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Shaheen Sayed is not your typical technologist.
With her roots in the arts, Sayed turned her talents to solving problems, applying some of the world’s most pioneering technologies. Today, she heads up Accenture’s Technology business in the UK and Ireland and has overseen remarkable examples of technology in action, including Accenture’s expertise in rolling out Microsoft Teams to 1.2 million NHS workers at extraordinary speed during the outbreak of COVID-19.
She was voted woman of the year at the Women in IT Awards London 2020 in recognition of her contribution to the tech industry, and she also serves as an Honorary Colonel for the 3 Military Intelligence Battalion.
When she gives career advice, we listen.
Redefine your relationship with risk
Having studied English at university, I’m probably not your usual suspect for the role I now hold. I joined Accenture with an open mind and was intrigued by the possibilities offered up in a world where advancements in technology were exploding and “the internet” still felt new.
I’m often asked about whether I was intentional in the way I managed my career, and at the time, I didn’t think I was. As I reflect, however, there have been some key moments that really were instrumental in shaping my journey. I know in the end that I have lived—especially the early part of my career—with a sense of recklessness and reason.
By that, I mean I redefined my relationship with risk and avoided the malaise that doubt brings on, embracing opportunities as they arose. I didn’t always get it right, but I’ve learned that failure can be a formidable teacher and an accelerator in what is the school of life.
Seek wisdom from mentors
Through the last few decades, I’ve been fortunate in crossing paths with numerous mentors, each unique, each equally brilliant and often appearing at times to address the challenge of that period.
I have forever referred to them as my “Yodas”—truth when I couldn’t hear it, wisdom when I needed it most and advocacy that propelled me beyond where I thought I could go. Never underestimate how key these relationships and encounters are; for me, they were generative and enduring.
Do work that matters
Twenty years on, and I continue to believe what we do has an impact. Our industry falls at the nexus point of social, political and economic change. Technology operates on this axis and the energy of that drives work that matters—it gives us space to set the dreamer and the realist to work side by side, which is what makes brilliant products.
I guess in the end, we are all on our individual quests to meet our calling. Technology—with all its perils and promise—just happened to be mine.
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