Tech Startup and Sports Leadership Lessons from CARMA’S Sabrina Azmi [Q&A] – TNGlobal

In this TNGlobal Q&A with Sabrina Azmi, Research Solutions Director at CARMA, we learn how she uniquely balances a tech career with her passion as a rugby player for Singapore.

Azmi provides insights on overcoming gender bias within the male-dominated tech space. She also shares strategies for thriving, as well as leadership philosophies she’s honed as a young female leader managing a large team. Azmi also shares insights about how skills honed on the rugby field are parallel with those essential for navigating the tech industry’s boardrooms. Beyond Azmi’s personal journey, the interview also explores broader themes of professional growth, branding for women in tech, and combating misinformation.

In your experience, what are the most prevalent biases women face in the tech industry, and how have you personally responded to these challenges?

The tech industry is really big, with women occupying diverse roles. As such, I can’t generalize everyone’s experiences, as they may vary based on the roles. Personally, I often encounter assumptions that I lack expertise or am merely a junior executive. There’s a tendency not to expect a woman to lead such discussions or know what they’re talking about. Furthermore, in situations when I need to assert some authority or express my views on certain matters, it’s sometimes misconstrued as emotional rather than a valid point of reasoning.

I try to not let it get to me and just keep showing up. Often, it means putting in double the effort and being so good at what you do so that no one can deny your competence and capabilities. It also helps to have supportive colleagues and allies. In a meeting, my male colleagues make incredible introductions for me to make it very clear that I am the one leading this discussion or will be the one making the decisions. So it’s heartening to know that your voice matters.

As a young female leader managing a large team, what unique approaches do you employ to ensure effective team dynamics and productivity?

Being a young leader has been a humbling journey, one where I am constantly learning and unlearning certain habits and establishing a leadership style that not just resonates with me but more importantly, benefits my team.

Not sure, if it’s by any means a unique approach, but what I try to do is to be empathetic and collaborative. Providing them with the right amount of guidance and support so that they feel empowered in their roles to be able to make decisions but are also not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. I always start by trusting my team members and giving them the autonomy to find their own rhythm and style of working and to avoid micro-managing them as well.

Oftentimes, what I find helpful is asking your team members how they would like to be supported or if there’s anything that I can do better to help alleviate stress in certain situations. The willingness to learn and be better yourself is probably one of the best things a leader can do for his/her team.

Can you share some examples of how the skills and experiences you have gained from rugby have influenced your leadership style and decision-making in the tech industry?

I run a women rugby club with some of my friends – Wolves WRFC. I sit on the committee for the club and our ultimate goal is to provide an inclusive, safe, and fun environment for women and girls to play rugby. I’ve been playing rugby for almost 10 years now and it’s been instrumental in developing me as a person and a leader.

With sport, I’ve learned to be resilient because not all the decisions you make will be a good one or a right one. So instead of mulling on it for too long, just pick it up, learn, and go again.

What I love about rugby is that it’s a very inclusive game, requiring a wide variety of skills and personalities. And that’s very transferrable to work because I am leading a team with varying capabilities and being able to leverage what they are good at is essential to success. And making sure everyone grows together will create a strong sense of belonging as well.

How do you ensure equal visibility and recognition for yourself and other women in the boardroom and in tech industry discussions?

Just knowing that the success of other women does not diminish your own accomplishments is a good reminder to have. This isn’t a difficult thing for me at the moment because CARMA has so many brilliant women on the team and in leadership positions.

In discussions, it’s always helpful to ask other women for their input and advice – having diverse opinions is beneficial to any organization. Outside of discussion, celebrate the women in your industry or company, highlight their achievements, show appreciation, and advocate for them!

What strategies do you recommend for women in tech to advance their professional growth and personal branding?

Leverage other women in tech, connect with them on LinkedIn, have conversations, and learn from them. Be confident in yourself, build knowledge, and don’t be afraid to talk about it!

In an era where misinformation is rampant, what are your views on the importance of accurate media monitoring and analysis, and how does CARMA contribute to this?

CARMA is a leading global media intelligence consultancy. What I love about our offering is the capability of our monitoring software and platform to swiftly detect any negative news or misinformation. The CARMA Insight portal is equipped with various features that empower our clients to have their finger on the pulse. Our real-time alert function ensures that you promptly receive notifications of potentially adverse coverage directly to your inbox or WhatsApp.

Additionally, our daily newsletters deliver a concise roundup of coverage every morning, enabling you to start your day well-informed about any potential negative news that could impact your company.

On top of that, we have a talented team of analysts that can help you determine what the impact of this misinformation is. They help our clients make sense of the data coverage so that they can make more informed decisions, allowing you to react accordingly.

Could you elaborate on your approach to building and maintaining successful client relationships, especially in a competitive industry like technology?

One of the key things we prioritize is our client relationship. We offer a managed service because, despite the speed of technology in delivering information, we believe that a human touch is essential to interpreting data effectively. Our dedicated client services team ensures that each client receives a personalized approach to their monitoring, tailored to their specific needs and priorities. We take our time to truly understand our client’s objectives and needs so that they get the maximum value out of the services and deliverables that they are paying for.

How do you see your role, both at CARMA and in the broader tech community, in advocating for and supporting other women in the industry?

Hopefully, my role allows me to inspire other women who may want to have similar career paths. Or, if anything, I hope that I am at least supporting the women in my team to achieve the most out of their careers.

For me, being on panels, working with or even having conversations with some of the most amazing women in both the communication and tech industry has been very inspiring for me so I hope to be that person for other women too.

Looking ahead, what are your goals both in your technology career and in your journey as an athlete?

In terms of my career – it’ll be exciting to see how technology transforms the PR and Communication industry. Not just in media intelligence but how we work with technology and different platforms to get our messages out and reach different audiences would be an exciting thing to explore. It’s an exciting time to work in CARMA as our team speeds up tech developments and I can’t wait to share these and support my clients further.

In terms of being an athlete, playing as much as I can for as long as I can! My focus is on building my club and supporting the development of women and girls rugby in Singapore.

This article originally appeared on TNGlobal.

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