Intelligent CIO gets to know what makes Mohamed Helmy, MD for SAP Kuwait, tick inside and outside the office.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
My most memorable achievement was while at SAP, my entire team was named to the global SAP Winner’s Circle, which recognises the top-performing sales and solutions teams from around the world. Our team of 10 people over-achieved our goals. Being part of the Winner’s Circle was an incredible opportunity to share best practices with SAP teams from across SAP’s globe-spanning geography.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I’ve been interested in technology from a young age, when my parents bought me a Commodore 64 home computer in the early 1980s. By designing early programs, I found it amazing what could be created with technology, make my own product and talk to computers.
After studying economics, social sciences and systems design in university, I realised that I liked the business field and being with people the most. So, I’ve used technology as a vehicle to serve different communities and support our customers and partners to leverage technology to transform the economy, society and environment.
In the near future, I see a major opportunity for technology to grow, innovate and touch people’s daily lives, especially in transforming products and in providing a new level of convenience for organisations and end-users.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
My management style is to encourage a culture of learning. Over the past 30 years, I’ve learned something new every day – and often the things that one least expects. It’s important for organisations to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion, and include people of different ages, genders, educations and backgrounds.
Innovation and development are part of SAP’s DNA. At SAP, we provide a wide range of professional development programs that are cascaded to develop talent, especially young talent and millennials in Kuwait. Twice a year, I review the professional and career development of my team and tweak individualised learning programmes and learning.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
Cloud is the dominating technology subject in Kuwait and the Middle East. Big Data and analytics is also seeing strong demand – especially as organisations are increasingly needing to turn their data into real-time insights.
Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain and the Internet of Things continue to be major talking points among CIOs in Kuwait. These technologies, and Digital Transformation trends and agendas were a major focus during our recent SAP NOW Kuwait event, which brought together hundreds of Kuwait’s leading c-suite executives from industry verticals.
Showing the strong demand for emerging technologies in Kuwait, among digitally-leading organisations in the Middle East and North Africa, at least 70% are investing in cloud, Big Data, and the Internet of Things solutions, according to the recent SAP and Oxford Economics Digital Transformation Executive Study.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Outside of work, I try to spend as much time as possible with my family, whether simple pleasures such as having dinner together or going to the mall or to the park. I have three children – a son who’s 10 years old, a daughter who’s 18 years old and a son who’s 22. Spending time with my youngest son provides a lot of enjoyment, especially in playing XBOX games against each other.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
I’m very happy and satisfied with my career experience and trajectory, and I would not regret any part of it. Life takes people on intentional and unintentional career paths, and it’s important to examine each stage of life and career.
The most important part of any career is to be with people who understand the issues and challenges facing customers and end-users, and the solutions that can help organisations to overcome challenges. Achieving goals, supporting customers and solving challenges is a self-fulfilling feeling that drives your career advancement.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Cloud is a key driver for new business growth and Kuwait is among the most receptive country in the Middle East in terms of rapidly adopting cloud solutions. Big Data and analytics are also at the top of mind for every CIO in Kuwait.
Kuwait is seeing four major industry verticals that are digitally transforming the fastest: public sector and government in delivering new citizen services, oil and gas in developing digital oilfields and refining operations, retail with malls and stores transforming the customer experience, and banking and finance in enhancing customer experiences.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in the Middle East?
Kuwait and the Middle East organisations face numerous Digital Transformation challenges – and Kuwait is rapidly rolling out legislation that makes it faster and easier for organisations to be cloud-first. Technology is a vital pillar of New Kuwait 2035 and we support Kuwait in enhancing its status as one of the region’s most digitally-savvy countries.
One of our biggest responsibilities in Kuwait is to ensure that our SAP PartnerEdge channel partner program is building capacity and extending the reach of our channel partners to enable customers’ Digital Transformation.
In digital skills development, our training and development institute and next-gen initiative are building academic programmes and local capabilities for the younger generation. As the digital economy advances and technology field rapidly changes, it is imperative for Kuwaiti youth to have the right digital skills to succeed in their careers.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
My role is always changing – I’m always learning about new technologies and gaining greater industry expertise. In the next 12 months, we are dedicated to enhancing the level of our customer services and expand our portfolio of solution offerings in order to help our customers and industries in Kuwait to digitally transform.
Each year, SAP Kuwait changes our focus to help certain industries. In 2018, we have been especially focused on the government and public sector. In 2019, we will be focusing on supporting the Digital Transformation of the industry verticals of energy and natural resources, and banking and finance.
Among our customers in Kuwait, we are seeing a major shift in which roles drive Digital Transformation. Traditionally, CIOs have been the roles implementing technology strategies based on business needs. Now, that is reversing – with lines of business enabling IT solutions that are driving new business. We’re also seeing major shift in the role of the CIO itself – with the role changing into chief digital officers who are driving Digital Transformation of lines of business.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain c-level position in your industry?
My advice to professionals looking to become senior executives in the technology field is to listen more to customers and industry experts and to develop the solutions that can help customers to overcome their challenges. Becoming a c-suite executive takes a lot of hard work – it’s important to work hard and to work intelligently.
Individuals should also not be afraid to take calculated risks. If people do not seize moments, then they will stay where they are. Mentors and career coaches can play an important role in identifying goals and strategies to achieve their aspirations, especially for people who are early in their careers.