Nabila Salem - Revolent Nabila joined the board of Tenth Revolution Group in 2020 as the President of Revolent.

She is responsible for leading on the creation of cloud talent and has over 15 years of experience in professional services, tech recruitment, and marketing in the UK and USA. Nabila plays an active role in encouraging, supporting, and promoting diversity in the workplace and in 2019 featured in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 list.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

At the beginning of this year, I joined the board of Tenth Revolution Group. I am also the President of our cloud talent creation division, Revolent Group. We cross-train talent that can thrive in cloud technology markets like Salesforce, AWS, and ServiceNow before placing them on client sites. I’ve got ambitious plans for Revolent Group, and this year we will see 300 people go through our programmes in the UK, US, and Australia, fuelling the market with much-needed cloud professionals.

Prior to this, I worked at FDM Group for 12 years alongside the founders in the UK and the USA. I saw the business grow from 300 to 4,000 people and what once was a family-run business became a FTSE 250 company. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with two founders so far in my career and have learned a great deal from them.

I also worked at IBM—so as you can see, my career has always been in the tech industry. I am passionate about diversity and inclusion, so I get involved in various initiatives and mentoring programmes throughout the year to inspire the next generation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

Yes, several times. Truth be told, it didn’t go as planned—I ended up doing different things than I originally planned and achieved far more than I set out to do.

I believe that plans are merely guidelines and should define goals that give us aspirations. However, the best plans are fluid and not set in stone—they develop, evolve, and change all the time. When opportunities arise, we need to be ready to jump at them and see where the journey takes us. If our plans are too rigid, we may miss out on those golden opportunities.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

The industries I’ve worked in have always been male-dominated, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t faced challenges along the way. But then again, who hasn’t? These are precisely the lessons that make us stronger and wiser. You overcome challenges by facing them head-on. The worst thing you can do is ignore a challenging situation because it begins to grow and will resurface will vengeance.

The biggest challenges and barriers exist in our minds. If we can overcome these, then there shouldn’t be anything else stopping us. The best advice I can give anyone reading this is to believe in yourself because if you don’t believe in yourself then no one else will.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date? 

I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve several great accomplishments in my career, including my most recent appointment as President of Revolent Group, and being recognised in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35. But for me, my most significant career achievement was being the first and youngest woman to be promoted to VP at a FTSE 250 firm because it paved the way for other women and ethnic minorities to follow.

I was responsible for overseeing a team spanning five time zones. During that time, I was able to make great strides in diversifying the workplace and introducing numerous impactful initiatives around the world.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Perseverance. The barriers I’ve faced in my career represented opportunities for me to accomplish something. If you have a goal you want to achieve, keep trying until you get there—multiple roads lead to the same place. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?  

Technology is continuously evolving, so grab every opportunity you can to upskill. If you have the drive to work hard, the determination to persevere, and the courage to put your ideas forward, you will excel. Finally, remember that success is a journey; it’s not all destination—so celebrate every little win you achieve along the way.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome? 

Yes, I do think there are still barriers for women in tech—especially when it comes down to workplace inclusion and visible representation of women in senior roles. However, barriers also represent an opportunity. You need to believe in yourself and know your worth. It helps to have sponsors at work who are willing to put their reputation on the line for you, as well as mentors who can guide you along the way.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

A lot of the challenges women face in the industry coincide with having a family—the ‘motherhood penalty.’ It’s at this point when employers should prevent making their female talent feel guilty for wanting to have both a career and a family. Instead, they should be giving them additional support and encouragement to help them balance their responsibilities and progress as the tech leaders of tomorrow.

When I worked at IBM many years ago, the former Chairman in EMEA recognised this challenge and introduced an initiative to combat the issue. He made everyone’s job flexible, including his own, and gave mothers a pay rise when they returned to work after maternity—a great example for other companies to follow.

There is currently 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

The digital skills gap continues to widen, and with the demand for tech professionals still outweighing the supply, candidates have more power than ever to gain the job of their dreams. If I could wave a magic wand, I would let every woman see what their future could look like if they chose a career in tech—the opportunities are infinite.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?  

There is so much out there to choose from in terms of resources nowadays. Networking events and conferences such as WeAreTechWomen and the Women in IT Summit are well worth attending. They’re both great platforms to meet new people, expand your tech network, and learn from others.

If you feel held back in your career, I would highly recommend reading ‘Playing Big’ by Tara Mohr. It was given to me when I was at a crossroads in my career, and it gave me the encouragement I needed to progress and take on new projects that led me to where I am today. Finally, if you don’t have a mentor—get one. I’m very fortunate to have a network of mentors that have helped me in many different ways throughout my career, from general advice and guidance to introducing me to valuable new contacts.