Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Samia JNINI, Manager-Head of AI Lab France @ Atos.
How could you describe your career path in a few words?
After an Engineering Degree in Information Systems from the Mohammadia School of Engineers in Morocco and a Master in Design and Management of Complex Information Systems from the Ecole Polytechnique in France, I began my career as Project Manager for Air Liquide in Morocco, working on operational reporting, industrial efficiency and automation projects. In 2015, I went for an MBA in International Management at the Sorbonne and Paris Dauphine University. I then joined the Digital Transformation Consulting practice in Atos in France and worked on different assignments in railways, luxury and pharma industries. In 2018, I put my passion for data and AI at the service of the creation of the AI Lab, where we collaborate with clients and partners to discover, scope, and prototype artificial intelligence use cases.
Following my participation in the ArabWIC 6th International Conference in Rabat in 2019, I co-founded with a group of friends the ArabWIC French Chapter in Paris, Women Power IT. I am also a Women In Data Science (WiDS) ambassador and have organized with Women Power IT two WiDS Paris regional events in June 2020 and 2021.
What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?
The first thing that comes into my mind is my first months at Air Liquide. I was twenty-two, freshly graduated and starting in a completely new field, mostly dominated by men. Integrating the team as the youngest and the only female engineer was not easy at first, especially since I didn’t know much about the gas industry or the industrial processes and operations. But with the right dose of determination and tenacity and with the help of my more experienced colleagues, I managed to go from novice to expert in a short time. This showed me that no matter the challenge, if faced with hardwork and a positive mindset, it can be overcome and even turned into an opportunity.
That’s also how I managed to graduate from my MBA as the top of my class, get into and progress in a Consulting position - also a new field for me at the beginning - and how I welcome every new assignment and every new client today.
What’s the key success factor for a female entrepreneur in a cross cultural context based on your experience?
Listening, respect and openness of mind. We need to learn about the different cultural codes, discuss with the teams, partners and/or clients and adapt our messages and actions accordingly. Empathy also plays an important role, especially in recognizing everyone’s individuality and difference rather than trying to ignore them.
Cultural differences should not necessarily lead to conflict and should not be seen as a barrier to success. On the contrary, it can be an advantage if well managed and if we leverage the diversity of skills and personalities it brings.
Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?
In my opinion, female leaders/managers' success begins with a personal approach: self-confidence, determination, focus, positive attitude, resilience and most importantly, daring to break the glass ceiling.
Usually, in order to get to high positions, most of us women face many challenges: gender bias, prejudice, stereotypes… but often, we are the biggest obstacle to our ambitions and success with our own fears and doubts. We create barriers that would not have existed if we had believed in our abilities.
Therefore, we need to trust our strengths and always remember how we have withstood difficulties and overcome setbacks. We need to get rid of the famous “impostor complex” that constantly makes us doubt ourselves and question our potential.
Moreover, in a world where you only get what you claim, we need to speak up, increase our visibility and influence, step out of our comfort zone, seize all the opportunities that come our way and believe in our abilities and legitimacy to take on the highest responsibilities even when it’s not a 100% fit.
And even if I believe we have the most responsibility in building our success, it is also very important we surround ourselves with the right people both in our personal and professional circles. Having a support system, people we trust and can rely on, is very important, especially when times get hard. And building and sustaining the right professional network can give us a competitive edge throughout our careers and help us gain better access to many career development resources.
At the end of the day, we still might fail. It is then crucial that we don’t stop. We need to keep going, taking risks and always aiming higher and success will undoubtedly follow.