Clémentine Fournier: Perfecting Work-Life Balance, Her Way to Success


Women in Technology | Clémentine Fournier, VP Sales, Africa, BICS |

Clémentine Fournier has got a very special way to define success – she has carved her own way to succeed in professional as well as personal front. For her – ‘success’ doesn’t necessarily have to come exclusively from the work, instead she achieves a good balance between work, family and other aspects of life – and this is what success looks like to her.

As part of our spotlight on ‘Women in Tech’ – Clémentine Fournier, VP Sales, Africa, BICS speaks with Zia Askari from about her professional and personal journey.

Finding Work-Life Balance = Success

How do you define success? What is your mantra to succeed?

‘Success’ doesn’t necessarily have to come exclusively from the work you do. Instead, I always try to achieve a good balance between work, family and other aspects of life – this is what success looks like to me.

Having a clear head and making time and space to think and reflect is important. Feeling self-satisfaction and pride when you’ve achieved your goals is a positive thing. But success for me also extends beyond myself, and is very much about helping others to succeed too.

My mantra to succeed consists of two essential steps: first, you need to discover what it is that makes you truly happy, and second, you need to remain focused and pursue whatever you have identified as making you happy.

How has been your professional journey so far? Please tell us about your various job profiles?

After finishing my master’s degree, the last year of which I specialised in telecoms, I started my career in telecoms, and I have stayed in this industry since then.

After working for two years at a start-up in Paris, I moved to Belgium to work for Proximus (formerly known as Belgacom), joining the Corporate Business Unit to gain experience within an establish tier-one operator. Another two years after this, I moved to the International Carrier Division (which later became BICS), where I managed the accounts of leading European carriers, contributing to the growth of BICS’ position in Europe.

In 2007, I left BICS to lead a sales team in London for a Scandinavian carrier, but after four years I decided to move back to Belgium and in 2011 I was offered to join BICS as Vice President Sales, Africa, a position that I still have and enjoy today.

When you look back in your career – what according to you can be termed as big turning points. How have these turning points helped you professionally?

The biggest turning point in my career was when I first moved to Brussels. In 2000, when I arrived in Belgium to start my new job, it was very challenging from a personal perspective as I’d arrived in a country not knowing any one. Although Brussels is not far from Paris, looking back, it was quite an adventure! I recall being very excited to discover not only a new working environment, but also a new country.

The second significant turning point was when I moved back to Belgium after having lived in London for a few years; it was the start of my family life, which brought with it new adventures and challenges.

What are some of the challenges that you faced and overcome during your professional journey? How did you overcome these challenges?

After few years at Belgacom, a re-organisation plan was announced (this was in early 2000, once the internet bubble had burst). My function within the Corporate Business Unit was about to disappear and another job role was offered to me.

On the one hand I was pleased to be offered an alternative job; but on the other hand, I was not as enthusiastic for the new role (which was more of a product manager role at the time), as I felt it was not in line with my experience.

However, I took the opportunity of the re-organisation to apply for something I really wanted to go for – a commercial role within an international environment. Although at the time I felt it was risky for me to refuse the job offer, I got the job I wanted. This transformed an undesirable situation into a great opportunity that changed my life.

How do you see yourself five years from now? What are some of your big goals that you want to achieve?

I am very committed to what I am doing with BICS. In our fast-moving industry, I plan to remain dedicated to my team and business partners, and together develop new innovative solutions to justify BICS’ leading position in the market.

Personal Profile

How would you describe yourself?

I like to exchange ideas and knowledge, and share my opinion. I think I am open minded, and am naturally interested in things and people from all sorts of different backgrounds. I don’t make ‘a priori’ assumptions and judgements; I like to give everyone a chance!  I am also independent and not afraid of trying new things, nor of taking risks.

What are your personal priorities?

To enjoy what I am doing professionally and personally – I’m passionate about my job and spending time with my family, and I dedicate a few hours per week to sport. Maintaining a good balance between professional and private life can be challenging, particularly when travelling for work, but I feel I’ve been able to achieve this at BICS.

Please share with us some of your personal milestones and their contributions towards developing your personality?

I used to be very sporty. At secondary school I played a range of different sports several times a week, mainly track and field and volleyball. When I was 15 years old, I was offered two scholarships – the first by the French National Athletics Federation (as I finished third in the high jump at the National Youth Championships) and the second by the French Volleyball Federation (as a result of being selected for the junior national team).

My years of playing sport competitively at an international level provided me with an important life lesson. Practising for more than 20 hours a week for two years, with the sole objective of being ready for the Junior European Championship (in 1992, when I was 19), was very demanding, but rewarding at the same time. If you want to have a chance of winning, you need discipline, to push yourself beyond your limit, to be at your best and never give up. This is true not only for sports but is also a lesson that I apply to my work.

How do you see yourself as a person? What are your three qualities that have helped you grow as a person and a professional?

My years of doing sport at a competitive level have impacted my personality: I am committed to what I do, I am results-driven, and I am a team player. I like to interact with others and exceed targets.

Living abroad (mainly in the US, UK, Belgium and moving around a lot within France), has also influenced my personality – I have an open outlook on life and still enjoy meeting new people.

Please share with us some of your hobbies and interests?

I enjoy running, reading, and travelling with my family. When I get a chance I also really enjoy going out – even if my social life has suffered somewhat since having two kids!

Please tell us something about your family? How has been their support in terms of helping you grow professionally?

When my second child was eight months old, I joined BICS as Vice President Sales, Africa – a role which involves a lot of travelling. As a mother, I often have mixed feelings when working hard and leaving my kids behind. My partner – who also has a demanding job – has been very supportive, always reassuring me when I have doubts.

In any event, after being a mum, I quickly took a pragmatic approach, trying not to be the ‘perfect’ mum, wife and employee: it just does not exist! Instead, I am doing my best.

I also explain to my kids why it’s important to have a job that you feel passionate about and why my job is important for me. I’ve already explained to my son and daughter the importance of being independent as a man and as woman, and I hope to set a good example.