EU Bubble Insider with Feriel Saouli

This episode with Feriel Saouli, CEO at SEC Newgate EU, delves into the evolving landscape of association management and the leadership strategies that drive success.

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In our latest episode of EU Bubble Insider, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Feriel Saouli, the CEO of SecNewgate EU. This episode dives deep into the evolving landscape of association management and the dynamic leadership strategies that drive success.

Feriel Saouli's professional journey is marked by a commitment to continuous learning, epitomized by her motto, "ANCORA IMPARO" (I am still learning). She detailed her educational pursuits, including an executive master’s in international association management and an enlightening course called "Learning How to Learn."

A Career Built on Opportunities

Feriel's entry into association management was serendipitous. She recounted how stepping in for a sick colleague led her to discover a passion for this field. This theme of embracing opportunities and leveraging them for career growth resonated throughout the conversation. Feriel emphasized that boredom drives her to seek new challenges, which has significantly shaped her career path. Feriel described herself as an "incomplete leader," recognizing her weaknesses and relying on her team to complement her strengths. Her leadership style is collaborative and caring, influenced by her rise through the ranks at SEC Newgate. She shared how involving her team in decision-making processes and setting high standards has fostered a supportive and high-performing culture.

Industry Trends and Professionalisation

The discussion also touched on the professionalisation of association management. Feriel highlighted the increasing use of technology, such as association management software, to streamline operations and deliver more value to members. She also discussed the evolution of event formats, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, and the importance of sustainability and legacy in planning events. A significant portion of the conversation focused on debunking myths about association management. Feriel stressed that "not for profit is a tax regime, not a business model," advocating for the professional management of associations. She also highlighted the importance of being member-centric and ensuring that associations create and capture value for their members.

Navigating Challenges and Strategic Planning

One of the most compelling parts of the interview was Feriel’s account of terminating a contract with a toxic client. This decision, though difficult, underscored her commitment to team well-being over immediate profit. Feriel shared how this move strengthened team cohesion and aligned with the company’s people-first philosophy. As we approach a significant election year in the EU, Feriel outlined SEC Newgate’s strategic preparations. This includes strengthening expertise in emerging policy areas, investing in advanced analytics, and understanding coalition-building in the future parliament. She emphasised the importance of cultivating a strong network and staying ahead of legislative changes.

The conversation naturally turned to the role of AI in the future of work. Feriel shared a balanced perspective, viewing AI as a tool that can enhance efficiency if used properly. However, she cautioned against over-reliance on AI and stressed the need to maintain a critical mind.

Work-Life Balance and Personal Interests

Feriel candidly admitted to struggling with work-life balance but highlighted the importance of finding ways to recharge. She shared her joy in playing the guitar, a hobby that helps her disconnect and rejuvenate. This personal touch added depth to her professional narrative, illustrating how she maintains her energy and enthusiasm.

In concluding the interview, I asked Feriel  what she would change about the Brussels Bubble if given a magic wand. Her wish was for a stronger connection between policymakers and the real world, ensuring that regulations are practical and supportive of industry competitiveness.

Feriel's insights offer valuable lessons for association managers, leaders, and anyone interested in professional growth. Her journey, marked by continuous learning, strategic leadership, and a commitment to excellence, provides a compelling example of navigating change in association management.