Name Karolyn Favreau
Works as Managing Director at Andrexen, a software editing company based in Paris
Karolyn comes from a typical French working class home in a small town in the French region of Vendée. Her parents met at the local factory, and were blue-collar workers for their entire professional life. She describes herself as having the typical traits of her region: stubborn daredevils. Her family has a history of strong and stubborn men and women, including a grandfather who was deported by the Germans during WW2 but managed to escape, and a grandmother who managed the family farm while raising four children.
Karolyn studied at the local school, graduating at seventeen – thanks to motivation and, she claims, a bit of luck. In addition to being a hard working student, she was active playing tennis and doing athletics. She also tried the piano, but did not pursue it for too long, claiming she is too impatient.
During her school years she was constantly pushed by her mother who used to say: “You’re a woman, you’ll have to fight twice as hard as a man to reach the same levels.” This, and wanting to leave her small town of 3000 inhabitants, made her apply to the top “prepas” (French elite colleges that prepare students to get into the country’s best engineering and business schools) and later join one of France’s top business schools, paving the way to a head start in terms of career. Karolyn says she always felt a bit like an alien among the other students, lacking the “polish” most of them possessed coming from more academic family backgrounds.
After starting her professional life helping to set up delivery points for online sales companies in Brussels, and subsequently in the whole of Europe, she joined McKinsey, a consulting group with worldwide presence. She quickly moved to the Casablanca office, spent three years there, and met her husband to be. They decided to settle in Paris where his company was, and still is, based. Karolyn resigned from McKinsey and spent three years developing the company together with her husband. After falling in love again, this time with an art-deco house in Casablanca, they decided to set up their base in Morocoo and manage the company long-distance.
Herring & Crisp Bread: What has been the biggest challenge for you in terms of work/career and how did you deal with it?
Karloyn Favreau: Finding a balance between family and work. I haven’t really found it yet, but I’m working on it!
H&CB: What is important to you in your work, what makes you motivated, what makes you unmotivated?
KF: To me it is important to have an impact, and see it. It is also important to help people develop and see them happy with it (and to get their recognition for it!)
One threat to motivation is people who just don’t care (about their work, or things in general), and have their attitude impact the performance of the company.
H&CB: What is typical for a good manager, in your opinion? Can you give any examples from your experience (as a manager, or of managers you’ve had)?
KF: I think it is important to use empathy to understand your employees, their good and less good sides. You leverage on the good sides to help the company grow, and you work on the less good sides together with the employees to help them improve, and make sure they also become aware of the results of this work.
H&CB: How has your outlook on work been shaped over the years, by whom, what etc?
KF: When I worked at McKinsey, you could say it shaped my image of work in a false way. I was under the illusion that everyone should be deeply committed to work, with “work first” as an overall priority. It took a while to understand that people usually focus on non-work activities, instead of having an “I put in a fifty hour work week, cool!” mindset. In second place, the biggest change was to have children. They have helped me “deprioritise” work (a bit at least, I’m still working on it …) and realise there are indeed other things in life than “work first” at all times.
H&CB: What tops your list of things that create a good work environment?
KF: For everyone to share a vision of the company in the coming years so that people all work together to achieve the same, great, results, and to develop positive relationships between team members.
H&CB: From your experience and perspective, how do you look at the subject of women and leadership in the area of paid work? What comes to mind when you hear these words?
KF: I think this subject is clearly underdeveloped at the moment, it would really serve the Economy at large to have more women in leadership positions. Women and men really do not have the same impact on companies. Female intuition, for instance, really serves companies when it comes to managing partnerships. Also, what I see as women’s natural anticipation can help companies shape their strategy and proactively choose a new orientation.
Another thing is networks ans associations; I am a member of Croissance Plus, an association that, among other things, helps women shape their life to achieve a good professional / personal balance.
H&CB: How do you think the industry you work/have worked in deals with a) diversity (gender and in general) and b) leadership at the workplace, and why do you think it is the way it is?
KF: In McKinsey they clearly deal with it really well by fostering part time work, and setting up think tanks to encourage women to position themselves in the company although they have become mothers.
H&CB: Why do you think McKinsey does this?
KF: I think it’s partly because of women’s impact in leadership roles as I mentioned before. Within McKinsey, having men and women work together brings additional value. Once outisde of McKinsey, women who have been trained and “pushed” into leadership positions will be encouraged to position themselves at C levels.
In the rest of the world I think the situation is really bad: a first possibility would be to foster remote working, and to encourage women to have a say in their working hours.
H&CB: You talk a lot about mothers and their roles. What about the role of the fathers?
The role of fathers has evolved over the years; whereas my Dad does not know how to cook pasta, my husband has a key role in our family menus! As a matter of fact he is almost as much involved as I am in family life management. “Almost”, because I do not believe we can fully invert roles of Dad and Mums – but this is another HUGE topic!
At a time where some women work as singles 10+ years before marrying and becoming mums, we do have the opportunity to think about what matters to us, and how we see ourselves once raising children. Then, finding the right husband who fits these needs is a key challenge! But, again, fathers are progressing well on that path, for the happiness of the whole family!
H&CB: How do you see your future, and how do you see the future for women in leading roles in “your” industry?
KF: I would personally love to continue on my path of entrepreneurship, for example by joining a company which may not be that successful, and help it structure and grow again.
For women in general, I am quite optimistic as to how women in leading roles will become a key positive trend, in our “young & innovative” industry; in Western countries, and also in developing regions in the world. Living in Casablanca, I have seen that women play a key role in the country’s economy, accounting for more than 50% of the working population in the city, at the same time sharing family work & organization with their husbands.