“If they have a problem that is really messy, I’m always happy to take a crack at it.’’
We are thrilled to welcome Françoise Brougher, who brings 25 years of top leadership experience at some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, to support our founders in her role as Inovia Executive Advisor.
A trained engineer, Françoise has held both strategic and operational roles, helping grow organizations from dozens to thousands of employees and building marketing, sales and services functions. She was also instrumental in taking Square and Pinterest public.
Françoise earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, moving from her native France to the U.S. in her mid-20s. She has a track record for driving significant revenue increases, including at Google, where she oversaw its then US$16 billion global advertising business. As Pinterest’s chief operating officer, she expanded operations to 20 countries, doubling sales.
In 2020, Françoise also demonstrated remarkable strength when she spoke up about her difficult experience at Pinterest and filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, resulting in one of the largest publicly announced settlements of this kind.
Françoise currently serves on several boards, including at Sodexo, a French multinational food services and facilities management company, where she sits on the compensation and nomination committees. She recently joined Velocity Global’s board, where she will lead the talent management platform’s compensation efforts.
Considered one of the most influential women in tech, Françoise offers a wealth of knowledge to entrepreneurs and complements our team of company builders. We recently sat with her to discuss the things she learned early in her career, the best advice she received, and what she wishes people asked her more often.
Tell us something most people may not know about you.
I don’t think a lot of people know that I started my career in Japan with l’Oréal: I spent three years there at a manufacturing facility. I was 22 and worked only with Japanese people. References differ from France and from the U.S., and you learn a lot. They value different things and work differently, so you have to adapt to a place where you are a total outsider.
Can you share one of the biggest challenges, or failures, that you learned from?
I can refer to my experience in Japan. The director of IT resigned the day I showed up because he didn’t want to work with me, a 22-year-old female sent by headquarters.
His No. 2 and I worked night and day, weekends included, to install a computer-integrated manufacturing system in the plant, and we had amazing success. When I left, I received wonderful gifts, and people were crying. My Japanese colleagues respected the fact that I worked hard. It’s a value in Japanese culture to be very resilient.
The thing I learned is the power of being effective as an outsider. You don’t have to conform, and that’s a good thing because then you’re more creative and free from any kind of social or cultural construct.
What’s the best piece of advice you received in your career?
It came from a boss of mine: when you start managing large organizations, you stand on top of the shoulders of the people below you. Recognize this, be a little humble. And make sure these people are highly successful. That’s the only way you can actually grow an organization. You can be a genius at the top, but if the people below you are not strong, you are going to fail. It’s very important to always hire smarter and better than you are.
What’s a question you wish people asked you more often?
No one has asked me, “Is there a way I can leave my job and have people take over?” At every place I have left, they never had to replace me because I built teams that were strong enough so it didn’t matter if I was no longer there. It’s very important that people think very early on about what their legacy will be when they leave. Your job is to move yourself out of a job. People are thinking about keeping control, “It’s my job, I want to do it well,” they are not thinking, “What is my legacy in this job?”
What energizes you? How do you take care of yourself?
I sleep a lot. I always have. I can sleep on a chair, on a plane, anywhere. When I joined Google, I had had three kids in four years, and my youngest was less than one-year old. I had a dark room where I went and slept 20 minutes a day.
In your role at Inovia, what questions should founders ask you?
Anything about go-to-market, strategy or scaling organizations. I don’t mind messy situations. If they have a problem that is really messy, I’m always happy to take a crack at it. Helping people build companies really excites me.
Want to benefit from Françoise’s expertise? Get in touch!