Networking with other technology leaders can provide insight into other leaders in the industry by connecting with them through conferences, social media, and professional development opportunities
This is an exclusive interview conducted by the Editor Team of CIO News with Syed F Albeez, Sr. Director, Corporate IT at Emaar, The Economic City.
How did you plan your career path to be a successful technology leader?
Based on my experience, below are some of the critical requirements to achieve leadership career objectives, which involve the intersection of your skills, passion, and goal alignment.
Skill: Technology, security, and business administration abilities, along with professional experience, are a key factor to being a CxO. Having academic degrees, technical and professional certifications are required to be aligned with technological functional skills as per the industry roadmap to climb the ladder of success. Establishing relationships with business stakeholders and the professional community is essential with excellent communication and presentation skills. Identifying both your soft and hard skills will point you toward the specific interests and passions that you’ve already taken the time to develop into personal strengths. Alternatively, you might have a natural skill that makes you feel confident and motivated when completing certain tasks.
Passion: Following your passion, the work, ideas, and projects that make you feel fulfilled and motivated can help lead you to jobs you will enjoy and succeed in. It takes some careful consideration to identify and find your true passions in life. Arise, awake and do not stop till your goal is reached. Always be a passionate leader and a role model for your team. Be one of them and create more success stories.
Career Success and Goal Alignment:
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success—Henry Ford.
The best way to get our career strategy up and running is to have our goals aligned with the goals and objectives of the organization. The better we work together, the greater the benefits from our hours spent together. Building a successful relationship with the management is key to our career success and the execution of the strategy. Alignment gives us balance and harmony and enables collaboration.
Network: Networking with other technology leaders can provide insight into other leaders in the industry by connecting with them through conferences, social media, and professional development opportunities.
What challenges have you faced in your career path and how did you overcome them?
“Life is a race, not a stroll. It’s a series of sprints, stops and starts, highs and lows, and million other scenarios…”
Some of the major challenges are:
Changes in the Industry: External issues like shifts in the industry or technological advancements, limitations within the organisation for growth and competition. These can completely change the role you’re in or the role you want, resulting in further professional challenges. For example, a people-centric industry can suddenly shift to a technology focus. If you lack those technological skills, you may not be able to advance your career. In some cases, the job market in a particular industry may shrink significantly due to a lack of demand, making it harder to find a job.
Retaining, reskilling, and recruiting talent: Critical employees who leave due to career growth or better benefits affect the pace of deliveries until a replacement is available and becomes productive. Managing employee perceptions of career development opportunities is a key to enhancing engagement and loyalty among employees. Organizations should identify workers who are central to the execution of business strategy and then develop or update retention plans to meet the needs and expectations of these employees. Flexible work options have increased the need for adoption of digital transformation and attracting and retaining key talent, since workers need digital skills to excel in hybrid or remote working environments.
Skillset mismatch: Gap in skills between their current employees’ capabilities and key areas necessary for success in the next three to five years, such as data science, digital transformation, and innovation. Filling key technology positions is a real challenge, which is being addressed with external talent acquisition and a focus on upskilling and reskilling existing team members.
Shape the IT department of the future: To keep pace with the rapid changes in business and technology which are fast evolving, the traditional IT organisation is required to be reviewed at regular intervals to fine tune and make the required changes to be successful and create business value.
Combatting cybercriminals: Rapid changes in technology are also introducing new and more complicated cyber threats and security risks. Ensuring the cyber security posture of the organisation is high is a big responsibility and we are proactively working to identify vulnerabilities, mitigate the risks, and be extra cautious with threats from inside and outside by implementing a strong cyber security framework, creating user awareness sessions, periodic audits to ensure that the controls are working fine to fight this ongoing threat.
Frequent changes in Management: Resulting unclear goals and poor execution of the strategy.
How did your organisation gear up in-terms of technology in the COVID times?
During COVID, we fast tracked most of the digital transformation projects, eliminating the dependency of the workforce on being at the office. With cloud-based business applications, CRM, call centre, and digital platforms, we continue to scale and deliver more and newer features and functionalities to business users, enabling them to focus and achieve their targets while we support them remotely and address the availability, performance, and security of the applications and infrastructure.
What technology solutions and innovations do you plan to implement in the post COVID era?
Enabling mobility and eliminating people and workplace dependency are key learning from the COVID era. Identifying critical business applications and migrating them to the latest Web and mobile technologies will enable organisations to be operational during such critical situations. Some of the technological solutions and innovations are listed below;
- Web/mobile application delivery with access from anywhere
- Improving mobile device security by integrating advanced security controls such as multi-factor authorizations and users with roles and responsibility-based access.
- Data Privacy and Governance.
- Private, public, and hybrid cloud adoption
- Automating business processes through integration with government e-services, payment gateways, and other third-party solutions as needed.
- Increasing user awareness of social media channel usage in order to protect users from threats.
What are the challenges faced by technology leaders today in a similar industry while implementing digital technologies? How can technology leaders overcome the challenges they face?
Maintaining horizontal and vertical relationships is a key success factor for a leader.
A vertical relationship is, by its nature, hierarchical and is established through the direct use of power but also more subtly through praise and rebuke. The seemingly innocuous phrase “good job, that was very good work” is actually you creating a vertical relationship as you’re actually saying “I have judged this work as your superior and I decree that it is good.”
A horizontal relationship is one of peers who do different jobs; they have a “separation of tasks” (another Adler concept). A horizontal interaction might be “thank you for that work; I have taken great value from it.” Notice how that doesn’t judge its quality, just whether the recipient has benefited.
Implementing this in the workplace is really quite difficult, but it is essential to manage the balance and address.
Create an innovative culture at work:
An innovative culture at work benefits the company, the supervisors, and the employees. Collaborative, Decisive, Motivational, Efficient, Promote technological advancements. Promote your organization’s mentoring to encourage innovation and experimental thinking. Here are some reasons to implement an innovative culture at work:
- Sets a course for improvement.
- Helps develop new ideas.
- Leads to growth.
- Gives yourself a competitive advantage.
- Increases team efficiency.
- Develops an adaptive nature.
- Improves the company’s brand image.
- Encourages employees to be creative.
- Show your colleagues why they need you (and your peers).
Part of being a technology leader is being a good mentor, communicator, planner, supporter, and storyteller, as you need to create that shared vision of a cohesive group of technologists who are working with the same values, quality, and ethics.
Be an advocate for technologists:
Become the buffer between management and technologists, explaining the importance of both aspects of the organization.
Champion your organisation’s values, framed in the context of technology:
You have to be vigilant that these values don’t just become a hollow marketing technique, they have to be exhibited on an ongoing basis (and remember, you’re part of making that happen), as if you let core values slip, the organisation’s culture will suffer, which will lead to attrition, poor delivery, and a poor reputation within the industry. As a technology leader, these values should be embodied in how you both deliver technology and deal with people (be they clients or colleagues).
Any best practices, industry trends, or advice you would like to suggest to fellow technology leaders for their successful professional journey?
- Digital Transformation and Change Management
- Digital Adoption and Employee Training
- Keeping Up With Technology
- Enabling Mobility in a Challenging World
- Migration to the Cloud
- Adoption of standard best-in-class frameworks for cybersecurity
Some of the most profound diversity we experience in life has to do with diversity of thought. Diversity initiatives can have important and interesting social justice benefits, but the real reason you want to pursue diversity programmes is innovation. You want diversity of thought. We bring in people who have diverse experiences. Diversity of thought helps them not get into groupthink. We train our team members to have better conversations—more dialogue—with people who have differing views, one method by which organisations adapt, encourage, and generate a variety of innovative ideas to evaluate and implement
Emotional intelligence and social intelligence play a critical role for leaders to justify or validate social competency to be able to engage people who do have differences in ideas and perspectives.
- More strategic decision-making around IT investments with business alignment
- Management of IT risks with a mitigation plan for business-critical requirements
- Actively engage and bring internal audit into the discussions, as appropriate, to help the organization stay on top of IT risk and compliance issues.
- Communicate priorities. Use consistent messaging throughout the organisation about the company’s opportunities, challenges, and goals.
Any other points which you would like to highlight?
Innovation in the workplace is how I approach my work; ideas and bringing them to life to solve problems. Create opportunities. Instead of innovation being a department, make it impact the entire business with value creation. A customer-centric way of doing business is focused on providing a positive customer experience before and after the sale in order to drive repeat business, enhances customer loyalty and improves business growth. Consider characteristics such as customer-centricity, data-drivenness, innovation, collaboration, and agility. Address the below in all the digital transformation projects:
- Customer-focused leadership
- Understand the customer and implement solution enriching the customer experience
- Drive continuous improvement through regular feedback.
- Establish and Build long term relationships
- Strive to improve communicating, selling new ideas, overcoming obstacles, and focusing on the benefits of adopting the new way, and avoid getting caught up in the features and technical details.
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