On the 5th of December, at the Palace of Westminster, WIL conducted the closing session of the highly successful Women Talent Pool program (WTP). The event was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship in one of the impressive House of Lords committee rooms, which mirrored the ambitious aims of the WTP program. The session gathered more than 60 participants from emerging leaders, WIL members, talents of the second WTP program and members of the Pink Shoe Club and GlobalWIN networks- WIL’s partner organisations. The WTP session’s aim was to discuss women’s access to leadership positions, share experiences from the WTP program and to share lessons learned and favourite experiences from the 18 month mentoring platform.
The honourable Baroness Howells, hosting peer of the event, officially opened the session and genuinely expressed her excitement to see an initiative such as WTP taking place. The session, moderated by WIL board member and WTP Lead Elena Bonfiglioli, Microsoft Senior Health Director EMEA, took off with Ms. Bonfiglioli giving the floor to Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO 20first, for an exciting presentation on how and why women mean business. Based on the two books she authored “How Women Mean Business” and “Why Women Mean Business” Ms. Wittenberg-Cox delivered the key message of how to empower women in business and leadership, stating that we need to stop fixing women and start focusing on the real issue: the dominant male majority. While external women’s organisations help to push forward action aimed at gender issues and equalising policies, more needs to be done inside organisations and businesses to spark change. This includes a change of strategy towards the inclusion of men in the cause of gender equality, especially within companies and organisations.
After moderating a lively and friendly debate, where many emerging leaders and WIL members shared their opinions, Ms. Bonfiglioli turned the stage to the Hon. Julie Brill, US Federal Trade Commissioner and Dr. Antoniya Parvanova, Member of the European Parliament for insightful role model speeches and question periods.
Ms. Brill presented her experience and path to a successful career in leadership. Her recommendations tied in with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s three part advice on how to be successful in business and family (Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, 2013). Ms. Brill also mentioned being good to oneself as a key factor to success, as human need is the base for every impulse and innovation. Moreover, she explained that one path to success is to become an expert in a field and that often pursuing ones professional passion locally, as opposed to globally, can offer equivalent success and fulfilment. Her final words urged everyone to always listen carefully, recognise mentoring moments and to embrace experiences, expertise and communication, which are the drivers to a great career.
The second role model speech, delivered by Antonyia Parvanova, provided a glimpse into her recipe of success. Her counsel was to never hesitate and go for the power, as it will never just be handed to you. Being ambitious and straightforward will make others follow your lead. She continued, giving interesting facts and figures about women in leadership based on current reports, exposing that women may be on the road of empowerment, but that top level ranks are still largely dominated by men. In view of this, her advice to empower yourself became even more relevant. Many questions and discussion were brought up in response to both role model testimonies, which led into the much anticipated emerging leader sharing session.
Moderated by Ms. Bonfiglioili, each emerging leader from the first WTP edition was given the opportunity to share their experience, take-a-ways and lessons learnt from the program, as well as their suggestions and words of wisdom for the new talents present. Generally, the tone was highly enthusiastic and the talents shared a panoply of cherished WTP experiences. Several mentioned that the program gave them more self-confidence and inspired them to fearlessly reach for their dreams. Learning to be able to draw from herself and create things according to her own definition was something that marked Cristina Hoffmann, Design Lead at Orange’s Design & User Experience division (D&U) during the WTP program. Racha Abu El Ata, Cloud and Hosting Partners Team Lead at Microsoft and Blandine Avot, Competitive Intelligence Manager at Orange, testified to the benefit of a better work-life balance thanks to the program, which taught them to retain non-negotiables in their self-management.
Networking and meeting women with similarly high ambitions also proved to be an important aspect of the WTP to many participants. Sharing experiences was perceived as positive aspect of the program by Myriam El Ouni, Alliance Manager at Microsoft, and Marie-Hélène Briens, Sales Manager at Orange Business Services, as both mentioned how leadership can sometimes be a lonely path. To be able to network with mentors that became strong supporters, was something all talents felt was the crux of the program, especially Pénélope Roux, Operational Director at Microsoft Innovation Centre Brussels, who greatly appreciated this aspect of the program. Overall, the mentoring aspects of the program and the elaboration of soft skills was perceived as the programs essential value and the interaction and sharing with experts and experience leaders truly made the program unique.
WIL was ecstatic to close the session with the debut of a special video pioneered by Isabelle Roux-Chenu, General Counsel at Capgemini Group entitled “Women at Capgemini”. Thinking about the persistent gender inequality in her sector, Ms. Roux-Chenu decided to invest in a video exposé which collects high-level statements from some of the most male dominated industries, testifying on the topic of gender diversity and the need for equal female representation at all business levels. The video project aims at changing the corporate mentality and convincing both male and female leaders to engage in the promotion of gender equality at all levels of Capgemini.
Following the inspiring sequence of the WTP closing session, all participants were transferred to the London Skype Offices, for a wonderful evening reception held with our partners GlobalWIN and the Pink Shoe Club. Brilliant opening remarks were given on behalf of Skype and Microsoft by David Burrows, Managing Director, EMEA Government, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft and a heartfelt keynote speech by Joanna Shields, Chief Executive Officer, Tech City & UK Digital Ambassador brought the day to a close before the evening moved on to lively networking.
Prior to the WIL Biannual Event hosted at the Villa Medici, WIL members and Emerging Leaders gathered in Rome for a very special Women Talent Pool session to discuss the question of how to adapt one’s leadership style to a complex, challenging world. Thanks to the Scientific and Economic Mission of the French Embassy in Italy, this meeting could take place in the impressive Palazzo Farnese, and the Ambassador Alain Le Roy himself came to open the session and to encourage the young talents in their endeavors.
WIL co-founder and Women Talent Pool coordinator Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Health Director at Microsoft EMEA, welcomed the participants and audience and introduced the objectives and activities of the WTP. She specifically emphasized the importance of networking and forging connections between all generations of leaders. According to WIL board member Katherine Corich, CEO of Sysdoc, many types of successful leaders exist today outside of traditional models, but it takes courage to embrace them. Leadership, she stressed, is defined by change and how one adapts to it. She then introduced the Emerging Leaders who had been selected to share their particular leadership experiences:
In this sense, WIL Emerging Leader Marie-Hélène Briens, Sales Manager at Orange Business Services, compared leadership skills to the effects of innovation. By equating innovation with a light in the darkness, she underscored the innovative potential of leadership that embraces change and new ideas, thus functioning as a guiding light. She also claimed that women have a stronger capacity to listen, which is key to developing a more collaborative style of management.
Anne-Lise Thieblemont, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Qualcomm, also emphasized the importance of challenging oneself, for example by going global or trying a new sector. According to her, skills are important, but even more so the will to achieve great things.
The role model aspect of good leadership was elaborated by Racha Abu El Ata, Cloud and Hosting Partners Team Lead for Microsoft, who considered leadership the quality to inspire motivation and energy, but also a talent can always be improved.
Claire Monne, Head of External Agricultural Policy of the Trade and Development Division at the French Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry, spoke about her particular career path, starting out as a trained veterinarian, and how this scientific training allowed her to develop better diagnosis skills and to create her special leadership brand.
Finally, Martina Weimert, Vice-President of Financial Services at CapGemini, also shared her insights into what makes a good leader: team performance and the ability to create the conditions which encourage the team to be innovative and to succeed. On another note, customer centricity should always be a central guiding principle for a leader and her team.
The audience of this event was then able to compare the ideas and experiences of the emerging talents to the testimonies given by seasoned leaders from the WIL network. Especially moving was the presentation by Ourania Ekaterinari, Deputy CEO of Public Power Corporation S.A., who talked about her difficult leadership role in the dramatic context of Greece’s destitute economy. She stressed the importance of honesty, integrity and humility when faced with having to make difficult decisions and the need to communicate well one’s motivations. On a more positive note, the current crisis has forced Greek women to reposition themselves in the economy and to take over the role of the breadwinner in the family.
Rita Tenan, Public Sector Director for Microsoft Italy, spoke about her leadership experience, working closely with public administration entities to simplify and optimize the sector. The key to her path, she said, was open-mindedness and the ability to keep seeing the world with a child’s eyes. She urged the Emerging Leaders to not be too hard on themselves and to find the right balance.
Finally, Mary Dupont-Madinier, Partner of VALTUS Transition, elaborated on her experiences dealing with change management and how it has become an important aspect of every company. This need to manage uncertainty requires humility, authenticity and a diversity of approaches, key aspects that call for the ideas and competencies of young leaders in particular.
Thus, the WTP session was a great opportunity for the Emerging Leaders to learn and grow from the advice of role models with decades of experience and knowledge, especially in challenging situations of transition. Apart from that, it was also an experience for the young talents to show off their public speaking skills and the confidence they gained through their participation in the program, whose next edition will be launched during the second biannual event in December.
A second successful Women Talent Pool workshop took place on Friday, 22nd March at the premises of Microsoft France. It was led by Irène Papaligouras, founder of Leaders Excellence Partners, a strategic human resources start-up, focused on a predicative and proactive audit of leadership competencies.
Under the motto “Mirror Yourself in Your Leadership Style”, nine Emerging Leaders participated in a session aimed at assessing and developing their specific leadership style.
The workshop was preceded by a networking lunch organized by Nathalie Wright, Director of the Enterprises and Partners Division at Microsoft France, and Emerging Leader Myriam El Ouni, Alliance Manager at Microsoft.
WIL welcomed two new Emerging Talents from the Directorate General of the Treasury of the French Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry.
The workshop began with an in-depth introduction of the participants. They cross-presented each other and produced Chinese portraits of themselves to get to know each other, as well as to get to know themselves better.
In order to determine their specific leadership style, the participants were then asked to assess their personality via the Enneagram personality model, which can be used as a tool to define nine different leadership styles. Leaders benefit from categorizing their personality by becoming aware of their strengths and weaknesses and defining the areas that can be improved.
In addition, the workshop identified three key skills for leaders of the 21st century: self-branding, entrepreneurship, and hyperconnectivity. The first skill, self-branding, is all about signaling one’s unique strengths in order to stand out from the crowd. The second, entrepreneurship, is about being a change-agent, driven towards innovation and optimization. The third, hyperconnectivity, is about turning leaders into sought-after sources of relevant content.
Finally, having discovered their personality and leadership style, the participants were then asked to present their particular leadership development style, to serve as a reminder and guiding principle for further developing their own management qualities. The Emerging Leaders found this session very resourceful and inspiring. At the end of the workshop, they left with concrete elements to help them build a plan for development for themselves and their teams.
On 10th January a group of ten WIL Emerging Leaders participated in a coaching session focused on crucial factors that impact women’s career progress and their willingness to enter higher-level positions.
This interactive half-day workshop was led by Stefania Maschio. The session's main objective was to help young leaders accelerate their professional and personal development through increasing their self-awareness, improving emotional regulation and strengthening self-confidence. The training itself consisted in a series of interactive exercises, group discussions and a presentation, which touched on a variety of issues related to choices and opportunities, expectations, risks and self-image.
Stefania Maschio, who orchestrated the session, is a former General Manager and member of Executive Committees in international companies. Before creating her own coaching firm, she followed Executive MBA studies and a Master’s program in coaching at INSEAD business school.
The coaching session was organized at Orange's premises in Paris, in cooperation with Isabelle Schaefer, Orange’s Director Gender Equality.
Below are small excerpts from the feedback that Emerging Leaders sent us after the session.
Racha Abu El Ata Microsoft, Global Account Manager
The more often we see each other in the Emerging Leaders group, the more I sense the value of such a network. The coaching session itself was very enriching. It allowed us to step back, to ask ourselves important questions and to better understand codes, expectations and the rules of play imposed by companies.
Blandine Avot, Orange, Competitive Intelligence Manager
Stefania Maschio addressed some issues that concern us all, and she did it in a very efficient and lively way. I feel that I now have a better framework for thought, which could help me project myself into the future. I will try to put into practice some of the principles we shared. Maybe they could become my 2013 resolutions.
Virginie Dominguez, Orange, Sales Director
Our coach managed to present in a very clear and pertinent way some major obstacles that women must confront to advance their career. It was important for us to exchange views and to realize that others deal with the same difficulties, which however are not insurmountable.
Cristina Hoffmann, Orange, Design Lead at Orange’s Design & User Experience division
The training was overall a great experience. What I liked the most were the exercises through which we got to know our fellow Emerging Leaders better. It was the first time we’ve had such an exchange, and I realized we were actually missing this kind of interaction during previous events. I also very much appreciated the fact that the content, instead of simply being presented to the participants, became an inspiration for a lively discussion.
Cristina Tejada Biarge, Orange, Roaming Wholesale Manager
It was an extremely revelatory session, and thanks to great interactions that Stefania facilitated we were able to get deeply into the subjects and seize the concepts discussed. I feel that this session will have a great impact on the way I look at my career and behavior in the business world.
Martina Weimert, Capgemini, Vice-President Financial Services
It was a great experience to learn about the dos and don’ts, which corresponded with many of my own challenges. Definitely, the barriers that limit our careers come from ourselves as much as from social constraints. It was very enriching to exchange ideas and share experiences with other participants.
On 22nd October WIL invited twenty of its Emerging Talents to participate in a communication skills training session led by Corinne Got-Camard, General Manager, and Thierry Derrien, Senior Account Director at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
In the afternoon, after the luncheon and the debate hosted by Claude Bartolone, President of the French National Assembly, the group visited Orange Innovation Gardens.
Nathalie Wright, Director of the Enterprises and Partners Division at Microsoft France and WIL role model, chaired a discussion with U.S. Federal Trade Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, WIL President Thaima Samman and Orange women executives: Elisabeth Belois-Fonteix (Orange Labs Networks & Carriers’ HR Director), Claire Paponneau (Senior Vice President International Operations WECA), Nadine Foulon-Belkacemi (Orange Labs Networks & Carriers, Senior Vice President Transformation) and Brigitte Bourgoin (Chief Compliance Officer). The exchange focused on career milestones and work-life balance management.
A brief presentation of new technologies in healthcare and 3D imaging developed in Orange Labs completed the program of the session.
We asked our Emerging Talents to give us feedback on this all-day event.
Delphine Girod Roux, Head of Orange France point of sales Performance Department
"The organization of overall event was very good, with good timing, nice conference rooms, comfortable transport, and an exquisite meal. Our communication skills training session was rich in situational exercises, and highly instructive. It focused on the importance of look, tone of voice, and breathing for the image we create when speaking. The luncheon at the French Parliament, hosted by Claude Bartolone, was sumptuous. The speakers shared their thoughts on the fine line between transparency and privacy in a world where the role of social networks is increasingly important. The mode of discussion fit well with the core theme of our debate. We had the privilege of hearing Delphine Ernotte speak about the challenges of Cloud Pro Orange. Our visit to Orange Labs also went very well".
Virginie Dominguez, Sales Director for Orange shops in Paris Ouest sector
"The communication skills training session was very interesting, first and foremost because the level of the trainers was very good. Practical cases were relevant, and they illustrated some theoretical questions raised and presented in the morning. My only regret is that we had such tight time constraints. Had the training been longer, we could have derived even greater benefit from it. I was in the English-speaking group. Even though I could understand everything, I think I would have been more at ease if I had been able to do the same exercises in French; it is easier to exercise one’s voice, gestures and exchanges with an audience when one uses one’s mother tongue. The luncheon-conference at the French National Assembly was clearly a high point in the day. The venue was exceptional. The moment of informal discussions and networking during the aperitif was appreciable, as it always is. The quality of speakers was once more excellent; I only regret that the meeting at the Hôtel de Lassay was more a conference than a debate. Last but not least, I really appreciated the exchange of experiences with women executives at Orange Labs. It was very enriching to listen to successful women who explained their choices and described their career paths".
Pauline Henaff, Account Manager at Orange Business Services
"The communication skills training session held in the morning raised my enthusiasm, and I think that I am now on the right track to progress. I plan to use these new skills next week during an important client presentation. The atmosphere was very constructive when we were put into different situations during the training. The possibility to observe others doing the same exercise allowed us to confront ourselves, and to identify our own areas for improvement. The luncheon was also great. As far as the debate on the right balance between the public and the private in the Internet age is concerned, a variety of perspectives presented by the speakers raised thoughts about this issue. It is a pity that there was no time for the audience to ask questions and discuss the theme. The last part of the WTP session – a discussion with WIL role models – was fascinating. It was very interesting to listen to them share their experiences, and tell us about what allowed them to succeed, as well as the difficulties they had to overcome".
Cristina Hoffmann, Lead Designer, Group Design & User Experience at Orange
"What value do we get from the Women Talent Pool program? Connection. At the heart of what I have been doing at Orange for the last seven years is contributing to put people – and not just technological possibility – at the center of our innovation process, which is something I feel passionate about. What I had not realized over these last years is how much, even at the beginning of one’s career, we end up living in the world of our company and its concerns. What Women in Leadership has done, was to remind me that the world will always be much richer than what I know. Through WIL and the training sessions it organizes, I feel reconnected to this richness. Doors are opened to whole new realities, environments, tools and influences. And what is very successful about the Women Talent Pool is the part that role models play in this connection process. These are authentic women, with important roles and real lives, who dare to do things differently, and strive to contribute to society and live by their convictions. Thanks to them we get this rich palette of experiences that demystify how their careers have unfolded and provide us with alternatives of what it means to be successful. This is of real importance to me, because it is a great source of confidence and inspiration. I feel like we are being given some of the material we need to better invent our careers and ourselves".
Aurélie Feld moved from the corporate world two years ago to become the Deputy Managing Director of a growing microfinance NGO, PlaNet Finance. While the two environments have quite a lot in common, there is something about microfinance that makes professionals surpass their field expertise and delve into issues such as education, environment or health.
What made you transfer from working for a management consulting firm to an NGO?
PlaNet Finance was my pro bono client when I was a project manager at McKinsey. I led a team of consultants working on PlaNet Finance’s strategic planning in 2008, and kept in touch with the management team thereafter. Early 2010, as I was deciding to leave McKinsey, I helped PlaNet Finance put together a transformation plan, to further professionalize and structure the NGO. Eventually, they asked me to come on board to implement it as Deputy CEO, and I accepted. The rest, as they say, is history…
What is your experience of the differences between these two work environments?
The development world has professionalized a lot lately, in line with the development of more professional Social Responsibility within private funders and the stronger focus of public funders on aid efficacy & efficiency. Moreover, since PlaNet Finance is a consulting & finance-oriented NGO, probably has a bit of a different DNA & work environment than other NGOs…
In short, there is not that much of a difference in terms of work environment between McKinsey & PlaNet Finance, as strange as it may seem. Both places have teams of incredibly driven professionals who are fully dedicated to impact – even if the nature of the impact greatly differs. McKinsey might be a bit more of a well-oiled machine & PlaNet Finance has a bit of an “artisan” touch, but part of that difference could be age (PlaNet Finance is only 13 years old), and not only means…
Both organizations have a rather young age average, are very diverse in terms of the cultures, nationalities, backgrounds, languages, etc... Both organizations have an international footprint (even if PlaNet Finance’s network is smaller and mostly in the developing world). If I had to pinpoint a strong difference, the only thing that comes to mind is the dress code, and that’s not exactly major.
In what ways does PlaNet Finance carry out its mission of “alleviating poverty around the world by enabling the access to financial services to those who are excluded therefrom”?
PlaNet Finance has two main activities:
(1) Microfinance+ targets micro-entrepreneurs more directly, in order to help them start & grow their revenue-generating activity. We provide micro entrepreneurs with the necessary tools, including training & access to finance. We also help them organize in groups, cooperatives, so as to enable them to share best practices. We structure value chains, such as the Shea butter value chain in Ghana, so as to enable the initial producers to maximize their share of the value chain revenues.
(2) Microfinance & Consulting advises the entire microfinance ecosystem (microfinance institutions, banks, governments, funders, etc…). We help build capacity in microfinance institutions so as to enable them to better serve more clients, especially in rural areas. We use technology (mobile, geolocation) to increase financial inclusion, and give poor unbanked people access to financial products & services.
How does microfinance play a role in areas such as health, education and environmental protection?
In access to health, microfinance plays a dual role. First, through microinsurance, it is possible to offer affordable health insurance schemes to the bottom of the pyramid, even if adoption is still problematic today. Second, people with diseases also need access to finance, and specific loan & other financial products that are compatible with their affliction/their risk profile. For example, PlaNet Finance is involved in a project in Niger, which aims at enabling people with sickle cell disease to create & grow their revenue-generating activity. We also work with people with AIDS in Senegal & Benin.
Education: in developing countries, a lot of youth, especially females don’t have access to education, which in turn makes it difficult for them to gain employment opportunities. Their only chance at a better future is to create and grow their own revenue-generating activity. We give them trainings in accounting/business development services, and, in partnership with other NGOs/vocational schools, technical training. We accompany them in the creation of their activity and in gaining access to finance through partner microfinance institutions.
Environmental protection: the bottom of the pyramid also needs access to energy, clean/renewable energy if possible. In partnership with microfinance institutions and clean energy solutions manufacturers, PlaNet Finance develops programs that substitute solar panels, solar ovens, energy-efficient ovens, etc… to fossil fuels. Usually, the loan product is structured as follows: monthly repayment = monthly fossil fuel bill, which means that once the loan is paid back, the family or the business saves the equivalent. For example, a recent project, Rendev, which won an EU prize in 2009, aimed at equipping rural villages with solar panels, thus enabling children to study and women to have a revenue-generating activity at home after sunset. It also created microenterprises (assembly, installation & maintenance of solar panels), and extra revenue for small local shops (energy-efficient light bulbs).
Which of the projects you work on are you the most passionate about?
I am passionate about PlaNet Finance in general, but if I had to choose three projects, they would be the following:
Internally, professionalizing the NGO and growing its people, which was my initial mandate when I joined. I strongly believe it is our duty as an NGO to be as efficient and professional as possible in using the funds that are granted to us, towards maximum impact.
In our project portfolio, I would mention two emblematic projects.
First, financial transparency: this is one of the themes that we are pushing in our Microfinance & Consulting activity, for which we recently published a best practice guide. It all started with a project in 4 countries in West Africa on which we worked with 10 microfinance institutions. It aimed at enabling them to produce good quality financial statements, periodic reports & dashboards, leverage them in their decision-making, etc... We will replicate it in Cape Verde soon and hopefully in other countries.
Second, the Star Shea network: this is a project that we started with our partner SAP, in rural areas in Northern Ghana. The objective is to structure the Shea value chain to maximize revenue for women gatherers. We started with production & drying techniques, added price transparency to enable women to negotiate at arm’s length with intermediaries. The next step was to deal with seasonality of prices, which are low when the women need the revenue in April and much higher in September. A microfinance institution now grants a loan to the women in April, which they pay back in September when they actually sell their Shea production. The next step, which is access to international markets, is the one we are currently adding to the project through the creation of a social business – a commercialization platform. The final step, which we’ll get to next, will involve helping the women equip themselves with machines that transform the nuts into Shea butter, thus adding the transformation premium to their share of revenues.
On the 15th of June we held the first Women Talent Pool online meeting, during which the Emerging Leaders were offered a session on using the WIL Website to network, by Bertrand Salord, and a training on self-branding through writing delivered by Role Models Elena Bonfiglioli, Microsoft, Pinuccia Contino, Head of Unit Multilingualism and Translation of the European Commission and Katherine Corich, CEO of Sysdoc.
During the session, the Emerging Leaders have learnt about possible ways of using the social media to brand themselves, as well as the "Do's” and “Don'ts” in writing bios, motivation letters and email communications, as well as online presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
More details on the meeting to be given soon.
What are your sources of motivation?
I deeply care about having a positive impact in people’s lives; this is a great source of motivation for me. I pursue this by creating products and services that provide meaningful experiences, and make a difference for customers. This can be a real source of value and differentiation for a company, and one of the pillars on which I think Europe should grow. Creativity and entrepreneurship motivated by this type of value creation are in my opinion essential, and the area I want to invest my work in.
How did you manage to combine your passion for design with engineering?
With a lot of determination and resourcefulness, because it wasn’t a typical career orientation in my environment. One of the keys has been to continuously nurture my skills, cultivating a solid point of view about what I do and how it can contribute to the business.
Throughout my engineering studies I made sure I learnt as much as possible about design and carefully sought internships that combined both disciplines. After graduating, my first roles were in innovation, but purely technical, however I strived to infuse them with the value of design skills and practices at every chance I got. I often re-invented my roles and stretched my responsibilities. I also made sure to first attend, and later speak at international design conferences. This allowed me to connect with the design community and learn from them. I was also part of the organization’s scattered design network, through which we sought to collaborate and align ourselves. By that time I had already evolved my job into applying innovation-by-design techniques to our research programs, so when Orange decided to consolidate an in-house Design & User Experience division, I was asked to join them in this adventure.
Working as a Design Lead, do you use your engineering skills?
Yes, my engineering skills are a real asset in many ways. They have been precious in helping me deal with complexity and shape initiatives in unstructured environments. Also, when designing digital products and services, it is an advantage to understand the potential behind new technologies, which helps you create more imaginative solutions. Not to mention how helpful they have proven to collaborate with other stakeholders, specially the ones responsible for building our solutions, since I understand what it takes to make things happen.
Which of the strategic innovation projects you’re involved in are you the most passionate about?
I’m very excited about working on improving how we provide digital customer care. It is a very complex challenge but one that really matters in Orange’s 2015 strategy.
The company has set up anticipation programs which are built with a Marketing, a Design and a Technical lead, who run them in close collaboration. This is a very interesting way of working as we bring together our different expertise and points of view to create a strong vision for the program. It has been a fantastic opportunity to consolidate our best practices, going out to see our clients and gaining precious insights on their experience of care, which has inspired much of our new service concepts. I’m really proud that we’ve tackled our challenge through user-centered design and come up with new ways of thinking about care and delivering it through our digital interfaces.
Could you elaborate on your philosophy of 'advocating through results', which you mention in your biography?
Advocating through results is a philosophy of having influence by being humble and constructive. And it’s about walking the talk.
If you believe in something and want to make it happen, you need others to believe in it and integrate it, and for this they need to be convinced of its value. Therefore the best way to achieve results is to engage with stakeholders, understand the problems at hand, what their priorities are and what they need to deliver on. Then help them succeed as quickly as you can, deliver excellent work on whatever is key to them. There is no such thing as a small project, because it will earn you credibility and their trust. Once you have a seat at the table and are part of making things happen, over-deliver; show them new things that your team can do, and gradually engage in more strategically important conversations. It’s very much about delivering results, excellence and conciliating multiple priorities.
On 31 January 2012, at Microsoft’s premises in Brussels, WIL had the pleasure to host a pre-launch Women Talent Pool gathering.
After a warm welcome and explaining to the gathered Emerging Leaders the criteria, based on which they were selected for the pilot programme, Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Health Director EMEA, Microsoft, WTP coordinator, presented the programme objectives and the aim of the pre-launch gathering: getting to know the Pool, brainstorming to get feedback and set expectations.
She also spoke about the learning opportunities Emerging Leaders are going to be able to benefit from by engaging with more senior women to discuss their future career paths, work experiences, leadership issues, business topics, as well as their aspirations and ambitions. Most importantly, participants will learn by sharing personal perspectives and discussing how to set the foundations for new models of leadership.
Several WIL members, who joined the program as Role Models, shared among the WTP participants their perceptions of and expectations from the programme.
Through the WTP, Nathalie Wright, Director of the Division Large Enterprises & Alliances, Microsoft, would like to push younger women into taking initiatives and responsibilities. She joined the programme, because she meets a lot of young women, who have a lot of ideas and energy, but are unsure whether they ‘can do it’. She would be happy to help them build their trajectories. Ms Wright is interested in sharing her experiences in various fields, including: IT, telecomm, finance, marketing and sales.
Claudine Schmuck, Global Contact, Director, noted that for the Emerging Leaders, being able to work the programme from the beginning gives them a chance to voice out their expectations, express ideas and have a real influence on its final shape. WTP is structured in a way to address the needs of the EL; the Role Models know what they want to transmit and convey to the younger women, but would like to take on board Emerging Leaders’ feedback to determine the right way to help them in their future progression.
Pinuccia Contino, Head of Unit Multilingualism and Translation Studies, DG Translations, European Commission, expressed her desire to give back by helping the younger generation. In her view, the whole point of the WTP is to help Emerging Leaders understand what they want to do in their professional lives and help them go for it; the first step they need to take is to build a reaching, personal relationship with the Role Models.
As some of the most important elements of the WTP, Thaima Samman, WIL President, listed the opportunity for the EL to get access and nurture a very diverse network, along with learning about ways to position themselves in relation to what they want to achieve. She noted that the women, whom the Emerging Leaders are going to meet in this programme are going to follow them for the rest of their lives.
Katherine Corich, CEO, Sysdoc, would like to see the EL set a clear direction of their careers: learn that they want to get from A to Z, believe they can achieve it and build support networks around themselves, based on trust and honesty so they can eventually achieve these goals, without having to compromise, particularly if they start to change things in life. She also stressed the importance of learning how to build teams, knowing whom to be honest with and whom to be professional with.
Mrs Bonfiglioli shared with the gathered WTP members her belief, that in the pursuit of happiness we become happy. In her view, it is through the way we regard opportunities, job, daily life that we transmit and echo to the others the potential that is around us and the potential of what we can do.
During the gathering, Emerging Leaders were given the opportunity to express their expectations from the WTP. They would like to broaden their horizons and learn through both training opportunities and exchanges with diverse members of WIL’s international network. EL also expressed their interest in learning about the impact of culture on leadership style. Many of them felt they could use help in improving their communication and negotiation skills. Among issues that they would like to see discussed, they mentioned work/life balance, sociological aspects of leadership and the idea of femininity. By the end of the 18 months’ programme, they would also like the WTP to come up with a single position on the issue of Women in Leadership.
In the context of the World Economic Forum Davos, Mr Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship, Microsoft, drew on the example of its Young Global Leaders and Young Global Shapers programmes and spoke about identifying, developing and nurturing young leaders.
He stressed, that identifying talents early on and including them into the discussion helps bring the dialogue to a new level of awareness and inclusiveness.
Mr Bross noted, that when Prof Schwab formed the World Economic Forum, he probably didn’t have sense, hopes or dreams that it would become an international platform, where global leaders gather on an annual basis. The guest speaker turned to WIL Members advising them to think about the network in terms of what it can become for women leaders and in terms of helping develop talent among women.
He also stressed, that one sector of society is not going to address our global challenges: ”if we are going to address the crisis, it is going to require governments, NGOs, corporations to be engaged”.
Following the introductions, brainstorm and the inspirational speech of Mr Bross, the WTP members were given the chance to get to know each other better during a speed dating session, as well as invited to WIL’s official meeting, on the topic of Women in Culture.
The gathering turned out to be a success; the Emerging Leaders and Role Models had an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which they are going to cooperate during the course of the 18 months programme, learning both from the WTP Program Coordinator and from each other. Due to WTP’s structure, designed to respond to the needs of the young Women Pool, the meeting was a significant contribution towards determining the shape of the programme, which will be officially launched on the 6th of March.
The European Commission for Economy, Employment and Social Affairs launched an initiative that brings forth to girls and young women role models that broke through the traditional career paths to lead their own companies. No less than 130 business women from 10 EU Member States have been appointed as Ambassadors of female entrepreneurship.
Throughout the year, they will be speaking directly to their counterparts in schools, universities, community groups, nurturing their self-confidence and giving concrete entrepreneurial knowledge, and also use media channels to dispel stereotypes about women in business. They have proven outstanding leadership in sectors such as technology, pharmacy, management consultancy and coaching or even wood industry. Some of them, such as Runhild Gammelsæter, the owner of a Norwegian biotechnology company, have taken further steps ahead, transforming their scientific research into a successful business.
In an environment where women's enterprises are concentrated in retailing, catering or community services, exchanging practices are meant to bring a shift in attitudes and allow women to be better represented in the knowledge economy. This action is part of those foreseen in the Commission's 2008 ∧ top
© European Network for Women in Leadership 2018