International Women’s Day: women in tech (III)

For International Women’s Day 2023, SQLI spoke to four inspirational digital leaders to find out what advice they might give their younger self, if they were moving into the tech and digital sphere today.

Here, in the third part of the series, Claire Leblanc Mason, SQLI Chief People and Transformation Officer, gives her views. Read Part One, here and Part Two, here.

Claire Leblanc Mason, SQLI Chief People and Transformation Officer

I specialised quite early on in telecoms when I first started out in management consulting. To me, the mobile industry was both challenging and exciting: fast-moving, international, focused on the customer experience and undergoing constant change. I see many similarities with the digital industry today and there are so many opportunities for someone just starting out or working in this environment. Every day can be different!  

​​​​​​Build trust from Day one 

My advice to anyone beginning their career is to work on building trust from the very first day. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, what your gender or nationality is, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. What is important is that the people around you know that they can trust you; from those you report to, to those you manage, to your clients and your stakeholders. 

As you progress in your career, expectations will change, but the notion of trust remains fundamental. Trust that you will do your job, that you are reliable, that your interests don’t come first, that you will make difficult decisions if needed and so on. When people trust you, they will give you more responsibilities, more opportunities, will support you in your development and growth, and will want you to succeed. 

Digital is more than just technology 

My view is that digital is not only about technology. It’s more about the way of doing things: how to leverage the vast amount of data that is available today; how to use technology to make better and faster decisions; how to be agile in a constantly changing environment; how to create value inside and outside the organisation. The power of digital is in using innovation to improve customer service and to transform people’s experiences. 

Remain true to yourself  

I believe that credibility and honesty build trust. It is important to not only master what you are talking about but also to not shy away from admitting you have made a mistake. If you can’t demonstrate that you are competent and truthful, there’s a pretty good chance that it will discourage people from wanting to work with you.  

Find a mentor to talk to 

This leads on to another point which is the importance of having one or two people you trust that you can reach out to whenever you need to: when you’re stuck, to ask for advice, to act as a sounding board, for a mental boost. 

I have known someone for over 25 years who I reach out to when I want to run things over with, and who will give me some impartial advice. Having someone outside the organisation who knows me as a person, has seen me develop and grow over the years, and who understands what I find challenging and where my strengths are is really helpful. It would be great if I could always take a step back on my own, but experience has shown that it has not been the case! 

For anyone starting out, I would recommend trying to identify early on someone you can trust, so you can have that safe space where you can brainstorm, validate, course correct.  

Embrace cultural differences  

I'm English and French, studied in Germany, spent half of my career working abroad and I am married to a South-African. Working and living with people from different cultures and backgrounds, with different ways of thinking and communicating is both fascinating and humbling. It makes you realise that your way of doing things is not better, neither is their way of doing things worse – it’s just different. Our environment is international and understanding the cultural differences of our colleagues, clients and stakeholders is crucial to be able to interact and collaborate smoothly.  

Lastly, something I also tell my children - first impressions count and last. Think carefully about how you come across as that is how people will remember you. 

Claire Leblanc Mason bio: 

A graduate of ESCP Business School and holding a French B.A in Economics as well as a German Master’s in Management, Claire’s career began in 1996 as a management consultant with strategy and transformation responsibilities. Further roles with HR and similar transformation responsibilities followed, leading to her current role at SQLI as Chief People & Transformation Officer, where she is also responsible for Communications and ESG. 

Able to speak several languages fluently and having worked in many different countries - and with decades in the strategic and operational transformation of large international organisations - Claire is able to give a truly unique perspective on the digital sphere.