InterviewsWomen in Technology

“Be Ready for the Fight to Achieve Your Career Path”

Sandrine El Khodry, the Vice President for Middle East & Africa at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, speaks about her journey into the field of technology as a career choice

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
My typical day starts with a coffee, during which I look at my agenda and narrow it down to the top 3-5 priority tasks to create focus. My days are usually packed with meetings; these days it’s web meetings with customers and partners. What’s central to my day is that I make a to-do list and take notes during all my meetings, which I go back to at the end of the week and month to ensure that all tasks are duly ticked off and my commitments are met.

Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
I’ve built my career working in technology for the last 20 years. It is changing the world by the minute and I’m proud to be a part of that revolution. Working in the business is an enriching experience as it brings you in contact with different people, cultures, personalities, and work processes. It allows you to acquire and enrich yourself with new skills, encouraged you to keep an open mind, be flexible and adapt to various situations.

When you work in a specific field of technology, you build certain expertise and subsequently become a source of new ideas that will change the way businesses work. This is an exciting journey that a few enjoy, and I am proud to be one of those women who have made a place for themselves in this field.

What first got you interested in tech?
Technology has always fascinated me, from my first job as a sales specialist. I discovered that there is always something new to come and possibilities are endless. It’s never a dull day when you have a career in technology. It’s a constant journey of learning, innovating, and introducing a new way with new technology.

Did someone support you and do you have a role model?
I started my career as a salesperson – so I acquired the know-how of doing business from the bottom-up. In each step of my career, I got the chance to have a person who believed in me and give me the opportunities to grow. But no one can succeed on their own – there is always someone who will support you in reaching your goals.

I have three people who supported me on each of these different steps of my career that I am really grateful for. As a woman in the technology sector, it has always been a challenge to prove that you are capable of being in this field. At each step, I needed to work thrice as hard as my male colleagues would to make a place for myself in this market. I’m proud of what I have achieved until today, but my journey is not finished yet.

Would our world be different if more women were working in STEM?
Women are greatly underrepresented in STEM. I believe women bring a certain intuition, intelligence, and emotional quotient to everything they do. Their cognizance and difference in perceptions would certainly contribute to better outcomes. However, women should be encouraged to take up and build a STEM career, and this must be done from the time they are in school. Universities must offer enough incentive and encouragement for young women to take up more STEM-related courses, and businesses must offer support and positions that help aspiring women fulfil their potential.

What obstacles did you have to overcome?
The main challenge a woman faces is being stereotyped and viewed as someone who can only perform certain job roles. Women have a lot of capabilities and skills that, from my point of view, are not yet well utilised and explored. The world is changing towards greater gender equality, which is a good sign, however, it hasn’t yet reached a level where women are 100% recognized.

Women deal with several challenges on a daily basis. They play various roles, that of a mother, wife, and a professional, which is huge reasonability. But a women’s unique quality is the capability to multi-task and excel in each of these responsibilities while maintaining the balance between their personal and professional lives.

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
I can’t say that there is a specific part in tech for women leader’s VS any other sector as the challenges for women are always the same when it comes to becoming part of the management. The Tech industry is mainly a male-driven world, so when you establish your position there, it is a proud moment and one of accomplishment.

But it also means you will have to continue working harder to maintain that place. Having said that, today’s professionals don’t view gender as a hurdle to achieving one’s goals, and this is what is the best part of being a woman in the technology field.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?
Yes. As I mentioned above the technology is largely a male-driven industry, and we are only starting to see more and more women joining this field.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?
The advice that I can give to a woman in the tech industry will be: Don’t give up, trust in yourself, persevere, and show what you are capable of. Learn constantly, reinforce your skills and be ready for the fight to achieve your career path.

I knew from the very beginning that it was very challenging to aim for a decision-making position in the industry. So, I was ready for the fight and armed myself on each step with the right skills, knowledge, experience and hard work to acquire credibility and to be ready for each new step. My motto is to never give up, and with endless perseverance, I am where I am today. But as I mentioned before, this is only the start of my journey.

What do you do to unwind after work?
I enjoy reading biographies; it gives me ideas and motivation to continue on my path. I also indulge in sport to get rid of the day’s stress and increase my adrenalin. I love travelling, as it opens your mind and makes you discover people, places, cultures, ethics, and enriches your life. Most of all, I spend time with my kids, family, and friends – they are the backbone of everything I do.

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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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