Casablanca, December 22nd 2015
Lisa took an hour break in her very tight schedule to welcome us in the brand new offices of the Boston Consulting Group in Morocco. In 2010, she came to open the office in Morocco with great success: as of today, there are 35 consultants working for BCG in Casablanca, and Lisa told us immediately that they were recruiting, because business is booming. Meet the energetic and passionate woman who became the first female partner of BCG in Africa.
If you want to learn more about Lisa’s story, read the extended interview below!
HEC United: Hi Lisa, thanks for welcoming us in the BCG offices in Casablanca. So as usual, we are going to start with a Chinese portrait. So, if you were a color?
LI: A rainbow
H: If you were an animal?
L: I guess I would be a bird, but probably a migratory bird, flying across the globe.
H: If you were a meal?
L: A happy meal (laughs)
H: A song?
L: Rise up !
H: A movie?
H: A sin?
L: I’m not sure you wanna know…
H: An object?
L: I don’t like the idea of thinking about women as objects so I won’t answer this one (laughs).
H: A sport or a game?
L: I would be a blind test.
H: A book?
L: Der Wielle Zur Macht (e.d The Will to Power) from Friedrich Nietsche
H: A hero or a superhero?
“On this continent, many companies and governments are lacking skills and ideas. So the value we can bring is huge.”
H: Let’s talk about your story now, could you sum up your professional background in 30 seconds?
L: After I graduated in 2005 I spent a year in Australia working for BNP Paribas, just to enjoy myself a bit. Then I came back to Europe.
I started in BCG as a junior associate in 2006. From then on, I kept heading south and south with the project I worked in. I started with a project in Italy, then I worked in Egypt, then moved to Morocco. We opened the BCG office there in 2010. It was kind of an entrepreneurial experience: we started from scratch and were working in an hotel room at the beginning!
Now I work a lot in sub-Saharan Africa. I guess it is a little bit the story of my life. I am now advising companies and governments in their African and Moroccan strategy. I’ve been lucky enough to be elected partner at the BCG last year. I am the first female partner in Africa and I am very proud of that!
H: Today, if you could go even southern, would you do it?
L: It is definitely on the roadmap of BCG to open new offices. Today we have four offices in Africa. In five years the target is to have seven or eight offices. If there is an opportunity I would go for sure!
H: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?
L: Many things! First of all I would say meeting diverse people and have the chance to enrich myself with all the people I meet. Second is to have to think about complex issues and being asked for support to help others solve these issues. Having impact too, obviously, I think it is the meaning of this job. And last but not least, having fun !
“One day I can fly to Kampala to talk to a cement distributor, then I can go to Casablanca city council and explain them the great idea we had on the strategy for promotion of culture in the city of Casablanca. And the day after I can go to Abidjan for a store check to understand how ladies in Ivory Coast buy lipsticks.”
H: Talking about having impact. Is there any recommendation you are particularly proud of?
L: Yes plenty of them! Impact is really the reason why we do this job. Especially on this continent, many companies and governments are lacking skills and ideas. So the value we can bring is huge.
H: Any specific recommendation that you can disclose?
L: As you can guess, the projects we work on are pretty confidential but let me give you an example. We did a project for the ministry of health in Morocco in 2010. We advised the government on the drug policy, on how to promote generic medicine to make sure Moroccan people can have a better access to drug. This is an example of the type of things we do and are particularly proud of.
H: Have you copped with a difficult choice in your professional life? What did you learn from it?
L: Yes, I had a few difficult situations to face. The most difficult thing I had to face is the balance between personal and professional life. The day I decided to move to Morocco and move away from my family and friends. And also the fact that I spend lots of time in aircrafts, because I am travelling a lot… this has been the most difficult part of the job for me.
But what I’ve learnt is first that you can make friends anywhere on earth if you have the right mindset. Travelling is also an opportunity to meet new people. Then your family is not far away if you can share your mind and have the good focus on them. It depends on the way you want to see things. Finally, I learnt that one shouldn’t trade off on self achievement. This is absolutely necessary. You have to focus on what is the most important for you, and for me the meaning of life is about what I can transmit to people. So I tried to build a balance between those two things.
H: Thanks for your honesty! Now, what’s your typical working day?
L: I guess there is no typical working day in my job. The beauty of this job is the diversity. One day I can fly to Kampala to talk to a cement distributor, then I can go to Casablanca city council and explain them the great idea we had on the strategy for promotion of culture in the city of Casablanca. And the day after I can go to Abidjan for a store check to understand how ladies in Ivory Coast buy lipsticks. These are a couple of examples of the type of projects we do.
There is no typical day but there is one common thing in all my days : teaming. It is a job of teaming with the consultants, with the clients, and with the environment. This is always at the core of our days.
“I am an afro-realistic. Nothing is black or white in Africa. Sometimes everything looks very bright and the day after it looks very hopeless.”
H: What is the BCG strategy in Morocco?
L: In Morocco we have three big pools of activity. The first one is supporting local companies in their growth ambition in Morocco and abroad, especially in Africa because Morocco has a very strong ambition over Africa. The second one is supporting the government in the reforming effort to make sure Morocco can grow in a sustainable way over the coming decades. And the last activity pool is leveraging Morocco and Casablanca as a hub for international companies, mostly French companies obviously, in their Africa strategy and growth ambition.
H: Recently we have been reading on the press that north Africa is not the «Eldorado» anymore and that companies tend to focus their growth ambitions on west Africa. What do you think about that?
L: First of all I think that «North Africa» doesn’t mean a lot because it is made of different countries with very different dynamics. You have the middle of north Africa with Libya which is some kind of no mans land these days, unfortunately. You have Egypt, which is a lot closer to the gulf. And then you have Maghreb: Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, which is a bit patchy as well. The economic situation is a bit difficult, especially with everything that happened this year in terms of terrorist attacks.
The future of Morocco, which I know more, remains bright. But there are definitely some areas of difficulty that the government and the population have to cope with.
Then west Africa is not an «Eldorado» either to be honest. As you know many countries suffered a lot during the past two years. But as you said, West Africa is the next frontier for the company, even though Maghreb remains a very attractive area.
H: Are you an afro-optimistic?
L: I would say I am an afro-realistic. Nothing is black or white in Africa. Sometimes everything looks very bright, the day after it looks very hopeless. I think the wise people and the people who are successful in Africa are the one who know not to fall on the one side or the other, who are realistic and do what it takes to understand the dynamics and win in Africa.
H: Let’s talk about Casablanca now. You’ve been living there for 5 years now. Where do you spend your free time?
L: I love the beach, especially the beach of Aïn Diab. I spend a lot of time there. Either walking, or running, or swimming, or surfing. It is a beautiful beach but also a very lively place where you can meet people from all social backgrounds. I really love this place.
H: If you only had 24 hours left to live in Casablanca, what would you do?
L: In the early morning I would go the the beach, have a swim or a surf session. Then I guess I would go to Dar Bouazza where you have small restaurants an I would have fresh fish, which is something I like in Casablanca. Then I would go back to the city and walk through the historic district. Especially the art-deco district which is world famous for its architecture. I would finish the day in one of the clubs in the «Corniche», probably the Bao, which is a very good place to have some African vibes at night!
H: What’s today Morocco issue that matters the most to you?
L: Youth unemployment. And more broadly the education gap. It is an important issue as we are talking about the future of the country. To me, it is a decisive issue that will make Morocco successful in the long run … or not.
H: Did the BCG work on that subject for the government of Morocco?
L: We haven’t worked for the ministry of education yet. But I hope we will. However we did some pro bono cases – free projects – especially for an NGO in particular working for the promotion of entrepreneurship for youth. This is the type of things we do and are very committed to.
H: What do you like most about people in Morocco?
L: Their kindness, openness and generosity.
H: Let’s talk about HEC and your experience there now. What was your favorite place on campus?
L: Many places but I have to mention a specific one : le Zinc, where I spent many nights. I have very good memories of this place and the people there.
H: Were you a member of the Zinc association?
L: No, I was not, I was with Déferlante, the surfing association.
H: What’s your best memory from HEC?
L: I would like to mention a teacher or a lecture… But I guess it would be the day we won the BDE (i.e HEC student council). It was probably my first team and entrepreneurial success so it was a good memory.
H: What advice would you give to a 20 years old HEC?
L: First of all, don’t disregard teachers and lectures, because you will understand their value later. Sometimes when you are on campus you don’t realize their value, as it was my case. But then my advice would be: focus on the biggest part of HEC, which for me is people. Make friends for life, make connections for life and really broaden the landscape of the people you can meet.
H: HEC’s moto is the more you know, the more you dare. What is your own moto?
L: It is a sentence of Friedrich Nietzsche, my super-hero, “ce qui ne tue pas rend plus fort” (i.e “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”). I believe in this very deeply. So make your own experience![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]