International Women's Day interview with three product powerhouses
March 5, 2019|
Happy International Women’s Day, ladies! Today, we celebrate all the creative, passionate, hardworking women in our lives, and take the time to appreciate all the achievements they have accomplished. Here at Broadsign, we’re lucky enough to have three product powerhouses on our team, each a driving force behind much of our product development and roadmap.
Alexandra Lapointe (left) and Khadija Chaabouni (right) are our product owners for Broadsign Control and Broadsign Direct respectively. They work closely with customers to determine their needs, collaborate with stakeholders from nearly every internal department, and each guide a team of developers to create products that lead the digital out-of-home industry. Saaniya Shaikh (center) is our senior UX designer, who is working on refreshing the end-to-end journey of our products, considering our customers’ needs, usage habits and UX industry best practices.
We sat down with each driven woman to see how they built their career, and how they think other women can follow in their path.
Was there a specific time in your life where you decided you wanted to work in tech?
I was actually in finance when my friend, who he himself had made the move to tech, invited me to join him. I didn’t have any experience in the field, but I took the jump anyways and completely fell in love with it. It’s funny to think that I didn’t even know how to install software using a CD at the time, and now I’m pursuing my master’s degree in software engineering!
It all started when I was 11, and I stumbled upon Formula 1 racing on TV. It was all so fast – the cars, the pit crew – and I was hooked. That’s when I knew I wanted to become an engineer. Going the software route of engineering was pure luck, with my first internship being in a development position. I loved the team spirit between colleagues, and how we all worked so closely together to reach our goals.
I got completely entrenched into the world of AI and smart home during my time in Silicon Valley. For me, it hasn’t been only about tech, but also about creating end-to-end experiences, be it for physical or digital products.
What was one of your most exciting career achievements?
All of my happiest achievements were because I said yes to things I was scared of. Taking risks has led me to opportunities in which I am challenged, can work my hardest and continue learning along the way.
My proudest moments have been when I was able to join a new group, one that was facing a bit of hardship, and turn the tables on the situation. I love the feeling of working with my peers to work hard, grow together and turn a negative situation into a positive one.
Getting to the point in my career where I was able to lead and mentor others has been extremely rewarding. When working, it’s often easy to forget that people have different levels of experience, and many are looking for someone to help them achieve their goals. With that mindset, I started Women of Product, a community here in Montreal that encourages women leadership across different product verticals.
What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career so far?
Believe in yourself. You’ll never be perfect and you’ll never please everyone – and that’s okay! I always stick to my values and do what I think is right. This has lead me to confidently share my ideas in order to lead and inspire my teams.
Always work in an environment that inspires and challenges you. Learn as much as you can. The beauty of tech is that it’s always changing. Every two weeks, there’s something new to work on, a new challenge to tackle. You’ll never settle and never be bored.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is if you’re in a leadership position, hire someone who is better than you at the craft. You’re looking for the best candidate to bring their expertise to the team. I think a lot of people forget this sometimes and may even feel threatened. But hiring someone more talented than you gives you an opportunity to bring more to the table.
What advice do you have for women looking to start a career in tech?
Build a strong network of people and listen to feedback from those you trust. In your career, in school or in life, find people that motivate and improve you. Go to conferences, meetups, and talk to people, especially those outside your direct circle. Find people to guide you, challenge you and can remind you of who you are if ever you’re lost.
Just follow your dreams. If you’re inspired by something, learn about it. For tech in particular, go to contests, meetups, workshops. And this can be at any age! There are great programs for kids to learn about coding, science and technology. Following your passion is the best way to a successful career.
My mom actually gave me a great piece of advice: “you need to work hard, but you need to work smart”. Our family always believed in perseverance, but in a way that takes into account your time, resources and what you actually want to achieve.