Sandrine Meunier

Inspirational Woman: Sandrine Meunier | Chief People Officer, Aircall

Meet Sandrine Meunier, Chief People Officer at Aircall

Sandrine Meunier

Sandrine Meunier serves as Chief People Officer for Aircall, a fast-growing, agile and flexible cloud-based voice platform for modern businesses. Sandrine is unwavering in her passion for people as well as in championing best practices in managing rapid culture change and company growth.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the Chief People Officer at Aircall, the agile cloud-based voice platform for modern businesses. It’s a great company, and it’s expanding at an unprecedented speed; so, it’s up to me to champion the best practices for managing rapid culture change and company growth. This starts with ensuring that we have a strong culture of trust, collaboration and inclusion, which is key to creating successful teams and outstanding results.

Over the last 20 years of my career, I have led HR and people teams for global businesses within retail, luxury, beauty and technology industries. Prior to joining Aircall, I was the Vice President of People for Ledger, a leader in security and infrastructure solutions for cryptocurrencies and blockchain applications. Before that, I was the Chief Human Resources Officer France at The Estée Lauder Companies and Vice President of Learning and Talents at Saint Laurent Couture, Kering Group.

In terms of leadership style, I try to act as an ally for leaders leading change. My impact is seen through the way I implement engagement strategies at all levels of an organization. I pride myself on the ability to work across all the various elements of my job, from Change Management to Talent Acquisition, Leadership Development to Organizational Design, and Diversity and Inclusion to Employee Engagement Strategies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have always selected my roles based on the culture that companies have had and the challenges that they have offered me. Planning your career too precisely does not allow you to seize opportunities and to consider career paths that are slightly outside of your comfort zone – where I believe you can do some of your best work.

Furthermore, I don’t believe in linear careers, but in patterns. The pattern that has defined my career has been the consistent conduct of change management to allow businesses to operate at scale.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

As an HR leader, the partnership with your CEO is key. You have to define your priorities, strategies and HT vision first, and then align with your CEO. This alignment is key to success; it will allow you to build consistent programs and challenge other leaders within the business on company culture.

Ethic and value alignment is therefore the most important deciding factor for me when it comes to choosing where to work. And sometimes you do have to make that difficult choice to leave but fundamentally, this decision will always fall in line with your beliefs.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Designing and creating the Aircall Unique Employee Experience has been something I am very proud of – not only because of the speed of its conception and implementation, but also because it has been welcomed internally, by our teams. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of many talented people, we have managed to develop and implement all of our policies in under 2 years, across 7 countries.

This project has been a collaborative one, driven together by employees and senior managers alike; we identified 3 value propositions based on the desire to make your experience at Aircall a time you’ll remember forever. We have thus pinpointed what makes us, us and what we aspire to be. It’s demanding but unique, and it has allowed us to recruit the best talent and keep our team engaged.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Ultimately, I think I have been courageous. Although perhaps not entirely in the word’s traditional sense, I have always fought for my beliefs, I have spoken up, I have taken risks and I have remained open and transparent with both senior and junior colleagues; And I think people respect that. Through bravery, I’ve maintained consistency in the way that I have come across personally, and that stands you in good stead as a leader in any department, not just HR.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Listen and dare to share your feedback and ideas, and develop your communication skills as best you can; in my eyes, these are key success drivers.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Being a woman in the technology industry means belonging to a minority. As a result, there are undoubtedly barriers: for some women, it’s the feeling of not being heard as much as the rest of the room; for others, it’s that maternity leave is a choice that can have a huge impact on your career. These fears are constant and derive from true experiences that we have felt and heard.

The truth is that the industry is waking up to DE&I topics only now, which is a great opportunity for us. And if we really want to make demonstrable progress, we must do more. That starts with educating our leaders and VCs on the challenges that we face as women, so that they become aware of their biases and learn to understand the hurdles that we need to overcome to be in a position to perform. We must welcome an open dialogue and raise awareness of the core topics and challenges that women face at work every day.

As a female leader in tech, dare to be yourself, and you will pave the way and inspire others.

What do you think companies can do to support the careers of women working in technology?

Fundamentally, it’s about building the right culture that allows women to feel that they not only have a voice within their company but that their voice is being heard, valued and elevated.

To achieve this, business leaders must educate all employees – from the top down – on the importance of an inclusive culture that champions community and belonging. This starts by enrolling managers into training programs that address the problem of unconscious bias in the world of work, as well as reevaluating recruitment and onboarding processes.

This can be further supported by the development of internal initiatives like the Employee Resources Group (ERG) program at Aircall. We encourage our employees to create peer groups within teams, so that they can educate one another on their own experiences and how to resolve any issues that they might face.

Leaders must also look to actively advocate equity and equality of opportunity through practices, systems and processes that hold employees accountable for the progress that is being made. By setting clear KPIs and being transparent in the way that this information is communicated, leaders can quantify how well they are doing when it comes to addressing inequality within their business and assess whether they are going far enough to support minorities.

There are currently only 21 percent of women working in tech; if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

We are very proud of the gender balance that we foster here at Aircall, and we do our level best to create an environment in which women have the same chance to grow as men. In fact, Aircall is 50% women, but we need to do far more to reach that same level across the industry.

In my opinion, we need to promote to younger generations that anything is possible for women in tech, and that starts with education. We must inspire girls from when they are at school, share our stories, so that they can develop role models and visualize their future and that careers in tech are achievable for them. And ultimately, they will become their own role models, with time as they grow in confidence – this is my one wish for us, as a connected community.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Being French, I listen to a lot of podcasts by inspiring women over here, across the channel – one being Femmes Puissantes on France Inter, in which journalist Léa Salamé interviews writers, politicians, engineers… women who do incredible things everywhere!

It’s crucial that women invest in their personal development. The better you know yourself, the more confident you will be in being yourself.

Valerie Junger featured

Inspirational Woman: Valerie Junger | Chief People Officer, Quantcast

Valerie JungerValerie Junger leads Quantcast’s People & Places team.

She is an experienced Human Resources leader who has led HR functions for more than three decades and has a track record that demonstrates consistent success in a range of high-growth, technology organizations.

Before joining Quantcast, Valerie served as Chief Human Resources Officer at Hillspire, LLC the family office for Eric and Wendy Schmidt. Prior to that she also served as VP, HR & Real Estate at Aerohive. She’s also held HR leadership roles at companies including Model N, Space Systems/Loral, and Risk Management Solutions.

She has her Bachelors from San Jose State University and her juris doctorate from Santa Clara University School of Law.

Valerie resides in the Bay Area and is the mom of two young women and a golden retriever.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role 

My name is Valerie and I’m the Chief People Officer at Quantcast, which means that I oversee our people, culture, and workplace strategies worldwide. I’m originally from Belgium, came to the US as a foreign exchange student – and never left!

I studied journalism because I wanted to be a writer. After working in journalism for a bit, I fell into HR and realised that I really enjoyed it. From compensation to learning and development to leadership training, there’s something new every day. It’s kept me interested for 30 years.

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked for many tech companies in Silicon Valley – private and public, big and small, and across several sectors, including financial services, SaaS, hardware, and aerospace. When I explore opportunities, I like to look for something different, but first and foremost, I consider who I will be reporting to. At Quantcast, I am working in ad tech for the first time and our CEO, Konrad Feldman, is an empathetic and team-oriented leader – something I greatly appreciate.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never. I was never that deliberate about anything in my career. I think the key is to keep an open mind and be prepared to capture opportunities when they present themselves, even if they aren’t what you expected – because that’s life, isn’t it?

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Absolutely. There were times where I had to confront difficult team cultures, and there were also times where the organisation of which I was a part had to adapt to changing markets and priorities. Many of us have had to face this lately with COVID, as well as the shift in employee expectations regarding their jobs. Transformation is not a sprint but a marathon: you have to keep up your energy and maintain your drive.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am very proud to have been on the team that took Model N public. Helping ensure the company’s continued success post-IPO was a big achievement for me.

I’m also proud of what I accomplished at Aerohive. When I joined, they hadn’t had any HR leadership for over 9 months and the team was really adrift in a sea of change. It was a case of completely rebuilding the culture from the ground up, and we did it.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Listening. It’s easy for me to come into any organisation and tell you what needs to change, but how we’ve actually gone about affecting change has been different everywhere I’ve been. It’s all about listening to the business, and making sure you’re working on the right problems. If everybody is talking but nobody is listening, how can you get anywhere? After all, listening builds trust and change moves at the speed of trust.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Be curious and ask a lot of questions. I’m fascinated by how companies work, and being prepared in my role means understanding the organisational dynamics. I’ve always made it a point to ask questions – even if it’s not necessarily part of my remit – because having that broad understanding enables you to seize opportunities and grow within your position.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There’s been so much progress, and I have great hopes for the next generation and for the future of women in tech. At the end of the day, the most important thing is having a support system at home and in your personal life. Today, women have the opportunity to climb the career ladder and get to the very top, but we as a society still need to figure out what we can do to support working mothers.

What do you think companies can do to support the careers of women working in technology?

Companies have an important role to play in providing women with the support they need to achieve both personal and professional success. At Quantcast, we offer a mentorship program and leadership development training aimed at just that. We also run the Quantcast Women’s Network, which holds regular workshops and peer circles that bring our female employees together to help them connect, share learnings, and grow their skills.

Quantcast actually has an extraordinarily high number of women in senior roles, with more than 50% women in its C-Suite (the average in technology is 9%). This is something we’re proud of, and we hope to see more tech companies move in this direction.

There are currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Many efforts have been made to nurture female talent within the STEM space, but there is still work to be done. Careers are still thought of through a gendered lens, with women often encouraged to go into psychology or other humanitarian sciences. We need to focus on educating parents and teachers to not reinforce stereotypes, and normalize careers in science and tech for women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Networking is very important. I encourage everyone to join networks in their specific fields. It’s important to get that wider industry perspective as well, and for that I love the Harvard Business Review and TED Talks. I participate in their webinars and events all the time. It’s been a great way to discuss the problems and opportunities facing our industry  with fellow CPOs.

Inspirational Woman: Sonia Hardy | Chief People Officer, Connect Childcare

Sonia Hardy

I’m Sonia Hardy, the chief people officer at Connect Childcare – a Lancashire-based tech firm that specialises in nursery management software.

I have over 10 years’ experience in the employment law and HR space – having worked for many businesses across the UK with 300+ staff across multiple sites – and have extensive experience in all areas of HR. I now primarily focus on the ‘people strategy’ and this is where my passion lies

My career spans the full employee experience, including coaching and mentoring, employee engagement, talent acquisition, and succession planning, to name a few. At Connect, I’m responsible for fostering a positive company culture, and ensuring the firm not only attracts and retains highly talented professionals within the industry, but also provides them with a fulfilling career. I believe that this is the key to delivering first-class customer service.

While I’m not a ‘techie’ in the traditional sense, I work for a software firm, and I think it’s important to raise awareness of the plethora of roles that are available for females within the industry – whether they’re tech focused or otherwise.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all – I left school with no idea what I wanted to do, other than knowing I didn’t want to go to college.

I started out on my career path studying for an NVQ Level 2 in business admin at the North West’s leading law company. While there, an opening came up in the HR department which was the start of my career in that sector. I’ve worked my way through the ranks from HR admin to managerial roles – whilst successfully gaining the Level 7 CIPD – which then led to working for many major businesses, including Forbes Solicitors and Warburtons Bakery.

In and amongst my time in the HR space, I also qualified in criminal law and spent 10 years representing clients both in the police station and the Crown Court – this has also been one of my life’s passions and interests and I learnt so many valuable people skills during this time.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes, one of the biggest hurdles was getting back into HR after spending time in the law sphere. Given the HR landscape is very fast-paced, any taking time out means you have a lot to catch up on – and everyone wanted experience. It was extremely difficult to get someone to give you a foot in the door, and I’ll be forever grateful to the lady who hired me.

Connect Childcare is the first tech firm I’ve worked for as an HR professional, and I’d say that I feel more at home in the tech world than anywhere else – its full of creative, talented individuals who want to make a real positive difference.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Achieving my Level 7 qualification in HR while working full time and having children – getting qualified meant so much to me, as I’d been working towards it for a long time.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

My two daughters. They’ve inspired me throughout my life – both personally and professionally. I believe that having them by my side supporting me has been a huge reason that I’m where I am today – doing something I truly love on a daily basis.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Regardless of whether you’re on the HR, marketing, sales, or development side of a tech organisation, it’s vital you continue to grow your knowledge of both your specialism and the wider sector. Take advantage of as many resources as you can to do this – there are many online and in-person courses, some of which are free too.

Also, no matter if you’re starting out in your career or you’ve been in the industry for decades, it’s also crucial to build up your network of other tech professionals. This isn’t only useful in helping you to get a head start in finding job opportunities, but it also allows you to build up communication skills and confidence.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, women are sadly underrepresented in the workplace despite years of trying to close that gap. In fact, a survey carried out by Tech Nation showed that a mere 19% of tech workers were women – with only 5% in leadership positions, and 3% actually wanting a career in the sector.

It’s believed by many that the problem starts as early as education – with only 9% of females in 2019 studying a STEM qualification to an advanced level.

It’s no secret that tech is a male-dominated environment and the shortage of female role models already in the industry is a major barrier.

More needs to be done from a school and college level, as this is a great time to provide students with the information to help them learn about the opportunities available when working in the tech world.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Providing support and mentorship to women in tech roles is something companies should provide to help them carve out their career path within the sector. Attracting females to the industry in the first place is crucial, but allowing them the chance to progress is just as important.

Support for women returning to the tech industry following periods of time off – such as raising children – by providing more flexible working arrangements to help the juggle of family and career, is also pivotal. Females are still seen as the primary child carer in households and returning to work following such a life-changing event can be extremely daunting. This applies to every industry, not just the world of tech.

Research has also shown that women are less likely to apply for roles without advanced qualifications, so it’s highly likely that they’ll instantly be deterred from applying for a role as a result.

Again, no matter the sector, one consideration all organisations therefore need to make is questioning whether the qualification is necessary or not. Passion, eagerness to learn, and transferable skills are very powerful attributes which shouldn’t be overlooked.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I’d encourage more sector interaction within schools, colleges, and universities across the country. It’d be great to see more industry leaders deliver talks and workshops on the tech landscape and encourage females to take the relevant subjects as early as possible. This would arguably help students to understand what working in technology involves, as well as the plethora of positions available.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

While I don’t have default go-to places, there are lots of online news outlets where you can read articles, listen to audio content, and connect with people from the industry. Podcasts are my personal favourite, as you can listen in the car or when doing jobs around the house.

You mentioned that Connect Childcare is a nursery management software firm, what role do you think technology plays in the future of the early years education sector?

A crucial one. There’s been lots in the news about EdTech and how it’s helped not only nurseries but higher and further education institutions to adapt to different learning models during the pandemic – and for many settings, those digital changes are here to stay for the long term.

While nurseries specifically have remained open for much of the past 18 months, many have relied upon technology to help them do so – whether that’s been to record observations, communicate with parents, or take contactless payments to improve the efficiency and safety of the setting, digital solutions have been pivotal in helping childcare environments to keep operating and providing learning opportunities to support child development.

With technology’s growing adoption rate in people’s personal and professional lives, I can’t see it ever taking a backseat in the sector. Busy practitioners and parents need to be able to record and view information about children’s education quickly and from anywhere – helping to create a holistic learning environment, which reduces admin for staff, fosters parental engagement, and extends education into the home.