Sherifa Hady joined Aruba from HPE in November 2019 as the Channel Sales Director for the EMEA Region and was promoted to Aruba Vice President Channel Sales EMEA 12 months into her role. In this position, she leads the Aruba channel sales organization and is responsible for driving the indirect business which comprises of distribution and channel partners across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She brought a wealth of sales, marketing, and category experience with her to Aruba having previously held a number of senior positions including one year as Interim Managing Director for HPE in South Africa before accepting the position as Aruba Channel Sales Director for EMEA.
Born in the UK, Sherifa has lived in Dubai for the past 26 years where her career has taken her from strength to strength within the IT industry. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Communications from Ain Shams University, Egypt and is married with two children.
In an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Ms. Sherifa Hady talks about the significant changes that have occurred in the IT industry and its future. She also shares her professional background, key roles and responsibilities at Aruba, the secret mantra behind her successful career, and a lot more. Following are the excerpts from the interview.
According to you, what are the most impactful changes that have occurred in the IT industry in the last decade and where is it heading towards now?
In the last decade, the IT industry has undergone significant changes, most notably a digital revolution. Today, we find ourselves in the digital revolution where data and technology play a vital role in shaping the strategies and progress of entire companies.
Companies like Uber and Airbnb, for example, have disrupted traditional industries by acting as intermediaries enabled by technology. This is a digital revolution where IT plays a huge role in advancing companies and providing them with a competitive edge. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of IT in supporting critical industries such as education and healthcare.
IT has thus become integral to organizational strategies, and I believe that it will continue to remain paramount. However, there has been a shift in the way our customers are consuming IT. Much like electricity, users want to turn it on and off, consuming as much (or as little) as needed. As a result, consumption models or “as-a-service” offerings are becoming increasingly popular. The cloud has played a significant role in this shift, impacting the IT industry in numerous ways. One of the key decisions companies now face is whether to keep their data on-premises, off-premises, or as a hybrid model.
The future of the IT industry is now centered around as-a-service, and consumption models, where companies can choose not to have the infrastructure in their data centers and avoid training technical staff. Instead, they can outsource these tasks to a company that can handle everything on their behalf, freeing up their resources to focus on more important areas of their business.
Are there any important projects that Aruba will be working on for the region in the coming future?
While we cannot disclose the specific projects, we are currently working on, we can say that we have a very strong presence in various sectors, including hospitality, healthcare, retail, education, and industrial sectors. Additionally, we have significant involvement in projects related to smart cities and buildings, working closely with companies to help them achieve their sustainability goals.
Can you tell us about your professional background and areas of interest?
As a teenager, I always dreamed of inventing something that could change the world and have a positive impact on people and humanity. This is what led me to pursue a career in engineering. I have been fortunate to work for a company that shares my passion for technology and strives to advance the way we work and live.
Looking back, I am proud to say that I have achieved my goal and that I have now been working in the IT industry for 27 years. It’s been a rewarding journey, and I am grateful for the opportunities that have allowed me to make a meaningful contribution to the world.
As the Vice President of Channel for EMEA, what are your primary roles and responsibilities at Aruba?
My primary responsibility is to lead and support my team, ensuring they bring their best selves to the office every day and are empowered to achieve their career aspirations. I am committed to developing their capabilities and achievements.
In terms of my wider responsibilities, I manage the channel for EMEA, which includes overseeing all aspects of the channel, from e-commerce and e-retailers to service providers, system integrators, and everything in between. My team also plays a key role in generating revenue for the company, and we work closely with our partners to manage their certification, training, and development. We also collaborate with them on pipelines and how to approach our customers.
Additionally, I oversee the field and inside sales teams, which operate out of our hubs in Barcelona, Prague, and Erskine. We have an operational team that manages our relationships with the 20,000 partners we work with every day, including our inside sales team. Overall, my role requires me to have a strategic vision for the channel and to collaborate effectively with various teams to achieve our business goals.
What are some of the challenges that you faced in your career? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?
This is an essential topic and one very close to my heart. When I spent five grueling years studying engineering, and I say grueling because I didn’t know Arabic very well having been born in the UK. I had to learn Arabic while I was studying engineering in Egypt, which was quite challenging. After five years of hard work, I was ready to enter the workforce and make a positive impact. However, two multinational companies rejected hiring me solely because I was a woman.
One of them cited late hours, and they didn’t feel it was inappropriate for me to work shifts that started or ended at 3 am. The other, an oil and gas company, did not allow women to work on oil rigs at that time. This experience shocked me – I never imagined my gender would be a limiting factor in my job search. This is why I believe that women should be given a fair chance and equal opportunity in the workforce, not an advantage, but a level playing field. Empowering women has always been a cause close to my heart.
I also believe that the older generation of women need to voice their career aspirations and what they want in their professional lives. In my experience, when comparing men and women in my team, I have observed that men tend to put their hands up and express their interest in job opportunities. They will say “I am passionate about this role, and I can do it” even if they are not fully qualified for it. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more reserved and cautious, wanting to ensure they are 120% ready before expressing their interest.
You are also a member of HPE’s inclusion and diversity ambassador programme and passionate about empowering women in the workforce. What do diversity, equity, and inclusivity mean to you & why are they important?
Inclusion and diversity are two distinct concepts. Inclusion means that everyone is accepted and valued, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, skin color, and gender. It is essential to ensure that everyone is understood and accepted, regardless of their background.
At our company, we prioritize inclusion and conduct training sessions on empathy for leaders and employees. We focus on how we can create a more inclusive work environment and encourage leaders to implement inclusion as one of four main leadership goals throughout the year. We measure our progress toward these goals, which demonstrate our commitment to creating an inclusive workplace where everyone is treated with respect and has the opportunity to thrive.
What is your advice to women entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up. Women should always be bold, confident, and feisty. I know a lot of entrepreneurs that have, like in any business, experienced ups and downs throughout their careers. It’s not easy to practice what you preach, and, unfortunately, we still see that male entrepreneurs have more success than female entrepreneurs. Women should remember, confidence in any business setting is paramount.
What are the aims and ideals that guide you as an individual and a professional?
I am a strong and avid believer in treating others as you wish to be treated. So, as a manager, I try not to micromanage but rather focus on results because questions such as ‘What time did you leave?’ ‘What time did you start?’ ‘What time did you end your day?’ are not constructive. As a leader, it’s always vital to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand what’s best for them. I am also a strong believer in God, and that your efforts toward others will be rewarded.
What’s a leadership lesson that you’ve learned that’s unique to being a female leader?
I’ve attended a lot of meetings where I have been the only woman in the room. Rather than feeling disadvantaged by my difference, I flip the narrative and see my opinion as essential, since I am the only one of my kind in the room. I believe that I have a rightful and important seat at the table. In many cases, women always sit at the back because they feel that they shouldn’t be at the table. I have a different perspective as a female, and I believe I am here because I’ve earned it.
I also remember once asking a colleague for feedback, who commented that sometimes I came across as a little bit aggressive, and on occasion demanding. My first thought was yes, Sherifa, you need to tone it down. But the next day I thought to myself that if I am not demanding and aggressive, people will walk all over me, and I will not get what I want. So, I also believe that sometimes you have to come across as demanding as a leader.
Being a successful industry leader with more than two decades of experience, what is the secret sauce behind your success?
I believe that being sincere, honest, and having integrity is vital. When my father passed away, I saw the legacy that he left behind. All of us will pass on one day, and how we impact people’s lives will be part of our legacy. Today I am proud that people who have left the company still call me after five and six years for career advice because they know that I will be sincere.
I also think work should be fun. I can be demanding but at the same time, we need to laugh and have fun. And I’m also always very vocal about what I am going to do next, and I make sure that my manager knows what I want to do next and that he or she needs to support me in that.
Finally, I would say networking is key. And this doesn’t only mean meeting people and having a drink with them, but rather building relationships with people that you admire and respect and keeping in contact with them.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a tech career?
Nothing can stop you. I think a lot of women, especially in this field, believe that they can’t have a career. I think that’s wrong, especially now, because there’s a lot of focus on giving women better chances in the IT industry. I always say as women, we are CEOs of our families, and if we can be the CEO of our family, why can’t we be the CEO of a company?
I think it’s important that all of us continue to make sure that everyone understands that it is possible. A few years ago, I had done a presentation at a technology college in Dubai and the students especially the girls in the session were motivated and eager to learn more when they saw me, a woman demonstrating and leading the tech forum. I think what we need more is for the world to see and understand that a woman can have a career, succeed, and have fun.
What key opportunities do you see for channel partners in the next five years?
Channel partners today are faced with a golden opportunity. If we look at channel partners from 10 years ago, they will take the products from the distributor and sell them to the customer, or you might have an advanced partner, that will take the product from the distributor, add some services, bundle it together, and then provide it to the customer. Usually, it was the vendor who was in control, and the vendor was the ecosystem that every partner wanted to be a part of.
Today, channel partners are the ones driving the discussion, whether digital transformation, clouds, applications, or consumption models. The channel partners are in a very strong place today – they just need to decide what role they want to play, and what kind of a partner they want to be.