Reinventing Yourself in a Pandemic: Two Graduates Open Up

Reinventing Yourself in a Pandemic: Two Graduates Open Up

The pandemic that has been ongoing for the past two years has brought its share of challenges and difficulties. Especially for women. But now that the dense fog hovering over us is gradually lifting, wonderful, inspiring stories are emerging. Here are the stories of two ambitious women, graduates of the Défi 100 jours (French equivalent of The Ambition Challenge), who relied on their ambition to seize good opportunities and reinvent themselves!

Marie-Dominique Pham, Crédit Agricole, France
Taming instability and shedding guilt

In February 2020, Marie-Dominique Pham took on a new position as a director at Crédit Agricole, a major French bank, where she has worked for 19 years. When the pandemic hit and lockdown was announced, there was a complete shift in dynamics for her and her whole team.

“We had to be present on-site to open for clients, without masks, or sanitizer, or Plexiglas. It wasn’t possible to work from home with our IT systems, nor could we respond to government measures offered to professionals. We had a lot of questions, uncertainty, and fear.”

Marie-Dominique’s uncertainty was destabilizing and chipped away at her self-confidence. Her children, of whom she has shared custody, were now at home full-time. However, as an essential worker, she couldn’t stay home with them. She had to go to work, where her expertise was required. The situation pushed her to seek new points of reference, to reconsider her priorities.

It’s through her team and her job that she found the strength and energy to go on. Fortunately, her company quickly took charge of their employees’ safety. Her colleagues rallied, ready to overcome the obstacles. She felt their full confidence in her.

“Despite all the constraints, my team was always there and put their trust in me. We also had the support of clients who made us fabric masks. Some even brought us a cake!”

It was at this time, in fall 2021, that she started the Défi 100 Jours. Faced with the questions and instability in her life, Marie-Dominique started thinking about her work-life balance. Through contact with other women who were ambitious like her, she dared to get out of her comfort zone and regained her self-esteem. Thanks to the training program, she found tools to help her achieve her goals, despite the pressure of daily challenges. All this allowed her to rediscover her confidence in herself. She would start her days with an objective and establish a plan of action.

This all led her to a more balanced life, where she took ownership of her choices!
“I realized there was instability in my personal and professional lives, but now I take ownership of my choices, and I take the necessary steps to be happy. I refuse to let myself feel guilty!”

Now, Marie-Dominique says she finally has space in her life for each of her priorities. She makes time for herself and her family, all while being devoted to her career. After two years, she has found ways to be fulfilled in both her roles. She focuses on her job when she’s not with her children, she works out at least two hours a week, and she takes time for herself with outings with friends. Her ambition has been embraced, acknowledged, and is being lived out guilt-free!

“With my work-life balance, I’m totally fulfilled both professionally and personally!”

Josiane Rousseau, CISSS des Laurentides (Health and Social Services), Canada
Getting out of your comfort zone to continue your climb to the top… despite adversity

At the start of the pandemic, Josiane Rousseau was Assistant Director of Nursing for the CISSS des Laurentides. Throughout her career, Josiane, a trained nurse, has risen in the ranks thanks to her ambition and her skills, which she continues to develop by taking university classes to become a better manager.

In March 2020, she was already supervising 1000 employees and handling the medical and surgery units, as well as the EMTs and the nurse practitioner for Laval, Lanaudière, and the Laurentians.

During this time, an assistant directorship, both clinical and administrative, of professional services, came available at her CISSS. Though she liked her position at the time, this lateral move would allow her to continue rising in the health system. In facing this decision that involved getting out of her comfort zone, she started the Défi 100 jours. During her training, she learned something essential from the testimonials of leaders of The A Effect…

“The Défi 100 jours forced me to think and to change my posture. I remember key phrases like ‘Be daring, veer off the beaten path, broaden your horizons, play to win, not to lose…’”

Thanks to valuable advice received during the program, she changed her mindset and started seriously considering the opportunity. To make the right decision, she talked with her triad (the group of women she exchanged ideas with during the Défi 100 jours) about the choice to make, and consulted a former coach to see things more clearly. Despite her doubts, she decided to go for it and apply!

“I was looking to add another string to my bow. I’d be connecting with the executive committee and the medical teams. I’d gain additional front line strategic knowledge, and more.”

Now active in this position that has connected her to operations management and strategic check board, Josiane believes she’ll become more skilled and increase her credibility. While she might have perceived this position as a challenge at the start of the pandemic, her confidence has grown because of the Défi 100 jours, but also from stepping into the unknown. For her, the health crisis has been an opportunity to breathe new life into her career. The significant challenges of the pandemic have been overcome as a team. Thanks to her authenticity, sense of humour, respect, and collaborative spirit, she has managed to bounce back from a situation that is out of the ordinary!

Two years into the pandemic, Josiane speaks of changes, of creativity, of being adaptable, and resilient. She highlights the importance of navigating the ambiguity while remaining agile, maintaining your network, and remembering your values. Most of all, she mentions the importance of seizing your ambition, even if it scares you!

“I’m proud of the work done by my team, and by all the teams in the health field. I’m convinced that with a little perspective, we’ll be clever enough to learn from this and improve our healthcare system in a significant way, because in each great challenge, there are opportunities. It’s up to us to grab them!”

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Yara El-Soueidi


Yara El-Soueidi is a young journalist who contributes to different cultural media. Her passion for words leads her to explore the emotions and stories in the different narratives she brings to life.