Sheeba Hasnain, Chairwoman & CIO, SENTIENTE

Sheeba Hasnain, is an award-winning Technocrat, AI Expert, Business Digital Transformation Specialist, Speaker and an Entrepreneur, driving transformation in Multinational Industries, and Government Sector with her unwavering commitment to innovation and digital transformation, Sheeba has emerged as a beacon of inspiration for Women in Tech, where she stands out as true trailblazer in the dynamic landscape of technology and business.

Her passion for technology, coupled with her strategic acumen, propelled her through prestigious positions in MNCs and Government of UAE from a Software Programmer to Leadership Positions. Most recently, she embarked her entrepreneurship endeavour to pursue her passion in Publishing Industry as Chairwoman and CIO for SENTIENTE, with her clear vision to bridge the gap between traditional and the digital age publishing. Her passion and innovative approach towards spreading awareness about reading and writing is appreciated by Ministry of Education, UAE under The Next Founder banner at National Science and Technology Festival, Dubai.

Her journey from seasoned IT executive to entrepreneurial visionary exemplifies resilience, vision, and the power of breaking barriers. As she climbed the corporate ladder, Sheeba observed the seismic shifts brought about by digital disruption. Rather than merely adapting, she decided to lead the charge through SENTIENTE, meaning “Able to sense”, reflects her commitment to staying attuned to the pulse of the industry.

Moreover, her accolades include being an author for ‘Thankfulness the Art’ and co-author of GreenPMO, and launching one of the most prestigious Women Empowering Women Initiative to empower women and girls by inspirational motivation. Alongside distinctions such as CIO 50 Middle East, Chief in Tech Leader, The World CIO 200, Women in Business & Technology and Women in AI awards exemplifies her visionary leadership.

In an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Sheeba shared her professional trajectory, current role and responsibilities as Chairwoman and CIO at SENTIENTE, insights on diversity and inclusion in tech, the key to her success as a leader, her secret to striking a work-life balance, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Sheeba. Tell us about your career path. What experiences have brought you here?

Certainly. My career path has been a journey fuelled by a deep passion for technology and an unwavering commitment to driving digital transformation. It all began with humble origins as a Software Programmer, where I honed my skills and embraced the ever-evolving landscape of technology.

Throughout my tenure in Multinational Corporations and the esteemed Government Sectors of UAE, I had the privilege of holding diverse leadership positions, including Senior Digital Transformation Leader and Head of IT Operations etc. These roles provided me with invaluable opportunities to collaborate closely with cross-functional teams and vendors, delivering innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of stakeholders.

One pivotal moment in my journey was the realization of the seismic shifts brought about by digital disruption. Rather than merely adapting to these changes, I made a conscious decision to lead the charge. This led me to embark on my entrepreneurial endeavour as Chairwoman & CIO of SENTIENTE, a Publishing & Distribution Company dedicated to bridging the gap between traditional and digital-age publishing.

My transition from a seasoned IT executive to an entrepreneurial visionary exemplifies resilience, vision, and the power of breaking barriers. Alongside my professional endeavours, I am also a prolific author, with books such as ‘Thankfulness The Art’, ‘An Adventurous Journey of Shayan & Mostafa with Spider Jinni’ etc. to my name and ‘GreenPMO’ as co-author. Additionally, I am deeply committed to empowering women and girls into their wholistic growth through initiatives led by me i.e. the Women Empowering Women. Its shapes a book, which tells stories about great women leaders and their struggles as Inspirational motivation.

My journey has been marked by a pursuit of excellence, culminating as Masters in Computer Application (MCA), an MBA in Leadership & Strategy and pursuing Ph.D. in Business Management. Moreover, my continuous pursuit of knowledge is reflected in my certifications in project management, governance, service management, and AI & cloud technologies.

As I reflect on my career path, I am filled with gratitude for the experiences and people who have shaped me into the leader I am today. My journey underscores the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and a relentless dedication to driving meaningful change in the digital landscape. A short poem by me defines my journey, I hope you would like it.

“In pieces I lay, trying to mend my way, Time, energy, and effort I did pay. From tiny bits, a new me did sway, A marvel to me, and hearts in a gentle display.”

You are Chairwoman & CIO at SENTIENTE. Can you please tell us about this publishing house and your role in it?

Absolutely. As Chairwoman and CIO of SENTIENTE, I am deeply passionate about revolutionizing the publishing industry through a commitment to sustainability and digital transformation. SENTIENTE isn’t just a book publishing house; it’s a visionary endeavour aimed at setting a new standard for green publishing and distribution, aligned with the UN 17 sustainability goals and establishing innovative approaches to preserve the interest of reading and writing for sustainable humanity.

At SENTIENTE, our mission goes beyond simply producing and distributing books. We aim to lead by example, showcasing how the principles of sustainability can be seamlessly integrated into every aspect of the publishing process. From minimizing our carbon footprint through eco-friendly printing practices to adopting digital distribution channels that reduce paper waste, sustainability is at the core of everything we do.

As Chairwoman, my role is to provide strategic direction and leadership, ensuring that our vision for green publishing is realized at every level of the organization. I work closely with our talented team to innovate and implement sustainable practices across all facets of our operations, from content creation to distribution logistics.

As the Chief Information Officer, I am responsible for spearheading our digital transformation initiatives. Leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as AI, , IoET, blockchain, and cloud computing, I oversee the development of innovative digital platforms that streamline our publishing processes and enhance the readers’ experience.

But perhaps most importantly, my role at SENTIENTE is to inspire change. Through our initiatives, we aim to not only transform the way books are published and distributed but also to inspire people to read and write to embrace sustainability by digital innovation. By leading the charge towards a greener, more sustainable future for publishing, we hope to leave a lasting impact on the industry and the world at large.

In essence, SENTIENTE is more than just a book publishing house; it’s a movement towards a brighter, more sustainable future for literature and the planet. And I am honoured to lead the charge in this exciting journey of transformation and innovation.

What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion in tech? How important is it to have authentic conversations with leaders, professionals, and changemakers to create more acceptance across the globe?

Diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords; they are essential pillars of a thriving and innovative tech industry. As a leader in the technology sector, I firmly believe that diversity in all its forms – be it gender, race, ethnicity, or background – fosters creativity, drives innovation, and ultimately leads to better business outcomes.

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of technology, having a diverse team ensures that a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and ideas are brought to the table. This diversity of thought is crucial for solving complex problems, anticipating market needs, and staying ahead of the curve in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Moreover, fostering an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute is not just the right thing to do; it’s also good for business. Studies have consistently shown that companies with diverse and inclusive workforces outperform their peers in terms of innovation, employee engagement, and financial performance by enhancing their dynamic capabilities.

However, achieving true diversity and inclusion in tech requires more than just hiring a diverse workforce; it requires a commitment to creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and supported. This includes actively promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives, providing equal opportunities for career advancement, and addressing unconscious biases that may exist within the organization.

Authentic conversations with leaders, professionals, and changemakers are crucial in driving this cultural shift towards greater acceptance and inclusion. By engaging in open and honest dialogue, we can challenge assumptions, break down barriers, and foster understanding and empathy across diverse communities.

As someone who has experienced firsthand the transformative power of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation and success, I am committed to championing these values both within my organization and across the tech industry as a whole. Together, through authentic conversations and concerted action, we can create a more inclusive and accepting world for all.

What, personally, has allowed you the success you have had in the role of a leader in technology?

“Are you crazy enough to change the world?  You are a Leader.” My own quote resonates with my obsession towards my work. The key to my success as a leader in technology lies in my unwavering passion for innovation and digital transformation, coupled with a relentless drive and vision to make a meaningful impact. Throughout my career, I have embraced challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, leveraging my strategic acumen and technical expertise to drive positive change.

One of the defining factors of my success has been my ability to adapt and evolve in the face of rapid technological advancements and industry shifts. Whether it was transitioning from a Software Programmer to a leadership role or founding SENTIENTE to spearhead green publishing, I have consistently demonstrated GRIT, Vision, and a Willingness to break barriers.

Moreover, my commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech industry has been instrumental in driving innovation and creating a culture of belonging within my organization.  For instance, a shining example of my dedication to fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech realm is the Women Empowering Women initiative. Through this program, we empower girls and women by sharing the stories of successful female leaders via a book. By amplifying these narratives, we inspire and uplift, demonstrating firsthand the transformative power of representation and mentorship in shaping the next generation of leaders.

By championing authentic conversations within my organization, inspiring my follower on social media and initiatives such as; the Women Empowering Women. I am trying to cultivate  a culture of inclusivity world-wide. This approach harnesses the diverse talents and perspectives of our workforce by fostering creativity, innovation, and ultimately, success.

The meaning of leadership can change from one era to the other, how would you define the meaning of leadership today?

In today’s dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape, the essence of leadership transcends traditional paradigms, encompassing a multifaceted blend of vision, transformative capability, and emotional intelligence. Leadership today is not merely about commanding authority or exerting control; rather, it is about inspiring and empowering others to realize their full potential in pursuit of a shared vision.

At its core, leadership in the contemporary era is characterized by vision. A leader must possess the foresight to anticipate emerging trends, identify opportunities amidst challenges, and chart a course toward a brighter future. This vision serves as a guiding light, rallying individuals and organizations around a common purpose and igniting passion and commitment. For Instance: A medical research team tackling a complex disease might have a virologist, a geneticist, and a biochemist working together. The leader facilitates communication and collaboration, ensuring everyone understands the bigger picture and how their expertise contributes to the solution. That’s what visionary leaders does they try to communicate and assimilate their vision to their people to proceed all towards one direction. Here I would add few lines by W.B. Yeats.

“The Wild Swans at Coole” by W.B. Yeats: Their images I see them sailing there, Far away beyond the reach of noise, For all their trouble and their wrongs declared, They too are fortunate in their immortalize delight. This poem, speaks about the power of unity and shared vision. The swans, like a flock, move purposefully together is a symbol of resilience and unwavering direction.

Moreover, leadership today necessitates transformative capability—the ability to catalyse change, drive innovation, and adapt to an ever-changing landscape. In an era marked by digital disruption and rapid technological advancement, leaders must be agile and adaptable, unafraid to challenge the status quo and embrace new ways of thinking and operating.

Crucially, emotional intelligence lies at the heart of effective leadership in the modern age. Leaders must possess the empathy and self-awareness to connect with and understand the needs and motivations of those they lead. By fostering a culture of trust, collaboration, and inclusivity, emotionally intelligent leaders inspire loyalty and engagement, unlocking the full potential of their teams.

A tangible example of contemporary leadership in action can be found in my own journey with SENTIENTE. By envisioning a publishing industry that embraces sustainability and digital innovation, I have endeavoured to lead by example, inspiring others to reimagine what is possible and embrace change for the betterment of our industry and society.

In essence, leadership today is about more than just guiding from the front; it is about cultivating a culture of vision, transformation, and empathy that empowers individuals and organizations to thrive in an ever-evolving world.

Where or whom do you seek motivation and inspiration from? How?

My motivation and inspiration stem from various sources, both internal and external. While I am inherently self-guided and driven by an intrinsic desire to make a difference, my parents and husband serve as my greatest sources of motivation. Their unwavering support, encouragement, and belief in my abilities propel me forward, even in the face of adversity.

Additionally, I draw inspiration from the stories of visionary leaders and icons who have left an indelible mark on the world. For Instance; H.H Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Makhtom Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, exemplifies visionary leadership and unwavering dedication to progress and innovation. Moreover, figures like Amitabh Bachchan, Indira Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth, and Bill Gates inspire me with their resilience, vision, and transformative impact on society.

Beyond literature and biographies, I find inspiration in cinematic portrayals of leadership and triumph over adversity. Movies depicting the journeys of remarkable individuals serve as poignant reminders of the power of perseverance and determination in the face of challenges.

Ultimately, my motivation and inspiration are deeply rooted in a desire to make a positive impact on the world around me, fuelled by the examples set forth by those who have come before me and the unwavering support of my loved ones.

What is your secret to striking a work-life balance?

“Nature is my therapy and I love being with nature.”

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is paramount to me, and my approach is multifaceted. Firstly, I prioritize effective time management and organization, ensuring that I allocate dedicated time for work, family, and personal pursuits. Setting boundaries and adhering to them allows me to be fully present and engaged in each aspect of my life without feeling overwhelmed.

Moreover, I believe in the importance of self-care and prioritizing my well-being. Regular exercise, meditation, being with nature, spending quality time with family, enjoying and cheering with my friends, lightening candles in my home are few most lovable activities I practice  daily and it brings smile to my face.

Hobbies such as writing book, reading fiction and self-help books rejuvenate me and provide much-needed relaxation amidst the demands of work and family responsibilities.

Communication is another cornerstone of my work-life balance strategy. Open and honest communication with my colleagues, team members, and loved ones helps manage expectations and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding commitments and priorities.

Finally, I embrace flexibility and adaptability, recognizing that life is inherently unpredictable. Being able to adjust my schedule and approach as needed enables me to navigate unexpected challenges while maintaining equilibrium between work and personal life.

In essence, my secret to striking a work-life balance lies in proactive planning, self-care, effective communication, love of nature and a willingness to adapt to life’s ever-changing dynamics.

How do you stay up to date on the latest developments in your field?

Staying abreast of the latest developments in my field is essential to me, and I employ a multifaceted approach to ensure I remain well-informed. Conferences, webinars, and training sessions are invaluable opportunities for me to engage with industry experts, exchange ideas, and gain insights into emerging trends and technologies. By actively participating in these events, I not only expand my knowledge base but also forge valuable connections within the tech community.

Additionally, I regularly read technology and business magazines, such as Gartner and IDC reports, to glean insights from industry-leading research and analysis. These publications provide a comprehensive overview of market dynamics, emerging technologies, and best practices, allowing me to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Furthermore, I actively seek out thought leadership content and educational resources online, including whitepapers, research papers, blogs, and podcasts. Engaging with diverse perspectives and expert opinions helps me gain a deeper understanding of complex issues and innovative solutions.

Ultimately, my commitment to continuous learning and professional development drives me to explore new avenues for knowledge acquisition and stay updated on the latest developments in my field.

Where would you like to be in the next 5 years?

In the next five years, I envision myself making significant strides in my journey towards creating a more sustainable and inclusive future. As a staunch advocate for women empowerment, I aspire to continue championing initiatives like Women Empowering Women, leveraging storytelling and mentorship to inspire and uplift girls and women worldwide.

Furthermore, I am deeply passionate about education and environmental sustainability. I see myself actively involved in philanthropic efforts aimed at providing education for underprivileged children, empowering them with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive in the digital age. Additionally, I am committed to working on plantation initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint and combat climate change, aligning with my vision for a greener, more sustainable planet.

Professionally, I aim to remain at the forefront of digital transformation, pioneering innovative solutions that drive positive change in industries and communities. Whether through developing sustainable business practices or leveraging technology for social impact, I am dedicated to creating tangible and lasting value for future generations.

Ultimately, in the next five years, I aspire to be at the intersection of technology, sustainability, and social impact, leading meaningful initiatives that make a difference in the world.

What advice would you give to young women who are interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or maths (STEM) fields?

To young women aspiring to pursue careers in STEM fields, I offer the following advice gleaned from my own experiences and aspirations:

First and foremost, believe in yourself and your abilities. As STEM is traditionally dominated by men, it’s crucial to cultivate self-confidence and resilience. Know that your unique perspectives and talents are invaluable assets that contribute to the richness and diversity of the STEM community.

Embrace opportunities for learning and growth. Stay curious and open-minded, and never stop exploring new ideas and technologies. Seek out mentors and role models who can offer guidance and support as you navigate your STEM journey. Surround yourself with a supportive network of peers and colleagues who share your passion for innovation and discovery.

My story of success is a testament and real-life case-study of self to never stop, dream big and pursue your passion irrespective of your economic, societal and physical status and norms. “Passion lies in heart and heart is connected to God. If God is helping you to realize your dream no external circumstances can stop, you to move ahead.”

My recognitions and accolades goes beyond an individual Sheeba Hasnain; it’s a recognition to my adversities. Those were standing between me and my passion and by the time my will power could overcome those to move ahead. It is a celebration of belief, trust, and skills that, over time, enabled my willpower to overcome adversity and propel me forward.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Aspire to be a trailblazer and a change-maker, unafraid to question norms and push boundaries. Embrace failure as an opportunity for growth and learning, and never let setbacks deter you from pursuing your dreams.

Additionally, prioritize sustainability and social impact in your career aspirations. The world needs compassionate and forward-thinking STEM professionals who are dedicated to creating solutions that address pressing global challenges, such as climate change and inequality. Consider how your skills and expertise can be leveraged to make a positive difference in the world, whether through digital transformation initiatives, environmental conservation efforts, or educational outreach programs.

Finally, never lose sight of the importance of work-life balance and holistic well-being. As you embark on your STEM journey, remember to prioritize self-care, mental health, and personal fulfilment. Strive to create a career path that aligns with your values and aspirations, allowing you to make a meaningful impact while also leading a fulfilling and balanced life.

In essence, my advice to young women pursuing careers in STEM is to be bold, be resilient, and be mindful of the impact you can have on the world. Embrace your passions, seek out opportunities for growth and learning, and always strive to make a difference in the lives of others. At last this quote by me is a message to all women: Your Passion can crush the barriers, Unleash the Power of Womanhood.

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