Interview by Aurélie Doré
For this month’s interview, we had the pleasure to meet WTP Participant Marion Serpantié, Head of Strategy and Supplier relationships at Orange France Network and Services Operations. Shortly after this interview, Marion returned from her maternity leave and undertook a new role at Orange as Deputy of Field Operations, “Paris- Ile de France”, in charge of Performance. We discussed gender equality in the scientific world, as well as 5G deployment and its risks. Learn More about Marion in this interview.
Can you describe your role as Head of Strategy and Supplier relationships at Orange France Network and Services Operations?
I joined Orange 12 years ago as network engineer on the IPTV domain, and I never left! I have been Head of Strategy and Supplier relationships for three years now. There are two key parts to this role. The first part focuses on anticipation and strategy; I define what the Networks Operations at Orange France in 2025 will be, and then I strategise how our actions can lead to social, economic, and operational performance. To define my role more precisely, at Orange France Network and Services Operations we oversee all of the maintenance of the equipment which delivers services to our mass Market and Pros customers. We must guarantee a high quality of service for our customers, but also make sure our teams have the tools and skills required to operate the networks, and finally we must also guarantee that our profitability is sustainable.
The second part of my role surrounds supplier relationships. My team oversees all the suppliers (Network, Services, and subcontractors) to make sure they respect their engagements in terms of operational and economical objectives, all whilst reaching a sustainable working relationship.
Wireless carriers around the world are beginning to deploy 5G. Indeed, in France, auctions have just started. This technology is the subject of much controversy, as many are afraid of the environmental and health effects of it. What is your position on this matter?
As I am on maternity leave for now, I can give my personal position on this topic. However, my personal position is actually quite aligned with Orange’s position, and specifically that of Stéphane Richard - Orange’s CEO.
Firstly, we need to be well-balanced. Being late on the deployment would penalise France, specifically for its role in business. 5G will enable new applications such as ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) or extremely low latency, therefore being a lever for competitiveness.
On the other hand, not considering civil society's expectations could be a trap. The “stop and go” strategy on these topics is quite difficult to manage, therefore if we need a debate, it needs to be based on scientific data and not on fake news, as this has the potential to be deeply destructive. Confidence in 5G has been shaken by misinformation preying on the fears of the public. This misinformation has been spread via the internet and has been presented as facts. We cannot force French people to accept something they do not want, but 5G is more an opportunity than a risk for the environment.
What challenges did you encounter during your career in terms of gender inequalities and lack of diversity and how did you overcome them?
Gender inequalities and lack of diversity start way sooner that you would think. Even from as early as my high school studies, there were only 20% women versus 80% men in my courses in science. Choosing to study science is still unusual for a girl. I remember my Physics teacher explaining me that there is a good reason why “ingenieur” is a masculine noun in French, therefore suggesting that as a woman I had no seat at the ‘engineer’ table. Countering this inequality starts with educational choices, but gender biases are still strong: we must highlight female role models in the scientific world to help pave the way for future generations.
Fortunately, Orange understands that gender equality and diversity is a strategic asset to nurture future business growth. I have had a lot of managers who believe in diversity, and three out of seven of these managers were women.
Yet, besides all of this, gender inequality and lack of diversity remains an issue. Take for example between 30 and 40, when your career as a woman is accelerating, you might want children - and you cannot handle this all at the same time. You cannot have equality at work if you do not have equality at home. I am lucky enough to have a partner who is invested in our family life, I can rely on him.
Choosing to study science is still unusual for a girl.
We must highlight female role models in the scientific world
to help pave the way for future generation
What skills are the most useful in your professional life and which were the most needed for your success?
Agility in complex environments is my most useful skill. This means being able to work in different environments with different people who all have their respective objectives. Succeeding to find an “end-to-end” solution with all the counterparts is really rewarding! You know it is a success when people feel concerned and motivated - and in the end, the solution is always stronger.
You know it is a success when people feel concerned and motivated,
as a result, the solution is always stronger.
What is the biggest career lesson you have learnt?
Do not plan everything and know your priorities! To be efficient, I need to both enjoy what I am doing as well as feel useful; I also need to know where I want to go next. But being able to go off path is what makes it fun. Don’t always stick to the plan - if an opportunity comes up, take it! Life is full of surprises, so enjoy it while you can.
Don’t always stick to the plan -
if an opportunity comes up, take it!
We usually end our questionnaire with a question from the Proust questionnaire. We picked this one for you: which talent would you like to have and why?
Some people are gifted with the talent of creating stories. I am extremely impressed by the ability to transmit emotions and feelings through writing - and of course I love to read them! If you are looking for your next novel, I would recommend reading Marie-Antoinette’s biography by Stefan Zweig.
You cannot have equality at work
if you do not have equality at home.