Interview: Orange Silicon Valley CEO Mireille Helou explains her leadership philosophy
In 2019, Orange Silicon Valley welcomed Mireille Helou to San Francisco as its new CEO. As a veteran leader within Orange, she arrived at OSV after serving as CEO of Orange Réunion Mayotte and Chief Business Market Officer of Orange Telkom Kenya.
During her first months Mireille has already hosted discussions on social good and corporate goals and proudly championed OSV’s Women in Tech event series, which will return to our event space on May 7.
In a brief interview, Mireille explained how she navigated her career in tech up this point and how she views her leadership role going forward.
OSV: What was your background prior to arriving at Orange Silicon Valley this year as CEO?
Mireille Helou: I studied mechanical engineering and worked for nine years in three different companies, including a startup, before joining Orange in 2001. At Orange I have worked in different roles and capabilities, including sales, marketing, sourcing and supply chain, and business development. I have worked globally and internationally, with a focus in the last nine years on the Middle East and Africa. Most recently I was the Managing Director of the Telco Operations in the French Territories in the Indian Ocean.
OSV: How would you characterize your leadership style and philosophy?
MH: I do not believe in a “one size fits all” leadership style, it is about constantly adapting to the people and situations. The styles I tend to use more frequently are transformational, situational, and participative leaderships. I am quite positive and believe in collaboration and growing people.
OSV: Women working in technology-related fields often find themselves in the minority. To what extent did you see this to be the case when you embarked on a career in tech? Was it a source of motivation?
MH: When I chose mechanical engineering, I knew I was embarking on a path where the representation of women was poor. So very early I kind of stopped looking at it from that perspective and tried rather through strong engagement and tangible results to make gender a secondary professional attribute. It kind of worked for me. However, it took me time to figure out that not every woman was as lucky as I was, and that being able to support and mentor other women is a great privilege.
OSV: What advice would you give to women considering careers in tech?
MH: Lack of diversity is a sure source of bias, and Tech is no exception. Not only diversity drives financial performance, the more we have women in a certain domain the less gender becomes a topic. So, be bold and brave, and do not give up. It might take more effort but fulfillment is seldom an easy path but we are paving the way for the generations that follow.
OSV: What do you wish you had known when you started your career?
MH: The importance of building and leveraging a network and not being afraid to ask for support. Also the secret to success: fail fast, learn faster.
OSV: What transformations do you expect to see shape the tech industry in the near future?
MH: There is a lot ongoing, but I think that what will be shaping the tech industry in the near future is the huge increase in the volume of data and connected devices (IoT) that surround us and how to manage them in an ethical and human-centric way, leveraging AI to support people and life improvement.
OSV: What do you find most rewarding in your current role?
MH: I believe in collaboration and team work, so the best reward would be to succeed in building with the team a model whereby we drive positive and measurable impact for Orange and its customers through innovation, making sure that they are not caught off guard by new technologies and business transformations.
OSV: Orange Silicon Valley recently launched a series of Women in Tech events. What do you hope to achieve through this initiative?
MH: We want to create an additional women-facing platform for networking and mutual advice and support. To add visibility to their achievements, but also to their stories, to inspire new generations of leaders and a better representation of women in technology.