Connecting, inspiring and empowering women to lead the way
Now Global Account Manager at LinkedIn, the web’s largest network of professionals, Myriam El Ouni first served as Platform Sales Executive at Salesforce and as Account Manager both for private and public sector at Microsoft in France and in the UK. Since her participation to the first edition of our Women Talent Pool program in 2012, Myriam thus continued on her way to become, in her own words, a “digital fashionista” and “growth hacker”. As a passionate person who loves to share, Myriam welcomed us at the offices of LinkedIn in Paris, the perfect place to interview a digital expert!
You have been a Global Account Manager of LinkedIn for eight months, helping Global Accounts to become connected enterprises. What is your role exactly about and which success factors do you see as essential?
Our Global Account team helps global organizations in France grow by transforming their human resources’ organizations to better meet the new talent expectations and recruitment goals. After transforming customers’ journey, the way digital has transformed the people, now brings companies to rethink the way they interact with their people, from Talent to Employees.
The challenge, which global organizations are facing today, is mainly about identifying and attracting the right talents for the roles they provide today and will have to fulfill tomorrow.
LinkedIn empowers them with intelligent data to overcome this challenge and become pioneer of the digital HR. We help organizations to become data-driven in the way they identify, attract and retains talents.
The first success factor is the ability to listen and understand your customers’ challenges and priorities in this changing environment. The second factor is compassion: understanding where customers stand in their journey to digital. Transformation is a journey and it is key that customers can successfully go through it while remaining true to their values and culture. The third success factor is teamwork, and being able to leverage every talent of the team. We are now a global team of talented people, who by working together are able to empower our customers to achieve more.
You describe yourself as “customers obsessed”: in an ever-changing digital environment, how do you keep your brand and services agile and what is the key to bringing satisfaction to your customers?
Being customers obsessed to me means first being passionate by getting to know my customers from headquarters to the field in the various countries they are implemented. Then it consists of imagining that you are the customer and thinking about the kind of experience and solution you would expect LinkedIn and your partners to deliver. It all comes down to integrity. Treat your customers as you would like to be treated: with trust, fairness and empathy.
“My golden rule: being customers obsessed and deliver excellence! Become a trusted partner who serves with integrity and empathy”
Why haven't any companies been able to challenge LinkedIn so far and where do you see it heading in 5 years? Any new services for enterprises coming up?
On LinkedIn, people spend only 30% of their time trying to find a job, while 70% of the time they want to consume its valuable content. LinkedIn is the one and only professional network that is offering its 530 million plus members the ability to connect with other professionals and companies as well as sharing content and accessing learning opportunities to grow in a professional way and then finding the next step in their career. LinkedIn is building a digital map to empower the 3 billion workforces to successfully thrive in their career. This goes far above and beyond finding a job.
“LinkedIn is the one and only professional network that is offering its members the ability to connect with other professionals and companies, as well as sharing content and accessing learning opportunities ”
I see a bright future for LinkedIn, and I do believe that being part of Microsoft will allow us to even go a step further by allowing our members and every company to truly leverage the latest technologies from AI, to blockchain and quatum computing.
Do you have an insight of the number of people that have found their job through LinkedIn?
With 530M members, 18M companies and 11M job posted, I believe everyone will find their next dream opportunity through LinkedIn. From finding inspiration on where they want to go next through articles and posts to applying to a job, LinkedIn is providing on a daily basis to millions of people their next career move within a click.
What are your tips and tricks to create a powerful LinkedIn Profile and make the difference?
Your profile should reflect who you are and be the most accurate possible. First, you should have an up to date professional picture that embodies who you are in your daily work environment. Then I would recommend a good description of your missions and values as a professional in the description part just below your picture, and then, on the job experience part, I suggest you mention for whom you have worked, how long, and what you have achieved. You should also connect with the right people. Finally, as LinkedIn is not only a job board, you should be active in terms of articles that you share, posts that you like, or comments that will help you being seen as a knowledgeable expert in your field of expertise rather than just having a resume on LinkedIn.
Representing only 30% of the seven million people working in the ICT European sector, women are clearly underrepresented, especially in leadership positions. To face this considerable gender gap in the ICT sector, has LinkedIn any particular best practices that you can share and how do you personally try to act on this (at LinkedIn and in general)?
LinkedIn is very engaged in any type of diversity, gender being one, and we have a network dedicated to help women progressing in their career inside the company.
In order to promote gender diversity, first it is important not to keep it as a women’s topic. In many companies, gender diversity is led by and for women, but since 70% in the ICT world are still men, we should onboard men in every gender diversity initiative, train men managers to know how to attract, identify, develop and retain women inside their teams, and we should give them a voice on how they could help us on how to reduce this gap. Second, women are their own worst enemies because we are too shy to be successful at work: we also need to empower women to increase their self-confidence and be convinced that they have everything to become a successful leader. Third, without having regulation and flexible working conditions, we will not reduce the gap completely.
“The right question to ask in the time of digital transition is how do we leverage the technology to empower more women to sit at the table?
I believe that the right question to ask ourselves in the time of digital transition is not so much how to ensure the life-work balance of women, because today technology allows us to work from everywhere and at any time, but instead, how do we leverage the digital technology to empower more women to sit at the table.
We read that LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, always asks the following question to job candidates: “What is your dream job?” and “Looking back on your career, what do you want to say you accomplished?” Pretend you are being interviewed by him. What would be your answers?
My dream job is to manage a company with a social and societal responsibility in digital transformation. Accompanying a business and a team to first transform themselves to then be able to impact positively the market, the society and its people. I do believe we are at the very beginning only of all the transformations digital will bring. I am willing ever since I have joined Microsoft 12 years ago, to one day lead a company that will empower people to be successful throughout their digital journey.
The best thing I have accomplished in my career so far is first to learn from my mentors and the leaders I am inspired by, and to build with my customers long-term trusted relationship. With time and passionate work, I have become a trusted advisor of customers transformation. And their own success is my best reward.
The digital age has transformed the way we shop and share our experiences. Today, customers are driving the buying process using websites, blogs, and social media platforms. We have endless options and low prices are not enough to persuade us. According to Deloitte, 62% of companies view customer experience delivered by the contact centers as a competitive differentiator.
The WIL had the chance to discuss this issue with Beatriz San Pedro Jimenez, a Customer Experience and Process Transformation Leader at Orange Spain, and a participant in our Women Talent Pool programme. In this interview, Beatriz shares her thoughts and expertise in the field and reveals to us some of the key ingredients of a great customer experience recipe!
Can you tell us more about yourself and how did you come to focus your career on the customer experience?
I have been working for Orange since 2005 and for the last 6 years, I have been holding several positions focused on customer experience. My first years at Orange were oriented to technical areas and after an MBA, I decided to move to marketing where I discovered my interest for knowing more about the customer, his motivations, and his experiences when getting in contact with Orange. Since then, it has become my passion and during these past years, I have acquired quite a good understanding of how our products, services, and technologies are perceived by the customer.
“Company´s secret ingredient for success is to place the customer experience at the center of its strategy.
What would be the three main components of a great customer experience and could you reveal us the company’s secret ingredient for success?
The first thing would be to place the customer at the center of the product design. A key element during this stage is to take into account customer feedback as it helps to prioritize functionalities and to create a product/ service adapted to his needs. This means more satisfaction for the customer and thus more engagement and recommendation.
Second is to be proactive towards the customer, anticipating the needs he may have at a given moment and proposing personalized products/services and effective solutions.
Thirdly - Simplicity in terms of products and usage. On one hand, customers demand to buy simple offers easy to understand and to get installed and ready to use as soon as possible. On the other hand, customers expect to carry out any kind of interactions from their mobile such as purchase, renewal of mobile phone, change plan, bill consumption… through a fast, easy and useful experience.
As for the company´s secret ingredient for success, I would say it is to place customer experience at the center of the strategy of the company. This shows the priority is clear so the whole organization is engaged and moves towards the same objective. It is the case at Orange where customer experience is the main priority with an ambitious Customer Experience Program at a Group level.
“Negative experiences are unique opportunities for companies to change them into memorable moments, increasing customer satisfaction and recommendation.”
What is your most memorable experience as a customer?
I have lived both positive and negative moments as a customer. To give an example, I had recently lived a negative experience purchasing at an online store for natural products. The package arrived with some products damaged due to the impact during delivery. I went to the sellers’ website to report the issue sending some pictures as requested. In less than 48h, I received the confirmation that the products were going to be sent again. My issue was dealt 100% online and fast. Simple, efficient and trustable.
Customer appreciates agility, especially when a negative experience occurs. These moments are unique opportunities for companies to change negative experiences into memorable moments, increasing customer satisfaction and recommendation.
As the leader of Customer Experience and Process Transformation, you are right on trend when it comes to digital transformation, which is a big topic today. How will the “Big Data” and “Customer Analytics” impact customer sales processes and what is their added value in the management of customer relations?
Indeed, Big Data is a big topic today and it is playing an increasing role for companies that want to keep on the successful path in the coming years. To collect, analyze and understand customer data is extremely important but the great challenge is to make the most of this data in order create added value for the customer. This means that learning how to use customer data will have a big impact on customer sales processes as it will improve segmentation and the possibility to offer personalized products and services based on their usages and preferences.
“Advanced analytics will reveal what is working and what needs to be fixed in terms of the customer journey and user experience, which will have a positive impact on our customer relationship.”
Besides, understanding customer insights through advanced analytics will reveal what is working and what needs to be fixed in terms of the customer journey and user experience.
This will have a positive impact on our customer relationship and we will be able to anticipate issues before they start or to respond to them more rapidly.
You have moved from Madrid to Paris, where you worked for Orange for five years, and then back to Madrid. I guess you might have needed to get a mobile phone for yourself – how did you perceive the differences in customer experiences, if any? And what about between the two working environments? How valuable was this international experience for your professional career?
I have always enjoyed working in international environments and it has been extremely valuable for my professional career. In Paris, I worked at Orange Group in Customer Experience Department, so I had the opportunity to build an international network and to work hand in hand with other European countries sharing best practices. As for customer experience, I have experienced similar customer issues in both countries when dealing with mobile or broadband services. However, I perceived some differences in customers’ behaviors and interests, so the offers are adapted accordingly.
I find myself conformable in both working environments. Respect and flexibility are key elements to adapt yourself, as the main divergences are more related to cultural aspects.
You were a very active participant of WIL’s 3rd edition of Woman Talent Pool programme. What are your impressions from this 18-month experience, what did you learn?
WIL WTP programme has given me the opportunity to meet international senior women leaders from public and private sectors and to learn from their experiences. To be part of this community has been a big source of motivation and inspiration for me.
“There is no single path to success and each of us has to define their own and be comfortable with it.”
I have appreciated the conferences and debates with great speakers and the seminars have helped me to improve my leadership, to think out of the box and to grow in confidence, in order to face new professional challenges. I have understood that there is no single path to success and each of us has to define their own and be comfortable with it.
In one of the women talent meetings, we received a copy of Dr. Carol Dweck bestseller, “Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfill your potential” greatly introduced by Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Director Health and Life Sciences , EMEA, Microsoft. This book has been a big discovery and extremely inspiring for me as it draws your attention to the power of the mindset on how to succeed. I have understood the need to adopt a growth mindset approach free of fixed patterns and negative beliefs as a way to reach both personal and professional goals.
Artificial Intelligence and Cloud computing - What do they have in common with the Healthcare? The WIL had a fruitful discussion on this topic with Racha Abu El Ata, who, only a few years after participating in the first edition of our Women Talent Pool programme (WTP) in 2012, has recently been promoted as Health Industry Sales Director at Microsoft. Racha has been with the IT company for more than 15 years and is passionate about innovation, predictive analytics, and data science. If you are skeptical about artificial intelligence or would like to learn how it can act as an enabler for changes in medicine and healthcare, take 5 minutes and read our interview with her!
After 15 years at Microsoft, you have recently been promoted to a Health Industry Sales Director. How will technology transform healthcare and where are companies like Microsoft focusing?
Healthcare is an important industry to be transformed in France and other developed countries in the next few years, as the costs for healthcare spending, fueled by the aging population and chronic diseases, are projected to rise from currently 12% of GDP to nearly 18% of GDP in the next 10 years. There is thus a good opportunity to change the industry and technology is at the heart of this transformation.
Microsoft has also gone through a reorganization in the beginning of last year and has decided to focus on the following priorities: manufacturing, financial services, retail, education, government, and health being one of them. In order to assist the healthcare transformation, Microsoft is building specific offers and solutions such as engaging patients and empowering care teams.
“The costs for healthcare spending, fueled by the aging population and chronic diseases, are projected to rise from currently 12% of GDP to nearly 18% of GDP in the next 10 years.”
What is the most exciting development that you are seeing within the field of e-health solutions at Microsoft?
The mathematical algorithm to analyze the health data and the power of cloud computing to simplify the analysis and make it faster. Without the algorithm and cloud services, we could still perform the analysis, but that would be very costly and would take an unimaginable amount of time.
In particular, what role does artificial intelligence (AI) play in health sector today? Leading thinkers have attacked the concept—such as Stephen Hawking who voiced his concern. Do you think we should be scared of Dr. Terminator and why ?
Artificial intelligence (AI) enables society to have a good understanding and analysis of what has happened in the past and what may happen in the future. To give an example, currently, a patient receives a treatment and is sent home with no further analysis if the treatment he has received was the right one. Technology can help us customize the treatment with the patients’ data such as age and lifestyle, which can be analyzed in a short period of time (see the previous question).
The above example shows that if we anticipate and prepare for the change, AI can be an opportunity for the society as a whole. It is true that AI and improved automation will disrupt the job market and will indeed contribute to a job loss, but it will, at the same time, create job opportunities that never existed before, such as data scientists.
Education thus plays an important role in anticipating and addressing these changes, therefore governments and educational institutions should work hand in hand with industrial leaders such as Microsoft and others to train the next generation(s) and prepare them for the future employment market.
“Technology can help us customize the treatment with the patients’ data such as age and lifestyle.”
You have joined Microsoft in 2002, while many people were and are still knocking on the company’s door. What makes it so attractive and how does it foster innovative and creative thinking among its workforce?
Microsoft is a very emphatic company and while it is very demanding it is also extremely rewarding. There is a possibility for an employee to stay with the company until his/her retirement while taking up diverse roles. I have changed six roles since I have joined the company, but I have the feeling that I worked for several companies and on many different topics.
I also truly appreciate the fact that our top management is constantly questioning its model, innovation, and organization. As said previously, we went recently through a significant reorganization into six vertical industries, which shows that management is not afraid of changes and this gives me confidence for the future.
Microsoft is playing a big role in society and citizenship, which is of great importance to me, as I could not work for a company that would not care about making the world better place.
In 2012, you have participated in the 1st edition of our Woman Talent Pool Programme and only a few years later, you have reached a leading position. Could you share with us how the Programme has benefited you and what advice would you give to other participants?
The participation in the Programme gave me an opportunity to network, travel, meet leaders and learn from them. The example of leaders as role models is important for young women, so they can witness the possibility of having a leadership position beside a balanced personal and professional life.
“I have particularly enjoyed the training session about the “Good Girl Syndrome”, which made me aware that men are not the only one responsible for the lack of diversity and inclusion.”
I have particularly enjoyed the training session about the “Good Girl Syndrome”, which made me aware that women often have fears about promoting themselves and do not seek for a promotion, because they think, that as long as they accomplish the necessary requirements, the opportunities will come along. For example, if they receive an opportunity for another job, they express doubts about themselves, even if they have 85% of all necessary competencies and skills.
This training was extremely insightful as it changed my perspective and helped me to say that “I can do it” and that I have the right to ask for something. Moreover, it helped me in my management and leadership position towards others. I am now coaching other young women in Microsoft and I always try to make them aware and change these behavioral patterns.
Beyond our members and the participants to our Women Talent Pool programme, other great women are doing a fantastic work. At only 28, the brilliant Chloe Jones, EMEA Brand Advocacy Manager at Lenovo (UK), has already made her mark. Chloe is the finalist of the PCR Women of the Year 2015, an award recognizing the contribution of women in the UK PC & Technology industry. A “writer, creator and thinker”, in her own words, Chloe is also particularly active on social networks where she shares her views on a wide range of interests such as environment, education and equality.
A great support of WIL, Chloe participated to our annual gathering in London on May 15th and 16h 2017, where we had the chance to meet her and learn about her already impressive credentials.
Want to know where Chloe gets her inspiration from and how she uses it as Brand Advocacy Manager? Read our interview!
You graduated in English literature and drama and describe yourself as a “writer”. What prompted you to then specialize in marketing? How does your literary background help you in your current position?
The skills that I had developed during my degree like self-presentation, analytics, creativity and writing really lend themselves to the world of marketing. I was keen to further these skills and use my creativity and my passion for people to create connections between a brand and consumers and really understand what makes people engage and react.
Relationships with our “super fans” are important for improving customer loyalty, which helps add muscle to our brand’s customer acquisition and retention efforts.
I started at Lenovo by managing and writing the EMEA email marketing campaigns and was recognized for my abilities to write engaging copy. This was a fantastic starting block from which to learn about the different audiences around Europe and how to engage with them. At the same time, our Vice President of Marketing was looking for new ways for Lenovo to have one to one relationships with our customers, and that led me to launching our first brand advocacy program, designed to create meaningful relationships with our brand’s “super fans”. These relationships are important for improving customer loyalty, which helps add muscle to our brand’s customer acquisition and retention efforts.
Is there any English author that you particularly appreciate or that you consider to be a great inspiration?
There are a lot of remarkable English authors. I could list some classic inspirations, such as William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien and Virginia Woolf. A modern day role-model has to be J.K. Rowling : she has inspired a whole generation to love reading and has written strong and independent female characters in her books. She embodies that having both passion and an idea can transform your life. Currently, I am reading ’Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith, she’s an amazing inspiration, who won prizes for her first book at just 25 years old. She writes beautifully and comes across as a very well-grounded woman. For example, she has no social media accounts because as she says, it gives her “the right to be wrong.”
For more than two years, you have been the owner of Lenovo EMEA’s first Brand Advocacy Program, an online community aiming at turning customers into brand advocates. Why do brands need advocacy programmes?
In a really crowded market like technology, where companies are producing similar products, brands and relationships are keys to ensuring we can move beyond a one-time purchase. Social brand advocates are incredibly influential. As brands like Lenovo seek to reach new and wider audiences it’s imperative they engage their advocates and nurture those relationships. Brand advocates add a depth to brand marketing; due to their loyalty and their satisfaction in a brand they go deeper with their networks to share their positive brand experience. This helps to create and increase brand awareness.
Sometimes, a positive experience with a brand can simply be a successful customer service experience. Going a step further, dedicated advocacy programs help build trust and loyalty, foster valuable relationships and develop online and offline engagement. Providing this positive brand experience, in any capacity, is essential for brands who want to be customer centric.
What makes a good advocacy programme? Could you tell us more about the actions you are implementing?
There are two key points for a good advocacy program : first, a good advocacy program should empower the customer by being a dialogue between a brand and its advocates. Secondly, advocacy starts inside the company. Thus brands who want to make a significant impact should have employee advocacy programs as well as super fan programs.
A good advocacy program should empower the customer by being a dialogue between a brand and its advocates.
Bringing the brand story to life in a relevant and meaningful way is important to do both online and offline. I run hosted programs for top advocates and influencers at European trade shows to give them ‘insider’ experiences with our brand and products. These face to face interactions and experiential activities really help to foster lasting relationships and they complement our efforts to create online social engagement. Giving our fans these experiences also shows them how we value them and how we want to have their feedback so we can improve what we do and how we do it.
Steve Jobs had predicted a post-PC era due to the rise of smartphones and tablets and it’s true that the PC market has been going through a few years of declining sales. Where do you see it heading over the next few years?
Tablets haven’t really evolved since they first hit the market, but consumers want more and more from them, but the form factor doesn’t always support. There are more and more apps developed to support productivity, but the form factor of tablets doesn’t make it a pleasurable experience. At Lenovo, we spent time watching people using their devices, using pen, detachable keyboard etc and decided to bring something revolutionary to the market: ourYoga Book. The Yoga Book gives the user the same paper-like writing experience but also has a fully functioning and responsive keyboard. In terms of forward thinking and innovation, this “PC plus design” is where we need to focus our strengths and keep ahead of the declining PC area.
Coming back to your love for literature and passion for education, do you think that the digital transformation of the classroom has a real ability to improve student learning outcomes?
The education sector is on a trajectory to reducing the digital divide. The continuation of compulsory computing skills within the curriculum has opened up a range of digital careers for students that were previously inaccessible. Today’s students require more than textbook learning and memorization. They need digital tools that allow them to do more than ever before. Lenovo has pioneered the way in purpose-built educational devices : we recently launched the updated Thinkpad 11e family and Lenovo N23 Chromebooks.
Allowing these new methods of teaching represents a lot of capability and potential for improving student learning outcomes.
Although many classrooms feature tech, most are still teaching from the front of the class with an electric board – it’s not that different from how we’ve taught for hundreds of years. Technology can bring new possibilities to the classrooms such as flipped and blended learning, and over the next 6 to 8 months we are likely to see an increase in the adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality within education- technologies such as Google Tango on the Lenovo Phab 2 have a range of use cases in the classroom. Technology allows the gamification of the teaching experience such as manipulating objects in a virtual environment, allowing pupils to try out future careers or test themselves in virtual scenarios. The new generation of 2-in-1 devices gives teachers more versatility within the classroom. Allowing these new methods of teaching represents a lot of capability and potential for improving student learning outcomes.
However, when it comes to literature and reading, I am still an old-fashioned advocate of picking up a good old book and turning real paper pages!
From Cluj-Napoca (Romania) to Brussels, from the private to the public sector, the talented and dynamic Raluca Anghel, one of the participants of our Women Talent Pool program, seems on track for a promising European career.
After starting her professional journey at AIESEC, a youth-run international organization, she occupied several positions at Microsoft (in Brussels) in the field of corporate and political communication, as well as EU policy. In 2015, she became Head of Office at the European Parliament for the Romanian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Emilian Pavel.
If you ever wondered what it means to work for a Member of the European Parliament and to shift from the private to the public sector, then it is time read our interview!
The city of Brussels is a desirable location for young Europeans searching for job opportunities in Belgium's European hub. Yourself, how did you land in Brussels? What attracted you to the European Affairs?
I came to Brussels to work for Microsoft through the AIESEC international internships programme. I actually studied a combination of European affairs, law, management and marketing, so as soon as I saw this position at Microsoft in the Legal and Corporate Affairs team, I felt it would be a great choice. It combined some of my greatest interests: technology, CSR and entrepreneurship, communication and EU affairs.
Learning how to work with the EU institutions and the EU legislation process on behalf of the private sector was a fantastic opportunity. The private sector is largely impacted by various EU policies, so contributing to this process is extremely valuable. Added to that, the private sector, with its various resources and expertise, can be a fantastic partner and can help implement the EU Agenda. I therefore loved working on behalf of Microsoft, on issues like entrepreneurship, innovation, education and training, and partnering with various organisations and institutions.
Since 2015, you are Head of Office of a Member of the European Parliament, probably the first dream-job of many young Europeans. Can you tell us more about what it means to work for a Member of the European Parliament?
As the Head of Office of a Member of the European Parliament from Romania, I am in a very fortunate position to be part of the EU legislation process and have a positive impact in areas I am very interested in. I work and advise on EU policy making, I manage the team in Brussels, as well as our local teams in various cities in Romania, I lead the image building and political communication, including PR, as well as run projects and events both in the European Parliament and in Romania. The Member of the European Parliament is part of the “Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs” and “Employment and Social Affairs” committees, and most of our projects touch upon related topics to his work in these committees. No day is the same, our work is extremely fast paced and requires a proficient level of multitasking and attention to details :-).
The digital transition fosters creativity and innovation, so it’s the best tool for anything any woman might want to do!
You worked in the Private, Public and Non–Profit sectors. What do you think you have gained from this diverse background? What did you enjoy about working in each of those fields?
I have been really fortunate to work in all these different sectors. I have firstly learnt that I can always bring a contribution to the areas I care for, and I can do that from different perspectives. I also learnt how various organisations work, as well as how to manage people in these organisations and apply different leadership styles.
Working in the non-profit sector, I enjoyed giving back to the community, I loved interacting with extremely passionate and motivated people, but I especially appreciated learning how to do my job with limited resources.
Within the private sector, I really enjoyed learning - as I was part of a very dynamic company, I learnt new things every day. I had the chance to improve my management, communication, “intrapreneurial” skills and expertise, and interacted with so many brilliant people. But most importantly I also saw the positive impact that a large company can have on the society and I really enjoyed being part of their projects.
As for the public sector, I really love being part of the policy making. As I have worked in the private and NGO sector, I know how important it is to develop policies that are anchored in reality and support the true development of the economy and society.
Women must help other women, so coaching, mentoring, sponsoring are crucial.
In your wrap-up at a WIL EU Breakfast Debate, you mentioned that in an increasingly digitalized world, women’s tech-literacy is becoming a key challenge for the future. How do you think women can increase their participation in STEM and be part of the digital transition?
I am very passionate about this topic. I think a mind shift is required and the entire society needs to be involved in a raising awareness campaign about STEM studies and professions being gender-neutral. Women also need to have role-models and see what brilliant careers other women have had in this sector. Women must help other women, so coaching, mentoring, sponsoring are crucial - which can be done either in the context of their work, or through a volunteering programme that they could be part of or even set up.
At school, from an early age, girls need to be given the same chances as boys and be tutored to truly believe that they can become anything they want. Stereotypes must be avoided starting from school!
More than that, the digital revolution also brings a lot of flexibility, which is something that women (but not only!) can make the most of, so they just need to embrace it, learn how to make it work in their favour and demand their rights. The digital transition fosters creativity and innovation, so it’s the best tool for anything any woman might want to do!
You also believe that another major challenge is Global Warming, and that it can only be addressed through international cooperation. As an expert on innovation and environmental sustainability, do you think the EU can coordinate a solution for climate change and that it could be driven by innovation?
Innovation and technology are definitely key to fighting global warming. In times when the idea of climate change is challenged (sigh...), I definitely think the EU must and does take a leadership role in setting an example of how to combat it and reverse it. But the EU needs a lot of partners, not only other states but also various industries that can provide technologically innovative ways to tackle global warming.
Ana Crespo Parrondo is a Communications and Press Specialist in European and International Affairs. She is currently employed as the Assistant to the Director for Media & Communication at the Council of the European Union (EU) in Brussels.
At this point of my career, I very much value being part of a network where I can learn from others – in this case young talented women - who perhaps encountered the same type of difficulties in their own professional lives and who also want to break the glass ceiling, get a new job or evolve in their careers. I have the feeling that we are empowering, supporting and helping each other through the WTP.
I am a member of several networks that are based in Brussels where I live and elsewhere as well, but I was very much looking forward to applying to this program because I knew that I will have the opportunity to meet incredible European talents.
The WTP is standing out for two main reasons. First, it is an international and crosscutting network dedicated to women talents working in different sectors, whereas the other networks I am part of, are open to male and female members, but are mainly focus on a very specific area of interest. So, the women talent pool offers a broader perspective thanks to the talents who have diverse mindsets, academic backgrounds, and work in so many different fields, and this is for me very enriching.
I for instance work in communications in a European institution but I met emerging leaders who work in telecoms in London or Paris or in other EU institutions in Brussels. This is the added value of this program.
Second, I am attending numerous conferences, receptions and network events throughout the year, and I realized that the content is in many cases repetitive and you ask yourself what was the real added value of this evening. Therefore, what I value in this program is that you get to know your peers and the WIL members and even build a relationship with them. Each gathering is different. This way, you get to have and be part of a community that will last longer than just the duration of the program. You don’t get this by simply attending other individual events.
The Public speaking workshop at Hill & Knowlton in London was one of my favorite sessions. The workshop was very focus, well organized and synthetized in a way that all of us could get food for thought out of it.
I also very much enjoyed the speed dating sessions with the WIL mentors. I had the opportunity to discuss about future career plans and many other topics with my peers and various senior members. You don’t have this opportunity very often, therefore I really appreciated it.
It would be great to have a session to teach us how to be more confident and resilient; a workshop on mindfulness for instance. I also think that another session should be dedicated to improving soft skills such as negotiation or leadership.
I think that personal and professional are mixed here because this network doesn’t really make a distinction. When you meet your peers, you also get to know them personally: where they work and what they do. It is not a question of what they can give you but more about exchanging human values on a different dimension. Thus, I gained a lot of learnings to apply to my professional career and personal live. I also hope to keep in touch with as many as I can through WIL social media outlets and more specifically the LinkedIn group, to start building a real community and relationships that can last for longer.
I currently work at the office of the Director for Media and Communications at the Council of the EU. I’ve been working for that institution for the last 5 years, holding several positions within communications.
This work experience has been tremendously valuable for me. It is a privilege not only to work in the fields of my studies and the ones I’m passionate about, Communications and European politics, but also to do it inside the General Secretariat of the Council serving two of the most political EU institutions: the Council of the EU and the European Council. My work during these last five years has been extremely diverse, from dealing with media relations, analyzing the daily news, speaking to visitors’ groups to publishing press material on the official website or on social media accounts. I enjoy very much what I do.
I have been fortunate to be part of the press taskforce teams covering the last two multilateral summits (Africa 2014 & CELAC 2015). I enjoy very much greeting external visitors (media, citizens…) to our premises and explaining to them what we do and how we work. Those two times were exceptional and a real boost of energy. I remembered running across the corridors to ensure official press from different delegations were reaching the photo opportunities with their leaders. Those moments are difficult to forget you see how their national TVs used their footage on that day.
My main role is kind of “a chameleon”. I need to adjust and adapt myself quickly to the different positions, facilitate the job of my superior and be a team builder among my colleagues. My role is to solve the problems, give information, move things and communicate in the most effective way across all the teams. Be open to new challenges and don’t be shy, speak up your mind.
My motto is to preserve the image and reputation of my institution and my communications service, so I take that as my daily responsibility.
I always say that there is a lot to learn and with perseverance lots of things can be achieved. My experience working with many highly professional colleagues, and especially next to managers, has been of extreme value for my future career. I would like to progress in the field of communications managing projects and specific policy portfolios and those leadership and negotiation competences will certainly help to that end
Be open to change, don’t be afraid of failures. Persevere in what you do. The most valuable thing you can tell yourself is that you have done a good job and that you are the only one who can value and credit that. Never stop fighting to get what you want. And if you fail, always tell yourself that there will be an opportunity standing behind if you keep on working.
Magali Theveniault Prevet is Principal Travel & Hospitality at Capgemini Consulting. She participated in the Women Talent Pool 2nd Edition as one the Emerging Leaders.
Could you please share with the Talents of the third Edition what were the main takeaways from this experience?
This experience really benefits me on both a personal and professional side. It helps me feel empowered as a woman in my job and gain self-confidence in my professional skills. In my current role, I feel more empowered to propose and take advantages of many opportunities. For instance, I have been launching Women@CC, the French Capgemini Consulting Women program. Our main objective is to help Capgemini Consulting female consultants to develop earlier their professional network and their involvement in consulting business development.
What did you like the most about the WTP? What sessions would you like to see more? What could be done differently?
I really appreciated both parts of the program.
On the one side, skill development training sessions and the mentoring program we had during the 18-month plan were concrete and helpful to improve my own soft skills. We had lively sessions with inspiring speakers (among those Marta Williams, Founding Partner & CEO at Williams and Associates, Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning and Development Director for MCI Group, Corinne Got-Camard, CEO of Hill & Knowlton and Thierry Derrien, Senior Account Director & Head of Corporate Practice, Hill & Knowlton ndrl), providing us with valuable advices to boost our skills. I also liked the mentoring program. Talking with the role models helped me step back and reflect on my career’s goals more clearly.
On the other side, participating in the regular WIL conferences was an amazing opportunity to have a step back about economic, social and business Key European issues. Great inspiring speakers gave us different points of view to debate and I really enjoyed these moments.
For the next editions of the Women Talent Pool though, I think it would be valuable to get better follow-up our progress in the WTP within our own company. For example, I suggest that once or twice a year, one of the WIL role model arrange a meeting with our manager to discuss about our advancement. It would contribute to make the program more integrated and valuable in the Talent management process of our companies.
You are currently Travel and Hospitality Principal for Capgemini Consulting. How would you describe your current role and what do you appreciate the most in current position?
My job consists in helping my clients succeed in their transformation projects, that is to say I’m responsible to sell and deliver them consulting services to transform their organization, process and IT. It is not only a sales job, but there is an important part about counselling and following up. I’m especially in charge of SNCF Mobilité account (the French Railway operator), and one of the main challenge I’m facing is to get my clients prepared for the upcoming opening competitor market in 2020. It means make them become more competitive, deliver a higher value service on board to their clients. I would say that is what I prefer in my job: making my personal convictions concrete by helping my clients lead their projects successfully. I’m involved in the business transformation of all the French mobility sector.
On the professional level, what are your plans for the next years? Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
I’m about to change job in few weeks, to join Prosodie, which is another subsidiary of Capgemini in France. I will be in charge of developing Digital platforms business for this SME (quite a digital start-up for Capgemini Group!), which is a major business development priority for Capgemini in the next years.
Besides, thanks to the Women Talent Pool, I’ve come to better know myself and achieve self-awareness in regards to my career’s goals and expectations, and for the next 5 to 10 years, I know I want to reach a managing position, and manage a P&L on my own.
Last February, Capgemini Consulting have launched a study in collaboration with la French Tech and La Journée de la Femme Digitale about Career paths for women in our digital world. Could you tell us more about the study? Are there lessons to be learnt and key figures you would like to bring to our attention?
As you know, women are underrepresented in the digital sectors overall. So from 18 to 29 of February we carried out a study to know “Digital women’s” opinion about their career prospects thanks to digital (not only IT sector but also every digital business transformation). 757 women participated in this survey, mainly highly educated (mainly graduated from business schools rather than technical education) and 36 years old on average. What struck me the most is that more and more women consider the digital as a level up for their career. Digital is a matter of business and creativity and not only a technical issue. There is little need to possess technical skills or to be an IT girl to succeed in this field, you just have to understand well your business model and how to develop it quickly to accelerate time-to-market.
I noticed that half of the respondents work or wish to work in a start-up: Do you think this kind of structure offers further opportunities for women to grow in the digital sector?
Start-ups can be considered as glass-ceiling breakers for some of the respondents. When women are not allowed to meet their career’s aspirations within their company, they rather grow outside the company and start a business on their own than being stuck in an unfulfilling position. It also has to do with the working environment: young women (like most of Gen Y people) wish for more autonomy in their jobs, they prefer working in small teams with more collaborative management conditions (no more silos management). These working conditions could be difficult to apply in highly structured companies. That also means that to stay time-to-market with Digital, and be attractive for young talented women, big companies need to restructure their management process and organizations!
What piece of advice would you give to the Talents to help them take the most of the program?
My advice would be: make sure to attend all sessions! Do not find yourself excuses not to come, because all of them are important. You have to get involved in the program to take the most of it, that is to say to attend the session but also involve yourself in each session, be as active and responsive as possible.
On the afternoon of June 27th, WIL members and Emerging Leaders gathered in Brussels for the second in-person meeting of the Women Talent Pool 3rd edition, which was held at Microsoft Executive Briefing Center in Brussels.
Prior to beginning the session, the audience received a copy of Dr. Carol Dweck bestseller, “Mindset: changing the way you think to fulfill your potential”. The book was introduced by Elena Bonfiglioli, WIL Board Member and Senior Director Health Industry EMEA at Microsoft, who drawn attention on the power of the mindset to succeed: the attitude you adopt profoundly affects the way you lead your life. Elena encouraged the talents to train their minds in order to adopt a growth approach instead of a fixed one to fulfill their potential in their professional and personal life.
After these words of wisdom, Elena Bonfiglioli opened the floor to the Talents, who were invited to give their feedback on the first months of the WTP program. A vast majority is appreciating that the program is giving them the opportunity to share experiences, hopes and doubts with their peers and senior women managers from various backgrounds and sectors. Additionally, they particularly enjoyed the speed dating session with senior role models, which helped them realize that these outstanding women experimented the same issues and obstacles they are facing themselves in their career. Generally speaking, emerging Leaders feel more empowered, encouraged to think “out the box” and to dare more taking some risks.
Afterwards, the Talents were invited to a demo tour at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center to discover the latest technologies produced by Microsoft. It was a cheerful moment of discovery and amusement as they had a unique opportunity to test leading edge technologies.
The second part of the session was dedicated to Sigrid Marz eye opening presentation: “Ready for the future: what are the competencies that you will want to keep learning to stay relevant in times of fast organizational and societal changes.” As Senior Client Partner at Korn Ferry, Sigrid Marz shared with the talents the key competencies needed to help them develop their leadership style. Because of the various barriers women are facing, externally and internally, they tend to get stuck at lower management positions.
Following Sigrid’s vivid presentation, Roberta Cocco, National Plans Development Director at Microsoft Western Europe took the stage to talk about #Makewhatsnext, an inspiring project initiated
by Microsoft to close gender gap in the fields of STEM. The European #MakeWhatsNext campaign runs 55 events and organize trainings in 28 countries, to inspire and provide the tools for girls to dispel the stereotypes that surround STEM and take opportunities in the ICT industry. To do so, #MakeWhatsNext has built partnerships with public and private actors, including the United Nation Women, which was represented during the session by Caroline Petit, Deputy Director at UNRIC, United Nations communications office for Europe. On May 26th and 27th Microsoft invited girls from across Europe to attend the flagship event in Venice, Italy, which brought together a set of international speakers, cutting edge researchers and technology start-up, to discuss how girls can innovate and achieve more in the STEM fields.
The WTP afternoon session closed with remarks from senior professionals Elena Bonfiglioli, Emanuela Palazzani and Roberta Cocco, who stressed out the importance of role models and mentors in professional careers. They advised the Talents to find themselves different role models from various backgrounds, in order to broaden their horizons as much as possible.
The Emerging Leaders were then invited to enjoy a Cocktail to close the WTP Brussels session on a pleasant note. It provided opportunities to discuss furthermore with the role models and network with their peers.
On the afternoon of March 14, 2016, WIL launched the 3rd edition of its Women Talent Pool Program (WTP), in partnership with Microsoft and Osborne Clarke at their London offices. This event was the talents first in-person meeting which started their 18-months’ program.
Following the Welcoming Remarks of Ray Berg, Managing Partner UK at Osborne Clarke, WIL President and founding partner of Samman Law & Corporate Affairs Thaima Samman took the stage with Brigitte Dumont, WIL Board Member & WTP founder and Chief Officer CSR at Orange, as well as WTP 1st Edition Alumni, Marie-Hélène Briens, Director of Programs Office B2B Sales at Orange, and Claire Monné, Economic Advisor for the French Representation to the EU to present WIL network and the WTP program.
Thaima opened the discussion by explaining WIL & WTP’s rationale, which is to encourage women to step out of their comfort zones and make their marks in this professional world. Brigitte outlined Orange’s strong commitment to promoting gender equality in top leadership positions. Diversity is a performance driver and programs such as the WTP are here to help women break the “glass ceiling” to senior positions. For Marie-Hélène, leadership is first and foremost understanding that there is not a single path to success. Therefore, women should start thinking differently and stop following predetermined tracks. Claire Monné shared her atypical career path, first as a vet and then as an economic advisor for the French Representation to the EU. For her, the WTP keyword is “to dare”.
Women must dare asking for a position or making a decision because they are as capable as men to do so. Marie-Hélène and Claire concluded this section by encouraging the new talents to get as much as they can from this program.
Next, Stefania Maschio, Partner at Excellence, Leadership development and Executive Coaching, gave a lively and inspiring presentation on Women and Leadership, the journey starts inside. Stefania explained that Women are not only facing external obstacles when it comes to build their professional career, but they are also suffering from what she referred to as “internal obstacles”, namely mental barriers built by gender stereotypes since childhood. She identified and reflected on four of those obstacles that affect women in particular, and makes it harder for them to reach higher positions. The first one is the “good girl syndrome”: as a consequence of their education, girls are expected to be polite, cute, nice and sweet. Under the good girl syndrome lies the need to be liked, and the inability to say no, which are often incompatible with high responsibilities. The second obstacle is the “imposture syndrome”, namely the constant anxiety to be considered as incompetent in their jobs. It takes roots in a lack of confidence on themselves and their competencies, and prevent them from applying for higher positions. Thirdly, women also experienced the “Power complex”, which is the difficulty of recognizing and accepting their ambition, as power is often deemed as a male attribute and negatively connoted for women. Finally, Stefania Maschio regrets that women are often lacking “proactivity” in their career’s plan. They tend to wait for opportunities to come instead of projecting themselves into a long-term future. Yet, strategic choices must be made within a long term vision.
In addition to the lively coaching presentation, the WTP session included an eye-opening roundtable session moderated by WIL Board Member Marina Niforos, President and CEO at Logos Global Advisors.
The roundtable was devoted to the testimonies of female leaders: Shelley McKinley, Associate General Counsel, Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft Western Europe, Despina Anastasiou, Country and General Manager for Dow Greece and Cyprus, and Wassila Zitoune-Dumontet, VP Group Roaming & Interconnect for Orange. Each panelist described her background, past experiences, challenges, both personal and professional, and shared lessons learned.
They all experienced non-linear career paths: After attending law school in Seattle and Washington, Shelley McKinley took 10 years ago the bold decision to quit an unfulfilled job in a law firm in Seattle to join Microsoft. Despina Anastasiou graduated with a PhD in Chemistry, before taking a radical turn toward the business sector. She then held various positions in Marketing, Sales, changing roles and sectors every 3 or 4 years, and feeling richer from each experience. Wassila Zitoune-Dumontet originally intended to be a lawyer, but “sometimes the plan is not the plan” therefore she ended-up being a senior executive in the Telecommunication industry. For these inspiring women, the path to success is not a straight road, it is about choosing your own journey, making your own choices and moving towards success. According to Shelley, the major lesson learned from her experience is to be opened to every opportunity that rose on your way and be willing to take risks. Daring, and speaking up your own choices are also Wassila’s main takeaways. Success is being comfortable and confident with your own choices, but also showing them clearly to the company. For Despina, it relies heavily on the concept of PIE, asserted by Harvey Coleman: “Success is 10% Performance, 30% Image and 60% Exposure”. To get a promotion you’ll need to perform well, cultivate a positive image and proactively gain exposure to the right stakeholders.
Speakers encouraged the Emerging Leaders not to be hold back by their fear of failing: “Try, fail and learn from it” in Wassila’s own words. Resilience is a key element for professional achievement: failure is not what matters, but the way you respond to it and your ability to move forward. Questioned about their work-life balance, panelists encouraged the talents to find their own balance, “be happy with what you get out versus what you put in”. For Wassila, it had been a tough learning to shut down her inner voice of perfectionism and to let herself dedicate more time to her family. Despina advocated for family balance, and explained that her partner chose to be the leading parent in the family for few years, while she was leading her career.
Later in the evening, the emerging leaders had further opportunities to discuss with their peers and get professional tips and advice from role models during a speed-dating session which was very much appreciated.
To conclude the afternoon session, Brigitte Dumont took the stage to ask the Talents to reflect on the afternoon’s takeaways and expectations for the upcoming 18 months. Following this vibrant discussion, all the guests were invited to attend WIL-Lenovo’s dinner-debate on Competencies for Success in a Connected World.
Finally, the next morning, WIL had the pleasure to collaborate with Hill and Knowlton UK and Catherine Cross, Director, Media Training, Hill+Knowlton Strategies for a vivid training and valuable insights on Presentation skills that our talents found extremely helpful for their future presentations.
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