We had the opportunity to interview Neebashnee Kristnasamy, Head of Projects and Digital Transformation Programme at Sanlam Private Wealth, Neebashneeis one of the speakers of Women in Digital & Data running on 27 September 2018 in Johannesburg.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how it leads to a career in digital?
I come largely from a management consulting world, where we attuned to the risks and issues that exist within a business, and provide a practical tactical plan to make visible changes. More and more organisations are gearing to become digital and I found myself in the seismic shift that occurred in the Financial Services space, where most of the major players started to scram to out their digital plan together. One could say that the career in digital found me, more so than the other way around.
Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority, so why did you decide to pursue a career in digital?
That’s part of the reason I’ve decided to pursue a career in digital – in the hope that more and more women will see it as a career path and join the fold. Digital is also the shape that the future world is morphing into – Gender agnostic, I don’t think anyone can ignore this.
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in a male-dominated environment?
- Gender stereotypes where the belief is that women don’t belong
- Lack of powerful knowledgeable female mentors
We are our own worst enemy. Male colleagues are often happy to work together with you, once they get over the initial shock of you being a “chick”. However, we, as females, are truly not aware of how powerful we can be in the digital space, and often place our own limitations into the environment
What has been the biggest surprise in your career?
The biggest surprise in my career was moving to Cape Town, only to realise that the broadest and bravest digital jumps and learning were happening right here.
What are some of the skills we should be learning to be successful digital ambassadors?
- Learn to understand the environment and global practices, and understand how that relates back to our South African landscape
- Learn to challenge the status quo constructively and wisely, as a woman can
- Learn to be creative – Artificial Intelligence is only as good as the data we feed it. We still own the creative element.
What can women in the workplace do today to help build the foundation for successful careers?
Aim to provide a safe, inclusive space that does not, to the best of our ability and available resources, unfairly discriminate based on sex, gender identity, race, class, nationality, language, religion or ability. We cannot perpetuate the bias that already exists.
Digital transformation is something companies have been talking about for decades now. How to be part of the digital age? With the world growing and evolving as quickly as it does today, and new technology being made available daily, how does a business keep up with the ‘transformation’?
One of the biggest disadvantages of the Digital and AI space, is the pace that it’s moving at. When organisations try to be on the bleeding edge of all technology, risk is inherent as it’s difficult to keep pace to changes that are happening in the global arena. An organisation should determine its core Digital strategy and establish an ownership role. This strategy must then be driven and embedded so that the core building blocks are laid as soon as possible.
What are three key pieces of advice that you would give to women in digital struggling with digital transformation?
- Own your space
- It’s sometimes better to ask for forgiveness than permission
- There will always be someone better – but there’s no other you.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in pursuing a similar career path to yours?
Persevere, learn and move forward. Don’t stop pushing the boundaries, don’t be fearful to challenge, don’t be too shy to sit at the head of the table. We have a huge amount of value and knowledge to impart to the digital world, and we shouldn’t be afraid to be a part of that world.
In a management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women in the workplace?
By being the best role model I can be and by always lifting other women up and celebrating their successes.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
I try to read widely – i.e. current news, strategy updates, financial news. All these different elements mould the way companies will drive digital. TED talks are amazing – you get to listen to people from all walk of life, sharing their experiences and understanding of the world.
Fun fact about you?
I love speed and fast cars (in a controlled and safe environment of course). My favourite pastime is going out onto the track on an open day.