Connecting, inspiring and empowering women to lead the way
Interviewed by Linda Zenagui
Meet our WTP6 Talent Carole Stiegler, Sales Director at Orange. We talked about how to become a successful leader in high demanding positions while still being able to take time off for the family, and why developing trusting relationships is so important for career success.
In 2019, you were promoted to the position of Large Account Sales Manager at Orange Business Services (OBS), the branch of Orange, the biggest French operator. Could you tell us about some of your biggest milestones during your time there?
When I joined OBS in 2019, I worked with my teams to undertake two main tasks. First, we modernised the core business to maintain our clients’ loyalty. This involved developing key strategic activities for Orange such as those around data, cloud computing or cyber defence and having our teams of key account managers implement innovative strategies focused on our pool of large accounts customers. We now systematically put in place strategic committees to facilitate high-level discussions with our clients.
Second, I redefined the teams’ scopes to enhance their motivation.
Stepping into a role as a team leader is both challenging and exciting. What have you done to strengthen your leadership competencies and ability to handle demanding jobs?
When I took my position, I wanted to inspire my teams by switching from being just a manager to being a leader. I try to give as much autonomy to them as possible whilst supporting them to achieve their goals. I act as a coach for them and I always make sure their efforts are rewarded.
When I took my position, I wanted
to inspire my teams by switching
from being just a manager to being a leader.
In 2020, when COVID-19 hit, OBS had to meet the most urgent needs for digital services. With hospitals in search of better connectivity and people switching to teleworking, OBS teams had all hands on deck. How did you manage to keep your colleagues motivated and energised during such intense times?
With the arrival of Covid, we faced a unique situation overnight: all of our clients needed better connectivity. At the very beginning of the first lockdown, I had to implement new strategies for keeping in touch with my teams, one of which was introducing daily calls with them.
These daily calls had several benefits. First of all, it allowed me to gain a better understanding of the challenges my teams were facing. Daily calls were also useful to brainstorm and come up with creative ideas to overcome these challenges. Finally, since we were all working from home, we used this time to reconnect with each other and ensure that we still feel close. During the particularly intense times, I had to manage the stress within the teams. I needed to be calm, peaceful and collected to handle the situation properly.
More than a year and a half after the first lockdown, we are still reinventing the way we work. We obviously can not go back to the old system. Where I work, people have embraced a “hybrid work model” where half of the team work from home and the other half is in the office.
We were lucky to have support from the company to provide employees with specific training on the new ways of working and the management of stressful situations.
Managing teams can be stressful, especially when remote work is a “new normal” and every day might feel like an endless marathon. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance and manage to reconnect with joyful things in life?
I have two sons and I do not want to have to choose between my work and my family. Finding the right balance is indeed one of the main challenges I face; however, I have implemented a few golden rules.
While I am at work, I stay 100% focused on my job and my teams. However, I disconnect from work during the weekend. I know it can be tempting to check your emails during your time off but it is not a healthy option in the long term. I also enjoy listening to music with my sons and completely unplugging from work when I am spending quality time with them.
I am lucky to be working in a company where I have the autonomy to manage my workload. There is trust with my managers. I have goals to achieve but I can manage my time flexibly. As such, I believe I have found the right balance now.
I have two sons and I do not want to
have to choose between my work and my family.
Finding the right balance is indeed
one of the main challenges I face; however,
I have implemented a few golden rules.
You are the participant in the 6th edition of WIL’s Women Talent Pool leadership programme. What led you to join the programme and what do you think are the main challenges and opportunities for the next generation of women leaders?
I am delighted to be a part of the WTP6 programme as it allowed me to meet very inspiring women and learn new things.
For instance, we recently had a Career Development session where I learned precious time and career management techniques. Even though all participants have high-responsibility positions, we all walked away from the event with ideas on how to manage better our work-life balance. Through the programme I also had the chance to take part in workshops, which have been inspiring to get a helicopter view of my skills and learn how to develop them.
As for the future challenges women will face, I do not believe there will be fundamental differences. Women will still need to demonstrate great abilities and knowledge to handle high-responsibility jobs.
If you could share just one important professional or life lesson that you have learnt over the years, what would it be?
Building trustful relationships with stakeholders is a long process, but an important one. If I could share one life lesson I have learned over the years, it would be to stay committed, be brave and be honest in building long-term, trusting professional relationships. My advice is to always say the truth, as people appreciate honesty in others. Finally, never stop building your network. I, myself, still have strong ties with former colleagues and clients, and this has been important for me.
If I could share one life lesson I have learned over the years,
it would be to stay committed, be brave and be honest
in building long-term, trusting professional relationships.
We like to close our interviews with a more fun question: What will be your first holiday destination once all travel restrictions are lifted?
I would definitely go to Italy. I love this country, it is “dolce vita” with the rich culture and exquisite food. I am sensitive to environmental issues, therefore, I would go to Italy by train. Genoa and Turin are the two cities I would like to visit as soon as possible.
Interviewed by Hajar el Baraka
Meet our Talent, Rita Verderosa, Senior Investment Manager of Technology Transfer Fund at CDP Venture Capital SGR. In this interview, she talks about how her strong academic background has helped her in her career, what changes are needed for investment firms to become more diverse and why she is passionate about empowering girls
You have an impressive academic background having obtained a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees in Finance and Economics. How does having such a strong academic background help you in your current position?
Studying is fundamental for every job or position, even more so for technical jobs like mine. A strong academic background makes it possible to solve critical problems during our daily work. When I started my professional career, my academic background helped me overcome barriers. It gave me critical thinking and hard skills without which I could not do my job. Of course, soft skills are also very important for working in a company. These soft skills could include empathy, the passion you put into your job and the capacity to understand other people.
What does a typical day look like at your job as a Senior Investment Manager at CDP Venture Capital SGR? What makes you proudest to be where you are today?
I deal with the screening, analysis, evaluation and selection of technology transfer funds characterised by a clear value proposition and go to market strategy.
Typically I schedule analysis and due diligence meetings with potential fund managers to select the right people whom to give money to invest in suitable deep tech startups. I also deal with the negotiation of fund rules, in terms of quantitative metrics and governance principles.
The final aim is to boost the Italian technological ecosystem – launching funds means launching new startups and it leads to more job opportunities. I am proud of having a real impact on the economy and creating real value in the marketplace.
in the marketplace.
CDP Venture Capital SGR is committed to accelerating the marketing of high-tech intellectual property via its Technology transfer funds, on which you are working. Can you tell us more about why this work is so important? How do you recognise whether research is worth investing in and how do you transform it into a profitable product?
The Technology Transfer Fund managed by CDP Venture Capital SGR is a multi-compartment fund. We invest directly in pre-seed projects and indirectly - throughout fund of fund facility - financing fund managers who invest in deep tech startups. On the one hand, the aim of the tech transfer fund is to finance intellectual property and derive value from research activities in Italy and all over Europe. Research is the pillar and the source of every type of innovation and intellectual property. In a preseed stage, it’s very difficult to understand if a specific type of research is worth investing in or not. For this reason, we invest in the proof of concept stage (PoC), which is the first laboratory evaluation of the technology; if the PoC is positive, we invest further in seed and early-stage rounds.
On the other hand, there are the tech transfer funds financed by us, that could take a look at PoC and early-stage projects that have already been financed, to invest in furtherly.
Our main aim is to invest in the scale-up of these targets.
A study from Bella Research Group and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation found that investment firms owned by women and minorities manage just 1.3 per cent of the investment industry’s 69$ trillion assets in the US despite being overrepresented in the top quartile of performance. In your view, which changes are needed for the industry to become more diverse and what happens when they do?
In my opinion, women need to have more confidence in their entrepreneurial skills. This should become the new normal. We should no longer be surprised by the results achieved by women, for example, them entering C level positions. A lot of stereotypes would then finally be erased because we would see that women generally are doing well in their jobs and that prejudices are a cultural and social issue.
This should become the new normal.
We should no longer be surprised
by the results achieved by women,
for example, them entering C level positions.
You are one of the participants in the 6th edition of WIL’s Women Talent Pool Leadership programme. Can you tell us why you wanted to participate and what have you gained from this experience?
When I was informed about WIL’s Women Talent Pool Programme, I was very excited because finally, I had found a serious programme dedicated to the training and promotion of female leadership targeting young women. I had never before participated in a programme focused on women’s leadership, particularly coming from a world fully dominated by men in C level positions. I have really appreciated the entire experience. It has been a nice discovery that has changed me in many aspects: I have had the chance to network with diverse women from different sectors and backgrounds.
When I was informed about WIL’s
Women Talent Pool Programme,
I was very excited because finally,
I had found a serious programme
dedicated to the training and promotion
of female leadership targeting young women.
You have been volunteering for more than four years at a school providing an educational and cultural point of reference for female students. Why is it important for you to work on empowering girls through education and how can this lead to achieving gender equality?
During my university studies, I lived in a female college recognised by the Italian Minister of Education, University and Research, where I received a complete education also with reference to soft skills. My role was to be a mentor for young ladies and to work on their empowerment. Based on my experience, one of the major difficulties girls face is feeling underestimated and the fear of doing something wrong. I think it’s really just a cultural issue and, by supporting young girls, we can build the future of female leadership.
Video edited by Dovilė Bogušytė
Interviewed by Hanna Müller
Meet Cecilia Mazzocchi is Deputy General Counsel at Capgemini and the participant of our Women Talent Pool Leadership Programme. In the interview, she discusses making career success a reality, how to bounce back from failures and the impact of having inspiring mentors around you.
You have been Deputy General Counsel at Capgemini Italy for more than 10 years now. What does your day-to-day work look like? Were there any key factors which led to you getting to where you are today?
At Capgemini Italy, we are a small legal team of four people. I work mainly with the financial services market units - banks and insurance companies - and with what we call the CPRD market unit which refers to consumer products, retail, and distribution. As you can imagine, this business is crucial in Italy since we deal heavily with fashion, food and beverage companies.
It was my passion for work that led me to where I am today. I fear neither hard work nor pressure, even in tough situations. I keep a cool head, try to keep in control and maintain team spirit.
Can you tell us about your career path; how did each role lead you towards your current position? And did you plan your career strategically?
Since the beginning of my career, I have worked for Capgemini twice. The firsttime was just after I graduated. It was a very exciting moment because we were in the middle of the integration process after the acquisition of Ernst & Young.
After I passed my bar exam, I decided to work in a law firm to experience a new profession and role. I nevertheless stayed in touch with my former boss from Capgemini and I also kept working with them as an external consultant. I think that every lawyer should have experiences both as in-house and in a legal firm, because it gives you a wider picture and allows you to choose properly what fits you better.
In fact, after some years at the law firm I came back to Capgemini as I was fascinated by the process of following a deal from A to Z, in all its phases and from all angles, not only legal but also from a delivery and business perspective. I cannot say that I really planned my career strategically, I just tried different approaches and followed my interests. In my opinion, being passionate is the best way to achieve career goals.
I cannot say I really planned my career strategically,
I just tried different approaches and followed my interests.
Being passionate is the best way to achieve career goals.
Gender diversity is a critical priority for Capgemini. What are some of the company’s initiatives to provide equal growth opportunities and favourable working conditions for all employees?
In our case, gender diversity works the other way around, since we are an all-female team. Still,I would like to share my personal story. The second time I joined Capgemini, I found out I was pregnant. We had not signed the contract yet and I expected some difficulties in formalising the employment because of my pregnancy. Quite on the contrary, Capgemini was afraid I would not want to join them anymore!
Having three children has not prevented me from continuing my professional path. On the one hand, companies must create equal opportunities for all, but on the other hand, employees must organise themselves adequately to be able to do their job. I wish we heard women saying less often, “I had to choose children or work”. Both the employer and the government must provide all necessary tools and support to allow women to do both.
Who or what inspired you in your career path to get to where you are today and who are your current role models? Should every aspiring leader have a mentor?
It is important to have a mentor, because even in a leading position the exchange with competent people allows you to see things from a different perspective and to change your mind. All my bosses have been an inspiration to me and have always pushed me to do my best. Beyond that, I am absolutely fascinated by the women I have met during the Women Talent Pool Programme, especially my mentor, Magdalena Hauptman. They are a real source of inspiration for me.
Sometimes things just do not work out the way we want them to. What have you learned from those times in your career when things have not gone as you hoped or expected?
This is not new: we are going through tough times. We must cope with a heavy workload and cannot commit our time for trainings or networking, at least not to the extent we would like to. What I do is to try and simplify complex situations. A certain amount of pressure is important to stay motivated and productive, but too much can lead to stress. I break down each project into small assignments: in this way, I understand if I can timely manage all the projects or if I need additional resources to complete the work. I am convinced that every failure, if processed, leads to professional growth. I have always learned a lot from my mistakes. This is a good method to deal with professional failures, to understand what one has done wrong and how to react in a positive way.
What advice would you give your younger self or other aspiring female leaders?
Do the things you like, do them with passion, study, challenge yourself. Don't be lazy. Decide where you want to go and create the necessary path to pursue your goals, and above all, do not be discouraged by failures. We are always reluctant to admit our weaknesses, but we must face them to solve them, if possible, or to find a way to transform them into success.
We like to close our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire. The one we have chosen for you is: what is your current state of mind?
From a professional point of view, I am excited because we are going through a major integration process that will help us grow - many challenges but also many opportunities.
From a personal point of view, I am constantly on the move. I have decided to take up my old passions of tennis and sailing again, which I had put away for a while to focus on work. I have discovered that, despite my age, I can do everything well, maybe even better than when I was younger.
Video edited by Dovilė Bogušytė
Interviewed by Aurélie Doré
Meet our Talent, Mariana Kopecká, EMEA Supply Assurance Manager at Lenovo. In this interview, she talks about what makes her so passionate about her job, why education should be at the core of all gender equality policy, and her desire to strengthen a networking tradition among women. She also shares her tips on how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Can you describe your current role as EMEA Supply Assurance Manager at Lenovo? Why you are so passionate about it, and could you share with us one of the major projects you have supervised?
I am leading a team of specialists in the technical field, which supports the global supply chain of Lenovo in EMEA. I have been working for Lenovo for more than ten years: I have held various positions, but this one has given me so many opportunities not only on a professional but also on a personal one.
During the past two years, the IT sector and electronics industry more generally went through a huge revolution. The COVID-19 pandemic created a huge spurt in demand, our daily work changed completely, and we are now living in a new era. From a technical perspective, every single day is a new challenge, particularly as the electronics industry is facing shortages, such as of chips.
We also had to adapt to working from home and my leadership skills needed to change as well. I like meeting people, connecting with them and adapting my management style accordingly. Working in a virtual world deprived me of many of the tools I deploy when I meet people in person, hence, I had to find alternative ways to stay connected to my team.
Adjusting to the COVID-19 crisis has definitively been a milestone in my career. It has helped me not only to move forward in my professional life and shape my leadership skills, but also had a big impact on my personal life since I am the mother of a two-year-old little girl.
I am passionate about my job because I see the progress and real value I can bring, not only to my company but also to the world. As Lenovo is one of the biggest IT leaders, we have a direct role in supporting education, research and healthcare professionals, who are fighting on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud to be having an impact on our fast-changing world.
I am passionate about my job
because I see the progress and
the real value I can bring,
not only to my company
but also to the world.
Lenovo has recently reinforced its commitment to responsible and gender-equitable artificial intelligence by joining Cercle InterElles, a French-based meta-network of 16 companies across scientific and technological industries. How does this commitment to diversity and inclusion impact your daily work?
I am lucky to work for a company that understands the importance of diversity. Although Lenovo joined Cercle InterElles recently, its commitment is not new: diversity and inclusion are part of our DNA. As a woman, I never felt I had to work harder or fight more to get to where I am now. I always felt like a valid partner in the discussion, and I am proud to work for a company that understands its impact and uses it properly. I appreciate Lenovo’s effort to put D&I at the heart of our corporate values , particularly as I understand that it is not the norm everywhere. We need to keep making our voices heard.
Women are still underrepresented in executive business roles, especially within the IT sector. Was it difficult for you to establish yourself in the tech industry? What in your view can be done to close the gender gap in tech?
I am very proud to work for a company that understands how important it is to recruit people not only for their technical abilities but also for their talent and potential. If I am being honest, establishing myself as a leader was more difficult than establishing myself in the IT sector as a woman. However, I do recognise there is a gender gap in the technology sector, and it must be addressed. Gender discrimination starts in childhood, so we need to first understand our own biases and how we raise our children in order not to reinforce stereotypes. For example, we can encourage them to play with a diverse range of toys regardless of what gender they are “intended for”. Moreover, we need to provide as many opportunities as possible for children to have diverse experiences.
Education plays a big role as well. I have a friend in Austria where it seems these questions are taken heavily into consideration. His daughter who is in sixth grade had a discovery course on robot programming. She loved it, even though she was the only girl in the class. I think this example shows the importance of adapting to our children’s interests, talents and potential, regardless of their gender. Education is the pathway towards gender equality.
Education is the pathway towards gender equality.
You joined WIL Europe as a Talent a few months ago. Why is it important for you to be involved in a network dedicated to female leaders? What have you done or are doing to develop your network?
We as women still have a long way to go to change our behaviour and way of seeing things, especially when it comes to networking. Men still have more experience using networks for career advancement, because they have been doing it for years. Women lack these spaces and there is room for improvement in sharing information, supporting each other, and getting rid of the competition that still lies within us.
Being part of WIL Europe is important to me because I want to invest my time in creating a networking tradition among women which will lead to a more equal system. Women can bring a different energy to the discussion and, in this way, we can all learn and grow together.
As a person with a busy schedule, what do you do to unwind and relax after a workday? Do you play any sports? And if so, to what extent is sport is an integral part of your life?
I am a huge advocate and enthusiast when it comes to work-life balance. What keeps me sane is gardening, CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. I believe that various activities can improve the quality of life, you just need to find the one that brings you joy.
For me, sport is not about forgetting my daily tasks but mainly about keeping myself in shape and taking care of my body. These activities act like a catalyser that allow me to reduce tension and better handle pressure, so I take them very seriously.
There is a common misconception about working hard: long hours do not necessarily lead to greater productiveness or better results; it is just an illusion. Surviving is not the same as creating, and since passion is feeding our energy, we must identify and nurture it to stay efficient. Working towards those goals with my team is what I care about most. Giving them the opportunity to invest in themselves acts as a real driving force for me. I see the world as a living ecosystem where we all are interdependent and so by helping people around me develop their passion, I contribute to keeping the ecosystem active.
Surviving is not the same as creating,
and since passion is feeding our energy,
we must identify and nature it to stay efficient.
We like to close our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire. The one we have chosen for you is: who are your heroes in real life?
I admire all the people around me who are brave enough to step out of their comfort zone, overcome fear, start something new and go after their dreams. Aside from my parents and friends, I was very moved by the story of a woman who used to be very well established in the finance sector and decided to leave the comfort zone to start a new clothing brand.
I am also inspired by public figures like Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin. They manage to juggle busy personal and professional lives and this is uplifting to see. Perhaps the most inspiring is their ability to keep their humanity and politeness, even in the most difficult of times.
In this interview, WTP6 Talent Stephanie Langerock tells her what motivates her to serve as Belgian Commissioner for the International Whaling Commission. Inspired by an encounter with humpback whales in Colombia and Cousteau’s films, she has developed a strong commitment to ocean conversation and biodiversity. In her words: stay stubbornly optimistic and incorporate diverse perspectives to drive the green transition!
You are Senior International Relations Officer responsible for Biodiversity at the Belgian Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment, a role which includes serving as Belgian Commissioner for the International Whaling Commission. Could you tell us more about this Commission and your daily work more broadly, and why you are so passionate about it?
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was founded more than 75 years ago and is charged with the conservation of cetaceans and the management of whaling. In addition to regulation of whaling, today's IWC works to address a wide range of conservation issues including bycatch and entanglement, ocean noise, pollution and debris, collision between whales and ships, and sustainable whale watching. Besides my role as Belgian Commissioner for the IWC, I am also chair of the IWC Bycatch Mitigation Initiative of which I am very proud as we are bound to start several pilot projects to prevent the accidental catch of cetaceans in fishing gear. As a child of the ocean, I find it very rewarding to contribute to the protection and the conservation of biodiversity and our marine ecosystems.
As a child of the ocean, I find it very
rewarding to contribute to the protection
and the conservation of biodiversity
and our marine ecosystems.
Prior to your career in biodiversity, you worked in different fields, including consulting and transport. What made you take the leap into environmental sustainability and biodiversity?
My career until today has mainly been seizing opportunities when they were offered. Only recently, I started thinking about my personal purpose and how to move my career forward. I have always been interested in many things at the same time, but the central theme of my career is international relations and an affinity with social causes. That is what brought me to Federal Public Service and the World Health Organisation representing Belgium.
I have always been fascinated by the documentaries of Cousteau. When I was 18, I went to Colombia where I really got in touch with nature, both on land and sea. That was when I first saw and heard whales. For me, it was a life-changing experience. At that point, I thought of studying Marine Biology. When I came back home, I returned to my first love, languages and cultures. Later in my career when I returned to work after having a burnout, my current boss asked if I wanted to join the biodiversity team as Belgian Commissioner for the International Whaling Commission. He knew I was intrigued with whales. My interest in nature was triggered again and I did not think twice. My current role helps me to grow and reconnect with nature and with myself.
My current role helps me to grow and
reconnect with nature and with myself.
You describe yourself as someone having a strong sense of fairness and justice. How have these values guided you, both in your private and professional life?
I have always been driven by equality, even when I was at secondary school. I volunteered for several organisations, both with youngsters and elderly people, trying to contribute to the community. Treating everybody fairly and offering equal opportunities is my utmost concern. We need to achieve equity, look at individual needs, respect each other and promote everybody’s uniqueness. I try to live by these values by listening actively and being empathetic.
You strive for the conservation of the oceans and marine biodiversity. How can we keep conversations focused on the ecological transition? Are you optimistic for the future?
First, yes, I am optimistic! Two years ago, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Antarctica as part of Homeward Bound, an immersive global leadership programme for women. During our voyage I met Christiana Figueres, the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change who is considered as one of the architects of the Paris agreement talked about stubborn optimism.
I think that I have always been a stubborn optimist - I just did not have a name for it. I believe that things can and will get better and that there is always a possibility for success. The climate and biodiversity crises are tough, but I am very much convinced that, as humans, we have everything in our hands to bend the curve and protect and restore nature. We are all dependent on our forests, rivers, oceans, and soils that provide us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink.
We need to keep raising awareness. For many people, the ocean is a vast blue hole. For me, Antarctica is the heart, the Amazon are the lungs of our planet, and the ocean is our veins, which connect us all. It is in our own interest to protect and to keep the ocean healthy.
The climate and biodiversity crises are tough,
but I am very much convinced that, as humans,
we have everything in our hands to bend the curve
and protect nature.
What role do women play in building a more sustainable and environmentally friendly society?
Women are half of our society. For me, it is just unimaginable that 50% of our population would not have a voice. It is essential to consider women and men when we talk about sustainability. They both have the right to be around the table when we make environmental, social or economic decisions that have an impact on all of us. We need more diverse perspectives, not only for the green transition but for any kind of social transition. To push boundaries and consider all possible angles, a wider range of influences and opinions is needed. And that is where women play an essential role. So, it is time to raise our voice, and advocate for inclusive, authentic, and empathetic leadership.
We like to close our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire. The one we have chosen for you is: what do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would not say that there was one great achievement in my life, but I am currently most proud of the person that I have become. I feel good in my skin contributing to the green transition and creating a more equitable and respectful world where humans can live in harmony with nature.
Video edited by Nadège Serrero
Interviewed by Anel Arapova
This month, we met Alba Casero Mier, Media Intelligence and Digital Media Manager at Orange Spain. As participant in WIL’s Talent Pool Programme, Alba discussed her passion for Mathematics, what Data & Analysis means for an enterprise, and the importance of risk-taking in decision-making.
Prior to launching your professional career, your studies were focused on Mathematics. What attracted you to this discipline? How were your further career choices affected by your strong mathematical background?
What attracted me to Mathematics was its ability to bring order to what appears to the human eye as chaos. It is like a puzzle in which the pieces fit together and allows us to understand the world around us. Even now, I am sure that if I went back in time, I would go back to studying Mathematics again
Of course, all my decisions (and my opportunities) have been influenced by this mathematical background. On the one hand, since Big Data and analysis are becoming more and more important for companies, many doors have been opened for me. On the other hand, I really like mathematics' application from a less technical, more business-related point of view. I love the global vision and understanding what the discipline can give you in any area of business. In a way, I became a hybrid profile between data and business, which has been guiding my career a lot.
In a way, I became a hybrid profile between
data and business, which has been
guiding my career a lot.
You have had a rich and varied career in data marketing and modeling, which started in Neometrics and has involved working as a Data Analyst and as a Senior Manager in external consultancy firms, as well as in-house. You also have an air traffic controller licence and are currently teaching at ISDI! What have been the most striking differences in your roles, not only in the nature of work itself, but also other factors like group dynamics and leadership techniques? What tips could you give to professionals looking for similar career variation?
The most difficult thing is to adapt to working with such different profiles and objectives. Even when the work is similar, you cannot approach all jobs in the same way. In my role, it is not only important to do a good business analysis but also to know how to explain it in a way that makes people understand it. Otherwise, it is not useful. You cannot explain a mathematical model in the same way when you work in a specialised technical team or when you work in a media agency with marketing people.
The world of air traffic control is very different from the rest. There is much more independent working, leaving you alone and very focused on what you do. While it also has an important teamwork aspect, it is a team that you hardly see. It is more about blind trust since you know that the team has to be there for everything to work.
My best advice would be to try to be empathetic. Empathy is key to being able to adapt to new contexts and teams. In my opinion, adaptation is the key to success. Understanding the position of others, as well as their needs and limitations, will make them understand you much better and generate very enriching synergies in any role.
Understanding the position of others,
as well as their needs and limitations, will make
them understand you much better and generate
very enriching synergies in any role.
You have been Media Intelligence and Digital Media Manager at Orange Spain since September 2019. Could you tell us about some of your biggest milestones during your time there? What has been the greatest lesson you have learned?
At Orange, I have learned to question data more, as well as to be critical and perhaps more cautious. It is easy to make great recommendations based on mathematical models when you are an external company (agency, consultancy, etc.), but everything changes when it is your money and when it is you who must make the final decision and take the risk. As an external company, you propose a recommendation and hope that there are people on the other side who are going to consider it and take everything into account. In a sense, it is much more relaxed.
Certainly, the most difficult thing in Orange has been finding the balance between being brave enough to make decisions and change things, while at the same time being prudent and aware of the risks. In a company as large as Orange, these decisions always affect many people. Being able to reach agreements in areas with such different objectives has also been a very interesting challenge. In terms of a lesson, I think the greatest one has been the fact that even if you go faster alone, you go further as a team.
Even if you go faster alone, you go further as a team.
Where do you see your career taking you within the next ten years?
This is a tricky question! I've been thinking a lot about it in recent weeks. The truth is that, until now, I have progressed without a very clear roadmap, and that has allowed me to be very flexible and surprise myself. When I started studying Mathematics, I never thought I would end up working in marketing and loving it. Since I don't usually make long-term plans, I cannot predict where I will be in 10 years. What I hope is that my work continues to be enjoyable and motivates me as much as it does now. It is also important that it continues to allow me to maintain a balance between my professional and personal life while still generating impact.
There is no doubt that the current pandemic has accelerated the speed at which we are “going digital”, with ever-increasing reliance on technology. What in your view is the role of data and analytics in developing an effective strategy in the post-pandemic economy?
In our case, at Orange, data and analytics have been key when it comes to understanding how the pandemic affects consumer habits like media consumption, digitisation, as well as any new needs. Moreover, it has allowed us to see how these habits have been changing at each stage of the pandemic. This has helped us to gain a better understanding of the business and to adapt as necessary. And as I said before, adapting is the key to success. Data and analytics allow us to adapt to changes in a faster and more reliable way.
As a participant in the 6th edition of WIL’s Women Talent Pool leadership programme, you are joined by 49 other women from a variety of different sectors and industries. What led you to join the program and what have you got out of it so far?
One of the things that caught my attention about the programme was having the opportunity to meet other women in leadership positions. In my environment, it is still not easy to find leading women in more technical areas, for example, in data analytics. Networking with them has been a very enriching experience. I believe that the programme, in addition to helping us develop very important skills from a practical point of view, also offers us a space to share our experiences and support each other.
Out of the events and workshops I have attended, I found them all to be very different. I found the workshop on networking to be particularly useful since networking is not necessarily my strongest point. Now that everything has been moved online, networking has become even more difficult, I found the tips very applicable.
I believe that the programme, in addition
to helping us develop very important skills from
a practical point of view, also offers us a space
to share our experiences and support each other.
We often end our interviews with a question from the Proust Questionnaire. This time, the question is: When and where were you happiest?
In general, I consider myself to be a very happy person, so it is difficult for me to choose just one moment. Perhaps this moment could be when my nephew, Martín, who is now three years old, was born and I saw him for the first time. He was so small and so cute! I have lived far from my family for a long time, and it was very emotional to be able to live this moment with my little sister (who is not so little anymore). I was living in Barcelona and when little Martín decided to come to the world, I took the first flight to get to the hospital on time.
Anyway, I would have an endless list of good moments. You have to make decisions that make you happy!
You have to make decisions that make you happy!
Meet our Talent, Gabriel Brunnich Dunand, UNESCO Project Manager, in charge of the International the Fund for the Promotion of Culture (IFPC). In this interview, she talks about her commitment to women’s rights, children’s rights and education, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on access to culture, and how data can be used to create gender-sensitive policy and address gender gaps.
Can you describe your current role as UNESCO Project Manager, in charge of the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture (IFPC) and share one of the major initiatives you have supervised?
I have been working at UNESCO for the past 14 years. I am currently a Project Management Officer for the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture (IFPC), which has supported the production and organisation of cultural and artistic projects all over the world, with a focus on gender equality and sustainable development through culture. The Fund has supported over 30 projects around the world, ranging from drama and dance theatre in Palestine to the first African circus arts festival; from peace building theatre in Sri-Lanka to a collaborative environmental art project in South-Africa. There is a lot of diversity within and between the projects, and that has been exciting to see.
I also am responsible for chairing the Fund’s Administrative Council meetings, which means presenting all the findings of the projects, the financial situation, and the strategic direction of the Fund. For the past two years I have also been Secretary of the Working Group on IFPC, which is a consultative mechanism involving Member States, the Fund’s Administrative Council and the UNESCO Secretariat, to rethink the strategic direction of the Fund. I feel proud to have been able to accompany this challenging process, including communicating with the more than 190 stakeholders involved, and to play a part in restructuring the governance of the Fund.
Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” Why is ensuring access to culture for all citizens so important and what can be done to make this a reality?
Cultural rights, which can be described as the right to have access to culture, to participate and enjoy culture, are human rights. Whether we are talking about museums, heritage sites, traditions being passed from one generation to another, or artistic creation, culture has the power to inspire, transform and inform us. Especially in time of crisis, it has a unique role as a coping mechanism and in helping us to become more resilient.
During Covid-19 we have seen how much having access to culture and being able to enjoy culture is often dependent on having access to digital communication tools and networks. The digital divide has been exacerbated by the pandemic. From one day to the next, our reliance on digital communication tools to work, learn and engage with others skyrocketed. Those who have limited, or no access to such tools have effectively been excluded from participating in the online events that have been organised during the pandemic. A concerted effort is needed by governments and the private sector to address the digital divide and internet infrastructure gaps: access to digital tools is a key part in making sure that everyone has access to culture.
Culture has the power to inspire, transform
and inform us. Especially in time of crisis,
it has a unique role as a coping mechanism
and in helping us to become more resilient.
Women, who hold a higher proportion of precarious jobs in the arts and culture sectors, are particularly vulnerable to social and economic insecurity. What in your view can governments do to address the gender gaps in the cultural and creative industries? What has been the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on culture professionals, particularly women?
Women hold a higher proportion of precarious jobs not just in the cultural industry but across sectors. This is partly due to the disproportional amount of time women spend on care giving and domestic work, which has the double burden of being unpaid for the most part, as well as often being invisible when it comes to policy making.
In my view, the only way to reduce the gender gap is to create policy with a gender perspective in mind. And whether it is about culture, education, or health, it all starts with data. We need good data to understand how and where people spend their time. Sex-disaggregated time-use data is particularly key in this sense as it informs policy makers in determining where investments need to be made.
In times of crisis, vulnerable and marginalised communities are often hit the hardest. The UNESCO report “Gender & Creativity: Progress on the Precipice”* notes that without gender sensitive data and policy, Covid-19 could actually have an exceedingly long and regressive impact on gender equality. This is an issue that needs to be addressed now, or else the long-term effects of Covid-19 could be very harmful to the progress that has been made in recent years. Since 2021 is the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, I hope it can be a turning point. If governments take the opportunity to invest in and collect data through a gender perspective, policy can be developed in a gender sensitive way that takes into consideration the reality of all people.
Training and mentoring programmes, like WIL’s Women Talent Pool programme, are also key in addressing gender equality. Being able to meet like-minded women, to support one another in developing our professional skills, and have networking opportunities are all crucial.
Finally, general awareness raising on the importance of gender equality is another key piece of the puzzle. Organisations like UNESCO have a key role to play in making people aware about stereotypes and moving beyond them.
The only way to reduce the gender gaps
is to create policy with a gender perspective in mind.
And whether it is about culture, education, or health,
it all starts with data.
As well as culture, you have also worked on projects focused on women and education, including a mission at UNDP where you looked at the impact of rural energy access on women’s empowerment and an experience as an early years’ teacher at a school in the Bronx. Could you tell us more about your personal story and where your commitment to these issues comes from?
My first job, and probably one of the most life changing for me, was teaching preschoolers in a multiservice community centre in the South Bronx in New York Some of the children in my class lived in homeless shelters, some of the mothers were former drug users, and most of the children were dealing with the realities of urban poverty on a daily basis. This was compounded by a lack of access to quality health care, which is very common for marginalised communities. The air quality in the South Bronx is such that many children in this area suffer from some of the highest rates of asthma in the US. This is when I came across the concept of “environmental inequality” or “pollution inequity”.
The resilience of these children and their mothers, however, was truly inspiring. Nevertheless, I found that many of the public policies in place which were intended to help struggling families, were actually counterproductive. I felt the need to go back to school and to study public policy, so that I could try to impact societies on a more systemic level and address some of the challenges that were clearly beyond the scope of what I could achieve in my classroom.
I then moved to France where I got my master’s degree in political science with a focus on development studies. Once I finished my degree, I spent some time in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) where I collected data on the impact of energy access on women in rural areas. I also worked in Mali with an association called Djantoli, that focuses on preventive health services for young children.
All of these experiences crystallised for me how important it is to invest in women, not only for families but for society as a whole.
All these experiences crystallised for me how
important it is to invest in women, not only for families
but for society as a whole.
You speak three languages fluently (English, French, and Spanish), and your professional experience has taken you all over the world, including Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, France, and the US. The benefits of international experience have been well-researched and are typically described in terms of the advancement of intercultural skills and competences. How has your experience with and understanding of different cultures impacted your outlook, and career?
I’ve always loved studying languages, travelling and experiencing cultures that are different from my own. Being able to speak another language is a window to connect with other people. The travel I have been able to do through work and my studies has enriched my life enormously, expanded my world view, helped me question who I am and has opened my eyes to other ways of living.
That is one of the reasons why I have loved working at UNESCO. I am in contact with people all over the world, and I usually use two or even three languages each day. I really enjoy the cultural and linguistic diversity. I have also been able to experience what it is like to work with governments that are collaborating together to address topics like peace, sustainable development and gender equality, through education, culture, science and communication. Despite the challenges of intergovernmental processes, it has been very inspiring to see the progress that can be made!
After 14 years working in the cultural sector at UNESCO, I have also come to understand that doing the hard work that is in UNESCO mandate cannot be done by governments alone: the private sector has a key role to play as a partner and stakeholder. Having an open dialogue among different stakeholders is key, and at this point in my career, I am very eager to explore how the private sector can strengthen its role as a key partner and stakeholder in addressing issues such as sustainable development and gender equality. It is very heartening to see how the concept of corporate social responsibility has taken off in the past few years, and how even major companies around the world are considering the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profits.
At this point in my career, I am very eager to
explore how the private sector can strengthen its role
as a key partner and stakeholder in addressing issues
such as sustainable development and gender equality.
In your spare time, you enjoy composing piano music. Is there a musical composition or artist that particularly moves you and why?
I love many composers. Frederic Chopin and Claude Debussy are among my favourites. Most recently however, I have really been enjoying playing Erik Satie’s Gnossienne n°1. For me, it is like a musical poem that expresses feelings and images that cannot be expressed through words.
Interviewed by Hanna Müller
Meet our Talent, Anna Maria Björklund, Nordic Data Protection Officer at Capgemini. In this interview she talks about why having strong data protection regulation is so important, what being responsible for driving cultural change around data protection means to her, and why she is admirative of Greta Thunberg.
You have been Nordic Data Protection Officer at Capgemini for two years after several roles in the legal field in Sweden. In parallel, you are a teacher at a Stockholm-based privacy academy. How would you describe your current role at Capgemini and why is it important?
I serve as the Data Protection Officer for all Capgemini’s activities in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, and advise and support management and business about the company’s activities in respect of personal data. I often act as the intermediary between different functions and business areas. I have daily interactions with the business in our various locations and with colleagues in the international data protection network. Interacting and cooperating with various stakeholders in my line of work is one of the best aspects of the role. I learn something new every day.
Capgemini is a value-driven company operating in the fields of consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services. Data is at the Group’s core and data protection very high up on the corporate agenda. Capgemini is entrusted with valuable data from both our clients and our employees. This makes the role of the DPO meaningful and important.
What has been the greatest triumph of your career thus far?
Every time I have been able to ignite and drive cultural change around data protection in an organisation has been a triumph for me. Whether starting small, or with just a loose network of privacy lawyers; whether raising awareness at all levels of the organisation, or creating Group-wide implementation projects, new corporate processes, and entire new business roles or even departments. When people from right across your organisation start reaching out to you for advice early on in their business processes, you know you are on the right path.
To become GDPR [EU General Data Protection Regulation] compliant is about getting data protection into the DNA of the organisation and that starts with corporate culture. Compliance should not be a choice; it should come naturally.
Every time I have been able to ignite and
drive cultural change around data protection
in an organisation has been a triumph for me.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in 2018, regulates how companies protect EU citizens' personal data. For many on the internet, this Regulation remains a black box of legalese and obscure policy. Can you explain us why the GDPR is important and how it applies to EU citizens’ data?
This regulation is important because it is about your data. Every day your personal data is being collected, used, transferred, and possibly misused by different parties.
Your data is valuable and, if used incorrectly, it could potentially harm you. Knowledge about where your data is being processed and by whom and for what purpose puts you in the driver’s seat, and that is one of the goals of the GDPR. Further, data protection rules stem from the fundamental human right of integrity.
At the same time, the existence and interpretation of the data protection regulatory framework should not put a stopper on ethical innovation. Digital transformation is vital and should be for the benefit of all. The GDPR is also about creating a level playing field for parties that need to process personal data and is better adapted to the development of technology than the previous Data Protection Directive from 1995.
It has been argued that, in seeking to protect internet users, the EU has provided public officials with a tool to undermine press freedom. How can we ensure that data protection laws are used to protect rights, and not as a tool to silence or intimidate journalists and public interest reporters?
Freedom of expression and of information, is a fundamental human right, just as the right to privacy and to your integrity are. To pit those two rights against each other is not the way to go. The GDPR states that these rights should be balanced but doing this kind of balancing act is not an easy task. The GDPR also states that Member States should reconcile the right to the protection of personal data with the right to freedom of expression, including for journalistic purposes. If Member States have not yet achieved this, then they need to work on it.
I foresee the need for the EU to support and work with the EU Member States to ensure progress. The legal framework in Sweden, where I’m from, may not be perfect, but real effort and historical reasons have resulted in a coherent model with a constitutional right of expression.
Freedom of expression and of information,
is a fundamental human right, just as the right
to privacy and to your integrity are. To pit those two
rights against each other is not the way to go.
What are the most common mistakes or misperceptions you have seen when it comes to data privacy and security? And concretely, what can companies do to protect customer data, company secrets and internal communication from cyber-attacks every day?
The most common misconception I have come across is a lack of understanding that data protection laws in Europe have in scope all data that can directly or indirectly be used to identify an individual. Not everyone do understand why it is necessary to cover data that might, at a first glance, look basic and not particularly sensitive.
Data that could be used for one purpose by a certain party without risk for you may in the hands of another party, together with other data about you, be used to form a profile of you, your interests and opinions. Suddenly, the data is coherent, detailed and no longer unsensitive and basic.
When it comes to cybersecurity, we need to start with training, training and more training! Comprehensive and recurring training in information security and data privacy is absolutely fundamental.. Companies and organisations should understand that the chain is not stronger than the weakest link and ensure that the whole life cycle of data activity is protected. A very sophisticated and advanced security measure is of less value if the same data is transferred unprotected at a later stage.
Data that could be used for one purpose
by a certain party without risk for you may in
the hands of another party, together with other
data about you, be used to form a profile of you,
your interests and opinions.
Suddenly, the data is coherent, and no longer
unsensitive and basic.
We like to close our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire. The one we have chosen for you is: Which living person do you most admire?
I would like to name Greta Thunberg, a young, Swedish woman with incredible glow and seemingly relentless energy for her cause, who fights back against ridicule, harassment, and pure ignorance with references to facts and science. I would not agree with Greta on everything but.
but she has contributed to the struggle of getting the climate crisis on the top of the political agenda.
Interviewed by Hajar El Baraka
Meet our Talent, Rebecca Francis, Real Estate Solicitor and Associate Director at Osborne Clarke. In this interview, she tells us how she ended up in a career in law and what her professional journey has been like. She also gives some valuable advice on confidence and personal branding in the workplace.
You hold a bachelor’s degree in Law and obtained your LPC right after it. Have you always wanted to become a solicitor? What motivated you to choose this career path?
I started down this career path a long time ago! I think I had an idea in my head when I was 13 or 14 of what a career in law might mean. I was very interested in public speaking, debating and politics at school, so for me, it was a natural fit to pursue a career in law. It seemed like a career that gave structure and had a clear career progression.
Of course, what I thought a career in law was when I was 13 or 14 is very different to the realities of working in a commercial law firm. The biggest realisation for me since I qualified is that you are the asset and the product you sell. It is very much about marketing yourself as well as the firm and business development. Yes, it is about having an understanding of the law and keeping on top of it; but you also have to be incredibly commercial and really understand your client’s drivers, as well as the marketing side of things. It’s been an interesting journey so far and it certainly hasn’t disappointed.
I enjoy talking to people, going to events and meeting people. But selling yourself as a lawyer can take some adjusting to. Finding a balance is key. Being personable and trying to relate to people is also important: we shouldn’t be ashamed or shy away from saying “this is what I do, and this is how I can help you and let’s have a chat about it”. My ability to do this has progressed over time, and I’ve certainly found it an enjoyable aspect of my career.
“We shouldn’t be ashamed or shy away
from saying : this is what I do, and this is how
I can help you. Let’s have a chat about it”
You are currently an Associate Director at Osborne Clarke in the UK after having been a Senior Associate for almost 6 years. What does a typical day look like for you? What kind of real estate issues and clients do you act for?
I am a Real Estate Disputes Lawyer. I do not work on the transactional side, though I do a lot of work with my colleagues in that department. What I love about real estate disputes is that there is no typical day. I would say half my working day is dealing with genuine disputes if things go to court or alternative dispute resolution. The other half is advisory: it’s about working with clients and colleagues to try to avoid disputes later down the line. I really like having the best of both worlds: full blown litigation but also the advisory side.
My specialism is in residential or mixed-use property. I am slightly obsessed with buildings - maybe I should become an architect in a next life! I find it fascinating to be involved with things that affect us all. We all need somewhere to live and how we live is constantly changing. I have been privileged to work with many clients who are at the forefront of these changes, and seeing people who want to live and work in a different way. For instance, ownership is not the holy grail for everybody: long term purpose built rental, flexibility, technology, working from home etc, are preferable for many. All of the above are things that our clients, who are mainly developers and investors, are involved with, and I have been fortunate to be involved in their work.
What was the most successful case you have worked on or your best experience throughout your career?
The answer is probably a case on which I am working right now! It’s very much in my area of expertise and involves an iconic building that played a part in my childhood. It was a dispute that went on for a while and for which we just had the results. We won on everything. I have really enjoyed the subject matter. Doing site visits was incredibly interesting to me and getting a positive result at the end of all of it was the cherry on top.
Working with our trainees and getting them so involved throughout the whole process so that they could see a dispute from start to finish, was especially fulfilling.
Across the globe, we are now transitioning from remote/hybrid working being a new way of working to being a standard way of working. How did this change impact the real estate industry and how did you adapt to it as a solicitor in this field?
I think there was a feeling of shock in the real estate industry when the pandemic first hit, and we went to full lockdown in the UK. Retail has probably suffered in a way that residential hasn’t, but generally the industry responded very positively by looking at the opportunities and recognising that it implies a huge cultural shift. Some of clients who were already in the space of purpose built, rental and alternative living assets were perfectly placed to strike and make even more of a business case for what they were offering. So, although it was mixed, the feeling was generally positive after the initial lockdown.
In terms of how we responded as lawyers, we were busier than ever on the disputes side when the pandemic hit. The government was bringing out vast amounts of legislation and measures to support businesses and we had to get to grips with it on the day it was published and advise our clients in real time about what this meant for their businesses. I think we will see the fallout of it for a long time to come.
I was lucky to be in a firm where connected working wasn’t new for us. In fact, we already worked from home a day or two a week, so it wasn’t a huge shift for us to then to go full time remote working. Obviously, MS Teams was not part of my life before March last year and now it very much is! There were certain things you had to get used to, but I think we adapted really well, and we were able to deliver for our clients.
Acritas and Thomson Reuters, as part of the “Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law” programme, conducted a research study on approaches to improve gender diversity at senior levels in law firms. This research found that only a third of New Partners in law firms, both salaried and Equity, were female. Do you recognise this lack of gender diversity in senior levels in law firms and, if so, what are the factors behind it? How is Osborne Clarke tackling this issue?
The short answer is yes, I do very much recognise those findings, particularly in a commercial law firm. There is a stark difference between female representation at the junior end of the spectrum and senior end. We have by far more women at the junior end than males and our partnership is made up of around 25% females. That is certainly changing: in 2019 about 63% of new partner promotions were females so that’s a huge change and very different from the general findings of that research.
The steps Osborne Clarke is taking are making an impact but obviously, you can’t rest on your laurels: it’s about retaining diversity and good strong female talents as well as simply recruiting. The reasons for it are very complex and it’s a combination of factors. But from my experience, what jumps out are the things women do subconsciously in terms of the draw and the drain on their time. Even in a work setting, things women generally get asked to do over and above their day job and which they volunteer to do means they have less time for other things such as chargeable work, networking etc.
Traditional forms of networking and business developments have not helped either, particularly in real estate which is traditionally a very male industry. There is a lot of going to the pub, lots of sport events and not everybody, male or female, is able to do that. I think this has made people self-select out of going through the promotion process, for example.
There is a need to be more creative about business development and how we work and what is necessary to be able to fulfil a role. At Osborne Clarke, they have recruited for specific roles to enhance diversity and inclusion in the firm. It is business critical for them and it goes all the way up to the Executive Board. I think it’s not as easy for smaller firms to go at it as hard as OC have, but there definitely things all firms can do so hopefully the only way is up.
You always try and steer away from stereotypes. But looking at my female colleagues we do tend to want to make sure we are 100% perfect on something before we put ourselves forward. If we could be a bit braver and just say “yes, I am going to go for it and do as much as I can”, we would reap the benefits. It’s about your potential, your progression, and justifying it on that basis.
“I look at my female colleagues and we do tend to want
to make sure we are 100% perfect on something
before we put ourselves forward. If we could be a bit
braver and just say “yes, I am going to go for it and do as
much as I can”, we would reap the benefits.”
As well as being a Talent in WIL’s Women Talent Pool programme, you are also a member of Women in Property, which provides mentoring, networking and professional development for women in the property sector. Can you tell us more about this organisation? What do you expect to achieve or learn from your role in both of these organisations?
I joined Women in Property as soon as I qualified and found it immensely helpful, particularly at the start of my career. For me, it was a safe space to go out and practice networking. They put on diverse events covering the full spectrum of real estate industry, enabling you to meet people you never normally would. Immersing myself in a female-only safe space was incredibly valuable and I have learned a great deal. I still value it and would encourage any junior lawyers to attend.
The same applies for WIL. It’s about extending your network to people who are outside the London legal bubble and your own firm. It gives you a different insight into how different companies are doing things and what conversations they are having about diversity and inclusion. For me, this is what WIL is about: broadening your network, sharing ideas and having conversations about things that otherwise you wouldn’t.
We usually end the interview with a question from our Proust Questionnaire. Ours for you is: what advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be too disheartened by setbacks! My progression to where I am now definitely didn’t take the path I was expecting. But along the way I developed skills and met people I never would have done otherwise, which ultimately led to me getting to where I am today, in an area I really enjoy. It may have taken a bit longer than the 13-year-old me would have wanted or thought, but it means that I have been able to do more things and grow.
Also, have your own style! As I said before, it’s about marketing yourself. You must have your own way of doing things and be true to yourself and try not to conform to pre-imagined stereotypes. In law, so much of it is about building relationships, so you have to be human. It is easier said than done. Early in your career you have less experience, and I think that only when you feel comfortable enough about your expertise can you start to relax and let your own style and personality shine through. To gain that expertise, you have to put the leg work in.
“Don’t be too disheartened by setbacks! My progression
to where I am now definitely didn’t take the path I was
expecting. But along the way I developed skills and met
people I never would have done otherwise, which ultimately
led to me getting to where I am today,
in an area I really enjoy.”
Interviewed by Hanna MULLER & Nadège SERRERO
Meet our Talent, Andreea Ionescu, Technical Lead at Orange Services Romania. In this interview, Andreea talks about being a women in a male-dominated industry, the evolution of the IT sector in the last ten years, and she shares with us the powerful advice that her father once gave her.
You are an experienced iOS Developer with a PhD focused on Image Processing. Can you give us some background information on your role as Technical Lead at Orange Services and what set you off on your current career path?
My main role is to ensure the success of my team and our projects. As a technical leader at Orange Services Romania, I develop mobile applications and undertake administrative activities and projects for our mobile team. In the Orange Labs department, we are working on activities around our OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). I am responsible for setting the objectives and key results for each employee in my team. On the software side, my team and I are working on the “My Orange” Romanian application to create a better experience for our customers. We always take into account our customers’ feedback and develop products accordingly.
As well as this, I spend part of my working time on innovation activities in my capacity as Innovation Manager for our Orange Labs Romania department. At Orange innovation activities are strongly supported, for instance we organise internal challenges to motivate our employees, because we believe that everyone can have great ideas. I really enjoy this part of my job because I can pursue my great passion: image processing.
To your question about what set me off on this current path, I believe that it’s related to the fact that I spent many hours working in the IOS environment. I have been an IOS developer since 2011 and since then I haven’t wanted to do anything else. I feel privileged to be able to contribute in the development of key applications used by hundreds of thousands of iOS users. With every application, I believe that I am helping people to access what they need directly from their mobile phones, in the best way possible.
If I had to describe myself in a nutshell, I would say that I'm a people's person; that I ensure that my ideas are heard loud and clear; and that I do everything I can for my team and our projects.
At Orange innovation activities are
strongly supported, for instance we
organise internal challenges to motivate
our employees, because we believe
that everyone can have great ideas.
Drawing on your experience in the IT industry, what would you say is the greatest transformation in technology seen in the last ten years and where do you think the digital revolution will take us next?
In the last 10 years, companies have started to invest more in research and innovation activities. Artificial Neural Networks were first invented in the 1980s, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) only became famous in 2012 because of the appearance of deep learning.
Before 2012, the main issue with these algorithms was the lack of big datasets and computational resources. The first deep learning applications based on big data sets were developed for speech (sound) in 2010 and then images, in 2012. The big image dataset used in 2012 was ImageNet, a well-known dataset containing over 14 million images. As big datasets become widely available, AI become better and better at finding more domains of application.
In the mobile area, the last ten years has seen mobile devices become more and more powerful in terms of computing and hardware functionalities. Nowadays, the development process is easier and faster than it was 10 years ago. I remember developing my first mobile application using Augmented Reality back in 2011 when the framework was not as permissive as it is today. I had to write many lines of code to do what I can do today using a framework and just a few instructions. Things have become much simpler.
In my opinion, the digital revolution will take us towards a more virtual connection between customers, products and services using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. I'm sure we will see it increasingly, as a result of the pandemic, in the marketing industry and it will become better in mobile gaming applications. This will happen because of the 5G connectivity that has started to cover metropolitan areas. In my city, for example, Orange already offers 5G connectivity to clients: you just need a compatible mobile device to benefit from an amazing speed connectivity.
In addition, people will start to receive better services according to their preferences and history. Machine Learning is already present in some applications that we are using daily, even if we don’t always notice it. For example, the search engine from Google and all those chatbots we are talking to instead of human agents.
AI algorithms are becoming a must-have to survive in the competitive marketplace we have today. Not just for advertising but also to create customised offers according to people’s needs. It sounds scary to know that a computer can predict your next move, but it shouldn’t, because everything is made for you to have the best experience possible on the internet.
I do believe in a strong collaboration between IT and Psychology!
In my opinion, the digital revolution will take
us towards a more virtual connection between customers,
products and services using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
Despite the world’s first computer programmer being a woman, Ada Lovelace, according to the European Commission, women represent only 34% of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates worldwide. What do you think are the major barriers for women to pursue a career in one of these fields and what do you think we should be doing to encourage more young girls to consider a career in the software industry specifically?
In my view, women are better at multitasking than men. But in the IT field you must concentrate all your attention on a single task: the code you are writing. I would compare this field to a continuous chess game in which you must constantly think about your next move in order to build a successful strategy.
I think women have been performing as well, if not better, than men throughout history. The problem is that women don't have enough time to invest in this field. You need to be available more than eight hours per day in order to continuously learn new frameworks, since things change very fast in the IT field. The major barrier for women is having more tasks to do in their personal lives, like looking after the house, raising kids and taking care of other people. If we want to have more women in the IT field, we must support them to dedicate more time to their education, and to create interactive workshops to show them that developing software is not as difficult as it might seem.
Nowadays, you can create basic webpages using apps and drag and drop functionalities, and a website may be completed in a couple of hours. There is a great deal of focus on theory at university. In order to attract anyone (men or women) into the IT domain, we have to start by showing students that it can be easy and fun. We must teach them to develop easy applications with many visual elements and then go deeper in algorithms and data structures. Nobody uses heavy algorithms in their daily tasks: only researchers or those working on Machine Learning tasks.
I would compare this field to a continuouschess game in which you must constantly
think about your next move in order
to build a successful strategy.
What challenges have you yourself faced within in male-dominated spaces and what advice would you give to women looking to break into the field of computer technology?
It was very hard for me to find my first job as a software developer. Ten years ago, it wasn't very popular to find internships and jobs in tech companies, and they were searching for experienced developers, which was impossible for me because, at university, I attended all my classes and didn’t have time to gain experience on the side.
My advice for girls is to invest their time in education: go to workshops, go to private IT classes if you feel your teacher is not explaining things well enough, go to university and, if you can, do a PhD. During a PhD, you have the opportunity to do what you love and meet other people who are passionate about the same topic.
The only way you can pass the technical interviews in IT companies is to be prepared technically as well. I'm 100% convinced that if your interview test is perfect, you won't have any issues simply because you are a woman. Nowadays, tech companies have really evolved and are simply looking for the best skills. Being a woman or a man isn’t relevant for them.
My father used to tell me: “Out there are hundreds of beautiful women; why not try to be one of the smartest too.” I was lucky to have him as a role model and I tried to make him proud. So, girls, find what motivates you, prove to yourself you are better than yesterday, and never stop learning!
So, girls, find what motivates you, prove to yourself you are better than yesterday,
and never stop learning!
You are part of our Women Talent Pool Programme this year. In a few words, can you tell us why you wanted to participate and what you expect from it?
This initiative is a great opportunity for me to develop myself and my leadership skills. I'm interested in following the trainings organised by WIL and to participate in the networking events. I know that women from top positions get invited to WTP events, and their experience and advice for me are priceless. I find them very inspiring. I want to learn from the best!
On the WTP Programme are other talented women from different domains and I'm curious to learn how they managed and progressed in their careers. There is a real challenge in figuring out how to succeed when you’re competing with those with similar skills and capabilities.
We always conclude our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is that I'm an independent woman in every aspect. I'm working in a dynamic environment, which is very desirable and, despite what people say, I'm pretty sure that software developers won’t be replaced by "robots" anytime soon! I am living a happy life and I think that that is what people should be seeking.
© European Network for Women in Leadership 2021
Registered Training Provider: number 11756252375
21 bis rue du Simplon, 75018, Paris
email@example.com | +33 970 403 310