The world is changing. While long overdue, women are increasingly taking leadership roles in cutting-edge technology companies. With the courage to pursue her passions, the background to redefine global entrepreneurship and the ability to manage AI’s disruption, CIO Look brings to you the journey of avid entrepreneur, Nazanine Matin, the Head of Finance at UIB Holdings Pte. Ltd.
Give a brief overview of your background and your role in the company.
I earned my degree in Mechanical Engineering from U.C. Berkeley’s School of Engineering. I now have over 18 years of experience (and a few medical device patents) and have had roles in R&D, IT, Operations, Audit, Finance, and Cybersecurity in different industries.
I first stepped outside of the corporate world by working for and helping to set up startups owned by Demantra/Oracle, Mubadala, and GE. Most of my career, nine years, was spent with General Electric and I am a graduate of GE’s Corporate Audit Staff leadership program.
Today, I am the founder and curator of TEDxMonteCarlo and the Head of Finance of Singapore-based UIB Holdings Pte. Ltd. Both of these roles allow me to pursue my passion for inspiring people by sparking conversations on the topics that are changing our world.
How do you diversify your tech solutions that appeal to your target audience?
We facilitate and simplify human to machine and machine to human conversations via text and voice in any language using over 20+ commonly used messaging channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SMS, WeChat, etc. We have intelligent IoT messaging solutions for smart homes, smart enterprises, and smart cities. The heart of each solution, regardless of the customer, is answering the question of “What is it that you are trying to achieve?” We then use our technologies’ capabilities to create solutions that achieve our customers’ specific business objectives.
We engineered UIB’s UnificationEngine® intelligent IoT messaging-powered SmartContact® so it can be used, via a cloud-to cloud connection, with any combination of products, platforms, and languages. We’ve learned that even customers in the same industry (i.e., hospitality, household appliances, wireless service providers, etc.) can have very different visions, strategies, and brand promises, so one size does not fit all.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every tech individual should possess.
Let me start with UIB’s own values of respect, resiliency, accountability, open communications, smart thrift, and global productivity. It can be hard to find technical people who can bring together both the technical and business sides of the solutions they create. When we find those people, we hold on to them tight!
I look for three things when assessing tech businesses/people: 1) Can the person design for growth? 2) Are they adaptable? And 3) Are they visionary? When you’re designing for users, even if you’re a B2B platform like our intelligent IoT messaging, it’s critical to understand the end user’s journey. You need to be able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and design products that add real value to their lives. That is what creates a winning product worth investing in.
Products also need to be bulletproof as you only have one chance to win over your customer. I understand all too well the time and money constraints of software development and don’t want to blow it by cutting corners on testing. I get surprised by how few people think it’s important to understand the customer and their needs. It’s as if they get so busy developing that they forget who they’re designing for, putting their own “wants” ahead of the customer’s. Good design meets the customer’s basic requirements, but great design transforms the customer’s experience, journey, and creates value.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that shaped your journey?
I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had the chance to work for different types of companies and leaders. I try to treat every experience, both good and bad, as an opportunity to learn more about myself and my own leadership style. I advise my mentees to seek out the experience of working for a startup (or consulting firm) at an early stage in their careers. They’re always demanding, fast-paced roles, but you learn so much in such a short period of time.
I am convinced you learn the most when you’re solving the toughest problems, starting with not giving up and not changing your core values as you fight to reach your goals. It’s critical to make the effort to build your network by seeking out different experts, mentors, champions, and role models. Knowing who to go to (and what to ask for) in your network helps you to achieve anything. And don’t forget to listen more than you talk!
What were some of the primal challenges and roadblocks that you faced during the initial phase of your journey?
As a woman engineer and financier working in the MENA region, I have had to fight to be heard. It can get exhausting, especially when you have the title, the position, and the years but there is always someone who brings their ego into the room and feels compelled to challenge you. Handle it with grace. Keep your values/ethics, remain humble, and continue moving in the direction you have set for yourself.
What my first two bosses taught me has stuck with me my entire career. First, complain only if you can offer up a solution. And second, the difference between a dream job and a mediocre job is the manager, not the work. People really do matter. When you’re enabling the success of others, keep them happy, inspired, and motivated. People often fear that they can be replaced, but I argue that you should prepare your team to replace you. The more they can do your job, the less you need to worry.
With ascending in the number of pivotal and groundbreaking technological advancements the role of technologists is continually evolving. How according to you, has this role changed over the years?
It used to be that a technologist could stay within their “bubble” of engineering or development and be successful. Now, it’s imperative for engineers to understand the financial, marketing, and even legal aspects of their business. Just one example? There isn’t a developer today working on AI that isn’t having very detailed discussions about gender and other biases in their AI.
Where do you see yourself in the near future and what are your future goals?
Our business has tremendous growth potential and after many years of hard work, we are seeing it pay off. Our pilots have been very successful and customers are negotiating commercial contracts. We are in the midst of an equity fundraise to allow us to further grow the business and get more sales people and project managers on the ground in order to meet customer demands and sales requests. Our future goals include the use of strategic partners and local presence in the MENA and Asia Pacific regions in order to grow faster and bigger, and more focus on European customers to help them to define and execute their AI/IoT strategies. We aim to be more involved in smart industry and smart city projects as well and envision millions of users chatting with UnificationEngine-powered, intelligent bots.
What is your advice for the emerging tech enthusiasts?
The tech world needs women! I encourage all women to consider AI, IoT, and/or cybersecurity. Don’t shy away from thinking that you are not qualified enough. If you enjoy the field, stick with it, even if it’s a hard journey at first. These are incredible growth areas and women are needed to help create the next generation of solutions. Here’s why. AI becomes smarter the more we use it. It’s programmed to think as we do. So what happens if only men are designing AI? Only men testing AI? How will it be able to think like a world made up of men and women? It is crucial to have all types of diversity, cultures, users, and developers involved in AI and it is an exciting space filled with both short and long-term opportunities.
Sooner than we think, everything will be connected to the cloud, so the solutions being developed right now are shaping the future and making history. Through this interview, we hope to have inspired the emerging entrepreneurs.