Guest Blog - Women in Data & Technology: Beenish Sami, Practera
Beenish is currently working as the Director of Engineering for education start up Practera. She comes from a strong technical background with over 16 years of experience in technology, working across a diverse range of roles including (Senior) Developer, Scrum Master, Technical Producer and Delivery Manager.
Beenish is a dedicated people leader, with a passion for building teams from the ground up to form tightly-knit and productive communities.
Would you describe yourself as a naturally confident and extroverted person?
I would say I don’t see myself as a naturally confident or extroverted person at all. My natural state is quite introverted and I think that is quite common in our industry. Not many people believe me when I tell them this because they’ll say that they see me talking to people without issue all the time or they’ve seen me talk to a room of people or control a group of people during a workshop. Like anything else though, I see being confident as a learned skill that can be taught and one can improve on over time. Being introverted helps me to treat people with empathy those on my team who are also introverted and making sure they have the time, space and support to contribute just as much as the more extroverted, confident and outspoken individuals. I see it as a mistake to reward confidence and extroversion as it is a state of being not a value to judge someone on. Doing so only raises few people up. I want to ensure that everyone is raised up and given the opportunity to grow, improve and contribute.
If you look back over your life were there any examples where you felt that a lack of confidence has held you back?
Looking back, I think I had a tendency to wait for opportunities to do what I wanted and accepted at face value assertions that there is no current business need, even if i saw a need. I allowed myself to be held back because I didn’t know how to fight for what I thought was the right way forward. I knew that getting stuck in the rut of doing things the way we’ve always done them leads to stagnation and lack of growth that can be harmful to the teams prospects long term.
We constantly hear the term “Imposter Syndrome” as a way for people to describe how they feel. I’m not going to debate how real Imposter Syndrome is or if it’s even the right word. What I will say is that though fear holds us back. For me it was the fear that I don’t belong or don’t deserve to be in the space I am in because of how someone speaks to me or in some cases does not speak to me.
What have you done to overcome this in your career?
I realised that I don’t just have to blindly accept one individual's view of business needs as an excuse to not do what I needed to do to move myself forward and move my work forward. If I wanted to do something or learn something, I went and did it and tried to use or apply what I learned in my work. When I no longer waited for permission and did what I needed to do I experienced good outcomes. At the end of the day what matters is the outcome. Not everything you try has to work, but I wouldn’t know what works or doesn’t work if I never tried it. I try to instill this same culture of experimentation and trying new ways to do things in my team. Giving them the space to prove value has lead to a happier team and a better product.
The other thing I’ve done is learned to assert my experience, training and knowledge to show that yes, I do belong in this space. It can be exhausting to have to do this time and time again, especially in a new space, but if I don’t do it then I need to remember that no one will do it for me.
Are there any pivotal moments in your career and work life that have contributed to you building your confidence
There have been a few moments but I’ll give an earlier example that has had a big impact.
It was on public speaking. I was quite young and in my first year of Uni. I had a generally disliked the tutor for a communication class I was enrolled in but she was pivotal in my change. We had to do an oral presentation to the class on any topic we were passionate about. So, I did what I had learned at school. I had my palm cards ready and had rehearsed and was ready to go through the spiel reading off my palm cards and looking up at intervals to show I was making eye contact. Then I started, and she stopped me and asked my to put down the palm cards and restart. I froze. She told me to take a few deep breaths, reminded me that I knew the content and to just speak. So I stopped for what felt like more than a few deep breaths and could almost feel my brain rewiring as I gathered my thoughts, I looked up, saw everyone's faces and did my presentation and I was fine. I was perfectly fine. I missed a few of my points but at the end of the day it didn’t matter. People listened, they believed me and I didn’t need any additional crutches. Since then I’m quite happy to speak to a room of people purely because I am confident in what I know and I’m not afraid to say it if I don’t know something. It’s the outcome that matters, not the content.