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In this unprecedented era, women have the opportunity to be proactive, not only staying updated with emerging technologies and industry trends but also influencing them as well. Fatima Sultan Al-Kuwari, group chief human resources officer, Ooredoo Group, shares her unique perspectives on the industry, the digital skills gap and women’s contribution to ICT, as well as other insightful topics.

Having two decades of experience in the telecom industry, what can you observe as the most dominant changes?

Over the past two decades, the telecom industry has witnessed profound transformations driven by huge technological advancements.

One of the most notable and positive changes has been the increasing presence of women in telecom and technology fields, reflecting broader efforts to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education.

I see this shift as a significant and encouraging one, as it diversifies the industry’s talent pool, bringing fresh perspectives and ideas to the table.

However, while undeniably encouraging progress has been made, gender diversity in our industry is still an area that requires continuous effort and support. But I’m not worried; the future looks promising.

Another significant change is the unprecedented speed at which innovations and developments occur.

In the last five years alone, we've seen more innovation than in the previous two decades. This accelerated pace can be attributed to various factors, including rapid advancements in computing power, the increased production and spread of smart mobile devices, and the expansion of the internet.

I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has also acted as a catalyst for digital transformation, forcing businesses and individuals to adapt quickly to remote work and digital communication tools. These changes have created fertile ground for innovation, resulting in breakthrough technologies, services, and applications.

For example, the adoption of 5G has opened up opportunities for real-time communication and the Internet of Things (IoT). Cloud computing has revolutionized how businesses store and access data, enabling greater flexibility and scalability. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have empowered telecom companies to analyze vast amounts of data, provide more personalized services, and address network or service issues before they impact customers.

For instance, Ooredoo Qatar has successfully implemented a Mobile Network Fault Management system known as AGILITY, powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) technologies. AGILITY employs advanced analytics and automation to monitor Ooredoo's mobile network operations in real-time, rapidly detecting issues and potential problems before they impact the customer. This has enabled faster incident response times, improved troubleshooting, and more effective problem-solving.

All these advancements are very exciting, but they have also introduced challenges. The increased connectivity and reliance on digital infrastructure have raised concerns about cybersecurity and data privacy. The rapid pace of innovation has led to skills gaps, requiring continuous upskilling and reskilling of the workforce. Another ongoing challenge is ensuring that technology benefits all segments of society and does not exacerbate existing inequalities.

This rapid pace of change requires us to be agile and continuously adapt to emerging technologies and trends.

At Ooredoo, we have adopted a forward-thinking strategy. We prioritize staying at the forefront of technological changes, ensuring that our employees are equipped with the skills needed for the digital era. We focus on customer-centric solutions that harness the latest innovations to enhance connectivity and offer new services. We are also committed to addressing the digital divide across the markets we serve, working to extend the benefits of technology to underserved communities, and promoting its responsible and ethical use.

We now operate in a world of “smart telecom”, where technology intertwines with every aspect of our lives. As experts in this industry, we must continue expanding our horizons beyond traditional telecommunications.

What key takeaways have you learned within the telecom industry, and how did this influence your growth as a woman and a professional?

One of the key lessons I've learned in the telecom industry is the critical role our services play in advancing societies.

Whether it's voice, data or emerging technologies, telecom services have proven to be enablers of progress for people, businesses, and nations.

Understanding this impact has not only shaped my professional growth but has also deepened my sense of responsibility to contribute to the advancement of my beloved country, Qatar; my organization, Ooredoo; and the many communities we serve across our footprint.

From your perspective, is there enough progress in building the digital skills gap? What more can be done to enhance talent development in the sector?

Some progress has indeed been made in addressing the digital skills gap, but the pace of technological advancement requires us to intensify our efforts continually.

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, staying ahead demands a commitment to continuous learning and upskilling. As technology becomes increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives, digital literacy is no longer an option but a necessity.

To enhance talent development in the sector, a few key strategies can be implemented, such as encouraging young people to pursue STEM education from an early age, which can spark interest and passion for these fields and lay a strong foundation for future careers in technology-related sectors.

I believe educational and government institutions and industry players should all collaborate closely to provide accessible and quality STEM education programs that align with industry needs. Such types of public-private partnerships can help bridge the skills gap by equipping students with the knowledge and expertise required in the digital age.

Developing a culture of continuous learning within organizations is equally essential.

Companies can take the initiative to provide training programs, coaching and mentoring, and upskilling opportunities to keep their workforce competitive.

At Ooredoo, we have recently launched the Ooredoo Learning Academy, which is set to become the Group’s learning arm, bridging existing skills gaps and meeting future business-critical needs.

The Academy provides easily scalable training programs across the Group and operating companies and will ultimately act as the core enabler in achieving the company’s strategic goals — championing the distinctive Ooredoo way of working and supporting a culture of continuous learning and performance excellence.

Finally, I want to stress the importance of diversifying our teams.

Diversity and inclusion are vital components of talent development. Beyond being a moral imperative, diversity has become a strategic advantage. Diverse teams bring together a wide range of perspectives and ideas, fostering innovation and adaptability. Encouraging diversity in the workplace should be a priority for organizations seeking to thrive in the digital era.

The Middle East is transforming extensively in the digital landscape, particularly with the support of ICT. How can women maximize this opportunity and emerge as a significant part of innovation?

Women in the Middle East have a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of and play a pivotal role in the region's digital transformation.

As you mentioned, the Middle East is experiencing extensive growth in the digital landscape. This growth opens up many opportunities for women to contribute to and benefit from the ongoing digital revolution.

Whether by embracing technology, building networks, aspiring to leadership roles, fostering innovation, or advocating for gender diversity, women can play an integral part in shaping the future of the Middle East's digital landscape.

To maximize this opportunity, I believe that we, as women in ICT, must be proactive in staying updated with emerging technologies and industry trends.

Building a strong professional network within the technology industry is key. Seek out mentors who can provide guidance and support, and connect with like-minded women in the tech sector. Networking can indeed lead to valuable opportunities and collaborations.

Women shouldn’t hesitate to innovate and aspire to leadership roles.

They can challenge the status quo, propose fresh ideas and creative solutions, and bring a valuable perspective to leadership positions. Their presence in decision-making can definitely shape the digital landscape in a more inclusive and diverse manner, creating a more equitable technology industry.

Please share a motivational message to women all over the world on how they can conquer their lives and careers in the modern era.

Believe in yourself and your abilities. Continuously invest in your personal and professional growth. Develop a clear plan with actionable steps, and regularly review your progress. Seek out a trusted mentor, preferably a woman in your field, who can provide guidance and support.

Remember that success is a journey, not a destination, so keep moving forward with determination and resilience. Your potential is limitless, and you have the power to shape your life and career in a way that can leave a positive impact.

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