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September 2015

Yamina Mazzouji at IBM Lille, or, how to live out your dream.

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This is the next chapter in the Invest in Digital People saga. Previously, we shared with you this initiative by a group of regional IT companies. Since they couldn’t always find what they were looking for in the labor force, they decided to take on the larger project of educating middle schoolers, high schoolers and job seekers through partnerships with the local job service agency, schools, employment organizations and Lille’s agency.

We wanted to find out what happened afterward and met up with Yamina Mazzouji, a smart, young career woman who was one of the 10 candidates chosen for the 400-hour developer training program. What industry did she come from? What was her experience during this new type of recruitment process? What’s her life like now as an IT expert?

Let’s take a closer look at her unconventional path to success.


So, tell us everything. One of the conditions of admission to the training program was that you had never previously worked in information technology. We are very curious about what sector you were in before. Health care? Law? Engineering?

Hold onto your hat because I took a roundabout path [laughs]! After a two-year degree in business and a management assistant training program, I had had internships in various companies, one of which was in the IT industry and I really loved it. Between two temp jobs as a secretary, I signed up for a 9-month IT training program. Out of 29 chosen for the program, only two of us were women.


As the months passed, it got harder and a lot of people dropped out. I realized that I was more competitive than ever and people dropping out motivated me even more. I end up getting my diploma. At that moment, I could finally start looking for a job in an industry that I really enjoyed, but I realized that very few companies in the tech sector would hire someone with a two-year degree…it was discouraging.


But you’re a fighter! How did you get involved with the Invest In Digital People group?

I had heard about an IT training program offered by the job service agency in Villeneuve d’Ascq, and that provided me with an opportunity to attain my new professional goal. But, I’m not the only one! There were 200 of us, and, in the end, there would only be 10. We began a long period of tests and motivational interviews: it was a selection process.

The first stage was called “job dating.” We were each given 10 minutes in front of a company rep, but we didn’t know which company the rep was from. We quickly talked about our background and what we were looking for.

The second stage was another interview, but this time, it was 45 minutes long and in front of four reps from four different companies. There were two groups of four juries and we had to go in front of each of them, one after the other. Mentally, it was very difficult because we had to give it our all, two times in a row, without a break. Finally, I found out that I was one of the 10 finalists and that I could finally begin the training program.


To go from a group of 200 down to 10 for the IT training must have been very stressful.

It’s true that that was a very stressful time. We were subjected to tests every day just so that the judges could be sure of their choice and of our true motivation. At the beginning of the first month of training, one of the judges told us, “We are looking for people who are motivated, who want to go far within the company.”


That constant pressure makes us wonder what the atmosphere was like within your class. Were you competitors or more like classmates?

We were not competing against one another. It was the opposite. We all had the same life-changing opportunity. It was tied to the condition that we wanted it enough to reach out and grab it. We couldn’t give up in the face of the challenges that were present throughout our apprenticeship. All of us came from different industries but we were looking toward the same future and we helped each other out a lot. Rather than judge each other, we were there to help each other.


You knew that you would be awarded with a permanent position at the end of the training period, but how did you find out about it exactly?

It was a wonderful surprise! I remember it very well. We had completed the training program by the beginning of January. Then, on Friday, January 16, I received a call from Bruno de Saint Laon (IBM Lille’s recruiting manager). He introduced himself and told me that he had been part of the second group of juries when I had had the 45-minute interview at the beginning of the selection process. He had been really impressed with me, my background and my enthusiasm. And that’s when he announced that I would be starting my new life as a developer at the IBM Services Center Lille, starting the next Monday.

I went crazy— when I initially got involved in IT, I had been hoping to work with this exact company.


I can imagine that you were really proud of getting this position. Tell us about starting your new job at the company. 

I started my new position on Monday, January 19, working at this company truly unique company. I received a very warm welcome. Right away, I could feel the American influence: large, colorful open spaces, a tight-knit group and a management team that is concerned about its employees’ well-being. I felt really lucky to be able to join what is like a big family and Nicolas Milhe made me feel at ease from the moment he assigned me my first projects.


The results of this adventure show that focus and endurance always pay off! Nine months after joining the company, have you adjusted to your new life in the IT world?

Absolutely! I was sent to Sweden for the month of May for training on a new program to be sold by IBM. That’s part of what I enjoy so much at IBM Lille: being able to work on international projects and continuing to improve my skills thanks to numerous training opportunities that let me to grow professionally, all within a family-like environment.


Yamina Mazzouji chez IBM Lille, ou comment vivre son rêve. rireIn addition to having hit the jackpot with my job, I have also gained a group of friends! After four months of intensive training were over, we’ve all kept in contact and are planning to get together to celebrate the end of our trial periods!


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