Administrator Extraordinaire!

At INRA’s Montpellier centre, research support is Mission Possible thanks to Marie-Ange Mennella’s superpowers: armed with razor-sharp technical skills, Marie-Ange manages budgets and logistics at the centre. Dedicated to serving, she comes to the rescue of teams in distress and trains new managers in her vast network. Marie-Ange is never far, and always has a solution.

Administratrice aux Services déconcentrés d’appui à la recherche (SDAR) du centre Inra de Montpellier, Marie-Ange Mennella est lauréate du Laurier d'appui à la recherche 2016. © INRA, MAITRE  Christophe
By Julie Cheriguene, translated by Emma Morton Saliou
Updated on 12/13/2016
Published on 12/13/2016

Marie-Ange Mennella is surprising. When her mobile rings, it’s to the tune of Eminem, and always reactive, she answers every request without exception. The friendly administrator arrives at dawn in her pink Smart car, opens her office door at lunch for a friendly tea break, and is extraordinarily ready to help. Marie-Ange joined INRA “by chance”, and in her research support role discovered what public service truly meant: “I like being useful. This is where I belong.” 

Year-end closings - I love them!

High-flying management

Marie-Ange Mennella began working at INRA Montpellier in 1991. “After several years focused on my family, I applied for a secretarial position. A three-month contract, initially.” She took the plunge at the Zooecology unit: “It was all new to me. It was tough at the beginning but I was determined to pull through!” General Services (1) at the centre called on Marie-Ange in 1993 when they developed new management software. Much to her surprise, the book worm discovered she had a passion for numbers. “Nothing makes me happier than year-end closings – I love it!” Her special talent is no secret: “she makes complex administrative concepts easy!” certifies Laurent Bruckler, the centre’s Director. “The SDAR has an annual budget of €4 million, and is a complex thing to manage due to the structural charges of joint research units which involve INRA and another organisation,” explains Marie-Ange. The service also produces most of the centre’s invoices.”  
When INRA’s global information system, “S2I” was launched in 2005, Marie-Ange began training managers. “Marie-Ange loves everything technical, and knows her tools like the back of her hand,” confirms Dominique Ottomani, Director of Support Services. This skill was essential in 2009 when management became a recognised career and Marie-Ange began training in-house trainers. “I like passing along knowledge and seeing people succeed”. A hidden calling to teach, maybe, or a gift of sorts? Laurent Bruckler doesn’t doubt it: “You have to like people before you can help them, and Marie-Ange does that like no other”. 

Helping others

A guardian angel

Mireille Barbaste, who became Deputy Director of Support Services a year ago, confirms, adding: “Marie-Ange distils love!”. Being who she is, Marie-Ange suggested that a unique position be created at INRA. “The Director and I noticed that one or more structures were always experiencing trouble when faced with an increase in activity or when they had no manager. The idea was to help units function smoothly by providing budget management support and expertise in manager training”. Marie-Ange spread her wings and passed the in-house assistant engineer examination in 2013 to become a financial management administrator for the research units. The move made sense: “People were already asking for my help; I’m someone they know, in a rapidly changing network of administrators,” she points out. A bit of a wizard, her formulas always combine attention to particulars and administrative rigour. For Marie-Ange, problems get solved with help from colleagues and directors who get involved. “We’re all on the same page!” she says. Her new position, which involves managing a four-person team, is another string on her bow. “You have to be attentive. Listen. Communicate. It’s important that everyone enjoys their job.”

Honoured to have won the award, Marie-Ange admits that she feels more comfortable helping others: “I prefer to give than receive!” This is the real reward for Marie-Ange, for a job well done.

Marie-Ange Mennella, 2016 winner of the Research Support award, with her team from Decentralised Research Support Services (SDAR) at INRA Montpellier.. © INRA, MAITRE  Christophe
Marie-Ange Mennella, 2016 winner of the Research Support award, with her team from Decentralised Research Support Services (SDAR) at INRA Montpellier. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe

(1) General services was renamed Decentralised Research Support Services (SDAR) in 2002. It is overseen by the Director of Support Services, in charge of implementing centre-wide management procedures.

What's next?

“I’ve been at INRA for 25 years. My career has moved ahead and upwards thanks to managers who valued my skills”. As in demand as ever, Marie-Ange would like to expand her team and, above all, pass along what she knows. “I’d like to focus on training my management colleagues in the new public accounting and budgeting management procedures.” When it comes to perfecting her advanced knowledge of management skills and connecting with colleagues by providing support, Marie-Ange is never short on ideas.

All about Marie-Ange

  • 59 years old, married, one son
  • Education: Two-year undergraduate degree (DEUG) in law
  • 1991: Began working at INRA part-time, managing the animal zooecology unit at INRA Montpellier
  • 1994: Hired full-time as general services manager at INRA Montpellier
  • 2002: Head of budget management at SDAR (Decentralised Research Support Services), INRA Montpellier
  • 2011: Head of logistics department, INRA Montpellier
  • 2012-present: Head of General Affairs, Budgeting and Research Support
  • Hobbies/Interests: family, travelling – particularly to New York, one of her favourite cities

Awards and distinctions

  • 2016 INRA Research Support Award