Someone Like Me | Yannick Fhima on overcoming differences and finding fulfillment in tech

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We all want to work for a company where we fit in. That’s why Elastic built a Source Code that encourages all to come as they are. In the Someone Like Me blog series, we highlight Elasticians who have a unique story — one, perhaps, just as unique as yours.

In this edition, we meet Yannick Fhima, Senior Manager, Solutions Architecture, EMEA South who although was born with a disability, was able to excel in sports and find a fulfilling career in tech which eventually led him to finding his passion for managing a team.

Born with a disability, Yannick faced multiple surgeries on his hands in addition to having to overcome his differences from classmates. While traditionally that may have impacted his ability to participate in and play sports, Yannick actually outperformed peers in tennis and made the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) tennis team as a freshman, where he played for two years. Wanting to move back to Europe to be closer to family, Yannick also knew that his disability would hinder his original career plans of practicing medicine.

“I knew I couldn't be a surgeon. And then it dawned on me that if a patient came to see me, they might not have confidence in me. So I said to myself, ‘Yannick, it's time to change, to go another route.’”

After moving back home from the states, Yannick decided to study technology, and eventually earned a PHD in networking and security from the University of Paris. But three decades into his career, and before joining Elastic originally as a solution architect, the Morocco native says his disability kept him from moving up the corporate ladder — despite his education, technical expertise, as well as his ability to speak five languages including English, French, Hebrew, Spanish, and Arabic.

Yannick Fhima

“Elastic gave me a chance”

A former colleague who moved to Elastic told Yannick about what it’s like to work at Elastic. He said, “You gotta come to this company,” Yannick says. He joined in May, 2018, and hasn’t looked back since.

“Elastic gave me a chance to become a manager, and to go face-to-face with customers, something that other jobs would not have allowed,” he says. “In other companies, where you have a disability, you do not get customer facing positions easily.”

Sixteen months into his job as a solutions architect, the father of five was promoted to Senior Manager, Solutions Architecture EMEA South. Based in France, he supervises 11 people in three countries.

What advice would you give to Elastic job candidates who have a disability?

“Don't be ashamed of what you have. Don't try to hide it. Do what you have to do with what you have. At Elastic, they'll understand and see you as a natural person. Act as you are and be open about it.”

What makes Elastic culture different?

“You can talk to anybody, no matter their seniority. You can come as you are. You can be who you are. Everybody has their own culture, their own habits. When I talked to HR about my disability, they said they would work with me.”

What type of accomodations has Elastic provided?

Nobody expects me to type fast. I work with a big laptop. I use a mouse, not a trackpad. They sent me an iPad to help me work. And I have a sit-stand desk.”

When you became a manager at Elastic, what did that feel like?

“I told my wife I didn’t think I was going to get it. I was very proud when I passed my panels to become a manager. I had no prior management experience. I was asked to present who I am, my management style, and plans for the team. I said we need to be human. When I was selected out of 5-6 candidates, I was very proud.”


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