wimadame (a network that promotes female entrepreneurs in Europe) headed to SQLI’s “Western France” regional office, specialised in digital experience. In publishing this profile, we wanted to share the story of a woman who is managing an office that helps large businesses and regional brands with their digital transformation. Stéphanie Pialat, Manager of SQLI’s “Western France” regional office talks to wimadame.
Stéphanie Pialat, can you tell us about your career path and explain your career choices?
Once I got my secondary school diploma, specialising in business, I took an intensive foundation course before heading off to business school.
After graduation, I took my first job at XEROX, where I started off as a Sales Rep. I stayed there two years before moving to Paris, working at Dun & Bradstreet (a credit rating office). I worked as a Sales Rep for another two years, before taking charge of a team and becoming Manager.
In 2002, I left the Paris region for Bordeaux to work at Capgémini.
In November 2008, I moved to SQLI as Account Manager and stayed until September 2013.
In 2013, I resigned to join another company where I became Regional Manager, until three months later when SQLI offered me the opportunity to manage its Bordeaux office. So back I went.
Given the Bordeaux office’s good results, my boss gave me the opportunity to take over the Nantes office, grouped with Bordeaux to form the “Western France” region, in January 2018.
There are two areas of business I especially enjoy: Sales, which I’ve been involved in since the start of my career and which gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction, and management. It’s simultaneously fascinating, absorbing, and highly demanding. I’d never managed teams this size (130 staff) before.
For me, being a manager means: always asking questions, constantly having doubts, and taking risks. You mustn’t ever rest on your laurels.
Is being a female manager a USP? If so, how? Is there a female energy? Or do you work “in the same way as everybody else”? What is your added value as a woman, but are there also typically-female flaws?
I’m sure there’s a form of female energy.
And also typically-female quirks. For example, not talking up their abilities and accomplishments enough, I regularly see my female colleagues do that. Self-promotion isn’t something that comes naturally to women. Speaking up to talk about themselves, putting themselves in the spotlight is still quite rare. I think they don’t do it enough and I try to help them to do it as much as I can.
We often have an image of female managers as cold and inflexible… Yes, you have to be strong-willed and firm, but there are other examples beyond the rigid “Executive Woman” and the cold-hearted “Killer”.
Are you a member of any networks? A women’s network? If so, which one(s)? Are there any active networks in Bordeaux and/or Nantes that you’ve joined?
No, I’d like to, but unfortunately I don’t have time. I’ve also got three children and quite a busy social life.
How do you find a work/life balance? It’s said that digital technology contributes to a better balance. Do you agree?
Every day it’s a minor miracle, because it’s often still the mum who gets the call when a kid falls ill, for example. At weekends, I get as many things ready as possible so that during the week, everybody’s well looked after. Balancing both is still a real issue, especially as I leave early in the morning and get back late in the evening. But I love my job, and I don’t want to drop anything.
A lot of women abandon their ambitions, thinking that to climb the ladder in the business world, they have to sacrifice everything from a personal point of view… I don’t want to give up either thing, neither my balanced social life, or nor my interesting job.
Women have a shortage of alternative role models. We need to forget this “all or nothing” idea and encourage them all to apply for higher-ranking positions. Believing you can do both takes time. I’ve got three kids and I spend a lot of time with them. But I also love my job and there’s no way I want to stop.
I also think it’s this alchemy that makes me the manager I am. What my family gives me allows me to be a better manager. But it’s also because the people that chose me for this job were able to reassure me and help me grow.
As for digital technology, if by contributing to a better balance you mean being able to work from home, occasionally logging in, then yes. This saves on travel time and I can find a quiet place to work. But my job is still all about meeting people.
Nothing can replace visiting a customer or spending time with your teams.