Farah
Sidek

Industry Advisor (Retail & Consumer Goods) APAC Enterprises, Microsoft

“My advice to my younger self would be to work, work, work on people skills. The nature of my work is to solve problems with technology; so there are complicated problems, and then there are complex problems. Complicated problems may take many steps and a lot of time, but they are pretty straightforward and linear to solve. However, adding people in can make such problems complex and no longer straightforward to solve, due to their differing personalities, vested interests, mentalities, and so forth!”

Success is doing what you love, working with the people you enjoy collaborating with, and solving the challenges that excite you (and of course getting paid to do it). I’m super glad that my career has been hitting all these points right! As an Industry Advisor in Retail for Microsoft, I consult and help customers to solve their business problems through technology. In the process, I get to work with, learn from, and help grow fantastic people, and I find this aspect incredibly rewarding.
I got into tech honestly with a mix of good luck, personal capability, and interest. As the saying goes, luck is where preparation meets opportunity. I was formally trained in public relations and communications, and when I graduated, digital and social platforms were booming. By virtue of being young and understanding the landscape, I found myself delving into digital communications. That brought me to my work in digital platforms with Google for seven years, and moving away from Singapore to work in Ireland and Nigeria – an experience I absolutely loved. That then brought me into the world of technology consulting with Microsoft.
I suppose the biggest hurdle I had was having mental limitations on what is possible or otherwise. I had to constantly remind, challenge, and believe in myself to know that I could achieve something despite the lack of a precedent. For example, I successfully negotiated with my managers to lend me out for a 3-month rotation from my role in Ireland, to work on projects in Nigeria. In the process, I had to jump through multiple management, visa, tax, legal and cultural hurdles to pursue that opportunity but so glad it all worked out fantastic. It turned out to be the most eye-opening experience of my life.
I don’t face any complex challenges in particular as a minority woman in tech. The working environment in digital and tech (at least with the companies I’ve been with) tends to be where diversity and inclusion is truly celebrated. Hence, I never encountered “known” issues and felt happy to be able to bring my full self to work. I recognise that minority women could be even more represented in the field as the numbers are still low, and I have taken the challenge upon myself on how to assist and be an advocate for those looking to go into tech.
My advice to my younger self would be to work, work, work on people skills. The nature of my work is to solve problems with technology; so there are complicated problems, and then there are complex problems. Complicated problems may take many steps and a lot of time, but they are pretty straightforward and linear to solve. However, adding people in can make such problems complex and no longer straightforward to solve, due to their differing personalities, vested interests, mentalities, and so forth! To be successful at what I do, I could have navigated these diverse complexities better and earlier in my career, with honing people skills such as communication, charisma, and building personal relationships. At the end of the day, it is all about connecting with people.
I had considered working towards early retirement so that I could spend time with my young one, watch Netflix and work the garden! But at the core, I would miss so much doing what I love; which is being surrounded by great people, solving business challenges with technology, and utilizing the best of my knowledge and personal strengths. I think what I would seriously consider doing in five years is to live overseas once again, especially as my daughter will still be quite young.