Dina Elsokari

Inspirational Woman: Dina Elsokari | Sales Director UK & Ireland Enterprise, Databricks

Dina ElsokariDina Elsokari is currently serving as Sales Director UK & Ireland Enterprise at Databricks, managing a team focused on new business and high velocity selling in the UKI region.

She’s been working in software sales for fourteen years, with the goal of progressing the careers of her direct reports by managing in a safe environment driven by enablement, teamwork and growth. Prior to working at Databricks, Dina was a cloud sales specialist at Informatica.

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

I’m a mother of two and have been working in software sales for about fourteen years now.

I am currently leading a team of around nine account executives at Databricks covering the UK & Ireland market and supporting our business to grow the market share in the region.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  

I always knew I would eventually want to be in leadership but I was always flexible on when this would happen. I had two children during the course of my career, so I knew timelines were always going to be impacted by that as my priorities were changing. One goal I’ve always had is to be the best in my career while being an amazing mum too. Quite the balancing act!

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

Definitely! The day before I started my first role in sales I found out I was pregnant with my first. Being so new in my career and facing this unplanned yet wonderful change in my life was quite scary. I knew that I needed to be laser-focused on overachieving in my role to prove that I could manage both. We’re certainly moving in the right direction as an industry, and hopefully in the near future, soon-to-be mums won’t feel like they need to prove anything.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are a few things I could focus on. In 2021 I built a team from scratch that was mostly made up of account executives with little to no experience selling and some people who had never held a quota. That team meshed together so well that we set the bar for culture and overachieved where the majority of the team went over quota. The attainment was great but really the best part was how the team came together.

Another big achievement for me was when I was finally able to shake off what other people perceived of me. As soon as I was able to be honest about my strengths and weaknesses, it gave me more freedom to work better with my team, focus on my goals and grow as a leader.

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

Find your niche. Look for something you enjoy, that you excel at, and that you can obsess over. This isn’t going to be the only thing you’ll be good at, but it’ll be the thing that you’ll build your brand with. Speak up about it, be the expert, be proactive on it, and ultimately gain exposure for yourself, having built your brand and niche.

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

It’s an interesting question. On the one hand, me being a woman doesn’t stop me from doing anything in my day to day job. But thinking of the tech industry at large, I look around and don’t see many female leaders. We are still a long way from where we need to be.

I’d also love to see way more female candidates when I’m hiring, and that’s an industry-wide opportunity. To get more women into tech, we need to be more proactive as leaders. For example, if you know women early on in their careers, offer them some mentorship. Take a chance with candidates that have potential but may not have all the experience just yet. Finally, we all need to bridge that gap and make a conscious decision to proactively support the development of women in our organisations.

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

Give women a voice to speak at events or represent your organisation. Offer enablement programmes for anyone who might have the potential but lack the experience in years.

Offer flexible working for people who have competing responsibilities. The wonderful thing about making an environment that’s good for women to work in, is that you’re making it an environment that’s great to work in for everyone.

There are currently only 17 percent 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? 

I’d offer training and enablement to girls and women that are relevant to them and their interests. I’d also look at ways we can change how we present jobs and offer flexibility for someone with potential.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I really enjoy meetups – they’re the best way to network, create relationships and build your brand.

I watch a lot of TED talks for men and women and look at ways I can develop my public speaking skills. If we want to grow the number of women in tech, we need to be the inspiration that attracts those women into tech.

I also love training courses on psychology and how to manage your relationships – often confidence is a big blocker to starting something new, so understanding how to interact is really helpful. I recently did a course with Bogdan Manta from “The Essential Workshops”, who ran a session on the dynamics of mentoring. It’s all about honing in on skills around emotional intelligence and how communication and charisma are qualities that are valuable in mentorship.

Last but by no means least, I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s podcast series and some courses that his organisation runs around better leadership.

woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering Day

In 2021, are we doing enough to support women in engineering?

woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering Day

By Stefania Leone, Staff Product Manager at Databricks

In June 1919, the UK’s National Council of Women founded the Women’s Engineering Society – a group dedicated to the training and employment of women in technical and engineering work following the First World War.

A century later, however, only 11% of all engineers in the UK are women, the lowest percentage across Europe.  There has been an increase in diversity and inclusion efforts generally in recent years, but clearly there are barriers still in place that are keeping the number of women in engineering at a worryingly low level.

Encouraging women through education

A recent study found that when asked to draw a mathematician, girls were twice as likely to draw a man, highlighting the extent to which our society is stuck in harmful gender conformities and stereotypes.

While we are no longer telling young women that they aren’t able to or shouldn’t pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), there is an alarming difference in how confident young people are when it comes to engineering careers. Research from Engineering UK found that while 55% of boys aged 16 to 19 would consider a role in engineering, only 33% of girls felt the same, despite 94% of girls in the same age range agreeing that engineering is suitable for both boys and girls. There is something holding young women back and while it’s clear that the girls feel that engineering is a possibility for them, the confidence and desire to enter this space doesn’t seem to be there. For me personally, a lack of representation has a huge role to play in this. The more women that work in engineering, the better – they can inspire younger generations, trailblaze paths that others can follow, and be mentors to those that need guidance, all of which should help contribute to more women pursuing STEM roles in future.

Being the role model women deserve

Studies have found that women at university level are more likely to pursue a career in STEM when they are assigned female professors rather than male ones. During my studies, I was exposed to a number of female educators and surrounded by other female students too – seeing other people like me helped to keep me motivated and driven. My experience has shown that women attract women. For women in engineering, the lack of visibility of women in the sector is likely having long term ramifications. It’s the responsibility of women in these positions to act as role models and educate. It’s on us, the women, the leaders, and the educational system to show future generations that a career in engineering is desirable and a highly rewarding and stimulating place to be. After all, we’re the ones already doing it, so we’re best placed to tell our story and share our vision.

Beyond us as individuals educating and encouraging young women, organisations need to take more action to pass on knowledge and support and champion staff internally. For example, Databricks has its own Women in Technology mentorship programme which encourages women to share their experience with junior members of the team to empower them and help accelerate their progression. On top of programmes such as these, organisations should start to think about the kind of role models that they are offering their people. Our managers are really important for our career development – having someone who is not only motivating and shares their experience and knowledge but also enables the team to feel psychologically safe, to take risks and make their own decisions, is key.

Seeing someone who looks like you, and has had similar experiences, in a senior position will help women to both enter and aim high in engineering – for this reason, it’s critical we have more women in these positions to encourage other women and influence organisations to give back and be more accessible. I try to be a role model to the young women at work, my mentees but also in my personal life, to my daughter and her friends. There is a long way to go, but we must pave the way for future generations to show them that technology and engineering is the place to be – for everyone – and that it can also be combined with personal goals like a family. Representation is one of the key things that is going to drive women into engineering roles; if we want to see further positive change, we must take action and be the change we want to see. The problem isn’t going to fix itself.

Holly Smith

Holly Smith | Databricks

Holly Smith

Holly Smith has over a decade of experience working with Data & AI teams in a variety of capacities from individual contributors all the way up to leadership.

She has spent the last two years at Databricks working with many multi national companies as they embark on their journey to develop their data maturity. Prior to that she worked at Lloyds Banking Group in numerous data roles; Lead Data Scientist, Digital Analytics Manager, Credit Risk & Fraud Analyst. She also works with the non profits Datakind UK, Tech Talent Charter and Women in Data to advise on data strategy and operations.