On the lighter side of things we ask Emma Shakespeare, SAP Concur Regional Sales Director for MENA, about what makes her tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
On a personal level, being able to buy my parents a house when I moved away from the UK to live in Dubai with my husband and child. It enabled my parents to live closer to family and have help while we are away. On a career level, being appointed as Regional Director to oversee MENA for a global technology firm for new and exciting developing markets.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I have always been interested in technology and making end-users lives easier. It has been interesting to see the cloud industry take off while sadly other industries die out. Nowadays, if you buy an iPhone you expect certain applications to integrate with it, and the same is expected in the business world of tech. An example of this would be the finance team which has to pay employees and/or suppliers and there are various processes and applications which should all connect together through the corporate card provider, travel agency spend, employee cash spend, company petty cash floats, supplier invoices for direct and indirect spend.
Finding ways in which people can connect easier, communicate faster and share more information and get visibility of their data is key. In addition, this is the way that forward-thinking tech companies leverage and integrate with other cloud companies as user behaviour increases with on-demand.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I don’t really have a set style; I try to be agile during this period since it’s a testing time during COVID for myself as well as my employees and key stakeholders. The key thing is to have empathy, understand the underlying drivers of why people do what they do, give them a career goal and a path forward to continually be invested in the company. The most important thing is choosing the right people who have the right attitude, doing things outside of the job description come with the territory especially when you are managing an emerging market.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
The talking point now is all about Machine Learning, AI and ways of streamlining mundane workplace functions; such as using technology to replace zero related value functions including scanning invoices, matching purchase orders to invoices, reconciling money spent and matching it to a cost code, systemising audit checking of spend.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Exercise such as running is a good source of stress relief. I’m also a workaholic, so I like to read and write about the industry during my downtime. Running helps me to gather my thoughts while praying first thing in the morning helps me to settle my mind.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
I don’t have a career regret, some roles I did in the early days were never just an executive role they often were emerging market positions which enabled me to learn the skills I needed to think about the bigger picture for the market.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Over the long run there will be continuous investment in the employee intelligent spend story. Intelligent spend can mean many things from contingent worker spend, to employee spend, procurement spend for indirect and direct spend. Having a control on all aspects of spend will be the major investment in my industry and I expect to see investment in integrating various processes, from end-user platform to the look-and-feel, etc.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in MENA?
Changing the culture of per diems and allowances. Many companies here give blanket per diems without even asking employees for a receipt to account for the spend (tickets for flights, hotels, meals etc) by giving a blank cheque of money companies that need to manage cash flow can save huge amounts by putting an actual receipt process in place. This will mitigate over-spend
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?
No changes in my role really, I have taken on additional responsibility with overseeing sales, marketing, business development functions for MENA South for SAP Concur. I have also seen success in new regions such as Oman, so my role has expanded to involve the country MDs of SAP such as Egypt, Qatar and Oman, including development of a SMN small business strategy as we expect to see these businesses grow over the coming years.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
Collaboration between different functions is key. Spend time in different roles as you work your way-up the professional C-suite ladder.