Dounia Senawi, advocating flexible working for women in tech

Dounia Senawi, Digital Chief Commercial Officer at Deloitte, highlights the importance of flexible working and creative problem solving in tech careers

As a leader at US Deloitte Digital, Dounia Senawi’s aim is to build the happiest practice.

"Happy people produce great work!", Dounia tells Business Chief on a call from the Deloitte Digital US studio in New York City - where she has spent the last nine years as Principal, and where she was promoted recently to​​​​​​​ Chief Commercial Officer.

Here, she leads US Deloitte Digital’s go-to-market efforts, defining the commercial strategy, and building connections and alignment across the firm’s offerings, alliances, sales, product, and marketing functions.

She is – she admits – a “contagiously positive” person who gains energy from those who approach life with optimism and purpose and is open and honest in her conversations with people.

“Setting a vision, inspiring others to take action, using stories to make it real, recognising others, and taking time for personal connections – it all counts,” says Dounia, who looks at her work as a team sport – understanding the importance of having a strong, diverse team made of people with different skills and experiences.

“We must make sure flexible working is more than a policy”

As a woman in tech and a first-generation American born to immigrant parents, Dounia is especially passionate about talent development and women in technology and takes advantage of every opportunity to encourage and support the professional growth of her colleagues and team.

Even with a hybrid working model, she prioritises spending time on personal connections at all levels, identifying ways to inspire and motivate.

“I encourage my teams to discuss both successes and setbacks and to share more personal stories. I’m open and honest in my conversations and keep inclusion, collaboration, and respect at the forefront.”

She adds: “If you want women to choose tech as a career path, you must live it, demonstrate balance and flexibility, and share what works and fails.

Dounia points to the hybrid model as a particular challenge for women, who are experiencing a high degree of burnout for feeling ‘always on’.

Recently released Deloitte research found that one-third of the women rated their ability to switch off from work as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’; almost half felt their career progression would be impacted if they weren’t constantly available; and more than 50% didn’t feel comfortable talking about their challenges.

As leaders, we must make sure that flexible working is more than a policy, she says. “There must be a clear commitment to those who choose it and reassurance that there won’t be a career penalty. We must have women and allies who are in visible leadership roles work in hybrid models so that we normalise it versus it being an exception.”

An ally is someone not only willing to listen and learn, but also willing to use personal capital to advance someone who isn’t in a position of power or doesn’t have representation at the table.

“What has been impactful for me is the way that I have been personally supported by others. Our CEO Dan Helfrich uses everyday equations to talk about the behaviours that are important to demonstrate, and one of them is that ‘your wellbeing is greater than your organisation’s wellbeing.’

“I am unapologetic about the days I can’t travel or the hours that I may take off early so I can see my son’s face when I pick him up from school. I want the women on my team to see that it is possible to balance a leadership role with being a mother, and I hope they feel empowered to do the same.”

“We are all creative problem solvers”

Dounia says it was Deloitte Digital’s strong collaboration and teamwork that drew her to the firm nearly nine years ago, when she first worked with the consultancy on the digital transformation of a regional bank she was working at.

“I was drawn to the Deloitte Digital team’s strong work ethic, problem-solving skills, and sheer ability to get things done,” she says, adding that as soon as the project went live, she joined Deloitte Digital with the personal mandate to “help other companies drive growth, define their ambitions, design customers and employee experiences, and activate new business models.”

She points out that being a former client of Deloitte Digital gave her a unique perspective. “I understand the time, investment, and reputational risk that comes with embarking on large transformational change and what it takes to drive successful outcomes.”

A creative business powered by a consulting firm, Deloitte Digital began its journey 10 years ago and for the last decade has helped clients shape their strategy, unlock insights, build brand value, elevate experiences, create customer solutions, and optimise operations.

“We are all creative problem solvers,” declares Dounia, “We are committed to helping companies gain a competitive advantage from the convergence of technology and creativity and compete in new digital worlds. We aren’t afraid to tackle the issues that matter to us, our clients, and the world.”

Dounia describes the last five years at the firm as “extraordinarily dynamic”, and the last two years as witnessing “explosive growth”; and believes the next five years will be equally so as the firm continues to position companies for new challenges and opportunities.

“We will help our clients to navigate the evolving, competitive landscape while earning loyalty and trust in their interactions with customers,” she tells Business Chief.

“There is a real promise of real-time everything. On top of speed, customers expect more differentiated and personalised experiences, and companies will need to continue to adopt new technologies to optimise the way they work across marketing, sales, and service. Everyone must think about how they connect with their customers in new, unique, and different ways.”

In her new role, Dounia says she is excited about exploring new ways of increasing commerce, growing new businesses, and creating new opportunities.

“With a clear focus on growth and purpose, I will continue to drive new thinking and innovation along with the integration and application of new technologies to meet our customer’s ever-changing needs,” she says.

“I also take seriously the privilege and responsibility to use my platform to advocate and be an ally for others, especially women in technology and most recently as a part of the Middle East North Africa and Allies steering committee.”

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