Meet Farah, the Vice President of Service Design Process Governance at Standard Chartered, Malaysia. With an exceptional career trajectory and 13 well-deserved promotions, Farah is an inspirational figure for women in technology. Since joining Standard Chartered in 2003 as an IT Security Executive, Farah's unwavering dedication and expertise have not only reshaped the landscape of Standard Chartered but have also made her a respected leader in her field. Her remarkable journey and leadership serve as a beacon for aspiring professionals in the technology industry, embodying the spirit of resilience, empowerment, and success.
Why did you choose a career in technology?
I wanted to add the humanised, user-centric, design-thinking lens on top of the hype and buzz of new, shiny technical things that we often glamourise will solve everything.
What has kept you motivated to stay in the technology field for so long?
There’s always something new, fresh, creative and exciting happening in the technology field. You can always feel the buzz and energy of the community getting hyped up with the latest in technology. The only way to stay relevant is to have that deep-seated curiosity to learn and the determination and drive to apply the learnings and deliver results.
What takeaways from your career journey you would like to share with a new graduate entering the workforce?
Be authentic and unapologetically yourself; believe in yourself, if you don’t, who will?
Face problems by being their solution. If you can’t find any answers, create the answers.
Be kind and nice to yourself, remember that every expert was once a beginner.
What is your proudest achievement in your career with Standard Chartered so far, and why has it been meaningful to you?
A few achievements spring to mind!
Setting up a brand-new function. It was nerve-wracking to look at a blank piece of canvas and have to make a variety of decisions to create something brand-new. There’s no precedence, no reference and no experts to hand you the answers. You need to use your skills to create your own solutions.
Other proud achievements that are close to my heart are being able to see junior colleagues (including my own team members, those that I hire, and those that I mentor and coach) blossom, grow and mature in their own career paths. It’s paramount to understand each and every person as the individual that they are, respect their individual strengths and understand their true potential.
Tell me a time when you faced a particularly difficult challenge in your career, and how you overcame it?
In the past, I have faced physical burnout and mental block. Even when I am willing to keep going, it’s important to recognise the signs and take the necessary steps to rest to recover. This allowed me to return to work with a refreshed mindset and attitude. This is another great example of why the 2 weeks block leave is mandatory at the Bank.
How do you foster a culture of innovation and collaboration within your team, and what role do you believe diversity plays in driving these outcomes?
Make it a safe space for everyone to be genuinely themselves and to be able to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Let everyone know they can keep trying, failing and trying again. It’s important that each member of the team adopts a collective mindset; this helps to prioritise the team's interests and provide support. We are one team, we will either succeed or fail together. Diversity in the team means we have a variety of backgrounds, experiences and knowledge and this helps to bring more to the table and even helps to provide eye-opening “wow, I’ve never thought of it that way” moments.
How do you instil a culture of continuous learning within your team?
Start by sharing knowledge with the team. Then ask the team, especially those more junior than you, to also teach you or share knowledge with you. Be generous and grateful that you are learning from them. This give-and-take, back-and-forth, repeated over time, normalises learning and sharing with each other. This positions everyone to see themselves as an expert in something. This also builds the mini habit of learning something small, in the moment.
What would surprise people about working at Standard Chartered?
I think that it would surprise most people that working at the Bank can actually be fun. There are often different social events, engagement sessions and volunteering activities happening.
On a more serious note, our Group Code of Conduct aligns with many people’s personal values, hence many colleagues sincerely uphold the ‘Here for Good’ commitment and continue to grow together with the organisation. We have colleagues whose Long Service reached 30, 40 and even 50 years. We have colleagues who proudly share that their father or even grandfather worked for Standard Chartered and he’s the third generation. This all helps to build the culture that we will be there for the customer, now and for years to come.
What would you say to someone thinking about making the move from a technology organisation to Standard Chartered?
You absolutely have to give it a go. It’s a different ballgame being a technologist in a non-technology company. This is where you apply and implement the technology and deliver real-world value. Here you will realise the technical know-how is not enough, you will need to constantly consider the human usability aspect as well as coping with the constraints of regulations and controls.
What advice would you give to young women looking to build a career in technology?
Don’t let the imposter syndrome get to you. Be mindful of your own childhood programming, how you identify yourself and your own internal bias.
Seek mentorship and coaching and build a support network. Don’t try to go at it alone and suffer in silence. Be ready to accept feedback, advice and support.
Showcase your own work, and put the spotlight on yourself.