Channel Post speaks to Maya Zakhour, the Middle East Channel Director at Fortinet, about her career choice and the opportunities present for female professionals.
Please tell us something about yourself.
I’ve graduated as a Computer Science student and began my career as a software engineer in my home country. I then relocated to Dubai with my husband and I would say my real career started by transitioning into the IT business where I learned a lot from great people and managers I worked with during this time.
The move made me realize that my interpersonal skills were better suited to the channel business and I finally reached a point I always wanted and today I am Channel Director for the Middle East region with Fortinet.
What made you choose IT / IT channel industry as a career choice?
To be honest I don’t think I chose to be in IT in particular. I would say that I found my self in the IT world. Being an excellent student in mathematics, I wanted a major that included mainly Math and this is how I finally chose computer science.
In the early stages I wasn’t too sure I made the right choice but today I can say my major helped me being logical, analytical and innovative. Afterwards, I had the chance to move into the IT business and managing partners in which I had to use my interpersonal skills and since then I started loving my job and finally being in this industry.
Today we live in a technology-driven world and nothing feels better than being up to date and knowing what is happening around you.
What opportunities are present for women in the IT channel industry?
From a Middle East perspective, I think that IT large organizations have started to realize that women today are smart, dynamic, hardworking, and are equally capable of managing demanding jobs. We can do a great job when it comes to channel and hence there is plenty of potential for young and passionate women.
Is it easy or difficult working with male co-workers especially in the day-to-day operations?
It might be a bit difficult working with male co-workers at the beginning and when they still don’t know you. However, when they start realizing your potential and see the added value you can bring I can say there will be no difficulties and it becomes the best work environment. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter as long as we work in harmony and towards the same goal.
What challenges do you face on a day to day basis?
Every day brings a new challenge however my challenge in my current work is to build a strong team and a strong channel ecosystem and hence bringing Fortinet to be number 1 security partner in the Middle East.
Who is your role model? Why?
Apart from Steven Job and Bill Gates I would say and as a lady role model Angelina Jolie is a woman I admire and consider as a role model although she is not an influencer in the IT industry. Angelina Jolie is a well-known award-winning actress, humanitarian and UN Goodwill Ambassador. She is a strong, successful and pretty woman and I hope one day I will be doing as good as her in my career and to the world.
What would you term to be one of your biggest achievements in your career?
I can say that today being a channel director for the region defines my biggest achievements in my career.
How easy/difficult is it juggling family and work life?
It is indeed very difficult to juggle between family and work life but with being a focused and very organized person I was able to manage over the last 15 years.
What is your advice for young female professionals?
My advice to all young female professionals is to follow their dreams and never give up. Only by being persistent and confident we can achieve what we want no matter what it is.
What more do companies need to do in order to encourage women to take up top jobs?
I guess many companies have started encouraging women to take up top jobs and I think the rest of the companies should follow as well. Companies that still think about women or men for a specific job, but I believe they need to start looking at a person’s skills and the added value he or she can brings rather than the gender.