Leadership is all about balance

Volha Smirnova, Internet of Things and Analytics, EMEA Centre of Excellence, Software AG elaborates to Channel Post MEA on how her ambivert nature positioned her to be what she is today.

Volha Smirnova, Internet of Things and Analytics, EMEA Centre of Excellence, Software AG

Tell us about your leadership style and philosophy. 
Being an ambivert by nature, I fall in the middle of balancing the traits of various working cultures.

I used to work in cultures where relational philosophy would be the grounding one, as it nurtured the competitive spirit of the team, at the same time creating a sense of security and predictability for the business. In other working cultures, solutions-oriented leadership approaches played better than ever, where teams performed equally as well and even better in situations of high criticality and pressure.

I’d like to believe that I effectively blend the strengths from my previous diverse working environments, and in times of pressure – use my unique ways to mitigate the amount of “white noise” and focus on solutions.

My leadership style would be simple – “amplify, expand and balance”. I strongly believe in consistent effort & the clarity of vision, that gets us to the top. You’ve got to find an angle where your contributions are making the team stronger, allow them, at times, to expand more progressively into other domains. To me, leadership is all about balance – one needs to be completely aware of his abilities, and his team’s strengths, and how together 1 plus one equals 3, 4 or even 5 at times!

What made you choose IT as a career opportunity?
I come from Belarus, which depicts favourable conditions for careers in the IT sector. However, most of the dev force operates extraterritorially. IT & OT tools are predominantly built for other countries and businesses outside of Belarus, together with a big number of digital services being “exported”. For me, with open & hungry mind and a love for innovation, IT was the best way to explore and learn more about other economies or how to effectively connect supply and demand.

In some countries – technology adoption follows a particular trend, and is quite predictable across industries, in others – developers can be well ahead of the game and seed the demand that will harvest later. IT bridges international gaps better than anything. It creates limitless potentials for keen developers with an open vision, which takes the fruits of their works far beyond the boundaries of their national economic realms. That’s one thing that makes a career in IT so attractive.

How has your unique background prepared you for success in the industry?
I’d like to believe that my background is unique, but so is everyone else’s. In the UAE, we all come from various cultures, traits, backgrounds, and this melting pot of diversity makes us a unique professional community too.

What has prepped me well is my perseverance & the undying faith in my abilities. One may not be the most talented dancer or runner, but consistency and hard work in achieving a certain vision, are the key measures of success. You WILL dance and run – if you try hard, work dedicatedly, and have a clear vision of where you want to be one day. Running is a metaphor and a representation of effort, which comes through consistency. At times you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and run again, as it’s the only way of getting where you want to get.

In this industry, there’s also a lot to do with the way you communicate and build trust. This is never about just “the technology and yourself”, but rather – people that build, enable, develop or sell these technologies, people who fuel the progress. People are key and core, the connections you build define you.

In a nutshell, working in technology – is working with people, building your team and yourself along with them. So, it’s all about progressing collectively and placing corporate needs first yet finding the right balance for yourself in the mix.

What was your most interesting job?
Without an iota of hesitation, it is my current role at Software AG Middle East.

What advice would you give to women looking to break into the field of computer technology?
I’d like to emphasize that IT and technology do not have a gender, neither does innovation has a nationality. Like I said – tech – is the of those gender-agnostic terrains, where you can be what you want to be, as long as your products fuel progress, and change the lives of people.

Grace Hopper, whose career started back in the military, is rightly called “the mother of modern computing”. In the late 1940s, Grace Hopper worked at the Harvard Computation Lab as part of the Navy Reserve, programming the Mark 1 computer that brought speed and accuracy to military initiatives. As you understand, even in the critical times, when women in technology were rare, the world was eager to recognize unique contributions an individual can bring, regardless of gender.

Education, exposure, and experience are key factors when teamed with perseverance that will help one succeed. What can ruin success is overconfidence and complacency. In technology, especially it appeals to all professionals, no experience is too much, and no level of information is sufficient. Technology is progressing at the speed of light, and the moment you think you’ve got time to lay back and watch the grass grow, your experience becomes irrelevant, and the trade of business obsolete.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?
I am not the first one to say, but technology has truly accelerated the pace of innovation during the pandemic, pushing the business world to deploy their digital strategies in 2021, rather give those another 2-3 years launch time. The UAE is on the way to implementing policies and incentives geared towards encouraging a particular type of more efficient operations & business modelling.

Standards will be designed to spur innovation and IoT adoption around digital workforce productivity, predictive business modelling and operational efficiencies. High operating costs are still seen as a threatening factor in the UAE, and businesses will be finding ways to reduce expenses by onboarding IoT tools into their corporate realms.

The pandemic, horrible as it is, has matured lots of businesses and has prompted us to shift to cleaner, greener, and preferably e-based ways of working. So, the greatest transformation I’ve witnessed would be the speed of technology adoption, augmented by 5G, of course, allowing us, as Software AG, to penetrate areas where IoT was not used before.

What are your thoughts on the next transformation in the tech industry?
There are many, but those at stake are the ones prompted by “the new normal”.

IoT is very powerful in improving people’s lives, and digitalizing the touchpoints with the physical world.

Predictive data modelling is one trend that will become viable across segments. This calls for greater data visibility and availability.

The regular data analytics flow engages data – that is later processed and turned into information, which results in knowledge, or the so-called “meaningful data”, and is transformed into wisdom, or decision-making. Data-enabled decision making will be applied in businesses to build better and more sustainable working policies and create a sense of continuity.

5G is another differentiator of progress, which is, however, not about implementing one big change, it’s about transforming hundreds of things at a time that impact lives, businesses, and the speed of interaction.

Industrial IoT segments will move faster since lowered data latency and processing capabilities will be offered for the domain with the arrival of this new generation network.

Sales transformations are expected to be very strong. We used to have technologies aiding us in physical meetings, yet not being the centrepiece of those. We would rely on building trust or gaining attention with a set of techniques, based on verbal and non-verbal cues. Now, with half of the world being locked behind computer screens, the “no video” and “mute” buttons to navigate meetings, one can only rely on voice and preparation to allude interest and communicate value. The art of scoring A(s) in digital meetings will progress and probably will develop its ecosystem of coaches behind it.

What would be your single line inspirational quote to give to aspiring young girls out there? 
I have believed in a quote by an contemporary author, Shelly Kameron that “Success is never a coincidence. It’s a result of hard work, discipline, and dedication.” And, I do recommend every aspiring girl to follow this. (This recipe is gender-agnostic yet should be followed with all due diligence).