This week, we discover their stories and celebrate the Women of ESSEC SMIB in line with International Women’s Day!
In this interview, Rana Jalali, SMIB alumna, shares her journey into consulting work and how it led her to starting her company as well as to empowering women through her role as a career coach for refugee women at Berliner Jobcoaching.
Tell us about your background and career path.
I was born in 1985 in Tehran. For my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, I studied Industrial Engineering at the University of Tehran and worked for three years as Project Manager, Quality Manager, and Sales Planner in different industries in Iran.
In 2011, I moved to Paris to join the SMIB program. After graduating, I worked for two years as a business analyst in Paris and a strategic partner manager in Germany.
In 2015, I decided to found my own consulting company in Berlin and support European companies in expanding their businesses into Iran. We performed market studies, developed the market entry strategies, and supported our customers in their on-site projects.
At that time, during my consulting work, I noticed that there weren’t so many female consultants around, especially when working with partners in the Middle East. Furthermore, there were much fewer female founders. I asked myself the question, "Why?". I always wanted to provide a kind of support for women in the job market.
In 2019, I joined a project named "Berliner Jobcoaching" that is funded by the State of Berlin to support unemployed people in integrating the job market. I joined the project as career coach for the refugee women, and I am currently still doing this job.
This week, we celebrated International Women's Day. What does being a woman in consulting mean to you?
Being a woman in consulting and being a female founder to me often means being the only woman in the room...My insights when shared and even my presence in the networking events did not receive the same attention as that of my male peers sometimes.
I had to be patient and resilient, and believe in myself as a professional consultant.
Did you enter the industry with any preconceptions and have these changed since then?
Thanks to the SMIB, I had a very clear idea about the consulting industry. I knew the high standards of the industry and I was lucky to have an excellent team supporting me.
What I missed in comparison to my male counterparts was the network! Women often don't talk about business in their private gatherings, and that frequently puts them in a weaker position in terms of having an up-to-date and fresh network in comparison to male founders or consultants. What I learned since then is to take care of my network and keep it fresh.
How do you think we can encourage more females to fulfill their goals of entering this industry and why do you think this is important?
We can't fulfill any goal in gender equality if we just talk to the women. Both women and men should be addressed. We have to make it clear that both men and women will benefit from a more equal and balanced world. And for women, it is essential to recognize the value that they bring into the industry with their presence and contribution. This is the best motivation.
How did your experience in the ESSEC SMIB help you in your career development?
Not only did I learn to be efficient in any international business setting, but I also built a network that is still a great support in my career development.
What advice would you have for aspiring female consultants?
Give yourself due credit, and work on your network. Everybody that we know, can sometimes in life open a new door to our path. Talk to people about what you are doing, about your dreams and ideas and listen carefully to theirs'. Choose a trusted mentor for yourself and let this mentor smooth the path for you. Don’t forget that strong people know how to ask for support.
How is it like being able to empower women through your current position?
It is a great pleasure helping women achieve their goals. As a Career Coach, what I do is to put a mirror in front of the women and let them recognize their own abilities and power. Just then, they are ready to make their next move in life and go for the realization of their dream job. I just put things in perspective for them and they do the rest of the job by themselves. The joy and fulfillment that I experience everyday in my current job is enormous and I feel very lucky to be in this position.
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