My name is Nadine Pichelot. I'm the vice president of finance for a company called Anaplan, a company that markets connected planning software. I've been in finance and operations for over 30 years. I would say I've had a pretty atypical career as a financier, because I've done a lot of very different things and I've worked in American companies for most of my career, such as Dell, Apple, and Cisco. I would say that it was intuition and the desire to learn and do new things that drove me, so essentially operational finance. I am not a specialist financier, I am more of an operational person and the notion of partnership with the business is very important.
Working for large American groups such as Apple, Cisco or Dell has given me several things: the "Yes we can" attitude I think is important, there is this notion of optimism and the desire to find solutions, it is something that really corresponds to my way of working, to my personality. Then there is the possibility of having quite international jobs and being confronted with different cultures. This is something I really appreciated. These companies allowed me to have positions that were often European and global, which allowed me to travel, meet different cultures, and work with different teams. I would say that this is what I really enjoyed. After that, of course, these are groups that often demand productivity and results. But always in an engaging and dynamic atmosphere that corresponds perfectly to my way of working.
I don't think there is a magic recipe. First of all, you have to know how to surround yourself well. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, I think that's a fundamental thing and it works for all successful leaders. Don't be afraid to surround yourself with people who can take your job. Talent management, for me, is critical to success, because you don't succeed alone, I always tell my teams that you don't have an individual brand, you have a team brand, it's very important.
Then, knowing how to listen to the signs that your body can give you when you go a little too far. You can't have a career without working or investing a lot, you have to keep the right balance, know how to stop, know how to listen, and know how to say no too. Finance is a business partner, so of course, you have to be there to help the business, but from time to time you also have to say no to things that cause an unreasonable workload. I'll give you an example: when you work in certain companies during a difficult period, the figures that finance shows are figures that the business will find difficult to accept. When the business has difficulty accepting the figures, it will ask for more and more analysis. So these are a few things, I think, that has helped me to be where I am today.
You learn to say no with seniority, there is a legitimacy in saying no. You learn to say no perhaps in a more restricted area at the beginning. You can say no to very basic things, no to someone who asks you to do something for them. It takes time to say no because it also means teaching others to do it. You have to do it and teach your employees to do it early in their careers. Saying no to more complicated, more strategic things, which have a major impact, I think that comes with seniority and respect too.
I think technology is a catalyst for change in the way things are done, in governance, and in talent. It's very important for women to know how they can change finance in their companies. I think that technology can give time back to the teams. It may be clichéd, but women often find it more difficult to balance their private and professional lives. And technology will allow me to generate time to spend on high-value-added tasks. This is very important for finance. You need to put in place some pretty basic automation processes, to be able to spend time on added value, on more strategic views, on decision making, on compliance... I think having a very clear vision of where the technology is going can be a vehicle for advancement for women.
Celebration of success
I have several tips on this. For me, you have to have a very strategic vision and not be afraid of the size of the project, have a very courageous and long-term vision. Then, it's like a journey, I always say: there's the destination and then you put the GPS on. You have to identify your fellow travelers. It's not just a journey of finance, it's key to take other directions with you, otherwise, you're not going to get there. So you have to keep in mind the destination, the travel companions, then the GPS will guide you, maybe take you on a different path. You must not be afraid of this.
You have to be able to have small successes and let them be celebrated. The road is long, it can be complicated, it will be full of pitfalls and you have to be able to find the pain points very quickly in order to overcome them. Identify the projects that can be small, and that will bring you success. That's how you get people on board. You have to have a long-term, strategic, and very ambitious vision. Finally, celebrate the small successes and milestones but never forget the destination, it's very important.
Excellence and perfection
So first of all I would differentiate between excellence and perfection because it is often said that women are perfectionists. I reassure you, perfection does not exist. And anyone who tells you they are perfect is lying. Perfection is relative. It is very important to see excellence in a framework: in what framework do you operate? What are your indicators? What are you going to measure yourself against? Because you will always find yourself better than you, and if you don't define a very precise framework, you will always be dissatisfied and dissatisfaction means that you will not be excellent.
I'll give you an example. When I was at Dell, the boss of Europe, Paul Bell, was very keen that we had a real diversity and women's inclusion program. His notion of excellence was to measure every quarter the progress of each boss, whether it was a business unit or a country, to see the percentage of women in the total workforce in the department or in a country. And what was the percentage of women in the management committee? If there had been any movements. Was it 50%? Was its excellence? Probably not. But it was something very simple that could be measured very regularly. So for me, excellence is also the measurement of progress, without setting unattainable objectives. These are small steps towards excellence. It's about setting up habits, there's nothing without discipline, without continuity, without assiduity. Unfortunately, there is nothing magical about it. And then you're going to say that the framework is perhaps too small, I'm going to open the window and go towards something bigger.
Ethics et compliance
Ethics and compliance, for me, is a line that you don't cross. To have reprehensible behaviors, behaviors that can bring legal penalties for me, it's no. It is often said that women are less political than men. For example, creating a network is something that women do less than men. The important thing is to respect each other. Then there are emotions. It is always said that women have more emotions, I think it is a strength to have an important emotional quotient, you just have to know how to use it wisely and always remain factual. To come back to ethics, women are very respectful of that and it is a great strength, you also have to know how to use your network and behave in a political way while respecting your ethics.
Teaching and learning
I think mentoring is becoming even more important right now in a world that is going to be hybrid. If we look at the future of work, we go to the office less, we see people less. We see less of what we call role models, people we would see in meetings. Virtual world, less interaction, it's more complicated. I think it's an obligation for all women who are successful, who have had a career, who can give. I think it's very important to give back too, to help others. I love this quote from Madeleine Albright who said: "there is a place in hell for women who don't help women". I help women because it is important. I'll give you an example. I am mentoring seven people at Anaplan right now. I also do a lot of mentoring for young people who are in my network, of my friends, for questions about studies, to prepare for an interview, and to give themselves a confidence boost. It's something that I do and that I like to do because it brings me a lot of things. At Anaplan, I mentor both men and women, which is very important. And in very different positions, from sales, to support functions, to technical functions. We work on very concrete situations and then I try to give them some advice. And then I see how it has worked or not. There have been great successes where my advice has worked, and then there have been great failures too, where unfortunately it didn't work as we wanted. So we exchange. I learn so much, already from a generation that is not necessarily mine, and in environments that are not mine, which are sometimes very technical. For me, it is extraordinary to do this. There is also a program that we have set up in the United States, which brings in talent from diverse backgrounds, LGBTQ, where I also mentor a young woman in this program. In this case, it's more to have the codes, for basic things that people don't necessarily have. It is for me a great source of inspiration, energy, joy, and happiness when I see that advice works. I encourage absolutely all the women who can do it because it's real happiness and it's really not complicated to put in place.
It's reverse mentoring, I feel I have it because I learn so much. And a very important point about the network, I often say the network is like a garden, it must be cultivated. What do I give to the network? What do I give to people so that afterward I can ask them? For example, there are women who tell me that they have the impression that their colleagues and friends are more successful than they are. You have to remove all emotion from this and be happy and satisfied to see them succeed, to encourage them. It is also an attitude to have, not to be envious, not to say to yourself that it is not me, not to have this bitterness. I have it too, and it is not always very simple. This also allows us to maintain the network. Because of what you have done for others, they give it back to you a hundredfold. It's also about cultivating your brand, whether personally or professionally. It's also something that is very very important, I think.
Advice to women
If I had any advice to give to young women who want to start in finance I would tell them to go for it! You have to go for it, don't put limits on yourself. You have to be aware of the environments in which you are going. I think that there is a real subject now, there are areas where the balance between private life and professional life is frightening. Indeed, women say "it was quite complicated" but everything is changing, you have to know yourself well. You have to make a list of what you accept and what you don't accept. And, don't put limits on yourself because there are no limits. Keep the possibility of creating your own opportunity, there is such a demand in some professions that you have to go for it. I think that everything is possible.