Inspiration

Every day is International Women’s Day: Marie Aichagui

on


Marie Aichagui 33 / Paris via Stockholm, Sweden / Engineer, CEO and philanthropist

Marie AichaguiFind me on LinkedIn : Currently CEO at Beauty Waps

Website : www.beauty-waps.org ; www.agvonline.org

Education : Double-Master of Engineering : Engineering Physics (KTH, Sweden) and Industrial Engineering (Ecole Centrale Paris)

Languages : Swedish, French, German, English, Portuguese

 

Claudia : I feel like I’m in wonder woman’s living room and she just cooked me dinner. Can you tell our readers of The Business Woman Media a bit about your journey so far so they can share in my experience?

Marie : I grew up in Stockholm to Swedish and Moroccan parents. I chose to do a dual master’s degree in Engineering at Ecole Centrale Paris and KTH Stockholm. After graduating I moved from my home country Sweden to Munich, Germany to begin my engineering career with EADS in research and development for aircraft interiors. I was successful in securing an international trainee position with Linde Gas and spent 6 years in Gas Plant-/Process-Engineering where I worked as a senior project manager, traveling often to Brazil and India.

A period of soul-searching encouraged me to take the jump to the renewable energies industry where I was responsible for the UK and Scandinavian markets for a photovoltaic company.

In Paris, I now am managing director and CEO of my own company Beauty Waps, a philanthropic venture that offers joyful menstrual protection in the form of functional lingerie to women. My goal with this product is to break down the taboo that surrounds menstruation in some countries and use this as an instigator to educate young women about their own bodies and health.

I also founded my own project management consultancy, A Global Vision, which draws on my diverse professional and international experience.

To keep myself sane and to feed my own passions I read a lot, I sing in a gospel choir and play piano at home in my living room to relax. I recently started ninja lessons (officially “Bujinkan”) at Ecole Militaire which is turning out to be scarily fun!

Why did you want to move from Munich to Paris?

As my 30s approached, I found myself in a transition period where instead of looking at my tools and figuring out what I could do with them, which is a reactive approach, I started looking at what I wanted to do and how I wanted to live and then proactively worked on getting the right tools to achieve this!

I identified three things I really wanted and decided to take a year to make it happen for myself : 1) to visit Brazil and discover first-hand their sheer joy for life, 2) get my black belt in karate and 3) move to Paris. I did all three!

Even though I lived in Germany for the best part of my 20s, I always felt more at home in Paris when I came to visit friends. I had a favourite painting by Oskar Schlemmer of a clown in period-dress that I made a point to stop at each time I visted the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Ironically, I only learnt about the significance of this artist and the dance-movement he documented when attending an exhibition at Centre Pompidou on a weekend trip to Paris. I love how in this city you are invited to experience art in all forms: music, literature, dance, comedy and theatre.

As a woman do you feel more at home in France or Germany?

This is a very personal question; each woman has a different experience. In France women have the potential to formulate such a diverse identity. It is easier to live the role of a career-professional yet also be feminine and enjoy the role of a seductrice. Indeed, women are expected and encouraged to have their own passions, desires and plans.

In Paris, I feel as though I don’t have to work hard to convince somebody that I am at their level (of education, understanding, seniority…). In France there are so many female public figures and business leaders that a strong dynamic woman has become part of the fabric of society. We are therefore by default becoming less of a surprising phenomenon to process.

Women need role models and pathway-examples to look up to. In France I have this; in Germany I found it more difficult to find.

Would you call yourself a feminist?

Attention! Feminism can be a dirty word in France because of a very negative anti-men connotation and is unfortunately strongly associated the downplaying of a man’s role in society, including his right to virility just as much as we are protecting our right to femininity. I always check what someone means by ‘feminist’ here before answering. I believe in equal rights for men and women, if that makes me a feminist, then aren’t we all?

How do you think international experience most enables women to achieve success?

International exposure gives you multiple frames of reference to interpret and understand what is happening around you. It enables you to problem solve and to be tolerant of varying opinions and strategies. All of these are killer strengths for any leader!

Where do you find your strength and recharge your batteries?

As you move through different life stages you start to realise who drains your energy and who are the right people to have around that empower you – where there is mutual learning taking place. I find strength in being around these individuals. A good day is one in which I laughed! My idea of relaxation luxury is to be able to read in the same room as someone, sharing a few comments every now and then, and to be content living that moment together.

What are you reading right now?

I’m one of those annoying people who has approximately 6 books on the go at once because I pick up something to read according to my mood. I just finished “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm, a book that I had to read paragraph by paragraph, underlining and reflecting sporadically. It was an extremely moving essay.

Currently, I am reading “A history of Morocco” by Camille and Yves Lacoste because I will go to Fes, Casablanca, Marrakesh and Rabat in April to visit relatives and to examine the feasibility of a production site and supplier network for my company Beauty-waps.

What’s next for Beauty-waps?

This year, we welcomed two permanent collaborators: a Swedish dress-maker for her exquisite productions and a Chief Legal Officer. And I just sent a contract to a Kenyan consultant for setting up a local production for enabling girls’ education. The Paris College of Art is working on new designs so that we have fresh inputs on the usability of the product and they are really enjoying working on a concrete project! We post regularly on Facebook and on our website if you’re interested in keeping up to date with our progress.

How do you stay in touch with your engineering background?

I am President of the T.I.M.E [Top Industrial Managers Europe] Alumni Association which I co-founded in 2013, a global network of Master-level double-degree graduates of Engineering.

We have an important organisational link to the careers consultant at Ecole Centrale Paris and have launched an exciting new project of International Round Tables to educate engineering students about foreign markets and cultures. Last year we began with Germany and hosted panelists including Senior Management at Bosch and Areva, the CEO of GBO, a franco-german recruitment agency, and a representative from the German Chamber of Trade and Industry.

Our next round tables will be Sweden and Australia in May/June this year. Already we are excited about Australia as a very exotic destination for us in Europe!

 

About Claudia Schulz

Claudia Schulz is an Engineer who left Australia’s shores in 2008 to pursue post-graduate studies in International Management in Germany. Currently, Claudia is in Paris working in Key Account Management for a global engineering solutions provider.She is passionate about raising awareness of gender-roles in the international workplace, connecting people, language, literature, and croissants.Has been described as sassy on more than one occasion (thank you, high-school debating).Life goals (in no particular order): attend a TED Conference, travel through Turkey, obtain a PhD, buy an oven (not an easy feat for a Parisian-sized apartment).

Recommended for you

What Do You Think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *