Women are woefully under-represented in the tech industry globally. In a report published in the United States in 2016 by the National Centre for Women & Information Technology’s (NCWIT) Workforce Alliance, it was stated that in the United States women held 57% of all professional occupations “yet they held only 25% of all computing occupations.”

“RIGHT NOW MORE THAN 80% OF THE INDUSTRY IS DOMINATED BY MEN. WE NEED TO HAVE DIVERSITY, IT BREEDS CREATIVITY AND HARMONY. WOMEN ARE CREATIVE, THEY BRING A LOT OF EMPATHY, THEY THINK DIFFERENTLY, ETC. WOMEN’S VOICE NEEDS TO BE GIVEN EMPHASIS AND IMPORTANCE IN THIS INDUSTRY.”

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty once said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” In that spirit, to make successful women in the Malaysian tech industry to be seen by others, especially other women, My.IT is starting a series where it will feature Malaysian women who are making great strides in the tech industry here.

We kick off this series with Dzuleira Abu Bakar, the dynamic CEO of Cradle Seed Ventures (CSV). CSV is a growth-stage venture capital fund and a subsidiary of Cradle Fund Malaysia. Dzuleira took on the job as the CEO three years ago. Her role is to look into high growth businesses in the technology sector across Malaysia and the region. She has always been passionate about growing startups and backing talented entrepreneurs. With over 15 years of experience in the technology, venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) industry, Dzuleira has served both in the Government agencies as well as in the private sector.

Although she does not have a degree in IT — her background is in law and business management — she describes her career trajectory as always linked to technology companies and the venture capital scene. Dzuleira is also proof that one does not need a degree in IT to succeed in the technology industry. For example, Han Mei, the co-founder and COO of Hellobike, a bike-sharing company valued at USD 1.47 billion and listed by Nikkei Asian Review as one of the five women to watch in Asian tech in 2018, has a degree in Business Administration.

Dzuleira’s first job as Legal and Business Development Director was with the Astronautic Technology Sdn Bhd (ATSB), a government-backed entity in satellite technology responsible for launching Malaysia’s remote sensing satellite as well as the RazakSAT launched by Space-X where she assisted in the launch manifest. ATSB was also where her passion for the tech industry sparked.

At ATSB she was inspired by Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman, Malaysia’s first astrophysicist, who was leading the National Space Agency at that time. “I was awestruck by her as she was almost always the only woman on the table,” says Dzuleira. “Datuk Dr Mazlan showed me how a woman can thrive in a male-dominated industry. She proved that nothing was off-limits for a woman; that there was no such thing as an industry where a woman cannot succeed if she puts her mind to it.”

ON HER LOVE FOR BUILDING BUSINESSES

“I grew up in a family that had run multiple businesses and I was always exposed to this environment. Maybe if I had decided not to continue working in the corporate sector, I would have started my own business. But thankfully, my career path has always taken me to jobs where I build other people’s businesses.

Being part of a company’s growth from RM100,000 in revenue a year to RM1 million within one to two years is an amazing feeling! To top that, I get to meet many interesting people with fantastic ideas. I love being a part and being an enabler of the fast-changing world of technology.”

ON PICKING THE RIGHT BUSINESS TO INVEST

“There are a number of things that we look at like the type and quality of the business, how has it been executed so far, do the founders have a comprehensive plan for the future of the business… We look at the founders — their passion for the business, their drive, experience and track record etc.

It need not be a novel model; it can be one that is being replicated. But what’s important is that it must have at least generated enough interest and has a clear demand, i.e. market. Contextualizing and localizing a business to its market that it’s addressing is also a key factor. Most common and well-known example is, Grab. Certainly not a new idea but executed so well. It has managed to kick out its competition Uber, which pioneered the ride sharing business model, out of this region!

I love businesses that empower other businesses. Like software/solutions that empower SMEs to increase productivity, allowing efficient use of data and so on and so forth. Basically, solutions that help businesses grow by leaps and bound.”

ON THE LACK OF WOMEN IN THE IT INDUSTRY

“One of the best performing companies in my portfolio has a woman as its tech leader and she is one of the best that I have come across. Absolutely brilliant! We have many talented women in the tech industry. However, that number is not enough.

We have moved ahead from a society that didn’t have women in the workforce to one where 54% of Malaysian women are working. In the past women traditionally saw themselves in sectors like nursing, teaching, HR industry, non-profit, communication industry etc. In the last 10 years women have moved into the IT industry, but perhaps not in the speed and numbers that we want. But I’m sure this will change, especially with the millennial generation as they are the ones who have grown up with computers. I am confident in the next five years we will see more women emerge in the tech industry.”

ON WHY THE IT INDUSTRY NEEDS WOMEN

“There are a lot of gaps in this industry that women can fill. Complementing perspectives between both genders provide a well rounded, well thought out decision making of any aspect. Right now more than 80% of the industry is dominated by men. We need to have diversity, it breeds creativity and harmony. Women are creative, they bring a lot of empathy, they think differently etc. Women’s voice needs to be given emphasis and importance in this industry”

ON INCREASING THE PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN IT

“Both women and men who have made it in this industry need to go out and identify talented women and hire them. It is not just about having the right academic qualification, but also an increased awareness of the need to hire more women and what that could mean to the IT industry as a whole.”

ADVICE FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO GET INTO THE IT INDUSTRY

“It all starts from having an interest. If you want something bad enough, equip yourself with knowledge and seek people who can help you. I strongly recommend finding a mentor to help you.

If you’re already in this field, you need perseverance and dedication to succeed. This is a very challenging industry because it is so fast changing. Chances are you can’t find another female in the company or industry to look up to because you’re probably the first to hold that position. You need to rise up and take every challenge that you meet. Don’t lose sight of your ambition.

One last thing: I think the mantra that women can have it all is – stretched. Juggling family, husband, kids and all that comes with it and at the same time trying to excel at career is a huge challenge. It requires a solid support system to make it all work. If you want to thrive in your career while being married, you will need to marry someone who will support you. So make sure you discuss these things with him beforehand. It needs to be a well thought out partnership more than anything else. I’ve been lucky and I chose well I guess!”