WomenInTech - Nabila Salem, President of Revolent Group

Welcome to WomenInTech, a blog series that gives women a platform to share their experience of pursuing careers within STEM industries. We aim to pack these posts with interesting stories and valuable advice from experienced female professionals that every woman/girl interested in building a career in STEM can benefit from.

Welcome to the very first post in the WomenInTech series!

For the premiere post we have been speaking to Nabila Salem, President of Revolent Group!

Firstly, what do you do?

As the President of cloud talent creation firm Revolent Group, my job is to lead on the formation and development of new cloud professionals and establish initiatives to help tackle the global tech skills gap.

At Revolent, we recruit, cross-train, place, and continue to develop ambitious people, especially for the Salesforce and ServiceNow ecosystems, where demand for skilled professionals far outstrips supply. We're cross-training the next generation of certified tech talent into these sectors to make sure organizations have access to the skills they need to thrive.

We're also making sure that people from all backgrounds have the support they need to establish rewarding careers in niche technology; that's something I'm really proud of.

Why did you pursue your current career?

I've performed in a lot of different roles throughout my career, but there are two things I've always been passionate about; launching careers in tech and diversity and inclusion.

My interest in these areas is what's driven me in everything I've done. I've been involved in many different initiatives and mentoring schemes to help give a leg-up to budding professionals.

Being able to support talented people and encourage a diverse range of individuals to overcome the barriers they face and achieve amazing things has long been at the core of my career path. I feel like my role as President of Revolent is the culmination of those passions; what we're doing is making a real, tangible difference in changing the face of the tech sector.

How would you describe your experience in STEM so far?

The fact is that STEM sectors have long been male-dominated, and the lack of diversity in these spaces is incredibly visible – I’ve always seen it and been the minority. But I decided early on that I wouldn't shy away from these challenges.

To overcome barriers you have to tackle them head-on. Be as open about it as possible. The importance of having women in senior roles in STEM can't be understated; if you're in one of these roles, then you should try to be as visible as possible and help those coming up the ladder behind you.

Women are often socialised to be modest and not shout about their achievements, but we need to own our successes and act as role models for others. Forty per cent of the management team at Revolent are women.

I always work to highlight their achievements and try to elevate the women I work with. I also share my story to give others something to aspire to. I was the first and youngest woman to be promoted to VP at a FTSE 250 firm—that was a fantastic result not just for me personally, but because it was another instance of a door being broken down for the first time. Moments like these show that we are achieving things in STEM, and let other women know that there's a path for them to do the same.

What are some of the biggest barriers that women face when trying to rise to senior roles?

I think certain company and industry cultures can be a big hurdle for women who want to progress to senior and leadership roles. There’s a notion within the tech space that you need to be working all hours and burning the candle at both ends, which can be intimidating.

A lot of women with the right experience and the right skills to attain these senior roles often fail to put themselves forward because this kind of culture doesn’t fit in with their lives; lives where they have other commitments outside of work such as raising their family for example.

I’ve never liked the term ‘work-life balance’ for this precise reason—the perception that surrounds the term. There aren’t two different things to me: my view is that we have one life and we choose how much we want work to be part of it. You don’t have to work 24 hours a day to be successful, but you do have to work smart, prioritise and make yourself available in all senior roles. It’s the nature of leadership.

Other barriers include the lack of role models in the industry. It’s very hard to be what you can’t see—and there is a severe lack of senior women in tech. This is why I spend so much time highlighting the achievements of women internally and externally, to give others something to aspire to. Revolent and our sister company Frank Recruitment Group are both led by women, which is a great example.

What steps can organisations take to help reduce these barriers?

Work on building a culture that celebrates diversity in all its forms and encourages meritocracy. Challenge derogatory attitudes wherever you see them and don’t let anyone poison the well; that’s one very fast way to drive away great talent.

Encourage and support your employees with progressive ways of working. Flexibility and support can be the difference between a woman rising through the ranks in tech or leaving the sector altogether. At this time of growing skills gaps, we absolutely cannot afford to lose them. 

How did you feel when ManagementToday featured you as one of the women in their “35 Women Under 35 – 2019” article?

I was humbled to be featured. Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work, but it’s more than a personal achievement to me. Every time we openly celebrate the work and achievements of women in any industry, but especially typically male-dominated spaces like tech, we’re showing other women what’s possible.

Representation is crucial, and I was proud to be included in a list alongside such an inspiring and diverse group of women who are leading the way in their respective sectors. 

What advice do you have for other women/girls interested in pursuing a STEM career?

Take advantage of the programmes that are out there. Maybe you haven't had access to the resources you needed to learn tech skills in the past. Maybe you weren't encouraged to take on STEM subjects at school. Maybe you feel put off by tech's reputation. But things are changing and there has never been a better time to join the industry.

With initiatives like ours, you'll be fast-tracked into a tech career through a fully funded programme where you'll learn everything you need to know and be instilled with the confidence to walk into a tech role and shine.

We've had various remarkable women from all backgrounds come through our programme and excel. Support is out there. If you have an interest in tech and a passion for learning cutting-edge skills, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn't pursue it.

Finally, what is the first memorable piece of tech you used?

Great question! The video player was my most memorable piece of tech as a child—I was able to watch all the Disney films out there. However, my Walkman was my favourite piece of tech, and when it got upgraded to the Discman I was thrilled.

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