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Q&A with Yasmina Khelifi

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Yasmina Khelifi, Senior Project Manager - MEA Delivery Manager for SIM cards @ Orange

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

I’ve been working for the same big French telecom company for more than 20 years. My first post after graduation was as a Telecom Engineer. One day, my line manager came to see me, and told me that one project manager was going to move to a different job and I would be a good person to fill the vacated role. I hesitated and finally accepted. I have never regretted it. So I am an ‘accidental project manager’! I went from being R&D project manager to Application Manager and then Delivery Manager for the Middle East and African affiliates of the group. The size of the projects, the number of stakeholders, and the strategic impact vary. What remains constant is the international nature of the environment. I’ve worked with the main telecom mobile manufacturers, application providers, and sim card suppliers. The main lessons I learned throughout my career are: look for mentorship, talk to people, observe, and ask questions. Career paths are no longer linear. A career is made up of opportunities, and meetings with people who can advise, mentor, and sponsor you. One thing is certain: we need to upskill and learn continuously.

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?

When I moved from R&D to a more operational field, I was paralyzed by the fear of not succeeding. I joined a team of contractors, and I began to ask many unnecessary questions at each stage of the work. I suffered from impostor syndrome and was worried that I couldn’t complete the tasks. When one contractor left, she came to tell me goodbye, and, with a pitying expression, she said, ‘Good luck to you’. My behavior made me seem incompetent. Of course, this often happens in new roles, but not to that extent. Since then, I’ve learned four things. First, introducing yourself properly is a key step in gaining credibility. Second, having in-depth conversations with colleagues to find out what they are doing and who they are is another way to forge good relationships. Third, keep a circle of friends you can have discussions with regularly. It will give you other perspectives. Finally, have hobbies outside of work. For instance, I’m learning languages (I can speak 6 at different levels) and I discovered volunteering a few years ago.

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader/manager?

Trust in yourself! I’m a woman in a very male-dominated environment. Don’t let yourself be defined by stereotypes: the communication manager, the empathetic manager, the event organizer. Even if you are all of these, above all you are a woman in a technical field and you deserve to be as successful as any man. Help other women to join you! Mentor some, and advocate for others if you are in position to do so. Being part of women’s communities can also help you relativize. Sometimes at work, I pointed out things I noticed, and things that struck me as strange or interesting, but my male colleagues thought they were not noteworthy or unusual. I felt alone. But through talking to other women I could see I was not alone. At work also people do not have time to stop and analyze each situation. That is why it is important to be part of communities. Don’t hesitate to contact me on Linkedin and to visit my website.

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