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The driving of regulatory and risk management efforts is integral to digital leadership. In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Hanan Ahmed, chief regulatory affairs and risk officer, du, talked about fulfilling regulatory obligations and customer expectations, the company’s commitment to Emiratization and their efforts in empowering the next wave of women leaders, among other informative topics.

Congratulations on being du’s first Emirati woman CXO. Can you share more about your background in the tech sector and your strong corporate knowledge in the public sector?

As du's first Emirati woman CXO, I am grateful for the support and opportunities provided by du in promoting and entrusting me with increasing responsibilities. My humble beginnings as a company secretary had become an integral starting point for my 14-year background in governance, audit and compliance, including roles at Dubai Group and du, has prepared me for this exciting new challenge. In my previous role, I managed the organizational governance framework, maintained government relations and ensured compliance with legal requirements and internal policies. The role required interacting with different departments and building relationships with important entities in the industry. This helped me gain knowledge, understand the market better and increase my expertise. I am eager to embrace new challenges and experiences, driving growth and success at du while inspiring others in the tech sector. As a trailblazer for women in technology, I am excited to inspire others to pursue their passions and break down barriers in this dynamic field. 

In the context of your new role, what is the importance of driving regulatory and risk management efforts as a digital telco?

du is at the center of the ever-increasing role technology plays in society, and as we continuously enhance and expand our services to deliver innovative solutions that promote economic and social transformation, we must ensure we stay alive to our regulatory obligations and customer expectations with regards to these services.  To do this effectively, we have honed our regulatory risk management strategies with a focus on regulations within our industry and international “good practices” in order to proactively identify and manage the associated risks.

In this way, we enhance customer confidence and foster rapid innovation in the digital ecosystem; we empower digital lifestyles, revolutionizing lives and businesses through intelligent networks and cutting-edge innovations in 5G, fixed network services and fiber deployment.

As indicated, integral to such digital leadership is driving regulatory and risk management efforts. du is a responsible and dependable service provider, and we have implemented robust regulatory compliance and risk management policies and practices to ensure that we maintain this mentality and culture as we continue our digital journey.

To ensure fair competition, network integrity and profitable operations, digital telcos must comply with regulations and manage all associated risks. This is our primary objective, and to this end, our top priorities are consumer privacy, data protection, cybersecurity, business continuity and customer KYC.

Change is monitored and managed, but its rapid pace necessitates an equally rapid evolution of the regulatory environment. Important for shaping policies, industry standards and fostering sustainable growth and innovation is engagement with the regulator. The UAE's forward-thinking leaders and proactive regulations aid us in navigating this transition. To create the optimal operating environment, we will continue to support transformational projects such as the “We the UAE 2031 Vision” and the ICT regulatory sandbox initiative. du implements policies and practices to manage the rapid changes and to ensure that we continue our progress in our digital journey.

How essential is du’s commitment to Emiratization in the ICT industry?

du's commitment to Emiratization in the ICT industry is crucial given its position as a leading UAE telecom player. Emirati talent made up 40.3% of du's workforce at the beginning of this year, with 50% consisting of women and 44% of our senior management. du's Emiratization commitment shows its support for the UAE National Agenda, which has six national priorities in different sectors, including a competitive knowledge economy, unlocking citizens' potential and letting them drive economic growth is the UAE's goal.

In line with the UAE's national agenda and Emiratization directive to increase the number of Emiratis in the private sector, du continues to strengthen its efforts to attract UAE nationals and support successful careers in telecommunications, which contribute to building a knowledge-based economy.

du's Emiratization programs train national ICT workers to fill skill gaps as well as promote innovation, local talent and technological advancement to bridge the gap between the telecom industry's skills and local candidates. Emirati professionals are more employable in ICT due to this focus on skill development. We are proud of our Graduate Trainee Program for UAE nationals last year, which allows trainees to rotate across business units and learn about new technologies and projects.

Further, with du’s commitment, Emiratization in the ICT industry can improve customer experience. Emirati employees' cultural understanding, language skills and local perspective help them connect with and serve UAE customers. Localized services can boost customer loyalty and satisfaction. Local talent retention fosters industry expertise and continuity by creating a stable and experienced workforce.

Emiratization supports du's CSR goals and the local community as we empower Emiratis by providing job opportunities and professional development. Beyond business goals, this commitment helps the nation's social and economic development. It supports the UAE national agenda, builds a knowledge-based economy, improves customer experience and addresses skill gaps.

Can you tell us more about du's efforts to empower the next wave of women leaders?

du is committed to empowering the next wave of women leaders by providing them with the necessary tools and resources to succeed in their chosen fields. du has implemented a number of programs and initiatives aimed at supporting women in their professional development, including mentorship programs, leadership training and networking opportunities. These efforts have already yielded impressive results, with many women within the company rising to senior leadership positions.

du's Gender Balance Council empowers women and promotes equality and inclusion. The telco actively closes the gender gap by creating an environment that empowers women throughout their careers. The Council's initiatives and goals support our gender balance agenda and inclusive culture.

Our mentoring and learning programs are now more inclusive. Several achievements have demonstrated du's vision and commitment to gender balance. du increased the percentage of women taking courses to broaden their skillsets and accelerate the change process to transform unequal power dynamics, organizational culture and processes to advance gender equality. du mentorship program improved innovation and agility by optimizing women's talents needed for future generations.

We gave ICT presentations in UAE schools on International Day of Girls and Women in Science to promote gender equality and women's empowerment by getting more girls into tech. In accordance with the theme for this year's International Women's Day 2023, Embrace Equality, the Gender Balance Council collaborated with Aurora50 to host an event on gender equality for women in the ICT industry. The event included roundtable discussions, networking opportunities and various exercises to assist participants in understanding gender stereotypes and overcoming workplace obstacles. We are committed at du to empowering women and setting an example in the industry.

What words of advice can you give to other women who may be interested in exploring the ICT field?

To women who are interested in exploring the ICT field, I would say that it is important to have confidence in your abilities and take risks to advance yourself and your capabilities. The field is constantly evolving, so it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends. Seek out mentors and networking opportunities to learn from others who have experience in the industry. Don't be discouraged by any challenges or obstacles you may face, as they can often lead to valuable learning experiences. Keep an open mind and remember that diversity and inclusion are crucial for innovation and success in the ICT field, so continue to advocate for equal opportunities for all individuals regardless of gender, race or background. With dedication and hard work, you can make a significant impact in this exciting and dynamic industry. 

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