InterviewsWomen in Technology

Over Time, Hard Work Pays Off

Arabian Reseller speaks to Maya Zakhour, the Head of Distribution and Alliances for Middle East and Africa at NetApp about what  made her choose IT to advance her career

Tell us about your philosophy, when it comes to your domain of expertise.
As a woman leader, I am a firm believer of the principle of leading by example. This means I live by our corporate values and act accordingly and with integrity at all times as one of the top representatives of our organization.

Empowering my team by placing my trust and confidence in their capabilities to plan, strategize an effective approach, and successfully execute the same is also part of my leadership style and philosophy. Such invaluable trust builds strong camaraderie and happiness, which result in high satisfaction and productivity as well as optimum work performance.    

Why did you choose IT to advance your career?
I took up Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Notre Dame University in Lebanon because I have always been interested in mathematics and logical thinking ever since I was a child. Some might perceive it as a domain for males only, but for me, it was a logical choice. I did not think twice.

After graduation, I entered the world of information technology (IT). The competition back then was already fierce, but it did not deter me from pursuing an IT career. From my perspective, it allowed me to get out of my comfort zone by constantly challenging me to improve my craft given that this field is continuously evolving.

Over time, my hard work had paid off. I ended up leading projects with direct impact on the business. I have remained on this path over the years. I am also lucky to have worked with renowned mentors who up until this day remain as my guide and inspiration.

Have you witnessed any transformation in the technology industry?
I am amazed at how fast these modern technologies have evolved in a short span of time, from basic computing to cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence. I will not be surprised if this trend continues as the world heads to a borderless and connected future.

Where, according to you, is the next technology transformation going to come from?
Technologies change like quicksilver. With rapid innovations, we expect to see game-changing and more ambitious systems as the world continues to rely on and demand for next-generation and cutting-edge solutions as well as faster and efficient business processes. The Smart Dubai initiative, for example, will dramatically transform not only the emirate but the whole of the UAE as well thanks to the persistence and vision of the country’s wise and forward-looking leaders.   

What is your advice to women looking to break into the field of technology?
Just like any other industry, women can make it in this field if they put their mind to it. They should work hard and persevere as well as have the willingness to learn every nook and cranny. To succeed in this area, they need to equip themselves with a deep understanding of the different layers, applications of different technologies, underlying factors that form the backbone of the industry, and of course, the IT channel and its landscape.

More and more women are becoming bold when it comes to their career choices. We are now aiming high and dreaming big so it is important that we pursue what we love doing and never second-guess ourselves. The IT industry offers talented and bright women with so many opportunities as men. With the right attitude and guidance, they can be successful in this field.

Are you involved in any sort of charity work?
Yes. I personally support initiatives that focus on helping the underprivileged and the marginalized.  At NetApp, meanwhile, we have Women in Technology (WIT) initiative launched by three volunteer employees in 2009 to assist woman employees in their career growth. The organization exposes young women to career opportunities in technical fields and influences our corporate culture to further embrace diversity in the workplace. Sponsored and funded by the CTO office, WIT now boasts more than 1,060 members.

Aside from mentoring and networking as well as helping pave the way for effective professional development, WIT also takes part in community outreach programs. It collaborates with NetApp’s top management as well to help establish a warm and nurturing corporate culture. Through WIT, I am given the opportunity and the privilege to mentor and provide support to women within and outside our organization.

What is next for you in terms of your career in the tech industry?
If I was not part of the tech industry, I would probably be an entrepreneur right now leading my own organization. If it is within the technology space, I would continue to build a bigger and wider network.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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