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Hélène Gout, Director of the Occitanie Region at Talan: “Innovation is very much about challenging each other”

With nearly a decade of experience in North America, Hélène Gout runs the Occitanie agency with dynamism and a good communicative mood. For this trained salesperson and former entrepreneur, innovation is above all a question of emulation and curiosity. A meeting with a woman from Talan who places people and collaboration at the heart of her leadership.

A developed sense of relationships and an interest in business: hence the vocation of Hélène Gout. After a Master’s degree in international trade at “Sup de Co”, including one year in the United States, she flew to Montreal in 2004 and joined one of the many Digital Services Companies (ESN) in the Quebec metropolis in a highly innovative niche segment: Business Intelligence (BI or IT decision-making). “I discovered the world of digital and innovation with a technological lead of one or two years compared to Europe. An exciting and constantly evolving industry. ", she points out. 


A very North American experience

Born into a family of entrepreneurs, Hélène herself has a taste for entrepreneurship. A year later, she embarked on an adventure with her colleagues on the creation of a digital services company specialising in BI (with an agency in Montreal and one in Paris), which will have a total of a hundred employees from all over the world. But after more than 7 years of expatriation, she decided to return to France to be closer to her family, on the side of Castres. Home, work: she sells and leaves everything, returns with her husband, their 2 children and suitcases. "A big challenge", especially given the cultural shock of returning to France.

When she returns to France, she must get used to a new rhythm of work, bearing in mind the work-life balance across the Atlantic“in Montreal, even the big bosses are no longer in the office at 17:00-17:30”, she says – and having integrated in her business approach “the very pragmatic and direct side of North Americans”. Returning to her first love, Hélène landed a sales position in major accounts, mainly in aeronautics, within a services company. Having always had a taste for travel and a strong interest in the cultures of the world, she flourished there for 5 years, punctuated by weekly trips to Paris and abroad. “The projects were very avant-garde and focused on innovation topics around digital and security”, she says.


The Ai³ adventure: innovation at the service of people

Hélène joined the Ai³ adventure in 2017 as sales director, and 2 years later took over the reins of the Toulouse agency, which now has almost 80 employees (with the sales team). Acquired by Talan in September 2020, Ai³ is completely transformed into 6 months: a run period to integrate the group, change business model and adopt new tools. This acquisition gives the agency "an "expansion bowl" on Occitanie" and offers it the opportunity to address larger projects - on large accounts and local mid-caps - by recruiting massively and opening up to technologies other than Microsoft and other areas. “This is the best thing that has happened to us”, comments Hélène, who was entrusted with the Montpellier region in addition to her original fief. On a daily basis, she works more on the strategy and the vision to be given on Occitanie, delegating operations to her managers and sales representatives. The objective: to reach 120 employees within 3 years and focus on their core business: innovation, cloud and consulting.

“Being innovative means being proactive, avant-garde and differentiating. It involves enormous curiosity, open-mindedness and risk-taking”, she says. “I challenge my teams a lot. My ambition in 2022 is to ensure that my managers become real bosses”, says Hélène, who constantly asks them to challenge her herself. For her, “it is by challenging each other that we manage to remain innovative and pull ourselves up”. Hélène also created a position dedicated to innovation and greatly promotes individual initiatives, particularly on ecology and CSR. On a personal level, the transformation of Ai³ has taught it to take risks and accept failure. “I grew up and learn every day.  It is not always easy to be fair in my decisions, but acknowledging and accepting his failures takes us forward.  None of this would be possible without the attention paid to well-being at work: “With my management and my employees, we have established trusting relationships and work in a caring environment. I make sure that everyone feels heard and valued ", she says.


Self-assertion, self-confidence

At her own level, Hélène made sure to form mixed teams, a factor of balance and importance in the eyes of new generations.  “My female managers are very competent, with a subtle perception and sensitivity that men do not always have. Faced with complex situations, I notice that they are more in resilience and less in ego.”

Throughout her career, she has been able to “create opportunities and have no doubts about others”. “At the CODIR, I had to take my place and dare. I know that I am competent and that I keep learning: it is a question of self-confidence and you have to dare”, says the darker, who inherited the determination of her entrepreneur father. “As women, we tend to doubt ourselves, particularly in management positions. Women must come out of doubt and take risks, not fear failure and have confidence in themselves. Anything is possible! She says, enthusiastically. Before concluding: “You must not be afraid to assert your ideas and disagreements to remain true to your beliefs. This is how we gain legitimacy and credibility.”