In the fast-paced world of tech, Nabila Hishamuddin‘s story is like a shero’s journey. Imagine someone who didn’t know much about tech, but now leads a Customer Support team at Respond.io. It’s a bit like going from zero to hero in the tech world.
What makes Nabila stand out is her skill in the Spanish language. It’s like having a superpower that connects her with people worldwide. But she’s not just a tech wizard – she’s also a super mom to a three-year-old son. She also balances work and family, showing us that you can succeed in both.
Before her leadership role, Nabila worked as a Spanish Tutor and a Client Relationship Executive. These experiences added different skills to her toolkit. Nabila’s journey isn’t just about climbing the career ladder; it’s a story of facing challenges, finding balance, and proving that anyone can thrive in the exciting world of tech.
Here is her journey in tech.
#1 What inspired you to pursue a career in tech, particularly in customer support?
My journey into tech happened kind of by accident. After graduating in Spanish languages and linguistics from the University of Malaya, the allure of communicating in Spanish, one of the world’s most spoken languages, captivated me. This fascination with language fueled my interest in connecting with people, leading me to pursue a career focused on engaging with clients and fostering smooth relationships. Post-graduation, I ended up as a Client Relationship Executive, using my linguistic skills to connect with a global audience.
I liked that job because I’ve always enjoyed talking to people. Later on, my university needed a Spanish tutor, so I took that gig. But then, I had to take a break for maternity. After six months, I wanted to get back to work, but didn’t know where to go. I was just hoping for a bit of luck and a job at a small company where I could learn and get better.
That’s when I landed in my current tech company. It was funny because I didn’t know much about tech. All I had was my experience talking with people and dealing with clients. Now, I’m super happy in my role. I’ve got mentors who help me learn cool stuff, like solving problems and writing about tech.
Working in tech can be a fast-paced race; things move swiftly, and catching on quickly is essential. My language and linguistic knowledge play a crucial role in two ways. Language, focusing on talking and listening, is crucial for effective communication in my role. Meanwhile, linguistics, the scientific part, helps me understand structures, logic, and investigation.
This knowledge is particularly useful in tech troubleshooting and quickly picking up tech skills. The combination of talking to people and troubleshooting tech efficiently is key in my role. I also enjoy experimenting with stuff until I find what works and connecting the dots in my mind to discover the best solutions.
#2 What challenges have you encountered as a woman in a leadership role in the tech industry?
Navigating a leadership role in the tech industry as a woman indeed comes with its set of challenges. The tech world is often seen as a male-dominated space, primarily because more men study in this field. Initially, I faced personal challenges in stepping into a leadership position, wondering about the kind of leadership style that would be accepted.
Being a woman leader in the tech scene, especially in Malaysia, can sometimes feel like a plot from fiction due to cultural expectations. There were struggles along the way as I grappled with the notion that changing my personality to fit a certain mould might be necessary. However, I came to the realisation that authenticity is key. Instead of trying to conform, I embraced being myself and learned to accept others for who they are.
In this journey, I found the importance of embracing people as they are and helping them discover their unique personalities to enhance their future careers. I became very outspoken and receptive to feedback. Adapting to various personalities within the team became crucial. It’s interesting to note that at times, I find myself as the only female when speaking to upper management.
This is because there are only a few female Heads of Department, and they don’t always join our meetings. However, the positive side is that they have been accepting, creating an environment where diversity is acknowledged and valued. This acceptance has been pivotal in fostering an atmosphere where ideas and contributions are welcomed, regardless of gender.
#3 What strategies do you employ to ensure a smooth and efficient customer support process within a tech environment?
Ensuring a smooth and efficient customer support process in the ever-changing tech environment requires a mindset that embraces constant change. It’s like keeping pace with a race that has no finish line – the improvements are endless, and the journey never stops. I believe in competing with ourselves, constantly striving to grow and become better in what we do.
In the tech world, change is constant, and staying ahead means adopting the right mindset. Learning Spanish, for example, wasn’t just about mastering a language; it was about enhancing communication skills and delving into logic and scientific thinking. These skills, in turn, proved invaluable in troubleshooting tech-related inquiries. Continuous learning and practice, especially in the art of presentation, have empowered me to ask the right questions – a critical aspect in the realm of tech troubleshooting.
When engaging with customers, understanding their background is essential. It’s not just about addressing their immediate concerns but about delving deeper to uncover what’s needed, facilitating quicker problem resolution.
This holistic approach involves seeing the big picture and guiding customers through their tech issues, not just fixing the current problem but helping them move forward in their tasks. It’s a dynamic process that involves a blend of technical expertise, effective communication, and a customer-centric mindset.
#4 What advice would you give to women aspiring to leadership roles in tech?
My first piece of advice is simple: don’t be afraid to try. Tech is immense, and it’s only by stepping into the field that we truly understand where our passions and strengths lie. Embrace the unknown, for it is in these experiences that we carve out our path in the tech landscape.
Another crucial aspect is asking the right questions. Precision is key. By asking specific questions, you not only help yourself but also provide context for others to assist you. Be resourceful – go out and find something first, and then ask the right question. This approach not only demonstrates your initiative but also makes the learning process more efficient.
In the dynamic world of tech, being able to ask targeted and relevant questions is a powerful skill that propels you forward. Remember, the journey in tech is not about having all the answers; it’s about knowing how to ask the right questions to move in the direction you want to go.
#5 Whom would you like to thank and appreciate for helping build your career?
Building a career is never a solo journey, and I am grateful to a supportive network that has been instrumental in my growth. Firstly, I want to express my gratitude to my partner, who has been a constant source of support. In the dynamic and often intimidating world of tech, having a partner who aligns with your ambitions and covers for you during challenges is invaluable. Ambition in a woman can be perceived as intimidating, but the right partner is someone who embraces and supports your journey, regardless of gender. Together, we’ve grown individually and as a team, creating a synergy that propels us forward.
Next, I owe a debt of gratitude to my resilient and strong-willed mother, who works in a Government-Linked Company (GLC). Her unwavering determination and the constant reminder of “why complain when you can push through” have been a driving force in my career.
This company, where I’ve spent a significant part of my career, deserves special appreciation. During a seven-month period as the support agent in a particular shift alone, my Head of Department, Bernardo Gonzalez, was a pillar of support, covering my back and fostering an environment where I could thrive. His passion for the work and the reciprocal nature of our support system has been a significant factor in my professional journey. Trust is the foundation of our collaboration, and I am grateful for his unwavering support.
Lastly, a nod of appreciation goes to our Chief Operating Officer, Iaroslav Kudritski, – an individual with an intriguing personality who has constantly pushed me towards directions I never thought I could explore. His habit of questioning things from different angles before decisions are made, probing my thoughts with “why” and “are you sure,” has been a catalyst for personal and professional development. In a world that demands constant growth and adaptability, having such mentors and allies has been key to my success.
#6 How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance in a demanding tech leadership role?
Balancing work and life in the demanding world of tech leadership can be tricky, and for me, it’s all about finding what works personally. I genuinely love my work, and finding joy in its challenges, but there are times when it gets stressful, and knowing when to take a break is crucial.
To handle this, I take a proactive approach by carefully planning my holidays. These breaks are dedicated to family, self-care, and quality time with my husband. Planning every detail ensures a balance between work and personal life. While the conventional 9-to-5 routine might not fit a tech leadership role, I’ve created a yearly plan that accommodates my professional responsibilities and allows for essential periods of rest.
On a daily basis, staying connected with my son is a top priority. We engage in activities together to maintain that family bond and prevent any sense of disconnection. Balancing work commitments with family life is an ongoing effort, but these intentional steps have proven essential in creating a work-life equilibrium that suits my needs.
I’m fortunate to have a great support system, enabling me to achieve this balance successfully. Being able to do everything with wholehearted commitment has been key to my approach, and I am grateful for the luck and support that have made work-life balance a reality for me.
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