I’m Michelle. My name is Michelle. I was born in 1969 in deepest New Jersey. My mother did not work and my father was a laborer. I’m an only child, so I make sure I communicate well with my main contact. Because it’s me. I’m very curious, I make up stories, newspapers… I create what I don’t have access to but that I want more than anything. A life that is a little more open to the world.
When I was 16, a friend’s father offered us both a plane ticket to Europe. It was a dream come true for the little girl who had always dreamed of going elsewhere without ever leaving her home state. When I came back, I had stars in my eyes. Fifty plus one: Europe. On the other hand, if there is one country I absolutely do not plan to live in, it is France.
I study at the public university of New Jersey. As I cannot afford to travel, I satisfy my desire to travel the world in other ways. I became president of the foreign students’ association. I run the world, even if it’s on the equivalent of a treadmill at the moment. Anyway, I run. I run so it’s okay.
Besides my studies, I work as a waitress in a restaurant. I was 20 years old and I met a young Frenchman who was a dishwasher. He asked me to follow him to his country. France, then. We got married and moved into a tiny maid’s room in Paris.
But reality caught up with me: how could I find a job in communications in a country so different from mine and in a language I didn’t even speak? So I went back to studying communication at the Sorbonne. I started again, from scratch.
On my first assignment, the one my teacher gives me back at the end of the course, I don’t find a letter, but a number. And it doesn’t look very big to me: 5. When I realise that this number is also out of 20, I tell myself that I’ll never manage it.
But leaving with a slight disadvantage is the story of my life. And what have I got to lose? Nothing. So I redoubled my efforts and got my degree. Like a French girl.
After all, my name is Michelle Gilbert now, right?
I start working in an advertising agency, Euro RCSG, which will later be called “Havas”. Two years later, I was hired to launch the interactive CD-roms in France. It was the first time that we could put something other than music on a CD. I then joined AOL and it was as if I had helped the Internet to be invented. Almost.
And then my career continued at the same time as my family life. I have one, then two, then three, then four children. I am extremely lucky to be my husband’s wife and I wake up every morning next to my biggest fan. The man who could have carried our children, if only it were possible. However, I don’t believe in luck because there is no pattern to life: it’s up to us to create and seize every opportunity. But I do believe in the opportunity to have crossed his path one day.
After ten years at AOL, I was hired by Eurosport where I stayed for six years. And then in 2011, Facebook came looking for me. For me. For what I am. The woman, the mother, the wife, the-empowered-woman-to-be.* That was nine years ago.
Nine years since I was the communications director in France and Southern Europe for the world’s largest social network. That I work every day with very talented people, and sometimes even with Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, on the social network with 2.7 billion users worldwide and 22 million groups in France. Me. The little girl from New Jersey, with no brothers or sisters to communicate with.
As Khalil Gibran’s book “The Prophet” says, parents are archers and children are arrows. The archers try to give the impetus and the right direction but then the arrow makes its own course.
I had a father who always said “the greatest quality you can have is curiosity”. We didn’t always agree, but on this point he was right. For it was my curiosity that guided me, that gave me the desire to discover the world, others and to always question everything. Long live curiosity, long live the Curiosity Club!**
Article written by Sophie Astrabie.
Thanks to Michelle, our new role model.
*Empowerment, a word that does not exist in French and yet is so necessary. The idea of giving power to a person through the trust that is given to them.
** I promise, she really said that!