What is your name, age, and location?
Pamela Spencer Balagué, 33 years old, Paris region, France.
What is your profession?
Founder and CEO of WalkGeneration, a French company offering an interactive and intuitive system available on fixed and mobile internet devices for people who want to, in a few clicks, design a unique walk itinerary in Paris to:
– Include ensemble of a city’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage (architecture, monuments, parks & gardens, artisans, historical anecdotes, shops…)
– Manage time and weather (with opening hours of shops and points of interest, events planned in the city on a specific day, sites for a rainy day)
-Take into account their constraints and interests
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
What was your first job?
I started my career as a Program Coordinator for American students studying abroad in Paris, which helped me get my feet wet in the travel industry and better understand the needs of this particular population of visitors in Paris.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
I’d always admired entrepreneurs who embraced the adventure of creating a business, and had toyed with the idea of creating a company related to tourism in Paris for years. Friends, family, and acquaintances regularly wrote me for advice on places in Paris off the beaten path and I wondered if I could fashion a business model out of my desire to help people experience the Paris of Parisians.
After returning to work from maternity leave following the birth of my first child, I realized that I wanted a new challenge with a more flexible work-life professional situation, and that was the last little kick I needed to start seriously working on my business. The project won a French national competition for innovative business ideas in 2010 and I haven’t looked back.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
Creating the gourmet walks in the application 7 La Semaine du Goût that showcase over 50 incredible food artisans and shops in Paris’s 7th arrondissement. France celebrates food during the Semaine du Goût, a national tasting week held this year from October 17-23, and my client, a deputy mayor of the 7th arrondissement, had the avant-gardist idea of promoting participating shops, restaurants, chocolatiers, pâtissiers, wine merchants, and more by developing applications for this event on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android smartphones and making them available for free download on the App Store and Android market platforms. While participating shops offer tastings during the Semaine du Goût the walks are wonderful gourmet walk itineraries that can be enjoyed all year.
Working with the local government officials and getting to know the shopkeepers personally has been so rewarding, and I really hope that tourists and Parisians alike will enjoy tasting their way through these applications and appreciate the authentic encounters with the talented artisans and shopkeepers and their savoir-faire that they provide. I think the hardest part of taking these walks will be choosing what to taste, for each participating shop has organized a gourmet event, including La Grande Epicerie, Lenôtre, Petrossian, Davoli… the walks promote both internationally known brands and shops that opened their doors in 2011.
I hope that this will be just the first of several applications created by WalkGeneration that offer a new kind of travel content publishing services, participative travel guides where the artisans can communicate through applications to mobile audiences. Everybody wins: travelers get a closer, more authentic travel experience in Paris and clients, be they local governments or private companies, get an innovative business development and communication tool, and my company gets business.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
Membership in the French business incubator Laval Mayenne Technopole also automatically gave me membership in Atlantic Pionnières, an organization of women entrepreneurs in technology, through which I’ve forged valuable partnerships, met some incredible women at a similar same stage of business development, given and gotten support and encouragement.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
I’ve experienced some undesirable overtures from male colleagues during my career, but nothing that has hindered it in the long term.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
I greatly admire my eldest sister, who studied chemistry at the American Naval Academy and whose last position was Executive officer, 2nd in command of a Navy frigate. Through the Navy she furthered her education in nuclear chemistry and currently is in Japan helping the branches of the American military in the relief effort following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. I’ve lost count of the glass ceilings she’s shattered during her career.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
To all women who are in the process of creating an innovative technology business, remember your audience, be they prospective clients, investors, even friends. Remember that no one, NO ONE is waiting for your fabulous new idea to revolutionize the world or their lives. To be convincing, you must yourself be convinced of your idea and its value.
7 La Semaine du Goût – app for iOS
7 La Semaine du Goût – app for Android
– Interview by Elena Rossini