Gender should never be looked at as a barrier to advancement

Channel Post speaks with Sandrine Prat, Marketing and Communications Manager at R&M Middle East, Turkey and Africa on her initiatives in the work space and her journey in the IT industry so far.

Sandrine Prat (3)

Tell us about your leadership style and philosophy.

I strongly believe that teamwork is critical to success and it is the team’s result rather than the individual’s that is important. To be effective in a team, you must first be approachable and ready to respect and listen to the opinions of others. Whenever I am a team leader for a dedicated project, I make sure that everybody is aware of the final objective and that all individual opinions are taken into account. I am very well organized and I’m not scared to take initiative and risk. I also listen to and understand the needs of our sales teams so as to have the best alignment with my marketing strategies.

One of the initiatives which I created and led was the development of strategic alliances with other leading vendors from the IT industry. These alliances have helped us, as well as these strategic partners, realize new leads and achieve impressive ROI on our joint campaigns. I based this initiative around new marketing innovation, strategic thinking and the wealth of experience I have gained in my many years in the industry. I believe there is no greater teacher than experience. Therefore, I always stay curious and learn by listening to customers and peers, but also, importantly, from my mistakes. Mistakes are not necessarily bad so long as you analyze them and use the experience to do better the next time.

What made you choose IT as a career opportunity?

My first involvement with the IT industry was a two-year stint as a marketing assistant for Cisco Systems in France which began in 1996. I then rejoined the IT community when I took up the position of Marketing and Communications Manager at R&M Middle East, Turkey and Africa in 2011. It was by coincidence that I was approached by Jean-Pierre Labry, who was then the Executive Vice-President for R&M in the region. He was confident that I could succeed in this this role as my exposure had made me well aware of the regional market and its cultural nuances.

What interests me about the IT segment is that it is dynamic and rapidly growing. Modern technology has changed the way we do business. New devices and systems are constantly being created to provide faster and more efficient tools. In IT, everything goes fast and you need to keep the pace. You need to always be aware and learn about the latest technology. I am a person who needs this sort of constant stimulation and challenge. As a marketing and communications manager in IT, you cannot afford to be complacent. You need to be highly proactive and stay alert at every instant. My job is exciting because I deal with a lot of different tasks in different regions, each with deadlines to respect.

How has your unique background prepared you for success in the industry?

I have enjoyed a diverse international career, working in Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, France, the USA and the UAE. This international exposure has ensured continuous learning and has helped me relate to and work with people from many different cultures and work ethics. This diversity is a key characteristic of the Middle East IT industry and my experience has helped me tremendously in engaging with and creating strategies that are appealing to people of varied cultures.

What was your most interesting job?

R&M is a company that has been built on family values which I strongly identify with, and this motivates me to excel at my job. As a family company, you do not feel like just an employee because everyone is cared for and treated like family. I like the discipline, the challenges we have every day, the respect we have for each other, the proactive behavior and the winning mentality. From a professional standpoint, R&M gave me the opportunity to drive my marketing strategy for the region from scratch. They trusted me and gave me flexibility and control.

Another job that I had and continue to do in my free time is fitness coaching. I have a deep passion for the field and also hold a few diplomas in Personal Training and Aerobics. I love to take care of people and help them realize their fitness goals. My proudest moments are when someone comes to me not only to change their shape but to improve their health. This is a big challenge but offer unmatched rewards, when after a few months, someone who I am training tells me that their doctor has found them to now be in excellent physical condition.

What advice would you give to women looking to break into the field of computer technology?

It is true that the regional IT industry is male dominated. Knowing this, when I was settling in to my role at R&M, I worked hard from the onset to establish myself as a result oriented professional. This helped me to rapidly gain the respect of my colleagues and made it possible for us to function as a team.

My advice to women in IT is to stay focused and proactive and always operate outside their comfort zone so as to never get overconfident. Don’t be scared to take on new challenges as you can always find a solution, no matter how difficult the problem.

Nelson Mandela once said, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that they are many more hills to climb.” You can however confidently approach new challenges if you have faith in your abilities. There are plenty of opportunities for women, as well as men, and gender should never be looked at as a barrier to the advancement of your career.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

The rapid pace of technological advancement has made highly innovative devices available not just to enterprises but also to regular consumers. The capabilities and compactness of computers and smartphones today means that even the most sophisticated devices can now be carried in a purse!

 Some of the most impressive of the recent IT trends are:

  • Cloud computing and digital transformation which are driving the evolution of smart cities.
  • Ubiquitous high bandwidth connectivity which means that today, you can connect to high-speed Wi-Fi from anywhere, giving you unlimited information at your fingertips.
  • Innovation: In our field, we have to be very innovative and constantly develop cutting-edge technology to stay competitive.

Are you involved in any sort of volunteer work? Can you give us some details?

Mother Teresa once said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” This is what I try to follow on daily basis- not only as a volunteer but with my family and friend who I love and care for.

I support several organizations which include some that provide education for girls in poor countries, an organization in France fighting against the harassment of women, an association in Nepal called ‘Smile for Hope’ which works for children with cancer. Every time I visit a new country, I visit a local school and buy furniture for it. The last time was in India where I visited a school with my daughters. We stayed for a few hours, talked to the wonderful children and left with big smiles on our faces. I also give clothes and food to a French association.

What’s next for you in terms of your career in the tech industry?

This is a secret! To once again quote Nelson Mandela, “There is always another hill to climb!”