Brittany Benson: Thank you for joining and sharing a few minutes of your day with me, Kadija! Could you share a little bit of detail about your role at Sage?
Kadija Aflah-Perre: I'm the IT Director of Sage in Europe and my job is to support our systems and applications in order to allow the Sage employees to be able to work in the best way possible. I'm also a member of the Southern Europe Executive Board. I work closely with our executive management team to coordinate and deploy the IT strategy within the region. I also work hand in hand with the business to define, develop, and deploy all the tools and applications that will be used by our customers.
Brittany: In your career, is there a specific woman, professionally or personally, who has inspired you along the way?
Kadija Aflah-Perre: I like everything related to space. There’s a black woman that I would like to highlight, named Katherine Johnson. I'm always amazed by this woman because before we created the big computers to calculate the trajectory of the Apollo Rocket, her calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. She is the perfect example of the fact that the mind is superior to your gender. Whether you are a man or woman, only your mind makes the difference.
Brittany: That’s incredible! What advice would you have for an inspiring leader who is interested in pursuing a similar career to yours or just in the technology industry in general?
Kadija Aflah-Perre: I would tell them to be curious, be open, listen to the others, and at the same time, be humble. The idea is not to highlight yourself, but to listen to others, to empower them, help them to grow, and give the best of yourself to them. This is how you can be a very good leader. A leader is not someone who constantly asks people to execute. A good leader, especially within the technology, is someone very open, who gives a chance to people who are working alongside them.
Brittany: How would you describe your own leadership style and what has shaped that?
Kadija Aflah-Perre: Though I'm working in the technology space, for me, the most important aspect is the human element. Of course, I'm working on innovation. I'm looking for what is the best for the company from a technology perspective, but the best asset in my organisation is the people. It is thanks to the people that we can build strong architecture and innovative technologies. If you don't take care of other people, if you don't empower them, if you don't train them, if you don't closely work with them, I don't think you can have success. I think the risk that people may have is forgetting that technology without a human element is not going to succeed.
Brittany: That's very good advice on leadership. At Sage, we really do prioritise our people, from our colleagues and partners to our customers. And so my final question is, how do you ensure that your team is working with a customer centric framework in mind?
Kadija Aflah-Perre: In each meeting that I'm having with my teams, we have what we call a “customer chair.” This chair is open; everybody can take the chair and put themselves in the shoes of a customer. When we are trying to decide what could be new architecture, our goals, our objectives, we always have in mind, “What would our customer think?”
Within IT, we have two kinds of customers. We have internal customers, which are the Sage employees. Then we also have external customers. It's important for us to balance between these two and always, always put ourselves in their shoes. It's easy to choose the best technology for IT. It's a little bit more complex to choose the best technology for our internal and external customers. But this is where we can succeed: always have a customer chair and allow each member of the team to take the chair and speak on behalf of the customer in their best interests.
Read the other colleague profiles who are part of Sage’s Women in Technology interview series.