Women in Big Data Global



Paris Chapter 2021 Kickoff Event

Women in Big Data

By Anna Marchon,

March 25, 2021

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
Eiffel Tower in Spring

March 8 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST

Welcome remarks

We are very thankful to all the panel speakers for sharing their thoughts, energy and inspiration.

View bios.

Key take-aways are summarized below, while the video replay is available here.

We ask you to please fill out the WiBD interest survey to help us plan future Paris events.

Rutie Adar, Head of Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, Samsung Electronics

On career development best practices:

  • It’s never too late to go after a tech career or an executive role. You are never too old.
  • The norms are changing. The new generation of talented young women learn quickly, are not afraid to take risks and found their own companies or go after top positions. There are more and more women in tech, in various roles and ranks.
  • Be yourself. It’s energy draining to be playing a role. There are many different leadership styles, there is no one right way to do it.
  • Focus and delegate. At work and at home.
  • Work your network. All the time. Schedule time for it.
  • Get a mentor. Someone who really believes in you and you can consult.
  • Enjoy. It’s a roller coaster and you need to block time to enjoy and relax, have a hobby, otherwise it’s hard to endure the pressure long-term.

Sebastien Gibier, Director SAP.iO Foundry, SAP

On the value of diversity:

  • SAP has multiple programs to ensure workforce diversity and equal opportunities. We have achieved full parity of the organization: the same number of men and women, moreover our biz org is led by Alexa Gorman, nominated among the 100 inspiring women in Germany. Really great to be led by such an inspiring woman. SAP.IO made a commitment to accelerate more than 200 startups lead by women and minorities by 2023, and we actively support local initiatives.
  • IO in Paris is a network of accelerators bridging startups and SAP customers. We develop network ecosystem of complimentary solutions with offices in US, Asia. There are eight startups selected for each cohort, two cohorts a year. This year we focus on agriculture: AI, big data, augmented reality technologies.

On career development best practices:

  • Echoing Rutie’s point. Be yourself and trust in yourself. Don’t try to look and act like a man. There is value in being different. It’s in innovation space, that’s what we’re looking for.
  • Find a role model, a mentor, surround yourself with people who inspire you.
  • Be part of a great association. For example, we signed SISTA pledge within startup ecosystem.
  • Make yourself respected in any situation. 37% of those in his cohorts are led by diverse founders.

Mihir Sarkar, Chief Data Officer Engie Digital

On the value of diversity:

  • I had exposure to diversity in different context throughout my career. An interesting fact is that at MIT 50% are women, and the perception is that it’s easier to get in if you are a woman, but there is no quota, so such perception creates an impostor syndrome. There are so many stereotypes about geeks and white males, but we have to break free from those stereotypes.
  • Besides academy and startups, Sebastien mentioned female founders and VCs who fund startups. France is making a lot of efforts in that direction. Diversity needs to be built into the company structure early on, so as it starts growing, the first 5 employees are hiring the next 50 who also represent diverse backgrounds.
  • Engie is an exceptional company in France in being led by a woman. I studied culture bias at MIT media lab, and the fact that most designers were from western cultural backgrounds meant those biases were represented in music samples. It’s just one example of how gender and other types of discrimination are represented in datasets. Another diversity aspect is neural diversity; we have a program with Grenoble Ecole of Management for students on autism spectrum targeting careers in data science.
  • Engie digital feels like a startup within a large multinational. We target to hire 50% female. Hiring processes: when we write job offer use inclusive language, and interviews are done by women on the team.

On career development best practices:

  • As an observation – women on my team tend to under-rate themselves on average during performance self-assessment.
  • Engie is recruiting for data science and data engineering roles. It’s important to hire and develop them. We don’t offer preferential treatment, but we make efforts to have more women in the pipeline, to be more inclusive.

Alexandra Prigent-Labeis, Managing Partner Accellency

On the value of diversity.

  • Big data is a driving mechanism of investments in early stages and growth companies. At the same time, there is often a disconnect in backgrounds of many venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) investors and the teams that they fund. VC population is very homogenous, and they assess new technologies and business models they don’t understand, missing out on opportunities and leaving money on the table. Bumble IPO is one recent example. If the people who are making the decision are trapped in group think, they will make the same mistakes in funding. Diversity on the investment side is very important to promote more equal access to capital.
  • Diversity is about selecting the best people, and the pool of selection has to be as wide as possible to achieve that goal; this is a statistical principle.

On career development best practices:

  • Just know you can do almost everything. Hedge your bets, don’t go for the 2nd choice, go for the 1st choice. Women tend to settle for something good enough but hesitate shooting for the stars. We often don’t dare to take chances. Dare to shoot for the stars.
  • Women often underestimate what we have already accomplished in the past, and how much we succeeded. And we are often too scared of failure.
  • I have observed a pattern where women develop excellent technical competencies and get very technical jobs but are not able to progress further because they lack soft skills. Understanding and playing politics, communication skills, networking effectively, speaking up at meetings and projecting confidence, being assertive, building rapport with men across all levels in the organization.
  • Favorite quote: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”. – Churchill.

Founder’s Panel

What is your feedback on the corporate programs for startups?

  • Aruna: It is always good to learn more about such programs. As a suggestion, many corporations could make innovation and startup programs more intentional and targeted, a go-to-market vehicle, not a nice-to-have side project.
  • Alice: It is great to see corporate acceleration programs that help companies get in touch with new customers and stakeholders, help us improve our products and value proposition. A suggestion for improvement is to make targeted introductions to VCs that are already aligned with the corporates.

How do you define the value of diversity?

  • Alice: You bring value to the table just by being different, having a new perspective, new experiences, new knowledge, it benefits the team. Diversity is essential for creativity.
  • Aruna: Diversity is the most important thing for my startup. Our team speaks 15 languages in total. There is value in being different, and the skills of bringing it all together is the most important skill a CEO needs to master. Bringing it together.

What are the specific challenges of managing a startup?

  • Aruna: It takes a special kind of personality to work in a startup. Running one of very tough. There is no middle ground, it’s about highs and lows, all the time. Success is about how well you come out of the lows, over and over. It sounds glamorous, but when you run out of cash and need to stay committed and keep going, it’s not easy. It’s a must to have previous corporate experience that have taught you the art of politics, learning, listening, managing multiple stakeholders. Switching to a startup side makes sense after a corporate career, it makes you tough and more resilient, able to bounce back, individually and as a team.
  • Alice: You have to keep working, keep fighting for what you want. Set your goal very high. And work very hard, every time. Also, rely on men and build good working relationships with men.

Tina Rosario, WiBD EU Director, Chief Data Officer, SAP

Big thanks to all the speakers for contributing to this conversation. My key take away from today was this: “Do not under-rate yourself”.

Please consider joining WiBD Paris and global chapter, and answering  the survey to let us know which topics you are mostly interested in: job search support, mentoring, or training. There are a lot of materials available on https://www.womeninbigdata.org/ it’s free for registered members.


Rutie Adar, Head of Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center,  Samsung Electronics

Rutie Adar has been heading Samsung’s Strategy and Innovation Center, Israel since 2013. She has been the main focal point for startups, mature companies and academia to explore potential collaborations with Samsung’s innovation platforms, and some of these collaborations included Samsung Catalyst Fund investments. Rutie has been working in the consumer semiconductors industry for the past 30 years. She started her career developing image processing and parallel processing algorithms. Rutie has held various managerial positions in marketing, strategy, planning and business development.  She has B.S. and M.S. in mathematics and computer science from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and an MBA from Tel Aviv University. In addition, she has B.A. in political science and international affairs and M.A. in political communications from Tel Aviv University.

Sebastien Gibier, Director SAP.iO Foundry, SAP

Since August 2018, Sébastien Gibier has been leading SAP’s startup acceleration program, SAP.iO Foundry Paris . Sébastien’s mission is to strengthen SAP’s position with the French startup ecosystem and accelerate the activity between startups and our customers. Sébastien has more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur: He successively launched the chain of stores “Rue de la Plage”, as well as his own start-up Tech bepleez.com. He has accompanied many international companies, such as Vignette, FastSearch, Kronos in their development in France.

Mihir Sarkar, Chief Data Officer, Engie Digital

Mihir Sarkar received a PhD from MIT in Media Arts & Sciences. He was a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, where he studied Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Sciences, and founded and led the International Initiatives program to empower organizations and communities around the world to innovate and build solutions to solve their own problems through a Design Thinking and Lean Startup approach. Mihir founded two startups in Silicon Valley, then led the Product Management and Data Science teams at ROLI, a London-based startup. He has contributed to the development and adoption of several technologies, such as voice control, audio compression, infotainment and telematics systems for automobiles, online multimedia content creation and remote collaboration on the Internet. Mihir currently lives in Paris and leads Data teams at ENGIE in order to support the journey towards zero carbon energy transition.

Alexandra Prigent-Labeis, Managing Partner, Accellency

Alexandra is the founder and Managing Partner of Accellency. She has over 18 years’ experience in financial positioning, fund raising and sales strategy across asset classes ranging from private equity, private debt and real estate to venture and growth capital, structured finance and hedge fund strategies. She spent a decade at Goldman Sachs in solution sales and structuring, covering institutional investors with a focus on strategic investments, ultimately as European head of Pension and Insurance Regulatory structuring for Credit and Equity. Alexandra has a particular interest in technology and innovative companies and advises tech funds and portfolio companies from Series A to IPO. Alexandra is a professor at HEC Paris and serves on the board of HEC Alumni. In 2020, she was named Franco-British Young Leaders. Alexandra was born in Paris, France. She graduated from HEC Paris with a Masters in Finance. She now lives in London with her husband and daughters.

Aruna Schwarz, CEO, Stelae Technologies

Aruna is the CEO of STELAE TECHNOLOGIES, an innovative software start-up focused on the Aerospace & Defence sector. Aruna got Multiple awards: Nasscom Emerge 10 in 2015, IBM Global Entrepreneur India & Asia Pacific winner in 2014, and others. Selected to the Airbus Bizlab in Bangalore. Previously, Aruna was the head of Marketing for Europe at Rosebud Technologies, a content management solutions vendor in Paris, France. Head of the SME Marketing Group,  Business Development & Product Head for Internet turn-key solutions for the Schlumberger and Cable & Wireless joint-venture for EMEA. Marketing and product management roles at Cable & Wireless and BT in the UK.

Sameh Megrhi, CTO, OMИ 

Sameh is the CTO of O MY NOTE, an artificial intelligence tech platform dedicated to the fragrance personalization. Sameh is performance-focused data science expert with 12 years experience in advanced analytics, predictive modeling, econometrics, statistics, sales forecasting, agile project management, strategic planning. Expertly transform consumer behavior data into actionable, data-driven insights to maximize profitability and performance. Confidently mentor and train others, as well as identify and turn around underperforming groups. Regularly lectures on AI research and strategy.

Alice Memang, Co-founder & COO , Delfox

Delfox builds autonomous and learning systems that learn from encountered situations and adapt accordingly. Aeronautics, Space and Defence verticals. Partners include key industry players such as ArianeGroup, Dassault Aviation, Thales and the DGA. Alice oversees business development and strategic growth, actively contributing to the management of Delfox’s teams. Earning a degree in international trade, Alice created her first company in 2009. Her passion for entrepreneurship has been strengthened by solid experience as Risk Manager in a French medium-sized business. As she joined Delfox in 2017, Alice decided to take on the director role, in order to participate in building the world of tomorrow.

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