Sunday March 3rd, 2024
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Masterclass With Sirius Labs Founder Melda Akin

Guest writer Melda Akin shares her views on how female entrepreneurs can break into tech and bridge the gender gap…

Melda Akin

StartupScene’s newest op-ed series ‘Masterclass’ invites some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs to divulge their secrets, dispense their knowledge, and share their experiences with the MENA region’s ever-growing startup ecosystem. Whether they’re written by old guards or trailblazers, these masterclasses have been created to illuminate the path for aspiring entrepreneurs.

This week’s ‘masterclass’ contributor is award-winning entrepreneur, Melda Akin, Founder and CEO of D14.AI, an AI company specialising in solving businesses’ optimization challenges, and Sirius Labs, a platform dedicated to providing training, mentorship and bootcamps to improve women’s tech skills. Akin shares her views on how female entrepreneurs can break into tech and bridge the gender gap.

MASTERCLASS: OVERRIDING THE GENDER GAP IN MENA’S TECH INDUSTRY

Becoming successful is rarely a matter of chance. Serial, successful entrepreneurs tend to exhibit a healthy balance of experience gained, while always still learning.  As a female entrepreneur in technology, I still see females in MENA materially under-represented in my chosen sector. So here are five tips for women to improve their chances of finding success in both technology and other sectors, and to help fulfil their huge potential.

Embrace Mentors

Having good mentors cannot be underestimated – and they do not have to be women. Experience is gained from learning from your mistakes so you do not repeat them. Having been through many ordeals and challenges before you, mentors can identify your options, so you still make the decisions – but you are better informed. They can also help with moral support and personal encouragement. You do not need one mentor to provide all these strengths; they too have their particular strengths and should be chosen accordingly. Mentorship is one of the reasons I launched Sirius Labs: to help support female students in technology and teach them key skills required to land tech-based jobs via workshops, bootcamps and women-empowerment events with top technology companies.  Mentorship is an incredibly effective way to increase female representation in the tech sector; it highlights the multiple opportunities available to them, and the skills required to achieve them.

Fail Fast But Move On

While it is important to be dedicated and believe in yourself, there is also a balance to be found by recognising something is not working as expected or planned, and the potential need to change your plan to achieve the desired outcome. If at that point the costs - reputational, personal or financial - are too great, there is no shame in ending what you started so you might begin something new.  Mistakes can happen and it is a bigger problem to not recognise them and carry on regardless – doubling down and making them again – than to recognise a change is needed. The latter is the harder, more courageous choice. Revisit what your decisions were, analyse your own strengths and weaknesses, and do not be afraid of rejoining the fight to become successful.

Always Be Willing to Learn 

From my own experience, to be successful in any tech role, learning how to code is crucial. It is akin to knowing 2+2=4 or being able to know your own tongue – for that is what code is, a language that does the maths. Know how to code, and so much more opens up to you. Embrace curiosity, keep asking why and how. Then you will turn over stones and at the very least educate yourself. You are more likely to come up with innovations and ideas others have not thought of, because they never had the curiosity to ask the questions. Learning by asking questions adjusts your outlook, makes you better informed and more open to accept change when required.

Know Your Customers  

Beyond the personal attitudes and requisite talents you should adopt, there is no getting past knowing the market you want to be in and the customers you want to sell to – from top to bottom, inside-out and upside-down. How well do you know your clients’ needs and how can you make their lives easier?

Understanding and maintaining customer trust is essential to succeed in the tech sector. Amazon even lists “customer obsession” as one of its guiding leadership principles. 

I believe leaders should always start with the customer and work backwards. Although understanding the competitors in the market is important, paying attention to your customers is the most vital way to break into the sector and gain long-term success. Knowing the landscape in front of you empowers you to make the optimal impact.

Understand that cultures can also be different even in the same market (e.g., consider how some words mean different things in other languages). Simple issues such as punctuality, the importance of business cards, or how you address people when you meet, can define first impressions and be crucial to the culture you work in.

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