“Companies should ensure that there are diverse women role models who are sponsored by executives and demonstrate to other women that it is possible to balance work and personal commitments and be successful in building a career. This sponsorship needs to come from the top and the executives should strive to demonstrate work life balance themselves”
Mahin Sonia is a well-connected Senior Information Technology (IT) Leader with 17+ years of experience in highly regulated industries in both Private & Government sectors. During her career, she has successfully led teams that have delivered a portfolio of multi-billion dollar IT projects, using global teams.
As the Head of Software Development (APAC) at Civica Asia Pacific, Mahin is responsible for the development and creation of the long-term technology vision & strategy to achieve Information Technology Services excellence across the region. She is also the Lead Ambassador for Civica North Star (Innovation Hub) in APAC. Her technology background is complemented with MBA (Master of Business Administration) from one of Australia’s top institutions, the Melbourne Business School. Her MBA has refined and enhanced her skills in areas such as leadership, effective people management, structured decision-making, devising & implementing business & corporate strategy, and operations management.
On a daily basis, Mahin navigates very complex situations with competing priorities and delivers the most effective results. An area she deeply cares about is employee engagement. With a high emotional intelligence, Mahin uses this effectively to maintain high levels of engagement in her teams to keep them motivated and help them to deliver superior results repeatedly.
Mahin has strong public recommendations from clients, managers and peers, as well as direct reports. As a woman of colour, she supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?
If I had to pick one attribute that has helped me succeed, it is resilience, to face any situation. My passion, hard work and tenacity for any work I take on have meant that no problem has been too big to resolve. I am also a firm believer in connecting with the teams we lead at a personal level and building the trust that will ensure we stick with each other, no matter what the situation.
As a woman of colour and a first generation immigrant, I have been able to prove there is a place for anyone who is willing to work hard, connect with the right people and endure challenges along the way. What matters is believing in ourselves!
How can we change the organisational culture to improve balancing personal and professional commitments and be more inclusive of a diverse range of women?
When it comes to the culture of an organisation, it is not the big written rules that matter, but rather the unwritten ones. For example, when there are women in the group, ensuring that we are aware of their personal commitments and avoiding meetings during the times when we know they are unavailable goes a long way in reducing the stress on them.
Companies also need to actively work to create an environment where people are in control of their working hours and what really matters is the outputs. It must be advocated that long hours don’t equate to career progression and vice versa. Companies should ensure that there are diverse women role models who are sponsored by executives and demonstrate to other women that it is possible to balance work and personal commitments and be successful in building a career. This sponsorship needs to come from the top and the executives should strive to demonstrate work life balance themselves.
Do you mentor others? How do you manage your time to ensure you can efficiently and effectively mentor?
Yes, I have been mentoring people for about 10 years now. It all started with a couple of girls who started to seek general advise and 6 sessions later, I realised that I needed better tools and frameworks to ensure I was really delivering the value they were seeking. Since then, I have refined my mentoring skills and gone on to mentor many people at and outside work.
To ensure that I can balance this passion of mine with other commitments, I try and keep the frequency of sessions to either 4 or 6 weeks. The session usually lasts 30 or 45 minutes and is used as a checkpoint to review the progress made since we last met. Depending on the mentee’s needs, we also choose one topic per quarter and ensure that the discussion and actions are focussed on the chosen topic. This way, the time we spend together is structured and focussed. The mentees also get in touch with me via other channels (viz. email or phone), if required.
Where the mentees are in a different geographical location (e.g. I have someone who is based in Canada), I try and get in touch with them very early in the morning, before the day gets busy, which helps with better use of time.
Do you know women in other parts of the STEMM ecosystem? Would you like to? Why?
Yes, I’m fortunate enough to know a few women who work in research as well as engineering. Over the years, I have learnt a lot from these women, particularly about the strategies they have used in being able to break stereotypes. The stereotypes could be about our own unconscious biases, the challenge about misrepresented leadership styles (e.g. someone who is firm is assumed to be bossy), the perceptions that women can’t really be in charge in science or technology, and the experiences we have all had where we have had to work harder to get to a position that the male counterpart could get to more easily. All of these discussions shed light on the issue as well as what we can do to overcome them. We also talk about the stress women carry in their personal lives and the importance of ensuring that our future generations are able to share the personal workload better, and hence allow women to go and build a career without guilt.
What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful leader?
A lot has been written about leadership over the years. Usually leaders are expected to be confident, assertive and in control. However, the book that truly had an impact on me is called “Leadership for the Disillusioned”, by Melbourne Business School professor, Dr. Amanda Sinclair, in which she challenges the above attributes and explore alternative ways of leadership. I have been fortunate enough to have had the privileged to learn about “Leadership & Change” from Amanda during my MBA. In this book as well as during the course, we discussed unconventional attributes that make a leader successful, such as being vulnerable, listening deeply, being empathetic, having gratitude and a leader’s ability to connect with their teams and feeling their pain/challenges. We discussed the role courage and respect play in leadership and how these go on to earn loyalty as well as deliver fantastic results.
LinkedIn: Mahin Sonia