Don’t let glass ceilings hold you back

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‘Never give up’ attitude will help women play an important role in society, says Janaab Sayida Nadira Aal Said, Deputy Senior Manager of e-Channels at Alizz Islamic Bank

Showing her mettle in such a male-dominated industry as  IT has not been a cakewalk for Nadira Al Said, one of the two winners of NTI BizPro Awards 2018. But she has managed to hold her ground in the face of considerable challenges that she faced. And eventually, this ‘never give up’ attitude, one of her key strengths and something she prides herself on, paid off. She says with this attitude, the next generation of women can play an important role in society. “Don’t let the glass ceiling hold you back. Smash through it and show them what you can do,” she avers.

Nadira adds, “I must say that I am self-motivated and I make sure that things get done. Even when it is a task not directly related to my work responsibilities, I make sure I contribute to getting it done faster, as at the end of the day it benefits my learning experience and the organisation overall. I have been known to be an excellent communicator, and do not hesitate to voice my opinions and feedback as it comes naturally to me.”

Sports have played an important role in honing these skills. Playing basketball when she was younger taught her the meaning of teamwork, and learning how to handle a situation side by side with a colleague in a day-to-day task. She always takes the initiative to spearhead a project as each task demands a good leader.

Education and career

After graduating from the National Private School, Nadira went to Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where she did her undergrad in computer science. Her first position was that of application support engineer for ATMs/CDMs in the IT department of a leading bank in Oman. This role which was later expanded to include e-channels support as well helped Nadira gain a lot of experience in management and delivery of alternative digital channels. She then joined Alizz Islamic Bank and shifted her focus to the business side of e-channels where she currently holds the position of deputy senior manager of e-channels.

When she joined Alizz Islamic Bank, shifting from a technical background to a business-oriented task was both challenging yet rewarding for Nadira. “I had never studied or worked in the business side, but I believed in my abilities as a manager and passed the test with flying colours,” she says. “The executive management at Alizz Islamic Bank saw the potential I had and took a risk with me as I had never worked on the business side before and for a startup bank that is a testament to how they believe in their team in this journey to becoming the leading Islamic bank in the Sultanate, by providing growth opportunities for its team which will lead to a better customer experience for our customer base.”

Some of the great projects she has worked on over the years include but are not limited to being the business lead in the project for the first interactive teller machine (ITM) in the Sultanate. Oman’s newest bank launching the market’s most advanced technology ahead of more established competitors was a true testament to how the way bank’s operations mirror Nadira’s ‘never say never’ attitude to work. She has also been the business lead for launching one of the Sultanate’s most advanced mobile banking and Internet banking platforms.

Mom as role model

Nadira considers her mom as the biggest influence in her life. “She has been the one who I look up to and idolise the most,” Nadira waxes eloquent about her role model. “She has taught me to work hard, never give up and stand up for what I believe in and to always voice my opinions freely. My mother has taught me that being patient pays off, everything happens for a reason and we should never lose faith and always keep striving to achieve more. Struggles are only thrown our way to make us stronger and God will never burden us with anything he knows we can’t handle. Her personal struggle was a testament to her character and how she reacted to a negative situation in the most superhero-like manner. She used to be a teacher and didn’t believe in setting a ceiling for herself. She believed she had more in her skillset that could benefit the nation. Teachers do play an extremely important role in developing a society but on a personal level an individual needs to be satisfied that they are doing the most they can to provide for their family and our beautiful Oman. Hence she decided to make a completely polarizing career move and joined Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO) and worked in the HR department, in fact she is still working there today as a consultant coaching managers. This is the kind of person I get to call ‘mom’ and this is my role model and the person I most want to emulate in my own development.”

BizPro Awards 2018 was an amazing experience for Nadira. “The best way to describe it is a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the entire journey. When we first began the initial stages I didn’t know what to expect and the first exam took me by surprise and I was over the moon when I found out that I had made it through, though that is when it started to get serious. With every assessment you tend to grow and unleash abilities that you weren’t aware that you even possessed.”

She adds, “I must say that the hardest part of it all was when it came to the presentation round, I had doubts if I was even going to be able to see it through as I had a fear of public speaking, but through practicing, believing in myself, wanting to achieve the accolade and by having the support of my family and my colleagues I was able to overcome it and actually succeeded. I would advise anyone to go for the BizPro Awards, because even if you do not win it opens up your eyes to skills and abilities that you have hidden inside you that become unlocked and in turn will lead to you improving as both a manager and an individual.”

Asked about her advice to young Omanis, Nadira replied, “I would tell them to work hard and that nothing in life that is worth it comes easy. Through our personal struggles we learn to truly value and enjoy the taste of success and the satisfaction that comes with it. We are all able to achieve much more than we think we can, we need to just believe in ourselves. Our mindsets are the only thing we need to change to achieve the unachievable. Never let failure get in your way, or hold you down in any way. We need to learn from the hurdles and improve in order to grow. Always motivate yourself, even when you feel like all your efforts and hard work are not appreciated you still need to stick to your principles and deliver as you would if not even better. It is how we work and act in our lowest moments that actually define us.”

Nadira was a member of the national bowling team and it was a proud moment for her to come back from her first tournament with the first medals ever earned in this sport internationally, in male and female categories. She used to play basketball throughout high school and college. “Blessed with taller than average height, it would be wrong not to,” she quips. “Swimming has always brought me so much joy and spending a day by the pool was something we had gotten used to at a young age and I continue to enjoy a day at the pool now with my family.” She says sport in general has always been a big part of her upbringing and it has taught her a lot of soft skills like communication and team work hence it continues to be an important part of her adult life as well.

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