Rafiah Ibrahim Image Credit: ABLF

Highlights

  • Real-time connectivity is fundamentally changing the way we innovate, collaborate, produce, govern and live sustainably, says Rafiah Ibrahim, President of Ericsson Middle East & Africa

As an experienced woman who has held leadership roles across the Middle East and Africa, what lessons have you learnt about managing people in this region compared to others, such as Malaysia and the UK?

I am very passionate about the work I have been doing in the Middle East and Africa, and I think passion for your job is just one way to overcome challenges and to motivate yourself to perform better and lead your teams. My experience in the region spans the last decade, and I have held a variety of roles in that time. This has prepared me to take on region specific challenges and deal with them in the best way I know how.

The biggest challenge in this region is that we work in completely diverse markets, and cultures ranging from frontier to rapidly growing markets, it is also a region that is rife with security concerns. The cultural aspects of the people in the different countries also play a part in how one engages. The emotional and social intelligence play a role and that I have learned over time. Reach out to the hearts and minds of people to manage and lead effectively.

Thanks to Ericsson, I have had the opportunity to be a part of an extraordinary journey of innovation excellence. I am incredibly proud to have been named the ABLF Trailblazer this year and I have accepted this award on behalf of all trailblazers and architects of positive change

- Rafiah Ibrahim, President of Ericsson Middle East & Africa

The success of your career depends on the agility of your organisation but also your own agility and adaptability. Today, we are seeing an increasing number of women heading some of the most important tech companies in the world. I am an advocate of gender diversity and it is true that women are leading technological innovation the world over and we work tirelessly to encourage more women to pursue a career in tech. However, selecting the best talents (male and female) is the success of an organisation.

So, you need to constantly evaluate opportunities and take action, preferably faster than your competitors. This is where the leadership challenges lie.

You’ve spoken before about the potential of 5G as the next great enabler of digital transformation across industries. What other technologies do you foresee becoming digital enablers for companies further down the line?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is developing at a fast rate — and is a global inevitability. Real-time connectivity is fundamentally changing the way we innovate, collaborate, produce, govern and live sustainably.

5G is one of the key technologies to enable Industry 4.0 transformation, offering the opportunity of connectivity not only to complement and expand the existing business models of mobile broadband and fixed wireless access, but to new industries like manufacturing, agriculture, mining, transportation, healthcare to mention a few.

Realising the benefits of a truly connected society means that technology doesn’t just connect people to each other, but that it’s connected to the processes and workflows we all depend on every day.

A future driven by IoT, 5G wireless technology, and automation is no longer a question. It’s not a matter of if these technologies will transform our society, but when. We’d rather it be sooner than later and that’s why we’re committed to ensuring access to our technologies.

H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan and Rafiah Ibrahim Image Credit: ABLF

What advice would you give to young people interested in entering the telecommunications industry today?

I would tell young people to follow their dreams. Stay committed, take chances and be the best person that your life allows you to be. I have never let that feeling of wonder that something great can happen next, slip away. I wasn’t afraid to try new things and explore new experiences.

These are the building blocks to take anyone even higher. I dared to leap, as these jumps pushed me to new and exciting places and experiences. Having lived that; I can say some of the most important things in my life were non-material, but rather moments that added color to my life.

The telecommunications industry is a very diverse and dynamic one so be prepared to join an exciting journey!

Digital transformation is a buzzword today, how do you educate and support clients on its need and importance?

New technology is rapidly changing the world and the possibilities are now beyond imagination. We have some major disruptions ahead of us when it comes to digitisation of the world. There’s no way that businesses and institutions can avoid a digital transformation, because the expectations of customers and end-users are changing too.

If we want to stay relevant in the digital age, we have to make a shift to continuous learning. Our customers share the same agenda and focus on digitisation, so it is not so much about education for them; Rather we actively support them and engage in discussions on how to automate their operations and to build a programmable network. We enable our customers to become a digital enterprise, so they can better serve and grow their customers and build industry relevance. Cost leadership, customer experience and increased revenue streams are the focus areas.

Rafiah Ibrahim Image Credit: ABLF

What does winning the ABLF Trailblazer Award mean to you?

My success today is a result of many years of personal development, constant experimentation and adaptation, and a lot of hard work. Thanks to Ericsson, I have had the opportunity to be a part of an extraordinary journey of innovation excellence. I am incredibly proud to have been named the ABLF Trailblazer this year and I have accepted this award on behalf of all trailblazers and architects of positive change. This is what it means to me.

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