Marie Chabanon, CTO of Data 4
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Name: Marie Chabanon
Post: Data 4 CTO
Date of birth: 4-22-1979 Sons: two girls
Hobbies: walk, run, read and travel
Studies: Civil Engineer, Canals and Ports. Executive MBA
Interview with Marie Chabanon, CTO of Data 4
How did you get into the ICT world?
I can’t say it was on purpose or premeditated. My family was more on the sales side; no one in my family worked in STEM. The truth is that at school I got good grades, like many other girls, and they suggested me to enter the science program. I started visiting various universities and engineering schools because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study… But I thought that civil engineering would give me general and extensive knowledge in a lot of areas, and I decided for that. It was a very natural arrival in the STEM world.
What do you value most about your job?
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the diversity of projects, areas and people I work with. My team is European: they are located in France, Italy and Spain, so I can work in a multicultural and multidisciplinary environment. I really enjoy teamwork in general.
I find technology and technology business very interesting and I love developing all STEM activities, especially when they are related to business, customer experience or environmental challenges. Technology and innovation contribute to achieving something greater.
In your opinion, what is wrong so that women do not bet more on the study of STEM careers?
I think there is a double aspect. First, the lack of knowledge regarding what you can achieve and the opportunities that are offered to you when you work in STEM. For example, I know the Data Center sector well and I know that it is going to grow, that it is going to generate qualified jobs of great importance for the future, but this is not really known. That is, there is part of misinformation.
On the other hand, there is the issue of bias. I am dedicated to designing, building and operating datacenters and I have two daughters aged 10 and 13. I have to admit that I have never talked to them in detail about what I do, about the opportunities that are offered to me… The truth is, when I realized that I felt a shock, because I think that, if my daughters had been boys, yes i would have. I now firmly believe that this bias has to be eliminated when girls are still young.
As a result of the Women’s Forum, which took place recently in Milan, I have been reflecting a lot and I consider that giving visibility to examples of women is essential. About two years ago I was even embarrassed to talk about these issues, but now I have realized that we have to share our experiences and make others part of the opportunities.
Do you think there is a “glass ceiling” in ICT companies? What should be the solution?
I think there is a glass ceiling, but not only in ICT companies, also in finance, and we live in a world that is driven by finance. It is very important to talk about this issue and recognize it.
Education is a priority, and then there is a component of governance essential to remove this glass ceiling in all sectors.
The world is made by men and for men; It has not been done on purpose, but things are like that. We need to change the world so that women can evolve and for this we need them to be present at a high level in decision-making processes, regardless of whether these positions are in public or private institutions.
Can a quota policy solve the problem?
If you had asked me this question five years ago, I would have said that it is not a good idea and that promotions have to be based on talent and abilities. But now, seeing the panorama that exists, I think it is important to speed up the processes and for this, this measure is useful. This is the idea that is also shared with me by many high-level women of influence with whom I have been speaking lately.
As I said before, I was recently at the G20 Woman’s Forum in Milan. One of the objectives is to ensure that there are 20% women in State positions and this is key when it comes to eliminating the glass ceiling. It seems to me a fundamental point.
What difficulties did you encounter to get to the position you currently have?
I don’t think it was very difficult. What is true is that I think I invested more time and energy in adapting to the STEM world. I mean, to convince everyone that I was the right person for the job, I had to invest more time and energy than if I had been a man. Even today I sometimes feel that way… On some occasion the CEO of Data 4 was asked where the CTO was… I was in front of him, participating in the conversation.
What do you value most about your company regarding the integration of women?
At Data 4 in France we have what is known as a gender index, so there is a good balance in our offices. In Spain we also have a number of women in positions of influence that we think is quite good. However, we have to continue advancing and improving, both in hiring women and in retaining and promoting their talent.
At Data 4 we are participating in events such as the Women’s Forum. Our CEO has signed a commitment to gender equality, which includes another very important aspect in this regard: the commitment to equitable and fair remuneration.
Ultimately, we are on the right track, and we plan to continue to do so to help make a difference.
Have the studies you did helped you to carry out your current work?
Yes of course. I think both the MBA and the road course have been important to me. In the end, the context that engineering offers you is important even if you are working in finance, because by studying engineering you learn to think, analyze and manage complex issues while acquiring skills to react quickly to technical challenges.
The MBA was also key in understanding the business, how technology is at the service of business objectives and financial aspects.
Solve the problem of education in Spain…
I think there are several countries in Europe where the same problem exists; It is not the case of Spain only. In France and Italy we also have a challenge ahead… A challenge that I, five years ago, was not so aware of.
There are many biases in education from a very young age. We need to talk to our daughters from a young age about the opportunities STEM provides, and help them to be open-minded about it.
Another thing that I have noticed is that there are very few women who are teachers of subjects related to science, technology and mathematics. Most of the teachers are men. This is already sending a message regarding education…
Having said that, I have several people in my team who are women and Spanish and I have to say that the level of the Spanish in STEM is very high.
If you had to advise a young person what to study in order to obtain a stable job future, where would you guide them?
I would advise the young woman to be open, meet as many people as she can, and educate herself about the opportunities that one career or another can offer. Curiosity is highly recommended to know the options we have and the doors that can be opened for us.
Once you know what you want, my advice is to go for it, fight for it, and don’t let anyone stop you by telling you that you’re not good at math or physics. If you want to do something, you have to fight against the biases that exist in society or even within families; make a personal commitment to it. You have to fight for it with all your might.
Where do you think the ICT sector is going? In your opinion, what are the trends that are really going to transform society?
We are in the midst of a digital transformation process. The cloud is developing, as well as all activities related to data and we are also in the midst of an environmental transformation. This aspect is fundamental, and we must be clear that we cannot advance digitally if we do not take environmental aspects into account. An example is the carbon footprint, currently very present in Europe. We have a lot of exciting opportunities for women in this field.
Also, I think new jobs are going to be created in the STEM sector, and we have to prepare for this change. Women have to be part of it so that we can continue paving the way for education thanks to the fact that women can be a reference in this type of position.
AI, automation, robotics, do you really believe that the future passes through people?
I think it’s undeniable that technological advances will destroy some jobs, but create others. In the end, systems and machines have to be built by people, they are the ones who have to think about the algorithm and how it works, etc. At this point in the process it is very interesting that there are already women involved. For example, if we think about artificial intelligence, the presence of women will help ensure gender equality.