that may be present.
At Expedia, we believe that having a balanced workforce leads to better business outcomes.
We are on a journey toward gender balance and like everything at Expedia, we will follow our “test and learn” philosophy to find the right path. Test & learn follows a real scientific approach where we ask a question, collect the observation, construct a hypothesis, test that out as quickly as possible, then analyze the learning and repeat on that. The methodology makes sure our decision-making is verified by real data & insights, and we will utilize this approach to identify the most effective approaches to achieve true gender balance across our organization.