For this month’s Women in Tech, CNME’s Deputy Editor Giorgia Guantario sat down with Kinda Baydoun, Pointnext Services Leader – UAE at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who reflected on her career journey and how HPE is supporting its female employees.
Landed in Dubai in 2005, Baydoun enjoys one of the most prolific and successful careers in the ICT industry in the region. She started her career in the Gulf working for Sun Microsystems, the company behind Java and Solaris, as a Services Partner Representative for the Gulf and Pakistan, before becoming the Territory Sales Manager for Bahrain.
Fifteen years later, Baydoun is now the Pointnext Services Leader for the UAE at HPE – one of the company’s most important and ambitious roles.
The journey to success wasn’t the easiest though, as it happens with many women in the industry. Baydoun said, “My first experience with Sun Microsystems was very positive – it was a very diverse and multicultural environment, but as it often was the case at the time, there weren’t many women in client or partners- facing positions, especially in sales. I started out in a telesales role, but I knew that wasn’t where I envisioned myself.
“Becoming an account manager wasn’t without challenges though. I had to learn how to deal with conflicts and confrontation with partners – many of whom weren’t used to interacting with women on business matters. I remember going to many meetings and receiving no eye contact from the men in the room, just because it wasn’t part of the culture at the time.”
Baydoun explained that adapting and embracing the Gulf’s culture was key to attack those first hurdles at the beginning of her career – but more than anything, she believes that challenging herself has taught her the most over the course of the years in the region.
In her new role as Pointnext Services Leader, Baydoun supports customers throughout their journey with HPE, from designing a strategy, to implementing solutions and supporting it afterwards.
Specifically, HPE Pointnext Services advises clients on IT strategy to transform hybrid cloud environments, take advantage of AI and innovate at the edge. Baydoun explained that she has been learning a lot since undertaking the role and pushing herself has helped accelerate her career journey.
“I believe that when I push myself, I learn a lot more than I would by remaining in my comfort zone – I took on the Pointnext Services Leader position because I wanted to ‘strengthen my muscles’ and expose myself to new challenges,” she said.
The ICT executive continued by discussing that unfortunately very often women think too much before taking chances when it comes to their careers. A 2014 internal report by Hewlett Packard (HP) proves her point – according to the report, women tend to apply for a new job only when they meet 100 percent of the listed criteria, compared to men who usually apply when they meet about 60 percent.
Baydoun continued, “As women, we think twice and thrice before applying for a position or asking for a raise, whereas men usually just go for it. It is true that in most case you should apply for a job even if you only fulfil 60 percent of the job’s requirements – you will be able to learn the rest on the job. Women need to be encouraged to take more risks and stop doubting themselves in order to succeed.”
A lack of role models also plays a big part in a woman’s career path, explained Baydoun, who was proud to tell CNME about HPE’s female fast-track program – the program, to which Baydoun participated, aims to prepare 25 talented women within the organisation to become future directors.
“HPE recognised that it needed to have better female representation within their cohort of worldwide managing directors, especially as very often managing directors’ successors tend to also be men. This is why we started this female fast-track program, to support the women in the company to take over those roles in the future,” she explained.
HPE has been at the forefront of reaching gender equality in the workplace, and was recently recognised by The Women’s Forum of New York for having 40 percent female representation on its Board of Directors.
We are proud to announce we were honored at the @WomensForumNY #BreakfastCorpChampions event this week. Women represent 40% of our board. We are committed to #diversityandinclusion and will continue #RaisingtheBar on #genderparity. https://t.co/RFytVSFHu2 pic.twitter.com/6K027pqFJd
— HPE News (@HPE_News) November 7, 2019
Baydoun told CNME she feels very lucky to work for the company, as it’s been supporting women through different projects, including the creation of a women empowerment group based in its Dubai office.
“The group consists of seven women within the company, plus two sponsors. The reason we decided to create this group is that we wanted to create a space to empower women in their workspace,” continued Baydoun.
“The malefactor in the industry is obviously very dominant, and although the women who started this group, including myself, have strong personalities and feel very empowered already, we understand that it might not be the case for other women, and we want to give those women a stronger voice inside the company and in the industry.”