International women’s day 2018: interview with Melody Sheybani

Author Simon Stephens
March 23, 2018

Frazer Jones is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2018. We have interviewed a series of our female clients asking them how they are pressing forward for women’s gender parity #pressforprogress

Frazer Jones interviewed Melody Sheybani, Head of HR at BAT, Lower Gulf, Levant & Yemen

Past Progress

What action or decision are you most proud of making in your lifetime?
One of the best decisions I have made was pursuing a career in HR despite being a Computer Science graduate. I have never looked back since as my career in HR has been able to bring out my passion for people.

I genuinely believe that my HR career was accelerated further due to my technical background in a subject like computer science & mathematics. It was always a risk making such a daring decision at an early stage of my life and if I would to start all over again, I would not change a thing about it.
Throughout my career at BAT, I have been offered various opportunities in countries such as South Africa, Russia and Iran which I have embraced without hesitation and have welcomed the challenges that came with working in new and unknown markets.

What were the main drivers in helping you succeed in your career?
I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by great inspiring leaders and mentors that saw the potential in me and offered me various opportunities internally. Someone took a risk in me, and that belief drove me to greater success in my career.
When you are surrounded by strong leaders and have people you aspire to, the act of picking up their leadership traits and embedding them into your day to day style of leadership is a recipe to success.

Present Progress

If you were to be a mentor to someone within your profession, what one piece of advice would you give?
Regardless of the nature of the job you do, we are in a world of a networked organisation. Now within a matrix setup, ensuring a robust and expanded network / support is key for one’s personal and professional growth. You need to identify your key stakeholders and ensure you stay connected. Feedback is key to polish your skills, attributes and behaviours both personally & professionally. Always be hungry for Feedback and ask for it!

Future Progress

What advice would you give aspiring women in your industry?

As Sheryl Sandberg writes in her book: Lean In, my advice to women climbing up the ranks within an organisation is not to ‘fall off the cliff’.
Below are some advices I can offer:

‘Sit on the table’ – Show up in meetings and don’t hesitate to showcase your talent, presence and personality. I’ve seen on many occasions when in board meetings females will often reach for a chair that is furthest away from the table or where no one can spot them. Women aspiring to be successful in today’s world need to be able to demonstrate confidence and show their presence in senior leadership meetings alongside their male counterparts.

‘Support Network’ – Make sure you have a strong support structure at home. Being successful within the workplace, it is very important that you give it your 100% and having support from home whether from your partner or family is vital. My philosophy has always been to have a strong support network at home so that I do not need to stress about personal issues whilst at work and can separate both as and when needed.

‘Build Resilience and Be Resilient’ – Be thick skinned in the workplace. Throughout your career you will encounter many situations where you might get taken a back and be given negative feedback. It is vital that you are able to overcome this and build a character where you are able to pick up the learning, and quickly move on. A lack of resilience has been one of the reasons many women struggle to reach the peak of their careers.
Finally, I would like to say that nothing should distract you from your aspirations whatever that end goal might be. In the medium to long term, one must remain focused and have their eyes set on their career goals. Sometimes the next planned role or promotion is only a stepping stone towards that end game objective and not the end goal itself.

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