Académie des technologies

Khaoula Elagouni

  • R&D Team manager
  • Orange
  • 36 years old
  • Sponsored by Pascal Viginier in 2021

Why a career in tech?

When I was young, I loved to play with my "walkie-talkie". I was very proud to have it and fascinated by this wireless remote communication. It was this "magical" side of technology that piqued my curiosity and quickly embarked me in scientific and technical studies. Today, tech stands for progress and innovation. It is an extremely exciting and dynamic field that continues to meet new challenges and revolutionize our everyday life.

Your professional experience?

After a Telecommunication engineering degree and a MSc in Computer Vision, I chose to do a PhD thesis in the field of artificial intelligence, in particular deep learning. This thesis allowed me to discover the field of AI and realize its potential to imitate certain human faculties (such as perception, comprehension, reasoning, etc.). For example, being able to teach a machine to read a text has fascinated me since my thesis. That's why, after defending my PhD, I joined MyScript, a startup world-leading in handwriting recognition based on AI. First, I worked as an AI researcher specialized in handwriting recognition before moving on to a team manager position. Last year, I had the opportunity to join Orange to take up new challenges in the field of AI applied to speech recognition and voice analysis.

Your first experience with technology?

My very first experience in tech took place at the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), where I worked on radar interferometry: a technique that measures ground’s movements by analyzing satellite images. This experience allowed me to work alongside world-renowned researchers and space science experts.

What do you do today, and why?

Today, I am the manager of a team specialized in AI for speech recognition and voice analysis. The team consists of researchers, integrators, developers and architects. This variety of profiles makes the management of the activities exciting. In addition, managing a team that works in the field of AI these days, and ensuring to stay at the forefront of the state of the art is a daily challenge. It is this last point in particular that interests me most in my current position.

Your strengths in this role?

I think that my background as an AI researcher, combined with my experience as a manager of a research team in the industry are assets to drive the activities of my team, and have a vision ranging from research to delivery. In addition, my previous experiences have allowed me to develop human and relational skills that help me to be a facilitator and to support my team.

Past challenges, failures and disappointments?

The first scientific paper I submitted to an international conference during my PhD was not selected by the program committee. It was a big disappointment that made me doubt my ability to succeed as a researcher. But, I quickly realized that the most important thing is to hear the criticisms I have received and to learn from this failure. After that, I completely changed the way I approach research. And for the record, all of my articles that followed were accepted.

Best moments, successes you’re proud of?

There are many moments in my career that have made me proud. If I had to name just two, I would first choose the defense of my doctoral thesis, which took place two weeks before the birth of my first child. Second, the best mobile app award at CES 2017 for Nebo, an interactive note-taking app available in 66 languages and marketed around the world, of which I was one of the major contributors.

People who helped, influenced -or made your life difficult?

During my Master's studies, I was fortunate to have as Professor and tutor a world-renowned researcher (Prof. Isabelle Bloch from Télécom ParisTech, winner of the Blondel Medal). Studying and working with her has marked me. I am also very grateful to Mr. Pierre-Michel Lallican, CTO of MyScript, and Mr. Joachim Fléchaire Director of AI Tools & Technologies at Orange, who both believed in me at different times of my career, allowing me to evolve towards positions with more responsibility.

Your hopes and future challenges?

AI will be more and more present in our daily lives in the future, particularly with new societal challenges. In this context, I wish to remain an actor in these transformations while adopting a responsible and ethical AI approach. It's about putting topics like data governance, fairness and explainability at the heart of our work to develop trustworthy AI.

What do you do when you don’t work?

I practice Yoga, especially vinyasa yoga. I also take great pleasure in baking, testing gourmet recipes and creating new combinations of flavors.

Your heroes -from History or fiction?

Marie Curie and Gisèle Halimi are two extraordinary women whose journey and history have always fascinated and inspired me.

A saying or proverb you like in particular?

"Always aim to contribute positively to the world around you."

A book to take with you on a desert island?

All of Hemingway's work.

A message to young female professionals?

Go beyond the prejudices that may suggest that tech is a man's world. Believe in yourself and dare to tech!


The questionnaire answered by the Women of Tech is a variant of the Proust questionnaire, named not because Marcel Proust got lost in the Paris metro, but in memory of Emilie du Chatelet, a woman of letters, mathematician and physicist, renowned for her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica and the dissemination of Leibniz's physics work. She was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Bologna Institute. Emilie du Chatelet led a free and fulfilled life during the era of the Enlightenment and published a speech on happiness.

Emilie Du Chatelet

Woman of letters, mathematician and physicist

1706 - 1749