Razan Abdel-Hadi ’10 is Breaking Stereotypes
The technology industry has traditionally been male-dominated However, that trend is now changing, and one of the women breaking gender stereotypes and determined to encourage more women to pursue a career in technology is Razan Abdel-Hadi ’10.
Abdel-Hadi completed a Master’s degree from Imperial College Business School in 2015 before joining Ernst & Young’s (EY) graduate program in London. There, she worked on a range of client engagement projects such as data visualization and machine learning. Currently, she is a senior consultant in the Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Analytics and Robotics Department, focusing mainly on financial services clients.
Last January, Abdel-Hadi and her coworker Samantha Brook realized that there was a strong demand in the tech industry to develop technical skills. Eager to respond to this demand and provide their colleagues with new skills, they decided to launch the EY Women in Technology (WiT): Tech Bootcamps initiative.
The tech bootcamps are after-hours training sessions for all EY employees. In just one year, the duo have helped to up-skill over 250 colleagues across all service lines and delivered bi-monthly sessions on coding languages including Python, R, SQL and VBA, as well as tools such as Tableau. The initiative has already expanded from London to regional offices across England and Scotland, and is currently in the process of expanding to EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa) offices in France, Switzerland and Germany.
“We wanted to alleviate the taboo surrounding technology skills with women, moving away from the stereotype that coding is for ‘techy people,’ and particularly men, acknowledging that all of us can actually learn these skills, despite our gender, age or background,” said Abdel-Hadi.
As a woman, building a career in the tech industry however, hasn’t been an easy ride for Abdel-Hadi.
“One of the biggest challenges I faced was the perception that as a woman, I would be better suited to roles with a ‘softer’ skill set such as communications or program management,” she said. Abdel-Hadi was determined to overcome this challenge by launching the bootcamps initiative and upskilling in technical skills that are commonly perceived to be ‘hard’ in the industry, which consequently led her to receive new roles and projects at EY.
The bootcamps quickly garnered widespread recognition and have become a highly respected initiative. Abdel-Hadi and Brook were awarded the EMEIA Financial Services award for “Creating Exceptional EY Experiences” through the EY peer-based global award program Better Begins with You. The program recognizes and celebrates EY people who have found inspiring and impactful ways to bring the organization’s purpose, “building a better working world,” to life.
Both Abdel-Hadi and Brook won the award for their efforts in promoting gender diversity within the technology practice, and have been nominated for the ‘Rising Stars in Consulting’ and ‘Women in Banking and Finance’ awards externally.
Since its launch, Abdel-Hadi says that there has been a direct increase in women assigned to technical projects, with senior individuals stating that they feel confident in people who complete the tech bootcamps training.
“Although it’s a challenge to be a woman in the tech industry, the most rewarding aspect has been breaking boundaries and stereotypes, and creating a positive impact throughout the firm,” said Abdel-Hadi.
While this initiative initially began for EY employees, Abdel-Hadi and Brook are planning to host events that would allow external guests to participate by partnering with DevelopHer UK, a non-profit community dedicated to bringing women in tech together to create both opportunities and a network of support through events, workshops, and learning. They are also conducting a bootcamp session for the EY Foundation young women’s network to encourage girls at schools, aged 15-16, to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Abdel-Hadi is committed to continue promoting gender equality in the technology sector to increase the number of women working in the industry. To do that, she believes improvements are necessary in three key areas: promote STEM subjects to young girls in school, incorporate clear gender diversity targets and goals in a firm’s hiring strategy, and encourage men to be champions of gender diversity.
For any woman looking for a career in technology, Abdel-Hadi advises them to “not let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do, and learn to teach yourself new skills.”