InterviewsWomen in Tech

“A Systemic Change Within Companies is Required”

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Maya Zakhour, the Director of Channel Sales for Eastern Europe, META, Iberia, and Latin America at NetApp, says leadership roles across sectors are still very much reserved for men

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
In my current role, I manage NetApp’s regional Channel, Distribution, and Alliances landscape and focus on growing channel coverage across Eastern Europe, META, Iberia, and LATAM. I not only work on building a strong partner ecosystem in the region but also leads the teams’ efforts in applying partner and pathways strategies. I focus on developing the company’s services business through partners as well as overseeing the commercial and velocity business.

We are transforming NetApp’s regional channel into its current form, offering partners and customers a consistently positive experience while consuming NetApp’s technology. This transformation is supported by a complete team that caters to supporting the channel, providing expertise, and ensuring customers’ requirements are met. I’m focused on providing a superior post-sale experience that is measured through the customer loyalty index.

Did you always know that working in the industry you represent was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
I never thought I’ll have a career in IT. I always thought I’d end up being a lawyer, a presenter, or even better maybe dreamt to be the president of my own home country. With time, and when I started my first job as a software engineer, I realised that my childhood aspiration is still in me, and I understood more that I’m happier and more energetic only when I am surrounded by people.

This is when I decided to combine my technical skills with interpersonal skills and started building my passion for IT sales roles at different multinationals. I recommend each woman start working on her technology knowledge and building on top of it. The IT industry has lots of great opportunities for each woman that aims to thrive in the future world.

What first got you interested in the industry you work in?
Technology is my passion, and it’s more than 20 years that I’m leading international companies in channel and sales roles, including B2B high-tech enterprises. I have been in several senior positions and supervised major organizational operations with some of the region’s top companies. Prior to joining NetApp in 2017, I was Channel Director for the Middle East at Fortinet, Strategic Alliance Manager at Dimension Data as well as Channel Development Manager and Partner Account Manager for UAE at Microsoft.

Do you have a role model?
I love Angelina Jolie. She is beautiful inside and out. As a humanitarian, she worked tirelessly to bear witness to stories of suffering as well as hope and resilience. This reminds me of how a person should always serve at least our society no matter how many accolades we achieve.

What obstacles did you have to overcome?
I believe that leadership roles across sectors are still very much reserved for men. Women’s professional progress has taken a blow, worsened by the pandemic, and the financial, mental, and emotional toll is high. Many women capable of attaining leadership roles find themselves stuck in the same position for years and unable to be promoted. They often find themselves stereotyped into doing certain roles that aren’t challenging enough or don’t make use of their professional skills.

This calls for a systemic change within companies – requiring them to look at how their culture, hiring processes, and leadership values can be enhanced or adapted to allow more women the opportunity to excel at what they do. Across sectors and geographies, women are faced with the expectation that they need to change who they are, to fit in or get a promotion.

The realization that more female role models are needed in the workplace and in a leadership position is slow. Companies must realise that women are as capable as men in leading businesses and achieving their personal and professional goals. Not encouraging and giving women the chance to shoulder leadership roles is not a sustainable approach for businesses any more.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the industry you represent? What do you wish you had known?
Once a woman finds her place and passion in the tech industry – I believe she can do wonders to help other women find their place too and create a sustainable workplace for everyone. Being a woman in tech is not all about coding or technicalities – there is so much more to having a career in the tech industry. To me, it’s about solving problems – big and small. It’s about innovating to create a positive change in the way the world lives and operates. It’s about creating an impact on the community in which we operate.

What do you do to unwind after work?
With the huge region I cover and the personal responsibilities I carry as a mother, I have less time to unwind during the week. However, during the weekends, I spend quality time with my family in my happy place and enjoy spending time by the beach running or simply watching the sunset.

Prarthana Mary

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2 Comments

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