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Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs & Leadership in the Middle East Tech startups. Storat achieves 50% diversity

By Mustapha's Blog , posted on 25-06-2017
Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs & Leadership in the Middle East Tech startups. Storat achieves 50% diversity

Today, We achieved a major milestone in diversity where 50% of our employees are women serving in leadership positions and critical business and technical roles. It is something to be shared and celebrated. While being a small tech startup based in Abu Dhabi, we are able to live our values including diversity, inclusion, and Women Leadership at Work. Below are some of the amazing stories of Storat Women Entrepreneurs:

Shabana Nazeer, Storat VP of Operations & Human Resources

We met Shabana for the first time in early February 2016 on the first trip to Bangalore, India. She was the third employee in our small startup. She was selected from more than 1,000 candidates for the level of energy, sharpness, and dedication we felt from interviewing her. Her job expectation was to be a customer services representative. However, in the first meeting, we shared with her a change of plan and the challenging tasks ahead. She had to incorporate a company in India, open a development center on a very limited budget, and start the hiring process for more than 10 people to be based out of the Bangalore area as well as manage the company finances and operations across all locations. She had to execute with little guidance from me as I was still working for my previous employer. I came back after three months were our company was incorporated in India, a beautiful office was established, and she already hired 5 top-notch software engineers in an intensive HR headhunting process.

Maria Del Mar, VP of Sales

Maria joined Storat ranks in early November 2016. Before working for Storat, she acquired international experience and contributed to launching a successful internet startup in her hometown in Spain. After she passed the interview process and extensive aptitude exams, we called her for a final interview to ask us whatever she wants and the conversation went on like this:

She asked: "How much is your current monthly and annual sales?"

"zero. We didn’t sell anything yet."

"What are you selling?"

"frankly we don’t know. We have a vision, we are building a platform, but we don’t think we have an idea yet about our product-market fit. Also, our main product, a marketplace, has a historical 99% failure rate!"

The conversation went on with few challenging answers like that. I thought she will walk away from the interview. But She went on asking about our vision and what are we trying to do and the business problem we are trying to solve. I outlined the vision details and the strategy to find a product\market fit. In the end, I told her we think this a $100 Million business. She answered: “No, if executed well, this is a Billion dollar business. I am in!”.

Execution was not as easy as we thought back in November 2016. But What we can share publicly is that in 8 months we moved from a company trying to find a product-market fit to being on-track to achieve AED 1 Million monthly sales - keeping our fingers crossed for that!

Rola Aziz , Digital Marketing & User Acquisition Lead

Rola joined us fresh out of college where she graduated from the American University of Sharjah in June 2016 with a marketing degree. She was hired as a junior digital marketing and user acquisition specialist. On the first day during her onboarding, she asked about the area of marketing she will cover. We told her “We have nothing to market as of yet, we need your help in frontend software development”. She said, “But I am not an engineer”, I told her, “cool, learn it. you will help in website translation so you need basic Html and CSS knowledge”. So for the first few months, instead of marketing, she was using Atom to write Html code, build language files, gulping files, pushing updates to bitbucket, and working with the engineering team in the UX/UI for the platform. When we launched the beta in September, she started a very difficult digital marketing campaign trying to attract sellers and buyers to an MVP marketplace in UAE with really undifferentiated value and 0 SEO capability. Working literally 15 hours per day over the last 1 year, What could have been yet another failed marketplace is gaining momentum and a major chance of success. It would have been impossible without Rola’s hard work and juggling between digital marketing, coding, reaching out to people, and answering more than 5,000 inquiries in less than 9 months.

The lesson that we want to share with other startups in the middle east is that while we focused on diversity and inclusion as values, we came to know that those are amazing foundations for business success.

Embracing Diversity in the Middle East

Be an equal opportunity employer. Give All qualified applicants consideration for employment without regard to race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, marital status, and age.

Few tips to execute on your diversity goals:

  1. Hire solely based on skills, business & technical ability
  2. Never ask personal questions. Questions forbidden in Storat interviews are:
    1. Never ask a candidate what is her or his age.
    2. Never ask a female candidate if she is married. Never ever ask if she is pregnant or have kids.
    3. Never ask a candidate what is your nationality.
    4. Would be nice to ask the candidate to send an updated resume after removing all personal information including age, marital status, nationality, etc.

“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.” - — Catherine Pulsifer

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