Nadia Alaee

Nadia Alaee leads the global HR Business Partnership team at Deel. Nadia and her team develop deep partnerships with Deel’s leaders to support, engage and grow their teams.

She partners closely with stakeholders across the organization and the People Team to ensure team members have the best experience from onboarding and through their tenure at Deel. Nadia has worked in big tech, such as YouTube and Liftoff Mobile, but found her niche in the startup space, where she can build and scale organizations from zero to a hundred.

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

I’m not one of those people who grew up knowing what they wanted to do – or what they wanted to be. And I most certainly never expected to be working in tech. My background is actually more in the art space. At university, I studied political science and art history. My passions are art, architecture, and interior design, leading me to my first job at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

But when I got offered an opportunity that I honestly couldn’t refuse, it opened up an entirely new door into the tech world that I’d never considered. Working at YouTube as an HR Business Partner, I worked alongside loads of talented tech leaders, and I still feel so lucky that I was able to learn from the best in the business.

Working there gave me a hunger to do more, so I found myself venturing into the world of startups. Leaning on the skills I learned while working with clients at the museum and my significant business experience at YouTube, I felt confident in leading a team of around 600 people. This was a big challenge, but I loved it. From that moment, I knew I would continue working focused on people for the foreseeable future.

With this people-first experience under my belt, I joined Deel, where I am today. A company with people at its core, the mission of giving everyone access to opportunities resonated with me. Now, I’m a People Officer at Deel – the global payroll company – responsible for leading the HR business partner team. Day to day, I partner closely with stakeholders across the organisation and the People Team to ensure 3,000+ team members across 100+ countries and 20+ time zones have the best experience from onboarding and through their time at Deel.

I was so passionate, which was great, but I had to learn that not every battle is worth fighting. And certainly, not every battle should be fought at the same time. This is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received, and I often remind myself of it today.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

While I never sat down with a pen and paper and mapped out the course of my career, I’ve always been one to look for the next big opportunity. It may sound cliché, but from an early age, I thrived in situations where there was an opportunity to learn and grow.

Feeling fulfilled at work is a huge factor for me. And I think that’s why my role at Deel feels so natural. It’s super important to me that my role aligns with my values and is something I feel passionate about. I guess that’s why I took on a people role!

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

Absolutely. My biggest challenge has always been myself. I have very high expectations of myself, and I can get bogged down if I don’t deliver something well or up to my own standards. This has been both a blessing and a curse. I’m lucky I’ve always had supportive managers who have helped me slow down and not get ahead of myself. This is something I’ve taken on in my own managerial style.

Early on in my career, I was so passionate, which was great, but I had to learn that not every battle is worth fighting. And certainly, not every battle should be fought at the same time. This is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received, and I often remind myself of it today. Being self-aware, learning about yourself and how you work with others—rolling with the punches and becoming more agile—was the key for me to overcome these challenges.

What has been your most significant career achievement to date?

Leaving YouTube to join a small start-up was a big risk—a risk that paid off. I am so proud to have supported the company’s growth—taking it from a handful of employees to a 600-person business. I became central to the company’s growth and happiness as the dedicated “people person.

If I’m honest, I initially had to lean on my intuition and natural people skills. There was a bit of “fake it until you make it” going on, but I knew I had what it took to support the company’s talent. I tried to be confident in my current skill set, ambitious, and open to learning what I did not know—no imposter syndrome allowed.

I’m proud to have used these skills to do something similar at Deel. When I joined, we employed around 800 people, and now we have 3,000+ employees in 105 countries; the growth is so wild. It’s been an enriching experience to use my skills to support Deel’s growth. Without supporting our people, we wouldn’t have become one of the fastest-growing SaaS companies to date. I learn something new every day, and it’s been special for me to be a part of this growing company.

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

First and foremost, not being afraid to ask questions and ask for help. It’s something I wish I’d done more earlier in my career. The internet, HR forums, and groups have been my best friend, and I’ve probably read every HR handbook. I never think I know everything and try to leverage my resources daily to learn, grow, and develop.

But, the key factor would have to be my relationships with my colleagues and others in the HR industry. We’re so fortunate that we’re now in a position where we have access to a wide range of contacts through platforms like LinkedIn. And I’d encourage anyone to attend networking events when you can. Having regular conversations with these like-minded individuals is incredibly helpful for both parties. I’m lucky one of my good friends also works as an HR leader, and we’re regularly comparing notes, sharing resources, and bouncing ideas off one another. Be humble, kind, and learn from others are values I subscribe to, both in my personal approach and leadership style.

Barriers exist for women in every industry—they aren’t unique to tech. Although we have improved over the last few years, we still need to do the work to invest in women’s tech careers truly.

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

Agility and flexibility in tech are key. The technology sector is an incredibly fast-paced environment, so learning how to respond quickly to feedback is crucial. And this may not always be positive feedback, but that’s just as important.

I also think it’s important to know how you work. We recently carried out the ‘colours assessment’ at Deel, which gives you insight into your working style. Interestingly, I learned that ‘perseverance’ became a critical working trait for HR professionals. That said, I would encourage anyone working with people in the tech industry to keep persevering. You will need to push through the pace of change, which is no mean feat!

Also, I’d encourage everyone not to take themselves too seriously—have fun, celebrate every milestone, and just enjoy the ride.

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

Barriers exist for women in every industry—they aren’t unique to tech. Although we have improved over the last few years, we still need to do the work to invest in women’s tech careers truly.

This groundwork is necessary if we see real, lasting change. But breaking down the barriers needs to start from the top. Stepping back, looking at the reality of the situation, and then working to move the needle. Until this is a priority on an organisational level, I think we’ll struggle to see further change.

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

While change should start from senior leadership, this needs to filter down to all levels of the working team and outside the workplace. From parenting to what we’re taught in school, university, adult life, and beyond. What we consume in the media, workplace, and our personal lives plays an integral role in the future of work. Businesses must ensure their employees are consuming the correct information if the rest of the world isn’t keeping up.

I’m also a great believer that women need to support women. Celebrating each other’s successes is crucial, and companies should ensure plenty of opportunities for this. That’s why having female mentors in the workplace is so important. Having the option to lean on someone who can relate to troubles you may be having and encouraging positive reinforcement has been key to my success.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Surfing websites, listening to the latest podcasts, and attending conferences are all great ways to keep learning and up to date with the latest tech trends.

However, my key recommendation is to build honest relationships with your colleagues and those in similar positions in the industry. This is how information is shared most organically. Learning from others is one of our greatest gifts, so ask those important questions and have those interactions. Essentially, if in doubt, ask someone the question!

Read more from our inspirational women here.