Laila Al Hadhrami, Smart Cities Development Manager, NEC (National Energy Center), Oman is one of the leading experts in Development of Smart Cities in the Middle East. With 15 years of experience leading national projects in digital transformation and innovation, Al Hadhrami is considered one of the most inspiring and influential women leaders in Oman and the Middle East.
In the latest in our series of Women in Tech interviews, Nitya Ravi spoke to Laila Al Hadhrami, founder of the Smart Cities Ambassador program and a global keynote speaker and distinguished author, to learn more about her views on the digital transformation sweeping the Middle East region, the importance of digital resilience – and what advice she’d give young women considering a career in IT.
Being ‘digital first’ is the need of the hour in a post -pandemic world. What is your take on the same?
I completely agree with the same. The companies who are not improving their services and aligning themselves to the current demands of the industry and the current pace of technology will always be left behind and that will affect their business and sustainability in the market. ‘Innovation’ has to be the core motto of any organisation to continue improving their services and to be aligned to the market and the vision of the country.
With companies across the region undergoing digital transformation, what do you think will be the new challenges they have to face in the digital ecosystem?
One of the challenges I feel companies will face is resistance to change. New processes and technologies often present challenges in the form of resistance to change from employees who feel there is nothing wrong with the way they’re currently doing things. Companies must foresee this and provide dedicated investment in the form of training and support to help employees become productive and innovative.
A very important point I would like to highlight is that as a first step, organisations must work to simplify their internal processes before thinking of moving them online. If processes are not improved as part of the re-engineering process, it will lead to online chaos.
Another challenge is privacy and cybersecurity concerns. Most digital transformation efforts involve leaving behind on-premise solutions to move to the cloud, as well as integrating all of a company’s data into one centralised system. This brings up the increased threat of cyberattacks that compromise sensitive data. Companies need to have a plan in place to proactively mitigate these threats before they can happen.
How important is leadership that focuses on digital resiliency for the future of the company/community or country?
Great leadership will have great foresight on how to drive their company or country towards greatness. It is very important in this era of digitalisation that leaders be aware of FutureTech and empower themselves and those around them with continuous learning and adoption of new technologies. Due to the pandemic, a lot of companies around the world have transformed digitally at a much quicker pace however it’s essential to do this before any sort of disaster knocks at our door.
What disruptive technology do you see taking form in the coming years in Oman?
Technologies are changing every day so it is challenging to decide which one will dominate the market in the coming years. As NEC, we are a company dealing mostly with smart city projects and there will be new cases to implement which involves integration of different technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Big data to have a sustainable improvement in services and products.
We are taking the lead in proving and executing smart cities projects in Oman and regionally. Our ambition is to lead and contribute to Oman 2040 Vision which is designed to improve the quality of life for all its citizens.
I am proud to say that recently, we launched the Smart Innovation Hub that aims to empower sustainable innovation with all our different stakeholders in our own model in a Smart ecosystem and launched two new smart solutions which are the Smart Environment Solution and Smart Street Lighting.
What advice do you have for aspiring young women looking to enter the technology field?
I can sum up the following from my humble experience and lessons learnt. Women must always keep empowering themselves with continuous learning and obtaining global certificates in their field.
Write down your goals and believe that you can achieve it. Don’t work alone and always compete with yourself to improve your skills. Surround yourself with positive people and avoid negativity and negative people. Always know your rights and fight for it. Improve your communication skills and learn to balance your work and personal life.