Sophie Marot-Rémy is a change maker who is passionate about digital transformation, innovation and product development.
Sophie is the Chief Digital Officer of Euler Hermes in France, an insurance company specialised in B2B trade-related solutions and subsidiary of Allianz SE, with about 6000 employees in the world.
Sophie won “the most transforming 2018 CDO” award by the digital media “Journal du Net”.
She is the mother of a three-year-old little girl and has been volunteering at Junior Chamber International (NGO) for 10 years, where she was national president in France in 2018, managing +2000 members and 5 employees.
As a teenage girl, did you know you would become a business woman?
Absolutely not. I have always been a very curious and diligent student but I was neither competitive or ambitious… Actually my competitive mindset came later. The more you grow in your career, the more you get confidence and start to enjoy your responsibilities that usually imply to be competitive. The trick is that it shouldn’t be mistaken for arrogance. Especially for women, this boundary is very thin and can be perceived differently. When you admit that you have the ambition to succeed in your business projects, people might perceive you as overconfident or aggressive. I’d rather combine success with collective intelligence and leadership.
Did you have a strategy that lead you to where you are today?
I have always been interested in so many topics that I have never thought of a specific strategy or planned a career. I am very pragmatic : an opportunity can lead to another; I started my career at BNP Paribas and joined Allianz by chance. However I’m convinced that you can shape your job description from what you proactively initiate. I was lucky to have flexible managers who gave me space to express myself and demonstrate that I was not only able to achieve my targets but also to improve and propose new projects.
You need to demonstrate your ability while creating your own opportunities and make sure that you are able to take them at the right moment.
I was back from maternity leave when I was asked to work on our digital transformation strategy. The outcome was that we had to create a new dedicated team if we wanted the company to face efficiently this challenge. I was very excited by this mission because it was very similar to what I had already experienced in my volunteering activities – basically building projects & teams from scratch, finding sponsors, convincing people to follow you as a leader, defining a strategy, speaking in public etc – even though my managers did not really know what I went through. It was both an additional personal challenge and a professional achievement.
How did you get selected in the talent management program of your company?
I was lucky that my manager detected my potential and suggested my name. She has always encouraged me to take new opportunities. I was onboarded in various activities and was mentored by a board member. At first, I couldn’t see the direct impact but it was inspiring and it gave me visibility. This program probably contributed to my promotion as Chief Digital Officer later on.
Now as a manager, how do you detect talent?
In my opinion, talent is not about the skills that you have now, but the ability to develop new skills. When looking for new talents to join the team, I’m asking myself: is this person curious, interested in challenges, able to cope with change ? does he/she learn fast? These questions help me to detect the potential beyond the education.
Besides, in many cases, talent is underestimated or hidden: people who are not happy in their job or do not feel fulfilled in their environment are not able to perform. As a manager you need to create a good atmosphere for people to thrive, show their best and express their talent. I’m also convinced that a good manager acts as a coach, helping people to build self-confidence and go beyond their comfort zone to learn. It does not prevent you from being demanding & raising the bar higher but it implies to accept mistakes, be fair and lead by example.
When I was 24 years old, people encouraged me to become the local president of JCI Paris, with +50 volunteers and several projects to manage. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to do that ! They were not pushing me too hard, as they were smart enough to know that I would have given up at that time. But they knew I was able to do it. It took me time to figure it out by myself. Now I realise they were key in the way I built my own self-confidence.
Later, when I finally became President of JCI Paris, a girl in my board didn’t like her job and felt stuck and complacent. At the beginning she was asking me to validate all her decisions which was clearly burning my time. I set objectives with her and made it clear that I trusted her. Not only she outperformed, but she completely revealed herself : she was a different person and she even decided to pivot in her career. What we achieved together as a team, and helping people to grow through their personal engagement as a volunteer were actually the most powerful sources of pride.
When you detect talent, it is a virtuous circle as by empowering others, you can achieve more!
What are the difficulties to work in a male dominated environment?
I am working with many FinTechs, start-ups and tech-oriented profiles. I am always surprised that there are so few women in leadership positions. But to be honest, I hardly think about it. If you are always mentioning it, of course people realise that you are the only woman in the room and you position yourself as an exception ! I am not a big fan of women oriented network : I’d rather promote equality and diversity, in all domains, which are true sources of inspiration and creativity in a team.
You became the president of JCI France while raising a baby girl and starting your new position as CDO at Euler Hermes. What are your tricks to manage it all?
I wish I had a trick but the reality is more complicated !
My husband understood that it was very important for me to cope with several commitments, so he supported me a lot. Now, it is the other way around, as he is working on a big project. You need to be surrounded by supporters, within your family and friends, who understand your motivation and your ambition. I think that I got the right work-life balance in this situation. Without one or the other I would not have been fulfilled and got the same level of energy. I also had a certain amount of time and I had to get very organized. I had no other choice but to define priorities, delegate and deal with frustration when some things could not be done.
I used the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to help me define priorities and to delegate.
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