As a senior project manager for a global telecom giant, Paris-based Yasmina Khelifi has worked with international teams for 20 years, combining cultural awareness with communication agility. Parlez-vous francais? Sure. But also English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and Arabic!
Yasmina, how did you get into project management? I always loved to organize things. I have a classic background for a project manager—I began as a telecom engineer. After a few years, thanks to the support of a manager, I applied to become a project manager. I wasn’t quite sure about it at the beginning because some technical colleagues told me it was boring and administrative. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to them, and I don’t regret it!
What do you love most about the work? I love the diversity of project teams and activities. I work with so many people around the globe—it is an invaluable source of growth and learning. I am also fortunate to be able to work virtually, which was a great advantage during the pandemic.
What do you find most challenging or frustrating? What I find frustrating is that project management is sometimes seen as a “paperwork” role. Project management is a life skill and a mandatory skill. It’s everywhere. We work in teams, and every time we build a team there are project management skills involved at work or in private projects.
You’re based in Paris. Does your approach change depending on the country you’re working in? Yes, of course, and that's what I love most: cultural awareness and communication agility. I’ve been working in an international environment for 20 years; since 2014 in the Middle East and Africa. I adapt the tools used and the communication approach. My knowledge of languages, which is one of my passions, helps me to build bridges. I’m a French native, and I can speak German, English, Spanish, a bit of Italian, a bit of Japanese and I’m learning Arabic.
It’s sometimes challenging and makes me think on how I can improve my communication or way of being. And that helps me in my private life.
What's your proudest professional achievement? When I joined a technical project team a few years ago, I didn’t know the topic very well. I replaced a technical expert, so it was intimidating at the beginning. I noted there was no team cooperation, and the information didn’t circulate well, so I went back to basics: project management skills. I revamped all the project processes, communication flows, and set ground rules. By doing this, I infused a strong team collaboration spirit that benefited the project.
What's the best piece of advice you've received or can share? When I became a project manager, my manager pushed me to get training. I was not so convinced; I didn’t think I had the time. But he told me it was very important, and it proved true. Since then, I was lucky to continue training through my firm and I also paid for some. I’ve encouraged many colleagues to do the same, even if they think they don’t have time. It’s crucial to take time for yourself and to pave the way for the future; you’re the pilot in this plane.
Continuous learning is so rewarding and it’s even easier now with courses delivered online. Taking part in training is also a way to network and meet new people. And recently, I’ve discovered volunteering at Project Management Institute, and I love it! I’ve met incredible role models to guide me in my learning journey.
You are a monthly contributor to the Voice on Project Management blog, sharing your experiences and insights. How has PM.com helped you in your work and career? PM.com has helped me to gain new perspectives. It’s an open and supportive community for advice—for instance, when I was preparing for PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)®.
What interests or hobbies do you have outside work? I love learning languages, meeting international friends, and volunteering. I’ve just launched a podcast about global leadership. I didn’t know anything about podcasting, but I wanted to share my knowledge and the voices of leaders around the world. I love to try out new things, to learn and share.
Favorite TV show, artist, or movie? I love detective TV series.
Best vacation? It’s a question hard to answer—each place is rich in learning. Let’s mention my last travel before the pandemic: Dubai. I loved it.
Thank you Yasmina!
To connect with Yasmina Khelifi, visit her ProjectManagement.com profile.