Success to me is when I can contribute creative ideas in my head and see them materialise through the perfect execution of the different teams that I work with. Most importantly, success to me is knowing that the ideas and solutions that I have worked on are able to help others live a happier and better life.
I think my passion for creative problem solving led me to want to work in tech start-ups. Being in an environment that lives and breathes agility and adaptability is what drives me. Having everyone in the team with the same mindset and end goal makes getting up every morning feeling energised to tackle world problems very easy! In tech, it’s usually the #fastfish that wins so decide fast, take risks, get it done.
At the start of my leadership career, being the youngest in my leadership team, I felt I had to do so much to prove why I deserved to be there. I had to work on both upward and downward communication skills to build my credibility. At the end of the day, with the guidance of women mentors and my parents strongly believing in me, I realised that these were just unnecessary pressures I imposed on myself. The moment I started believing in myself was when everything just felt right and I was rocking it!
The lack of representation is a big issue in some tech companies. The “bro culture” creates opportunity for an uncomfortable work environment that leads to cases of sexual harassment. Top this off with a small or nonexistent pool of women in leadership – such acts go underreported and become open secrets swept under the rug. This creates breeding grounds for a very toxic workplace.
Being a minority too has its challenges. Having to explain why you can’t take part in the after-hours inter-team beer pong sessions or inconveniencing the whole team to change team lunch to dinner at 7.16pm because you’re fasting can seem quite petty. But after lots of sharing and explaining, I believe these episodes help to educate my circle better and create a more inclusive culture.
“Don’t ever judge yourself in comparison to others. Instead, judge yourself against what you know you’re capable of.”
I’m known to be very competitive and always seeking to be at the top of the game. This has helped me to succeed most of the time as I had the mindset of “If he can do it, why can’t I?”. I would do whatever it took to get to what I set my eyes on. However, there were instances where as much as I pushed, I didn’t get my desired outcome. I’d get very disheartened and would discredit myself. I learnt that I needed to do what I believed would make me happiest. I don’t need to seek external validation to confirm what my heart knows best. At the end of the day, although my head should rule, I will eventually follow my heart. This piece of wisdom would have helped the 15, 17 and 22-year-old Syahirah a lot!
5 years from now I wish to be sharing more of my experiences in tech start-ups to many more young ones who are unsure of the career route they want to embark on. I wish to spread the word that being in tech doesn’t always mean you have to code! There are more soft skills like negotiation, rapport-building, project management and creative problem solving that you can master to do great in the big tech world.