Over the last ten years, women made up less than 30% of the job share in the Canadian tech industry. This number gets even smaller when looking at leadership positions, with women making up only 16% of senior leadership tech jobs.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity. At LGM, we’re committed to finding ways to break down barriers for women and create an equitable environment to connect and share experiences.
As such, we had the pleasure of interviewing Marina Al-Ashhab, Director of Digital Retailing and Integration at LGM.
Marina has worked at LGM for almost six years but has been in tech for over twenty-five. Throughout the years, she has led global, cross-functional teams to deliver software products in North America, and the Middle East. Some notable projects led by Marina were worth over $60 million dollars and consisted of up to sixty-four human resources!
Q: What made you pursue a career in tech?
I’ve always loved physics and mathematics, and I wrote my first program in grade 9. It was the first year my school offered programming as an after-school activity. I didn’t have a computer at home, and I recall designing and writing the whole program on paper and feeding it to the system in class. After a few minor adjustments, the program was working, and I was hooked. I couldn’t imagine having pursued anything else.
Q: Walk us through the trajectory of your career. What eventually brought you to LGM?
After finishing my studies, I started my first job as a System Analyst/Programmer for a startup company. I quickly learned that in small companies a person wears many hats, which was beneficial to me as an energetic, young graduate as I accumulated experience in many disciplines.
When I came to Canada 22 years ago, I went back to programming for a couple of years but ultimately found myself drawn to business analysis, project management, and later, product management, what led me to my current role at LGM. I love the complexity of large products and helping maneuver the moving parts to a successful completion.
Q: Tell me about a time when you were overlooked because of your gender.
It’s important to mention that gender discrimination is not always overt. I remember one time a senior client commended me on how I stood up for myself in a situation of gender discrimination imposed by his own team. At the time, I was used to advocating for myself at work and hadn’t realized that what I was really facing was subtle gender inequity.
Later in my career, I recognized more and more leaders, men and women, who helped me to succeed. Some would help in subtle ways, like having my back and publicly giving me credit when deserved. Others helped in more overt ways; they were confident in my professional capabilities and delegated tasks out of my scope of work to help me grow in my career. For example, in one of my roles, I had a female Senior Director who recognized my ambitions and skills, and who advocated for me in many situations. I recall one was to represent our brand at an event with important stakeholders, and this opened many opportunities for me. I believe this is what equity is all about – setting people up for success given their circumstances and environment.
Q: Tell me about a time when you helped another woman find their footing.
In a past role, I worked with a woman whom I admired for having incredible drive and ideas, however, I noticed that she hadn’t been advancing in the company for several years. I wasn’t her manager, and I am never one to give unsolicited advice, but I found ways to consistently make comments to her and others about the high quality of her work and ideas. I would also invite her into meetings with senior leadership, so others would see her value. Over time, I saw that my small, but consistent actions added up and gave her momentum needed to advance in her career.
Because of the support that I received, it’s important to me to pay it forward and do my part to uplift the talented women that I meet.
Q: What advice would you give to young women starting their careers?
- Learn to advocate for yourself. When I was younger, I always thought that if I did my work well, people would notice, and management would automatically promote me, and when that didn’t happen, I was disappointed. So, speak up and let others know your strengths.
- But, remember you’re not alone. If you are facing a challenge today, others likely did before you. Seek a champion that you can trust.
Fostering equity at LGM.
One way that LGM seeks to make change is by opening the floor for important conversations about equity in the workplace. Conversations on important topics like this keep awareness high and cultivate a community of advocates where equity thrives.