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Meet 14 Women of Google France

By Lea Coligado and Raquel Small-Weikert

Last month, the Women of Silicon Valley team flew to Paris to interview Women@ Google France, an employee resource group for all the women based at Google’s Paris office. Despite coming from distant places around the world, these women shared stories that often resonated with each other, hitting many of the same themes: overcoming imposter syndrome, finding a career in tech via circuitous paths, and leveraging all the privileges tech has afforded them to help their communities. With no further ado and a heartfelt adieu, meet the Women of Google France!

In alphabetical order:

1. Agnieszka Strzalka, Software Engineering Intern

Agnieszka is a Polish Computer Science student a the University of Warsaw. Last year, she did an internship at Google Zurich on the Research team, and she is currently interning at Google Paris on the Youtube team.

“The biggest challenge in my life has been truly believing in myself and what I’m capable of doing.

I grew up in a very unsupportive environment and had to take care of myself since I was 16 years old. It put a lot of pressure on me, and I’ve been through many dark moments, carrying all my problems on my own back, completely alone. It also made me very aware of the fact that no other person will have any significant impact, positive or negative, on who I will be in the future; my future is solely the result of my actions and my work.

As a result, I was very afraid of making big changes in my life, thinking I couldn’t risk my stability and comfort for chasing my dreams. Sounds rational, right? No — I just lacked confidence. I didn’t have self-awareness of my capabilities, and I was always underestimating myself, always too hesitant to fight for anything that mattered for me.

But with the first step I made towards what I wanted — with the first micro-success I achieved and the positive feedback I received — everything suddenly fell into place. And after making one step, it’s way easier to make another. And another. Eventually you find yourself in a place you’d never dare to imagine yourself.”

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2. Anissa Talbi, Industry Head, Video & Programatic

Anissa was born in Paris, but her parents are originally from Tunisia. Her father worked as a stock controller at Renault and her mother as a seamstress. Anissa grew up in a neighborhood near Paris, where she developed a passion for technology in the late ’90s. She decided to get into tech after the dot-com crisis of 2001, when most people didn’t believe tech advertising would survive. She was convinced tech was at the beginning of a new era, and when she got her Masters in Management and Marketing in 2001, she started her career in a crazy, innovative industry.

“I’m a woman freshly turned 40. My biggest challenge in life has been facing a chronic health issue at just 25 years old. In spite of it, I decided to follow my dreams — traveling to Africa and Asia, swimming, scuba diving, bungee jumping, staying passionate about my job. They’ve all been vital in the development of my balance, and unexpectedly, my mental strength.

Many things make me proud even if I haven’t climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro yet. What makes me proud today is my family and my daughters (3 and 1.5 years old). They are my biggest successes by far.”

3. Bénédicte Ibert, Strategic Planner

Bénédicte is fascinated by data and uses it everyday to unlock consumer insights and strategic opportunities for brands.

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“I faced a challenge three years ago, when I was working at Publicis Conseil. I had reached the end of a cycle and was looking for new challenges. While discussing unemployment with my little brother, I came up with the idea of building an app dedicated to enabling unemployed people to meet and help each other.

Since I had no resources or specific skills to build this app, I decided to send an email to my whole company to gather complementary profiles and competencies. But one of the directors stumbled upon my email and, thinking it was interesting enough for a deep dive, forwarded it to Maurice Lévy (Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Publicis Groupe) — and he replied… he wanted to see me!

I was as excited as I was terrified. I can remember waiting for his assistant to invite me in his office a few days later. What saved me from dying from anxiety was probably the fact the situation was so surreal. Me? Pitching my idea to Maurice Lévy? It couldn’t be true. So, I decided to take advantage of the situation: if this wasn’t real, what was I risking? I saw this presentation as a performance on a stage, a stage where you can come off as the most self-confident person while holding doubts in the backstage. And now, I can tell you that “fake it until you make it” was a very good piece of advice!”

4. Caroline de Gantès, Head of Insights and Analytics, Sales

Caroline leads a team of insights and analytics professionals within the Google France sales organization. She was born and raised in the state of Mississippi in the Southern US, attended Vanderbilt University, had a long career at McKinsey & Company in the US and France, and has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Caroline joined Google to work for Google Fiber in the Southeast United States and then made the move to the Paris office of Google to start-up a new team in October 2017.

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“I got into tech to lead our Google Fiber business in Nashville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama. The opportunity to bring faster, fairer, kinder Internet to American communities really motivated and inspired me.

I am really proud to have launched Google Fiber in Huntsville and then moved my family to take on a leadership role in France to create a new team of insights and analytics professionals. Launching a new team at Google France has been both rewarding and thrilling. Moving here with my daughter, son, and husband and “landing the family” as well as inspiring a team of 10 French Googlers to deliver insights to our client have been an amazing personal and professional challenge. What got me through it was surrounding myself with colleagues who took on the radical candor mantra to help me learn and grow.”

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5. Camille Dupouts, Branding Manager

Camille is a branding manager at Google, working with French media agencies. She was born in Marseille and pursued her studies in Paris and London before working in Thailand.

“My biggest challenge has been finding the balance between professional and personal life. I’m ambitious and want to be fulfilled professionally without having to give up my personal life. My sister has a disability, and I promised myself I’d take care of her as much as I can.

I’m lucky to have studied in three very different areas. After prep school in Paris, I went to a French business school, ESCP Europe. At the same time, I started a double diploma in business law at La Sorbonne and courses in Art History at Ecole du Louvre.”

6. Celine Heller, Partner Development Manager for Google Cloud

Celine creates and develops partnerships between French SI companies and Google Cloud. A wife and mother of three amazing children, she’s also very involved in increasing diversity in tech by organizing Computer Sciences lessons at elementary school. Celine is a feminist and works to empower women through her blog featuring French female role models.

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“A challenge I’ve faced in my career is the daily management of my kids, my husband, my job, and my friends. Days are only 24 hours long! Prioritizing is key. For me, my kids come first; however, it’s also important for me to dedicate moments to my partner and myself.

Outside my family, I’m really proud of creating and successfully launching Computer Science sessions at a local school — and I did it 8 months into my maternity leave for my 3rd child! Between March and June of 2018, 200+ kids of between ages 6 to 12 at this school were trained in Computer Science, and it’s only just begun!”

7. Claire-Marie Foulquier-Gazagnes, Global Policy Manager, Google Arts & Culture

Claire-Marie works at the intersection of Policy and Tech as the Global Policy Manager of Google Arts & Culture. Born and raised in Montpellier, France, she has served in France’s Chief Data Officer team, Etalab. She enjoys teaching Digital Transformation at Sciences Po Paris and advancing gender equality at Women@Google.

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“I started my first job in tech, in France’s Chief Data Officer team, Etalab, without a formal education in tech. I had graduated in Political Sciences and Business and had no clue what “pushing a commit” or “CSV” meant. Most of my colleagues were seasoned engineers, and in my first week on the job, I remember overhearing my colleagues’ passionate debate on data formats and thinking: “I am never going to fit in.”

But I did. I kept having lunch with my colleagues, asked a ton of questions, took online courses on the side, and started a GitHub account. I never became an engineer, which has never been my goal, but I can effectively translate technical challenges for a non-technical audience. As for the data format debate, I now have an opinion!

One experience I’m proud of was using Google Calendar to remind people of the dates for the French presidential election to increase voter turnout. It was just a few months into my new gig at Google, and I wasn’t even a full-time employee at the time. But I pushed — I talked to people based in Zurich, San Francisco, and Singapore. And pushed again. Months later, I opened my Google Calendar, and the Election reminder feature popped up. It’s now deployed in several Elections around the world.”

8. Claire Wozniak, Senior PMM in SMB Marketing

Claire was born and raised in Paris by Polish parents, which makes her both Polish and French. She graduated in Literature and Business, and after a few years at Disney, is now working at Google.

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“It took me quite some time to get settled at Google. Getting a job there was tough to begin with. It took me seven rounds of interviews to finally land it, then almost an entire year for me to feel like I could actually be good at my job. I guess it was due in part to the never-ending imposter syndrome, but also in part to my personal bicultural history, which has let me adapt easily anywhere but never feel like I entirely fit in. Amazing teams, perseverance, and excitement to be part of an extraordinary adventure has helped me tremendously. After 4 years, I can’t say I’m totally there yet, but I’m very proud of what I’ve done.

Personally, I’m very proud that I’ve passed on my double culture (Polish and French) to my kids. My duality has brought much value to my life, and I want my kids to have it as well. It’s not easy, and still very much work in progress, but any small step is rewarding. My stepdaughter just read me a story in Polish, and it made all my efforts so worth it.”

9. Clemence Weber, Manager, Media & Entertainment Partnerships

Clemence manages Google’s partnerships with the Broadcaster, Media & Entertainment vertical in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Her role is to build strategic relationships with TV companies, film studios and European media groups. She grew up in Paris and holds a dual Master’s degree from The London School of Economics and Sciences Po.

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“Joining Google after working at ARTE (a European TV channel) for six years was a challenge. You could not have two more different organizations.

ARTE is traditional, publicly funded and Franco-German; Google is digital, business-oriented and global. When I started at Google, I couldn’t understand many of the words my colleagues were using. I had to learn a completely new lexicon of acronyms and Anglicisms, but I’m happy to say I’m now well-integrated into Google!

The best advice my manager ever gave me was: “If you aren’t asking at least 10 questions a day, you aren’t trying hard enough.” I did ask many, many questions, listened a lot, and built strong relationships internally that have become fundamental to my job today.”

I’m proud of helping create Educ’ARTE, a subscription-based, on-demand video service for teachers and students. In addition to watching documentaries on topics taught in schools, teachers and students can create their own videos — so it’s a mix between iMovie and some features Youtube offers. On one hand, ARTE had an incredible documentary database that they weren’t benefiting from. On the other hand, there was a need in the French education system to teach with digital tools. It was definitely an opportunity for business! We raised the funding required and built strategic partnerships with the French Ministry of Education and the School Board Administration. The idea was discussed for years within the company and thanks to a team of less than 10 people, we made it come true.”

10. Jeanne Nicolaÿ, Head of Agencies

Jeanne loves looking at things with new eyes. After studying modern literature and business, she’s worked for two very different companies: a century-old manufacturer of home appliances and Google. Over her career, she has worked in three countries and occupied ten different roles in marketing, communication and sales. Jeanne currently leads Google partnerships with Media Agencies and is head of the Women@Google network in France.

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“After four years in the UK and Italy with my first company, I joined their French department and took on a role tangential to their core business. Even though I was respected for my marketing and communication expertise — I was in charge of launching a new premium brand — I was not visible to top management. When the Communication Director, who was 10 years my senior, moved to a new position, I vocalized my interest in the role but was turned down because I was “too young” and “missing product management experience.” I wasn’t even given the chance to interview, which frustrated me massively.

I decided it was time to look for a new role outside the company, and my self-confidence was really low. One day, I went for lunch with a colleague, and we started brainstorming a new concept. I was enthused and started working on a business plan. In one month, we built a very daring and innovative concept that was then presented to senior leadership. In 2007, the financial crisis stopped the implementation, but a month and a half after I’d applied, I got the role of Communication Director. I learned a great lesson from this: when you’re turned down and frustrated, try identifying a new idea, create your own project, and find some time to shape it and share. It’s good for self-esteem, and it can open new doors!

“When you’re turned down and frustrated, try identifying a new idea, create your own project, and find some time to shape it and share. It’s good for self-esteem, and it can open new doors!”

Over my 18-year career, I’ve launched a lot of products and marketing campaigns, run successful business plans, grown market share and revenues and signed challenging deals. Some of these achievements received a lot of recognition. However, what I’m most proud of is friendships, the alliances I’ve built and maintained over the years that have enabled me to reach these results. Helping a peer through a rough patch in their career is what I find most important and rewarding. Even though I’m very result-oriented (sometime too much!) what matters most to me is the journey I’ve made with the people in my life.

Tech was originally out of sight, and I was on the track for leadership in a traditional world. I was unexpectedly contacted by Google for a role. They had my name because four years prior, I’d had an enthusiastic conversation with the Staffing Lead referring a fantastic ex-colleague and friend. The HR lead remembered that conversation a full four years later. Therefore, my advice is: focus on relationships and build alliances. Not only will you make great friends and get great results, you could also find your dream job!”

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11. Johanna Rochman, Business Development Manager

Johanna is a Business Development Manager at Google Paris, helping top French companies develop in their digital transformation.

“I didn’t properly decide to get into tech, but rather, tech got into me. In 2005, I was finishing business school and failed to get my dream job as a marketer at a CPG company. I graduated early, and after a few months of unemployment, I accepted a very miserably paid internship, serving as a project manager at an e-commerce start-up. This failure actually turned into one of my biggest professional opportunities, as it allowed me to dive into tech and learn everything from scratch.

As the happy mum of two boys, I made two big professional moves taking maternity leave during my pregnancy. Reconciling the timing of motherhood and my career has been tricky, and I decided not to link them at all, as I couldn’t anticipate everything happening in the “right” order. When I accepted a new job at a new company — the day before learning I was pregnant with my first child — my feelings were a mix of immense excitement and tremendous fear I wouldn’t succeed in my new role. I decided to take a chance, and in the end, my career and family values balanced, each giving me strength and confidence.”

12. Kristine Naltchadjian, Head of EMEA Partner Marketing, Google Cloud

Born in Armenia, Kristine moved to Russia when she was 13 years old, then moved to Paris when she was 23. Having graduated from Russian Polytechnic School and a business school in Paris, Kristine has worked in innovative tech marketing for more than 13 years now. She is the proud single mother of a 10-month-old daughter and used modern technology to have her.

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“I’ve faced a lot of different challenges: living in three different countries, working hard to get my job, and deciding to have a baby alone. All great challenges with great results.”

13. Maude Menant, Waze

Maude is a digital native working at Waze and founder of the MakeItHappen association, which promotes marketing and digital tools to local start ups. She is also a proud Gazelles.

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“I started to get involved in feminism and women’s rights while working at L’Express, a news magazine created by Françoise Giroud and her husband. I was proud to sell a brand that has defended equality since 1953. After my first child, I wanted to get more involved in the company and find a way to express my support of its values. So, with three colleagues we got the entire company behind sponsoring the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, an event created in 1990 that brings women from around the world to the Moroccan desert for an old-school, off-road car adventure. We succeeded in sponsoring the event, the only in the world of its kind, and in doing so, supporting the values of tolerance, solidarity and determination.

As they say, “Once a Gazelle, Always a Gazelles.” After my second child and my sister’s third child, we were both looking for an adventure, cut off from the rest of the world. So we raised 35K€ in funding to finance our participation in the Rallye des Gazelles.”

14. Nada Elawad, Software Engineer at YouTube

Nada is a software engineer at YouTube. She was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, then moved to France, which was her first abroad experience. Having her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Ain Shams University, she developed a passion for competitive programming that made her excel in her studies and land internships at Microsoft and Orange. She owes her passion to her mentor and the ACM community at her university.

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“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced was during my third year at university was when my grandfather died. It was my first tragic experience. I couldn’t focus on my studies, skipped the annual Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) qualification contest that I took part in every year, and couldn’t play online contests anymore. It just got worse and worse. A month later, I was contacted by Google, which was not the best timing, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t mess up. I started preparing again, as the idea of starting a new life in a new country gave me the motivation to get back on the road again.

However, a few weeks later, I was faced with another challenge, getting a visa for my onsite interviews. My visa was rejected four times, and we had to carry out the interviews online instead, and during my final exams. It was hard for to prepare while studying for my last semester and finalizing my graduation project, but the day I joined Google, I knew it was all worth it.

My passion for tech started when I was in prep school. When I started university, I heard about the ACM community in college and their problem-solving sessions; they were called the brightest kids in college. I started attending their sessions and found a mentor, the smartest person I’ve ever met. He was very helpful and strongly believed in me. He was tracking my progress, giving me problems to solve, helping me learn new topics and always pushing me forward until I made it through every challenge I faced.

After one semester, an ACM contest was announced, and I decided to participate. After I singed up, I was told that no girl has ever made it to the top ten in this contest before. It put pressure on me, but also made me want to prove them wrong. I ended up 2nd in the contest. It was very satisfying, driving me to pursue even more challenges in the years that followed — participating in more contests, becoming a mentor in the ACM community, applying for every intern position until I finally got contacted by Google. I didn’t think twice before accepting.”

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