Meet Fida Jounaidi, Service Data and Integration Delivery Manager at Rexel. In this interview, she talks about her path towards her current management role, her experience leading a team in the STEM field and tips on how to apply your professional skills to other fields like volunteering and event organisation.
Interviewed by Irene Reyes Suero
You have a background in telecommunications engineering. What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have a Bachelor's in computer and telecommunication engineering and studying in this area always felt like a natural path for me because I am surrounded by family members who studied science, engineering, and mathematics.
What also influenced me was that, since childhood, I have been curious about things and have done experiments where I could on elements, nature, and animals (without hurting them, of course!) I like observing; I like finding answers and solving problems. When I chose to study STEM, I thought it would give me the freedom to constantly learn new things and break up the repetitive workdays. I can get bored quite quickly, so I like to be challenged, to learn new things and to improve myself.
In 2016 you took a step towards your first management position. What motivated you to take this jump?
My first management experience goes back a little further, to 2008, but at that time I was technically managing projects and teams on a smaller scale. Since the beginning of my professional career, I have taken up leadership positions naturally, and I always like doing it in a collaborative way: working with a team and within a team, supporting others, training and coaching them, and helping them understand different concepts. As I mentioned before, I like solving problems and love to bring ideas to life, and for me, this is one of the purposes of being a project manager: to bring ideas to life, not leave them only as a theory. For that, I also need to be challenged; I need to be surrounded by a team. In 2016 I had my first opportunity to manage my own team and started leading more extensive programmes, such as resourcing, communications and steering committees. It was an evolution from an experience in the technical management of projects to more business management of programming, projects and teams. It was a growth in my career and a natural path for me.
I like solving problems and love to bring ideas to life, and for me, this is one of the purposes of being a project manager: to bring ideas to life, not leave them only as a theory.
You are an Integration Delivery Manager at Rexel. What does your day-to-day work look like?
I was promoted two months ago to the position of Service Data and Integration Delivery Manager. I am still the Integration Delivery Manager; this new role is an extension. Now in my current role, I take on different responsibilities, including supporting strategic transformation projects across Rexel countries. I am part of Rexel Development, where my role is to help and support countries in their digital transformation projects by overseeing their integration development roadmap. We onboard and support the countries from design to production, developing document standards and methodologies around integration. To achieve my goals, I rely on a team of about fifteen teammates who support me in my work.
My day-to-day is mainly collaborating and supporting my team in their daily tasks. I work closely with the country's IT and business teams, and I oversee team coordination. I also provide a lot of technical guidance, mainly in project management. I do risk management, working with the architects, the infrastructure team, and the cybersecurity team to ensure the quality of what we are delivering, to ensure it fits with the right standards, and to be careful that we do not provide anything that breaches security. In addition to supporting my team, I also manage the budget and human resources, and I provide service support to my manager. For me, it is essential to celebrate small achievements and successes. Each day we have a win to celebrate, and I like that about my job.
For me, it is essential to celebrate small achievements or small successes. Each day we have a win to celebrate, and I like that about my job.
What has your experience been of holding a management position in a male-dominated industry? Is there any advice you would give to young girls entering this field?
I was not a manager during my first five years of experience, so I did not notice it was a male-dominated world. I discovered this when I arrived in Paris. I did my engineering studies in Tunisia where there were few gender differences in this domain and as many young women as men joining engineering studies. However, if I think about my current experience as a manager, it is another story. Being a manager in a male-dominated domain is challenging. It was not so easy to tell yourself this truth and admit there might be a gender gap in this field. Nowadays, when I arrive at a new position, domain, or company, I feel that I need more time to establish and prove myself. There have been times when managers forgot to include me in design or technical decisions, so I had to remind them that I am not only executing instructions: I need to be a part of decision-making. I am sure that this reflects the experience of many women working in this field.
My advice for young women would be to set aside all prejudices and gender biases and convince yourself that there are no differences in competencies. That way you will discover that there is no specific domain for men or women. If you like to be continuously challenged, learn science and technology, and are curious, STEM is an excellent domain to be in.
If you like to be continuously challenged, learn science and technology, and are curious, STEM is an excellent domain to be in.
What influenced you to join WIL's Talent Pool Programme? What are you hoping to get out of this experience?
Last year I had the opportunity to be invited to the 10th anniversary of WIL in Paris. It was a click moment: I saw that I wanted to join this initiative and network; I wanted to meet and exchange with these impressive women. What I hope from this programme is to learn and get inspired by senior women, gain tools, self-confidence, be more efficient, become less afraid of trying things, have the courage to make mistakes and go outside my comfort zone. I also hope to get some tips for finding a good balance between personal and professional life. Even if I joined for only a few months again, I feel I have already started to spread my wings. I am already learning tips and getting tools.
I see that, apart from your professional life, you are also involved in volunteering activities, notably being a member of the organising committee of Festival Ciné-Palestine. What moved you to get involved in the world of cinema?
I grew up in a family that attaches great importance to the arts, particularly Palestinian culture. I am Palestinian, Tunisian, and French and my father is Palestinian. I was immersed in the love of arts, dance and films, particularly Palestinian film because my father liked cinema. I had a lot of opportunities to go and watch Palestinian movies while growing up in Tunisia. When I moved to Paris, I hoped to find the same. After learning about the creation of Festival Ciné-Palestine, I joined the initiative in 2015. It is an initiative created by a group of cinema lovers to enable Parisian and French festival goers discover the richness of Palestinian cinema. It has been a way to meet and discover my Palestinian identity, which, for me, is found more through the art path, which has no borders.
A group of volunteers, usually multinational, multilingual women, organise the festival. Since I have always liked working collectively in a group, I wanted to give the festival the benefit of my experience as a project manager. I love this initiative because, in addition to getting exposure to culture and arts, I am learning a lot at an organisational level since I oversee fundraising. I have taken on different responsibilities during my nine years of volunteering at the festival. Previously I was a coordinator, where I learned to communicate, broker media partnerships, and more. I am also part of the film selections. Now I have less time to take part in this initiative, but I am still learning a lot and having the time to discover films. We are now showing photograph exhibitions, doing round tables with artists, not only with film directors but also painters, photographers, and so on. This extension to other fields continues to impress me.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to combine their work life with their passions?
When we love something, we will always enjoy finding time to do it. I advise being curious, passionate, and true to yourself. Take time to breathe. Take time to focus on yourself. From my side, I meditate by doing yoga or practicing Sufi dance, which is a form of meditation. It is essential to take this time to take a step back and think: am I pursuing something I want to do, not only in my professional life but also in my personal life? We need to take care of our health; for that, we need to do whatever we love, but also to take some time and rest.
When we love something, we will always enjoy finding time to do it. I advise being curious, passionate, and true. Take time to breathe. Take time to focus on yourself.
Video edited by Claudia Heard