CxO of the Week: Leila Pourhashemi, CIO & VP – Technology Business Operations, Blackhawk Network

By : |August 26, 2020 0

CxO of the Week: Leila Pourhashemi, CIO & VP – Technology Business Operations, Blackhawk Network.

Leila has deep experience, leading company-wide transformations, reducing organizational complexity, and enabling teams to scale innovation more efficiently. She is an expert in technology program management and Agile at scale, providing a disciplined approach to operations, strategic planning, product development and portfolio management. She has played an instrumental role in recognizing the importance of female mentorship and using leadership to advocate for the advancement of women in the payments sphere worldwide.

Companies have less representation of women in tech. What do they lack when it comes to encouraging women to take up STEM leadership roles?

We need to ensure there is a diverse candidate pool for every position; a diverse hiring team that interviews for each position. This is the easiest way to help reduce the inherent conscious/unconscious bias that exists in hiring processes. With regards to leadership roles, my experience is that there are more women in entry-level engineering roles. But the number drops dramatically for leadership roles.

Typically, this is due to lack of sponsorship for emerging women leaders, and biases in the criteria to evaluate women for promotion opportunities. For example, a male colleague may be characterized as “driven”. A woman, on the other hand, demonstrating the same traits may be viewed as “aggressive”.

What is the Future of Work for women in the new normal?

The “new normal” can mean many things. We can consider resilience and flexibility as core skills in navigating the work environment. The great news is that women are traditionally very adept at demonstrating both, which will be helpful as they fulfil their potential in the technology workforce.

What are the future career prospects in the IT Industry for the upcoming workforce?

There are so many career opportunities in technology because technology is increasingly becoming even more entrenched in our daily lives. How many minutes lapse between when you wake up until you check all your favourite apps on your mobile phone? The rate of innovation is accelerating. Diversity of thoughts, experience and skills will enable the best solutions to emerge, so women should be well-positioned to take advantage of the growth in technology roles.

Define yourself as a leader.

I believe in four leadership principles: trust, respect, responsibility and accountability. Also, I give these to my teams and expect the same in return. I try to lead with empathy and adopt a servant leadership mindset, which comes from my experiences leading multiple large-scale agile transformations.

What are some of the parameters that one should look for when entering the deep tech industry?

I have a mathematics background and have found that logical thinking, pattern recognition, and a problem-solving mindset have served me well in technology roles.

How has Covid-19 opened career opportunities for everyone in the technology industry?

Due to lockdowns, and technology companies shifting to work-from-home, we are seeing a massively accelerated adoption of technology that enables us to maintain relationships and conduct our work. I’m excited to see all the innovation around us, from homemade face masks to far greater adoption of digital payments solutions.

How can one achieve a more equitable division of at-home labour?

As Sheryl Sandberg said, the most important career decision you make is who you choose to marry!

Any advice to young women starting their career

Be curious, learn something from every person, be willing to try new things and ask for what you want!

Read here for the previous CxO of the Week.

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