Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Q&A – Press for Progress: Gender Doesn’t Determine Value

John Smith

In the run up to International Women’s Day (IWD), we interviewed Nabila Aydin Vice President of Global Marketing at FDM Group to find out more about her career so far and what she thinks it takes to progress. Nabila achieved VP status before turning 30 years old and is shortlised for Business Role Model of the Year at the Information Age Women in IT Awards USA 2018.

What was your first role at FDM? How did you work your way up to becoming VP of Global Marketing?

I started my career at FDM as Marketing Assistant. I was involved in all marketing projects, big and small. I was encouraged to come up with new ideas and this is what I loved about the role. Even as a junior member of the team, I was empowered and trusted to implement new initiatives.

FDM was a much smaller company at that time, so I found myself taking on additional work outside of marketing in order to help the business. I noticed things that needed to be done or things that could improve the challenges we faced; I would take it upon myself to propose the changes required to the Directors and follow through in implementing these. Going above and beyond, working hard and delivering results is how you get noticed.

In 2008, a year after I joined FDM I was granted the Employee of the Year Award. The winners trophy was presented to me by the CEO at our annual staff party and I still remember the feeling of achievement. In 2009, I was promoted to UK Marketing Manager, followed by Global Marketing Manager in 2010 and VP Global Marketing in 2013.

I started my career off with FDM in the UK and then relocated to the USA six years later to help grow the business in North America. In a nutshell, I got to where I am today through sheer hard work, being adaptable to change and  always extending a helping hand in other departments where required.

You were the youngest female VP to be appointed to this position at FDM. You are also part of the North America Exec Team. What advice would you give other young women looking to progress?

The advice I would give other young women who want to progress is to focus on what matters: delivering results. Focus on making a difference and adding value to your company. Present yourself as a leader and act as a leader if that is what you want to be. If you can prove that you have what it takes then there is no reason why you wouldn’t progress. Age does not determine value and neither does gender.

I was 28 years old when I became VP and had already been leading a global team for a few years before that. Building robust working relationships, remaining professional and becoming a trusted member of the team are all key to progressing in business.

When I was asked by the CEO and COO to consider moving to New York to help grow the business in North America, my answer was ‘yes, absolutely’. Being open to new opportunities helped my career immensely. Businesses need change in order to grow and  if you are committed to adapting with these changes you will reap the rewards.

Have you faced any barriers in business due to being a woman and how did you overcome them?

I have been very lucky, both at IBM and at FDM, to work with inclusive leadership that embraces diversity in the workplace. It’s no secret that women are the minority in the tech sector, however this can also represent a significant advantage rather than a barrier; it depends how you choose to look at it.

I would be lying if I said I haven’t faced barriers, but I believe that barriers exist for everyone – not just women. There will always be people out there who judge you based on age, gender, the colour of your skin and/or so many other things. You cannot influence this.

However, you can influence how it makes you feel and what you do about it. Don’t let it get to you and don’t let it stop you. If you want to achieve something, keep trying until you get there – multiple roads lead to the same place. Our mind can be the worst barrier of all if we are unable to overcome what people might think or say of us. From experience, I know that all barriers represent opportunity and I continuously challenge myself to break them.

You are a Business Role Model of the Year finalist in 2018; what is a role model in your mind? Who are your role models?

For me, a role model is someone that leads by example and someone that perseveres to achieve what they want to accomplish regardless of the odds. I have so many role models in my life to look up to and feel very privileged to have lots of them as mentors too.

Rod Flavell, CEO of FDM set out to start the business 26 years ago, which is now a FTSE 250 company. Sheila Flavell, COO of FDM recently earned the Lifetime Achievement Award and Woman of the Year Award amongst many others for her contribution to the industry. Larry Hirst, former Chairman of IBM EMEA rose to the very top from being a trainee at IBM. Most importantly, my mother who raised four children and launched a new career in her 50’s. All of these people are achievers. They taught me to persevere and to not take no for an answer. If you want to achieve something, go for it – you can do it.

What do you think companies have to do to become more diverse in the tech industry today?

I think companies have to become more inclusive. Inclusion is not the same as diversity and it is much harder for organisations to achieve. Creating an inclusive workforce involves conscious and proactive behaviours to make everyone feel welcome and accepted. Inclusivity has to be engraved into the company culture, in order to create an environment where differences are embraced and valued within teams. This is something FDM does really well and I am proud to work for a company that values the differences that make us stronger as one.

A common misconception about diversity is that it is only about gender, age or race. How many women are in the business or whether it is majority white is something many people traditionally focus on. The reality is that diversity covers a lot more than that, it is about a wide range of differences that exist amongst people. Diversity includes culture, ethnicity, personality, social mobility, education, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, working styles and more. That said, even the most diverse of companies will not be able to reap the benefits without inclusion.

Ultimately, what is the most important factor for progress?

It all comes down to change. If we want to achieve a different result than what we currently have, then we have to do things differently. Change is the only constant. If we aren’t changing, challenging the norm and reinventing ourselves regularly then we simply won’t progress – we will stand still. Therefore, my advice for everyone out there is to be open to new opportunities, prove that you can do it and speak up; don’t wait for others to recognize your potential. You need to believe in yourself in order for others to believe in you.