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Amplifying Voices: Soraya Tavakol's Journey of Connection and Empowerment!




In the dynamic world of technology, few professionals stand out as brightly as Soraya Tavakol. With a multifaceted career that spans roles in Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy at Amazon Web Services (AWS), a certification in PMI-ACP, and a passionate involvement as a Code First Girls Ambassador, Soraya's story is nothing short of inspiring. As a dedicated #IAmRemarkable facilitator, she empowers others to recognise their own achievements, while her love for travel adds a unique dimension to her professional and personal life.


1. How has your multicultural background influenced your approach to mentorship and advocacy

for underrepresented groups in tech?


It has a huge influence, my multicultural background has profoundly shaped my approach to

mentorship and advocacy in tech. Growing up with a blend of ethnicities and backgrounds, I often

felt I didn’t fit into one social group or norm, which has given me a unique perspective on identity

and belonging. Instead of feeling constrained by labels, I've embraced the freedom to define myself

on my terms. I extend this philosophy to my mentorship, encouraging underrepresented individuals

to break free from stereotypes and pursue their own paths to success. I believe in challenging

preconceived notions and amplifying the voices of those often overlooked in the industry. My focus

is on empowering others to share their stories and experiences, ensuring that diverse perspectives

are celebrated and valued.


2. As a Code First Girls Ambassador and #IAmRemarkable facilitator, what strategies do you

employ to empower women and minorities in the tech industry?


As a Code First Girls Ambassador and #IAmRemarkable facilitator, my focus is on empowering

women and minorities in the tech industry by helping them cultivate the confidence to self-promote

authentically. In #IAmRemarkable workshops, we challenge the notion that self-promotion is

synonymous with bragging, instead guiding participants to embrace their achievements and share

them in a way that feels genuine to them. I believe that self-promotion is a crucial tool for opening

doors to opportunities, allowing individuals to advocate for themselves effectively. However,

authenticity is paramount. I emphasise that self-promotion should align with ones values and

personality, whether it's sharing accomplishments with a close-knit group or publicly on social

media. Authenticity resonates deeply with others, as research shows our ability to detect it is

remarkably sharp. In a study they found that people could discern the difference between friends

laughing together and strangers attempting to laugh together with 92% accuracy in just half a

second. Helping individuals find their authentic voice in self-promotion is challenging but immensely

rewarding. It's about empowering them to navigate the industry with confidence and integrity


3. Can you share a specific success story from your experience mentoring young female talent in

tech?


I had the privilege of mentoring a young woman last year who initially sought guidance on achieving

a promotion in her current role. However, as our sessions progressed over six months, it became

clear that her dissatisfaction ran deeper than her position. Through open dialogue and reflection, we

discovered that her true aspirations lay in moving to a bigger city with more diverse career

opportunities, rather than simply advancing within her current company. By shifting our focus

towards her long-term happiness and career fulfilment, we worked together to outline a strategy for

achieving this goal. At the end of our mentoring journey, she successfully landed a role in her dream

city that aligned with her passions and brought her genuine joy.

While we didn't achieve the original objective of a promotion, this experience underscored the

importance of introspection and clarity in defining success. It's not just about reaching predefined

milestones, but about understanding what truly brings fulfilment and pursuing it wholeheartedly.

This success story encapsulates what I find most rewarding about mentoring: the opportunity to

delve deep into someones aspirations, uncovering hidden barriers, and guiding them towards a path

that aligns with their authentic self.



4. How do you balance your professional role as a Go-to-Market Program Manager at AWS with

your advocacy work for inclusion and diversity?


Balancing my role as a Go-to-Market Program Manager at AWS with my advocacy work for inclusion

and diversity requires strategic prioritisation, meticulous planning, and organisational efficiency.

Firstly, prioritisation is essential. I identify the key projects and initiatives that i'm most passionate

about and align them with my core values and goals. This helps me focus my time and energy where

it matters most, especially during busy periods. Secondly, planning ahead is crucial for optimising my

time effectively. I set monthly goals and plan my weekly calendar to ensure I stay on track with my

commitments. For instance, I schedule my weekly LinkedIn posts in advance, allowing me to

maintain a consistent presence without feeling overwhelmed. Lastly, staying organised is key to

managing multiple projects seamlessly. I utilise various organisational tools such as 'Calendly' to

streamline scheduling for mentoring sessions, integrating it with my calendar and providing meeting

links automatically. Additionally, I maintain a structured OneNote template for mentoring

relationships, setting clear expectations and guidelines for each session. By implementing these

strategies, i'm able to balance my professional responsibilities with my advocacy work effectively,

ensuring that I make meaningful contributions to both domains while maintaining my well-being.


5. What advice do you have for individuals looking to build robust frameworks and strategies for

early-adoption projects/initiatives in the tech sector?


For individuals seeking to develop robust frameworks and strategies for early-adoption projects in

the tech sector, I offer five key lessons distilled from my seven years of experience (you can read

more about it on my LinkedIn):


Lesson 1: Define a Clear Vision and Priorities

A clear vision and defined priorities are foundational for program success. I advocate for a succinct

vision statement and three clear priorities for each program or project.

Lesson 2: Embrace Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Whether quantitative or qualitative, KPIs provide clarity, enable course corrections, and bolster

team morale. While KPIs should align with program priorities, it's crucial to maintain focus by

limiting their number (I usually aim for 1-2 KPIs per priority).

Lesson 3: Secure Sponsorship and Leadership Support

Effective sponsorship from organisational leaders is indispensable for program success. A sponsor in

a program is someone who isn’t directly involved in the day-to-day of delivering the program vision

and goals, but has a vested interest in its outcome.

Lesson 4: Balance Documentation with Agility

This takes inspiration from the Agile Manifesto of Software Development, where one of the guiding

principles is ‘Working software over comprehensive documentation’. While documentation is

essential, agility is paramount in navigating dynamic environments.

Lesson 5: Recognise When to Quit

Knowing when to pivot or quit a project is a mark of strategic acumen, not failure. Sometimes,

despite our best efforts, external factors render certain endeavours nonviable. Accepting this reality

and reallocating resources accordingly fosters resilience and sets the stage for future opportunities.


6. With your extensive sales experience, what key lessons have you learned about consistently

achieving and exceeding targets?


People tend to think that sales people who are constantly achieving and exceeding targets are great

talkers and very charming. In my experience that is not the case. In my extensive sales experience, i've found that consistently achieving and exceeding targets requires more than just charm and

eloquence.


The most successful sales professionals prioritise three key elements: process, resilience,

and adaptability.


Firstly, a rigorous and disciplined process is essential. This includes setting clear targets and

deadlines for every stage of the sales cycle, from prospecting to follow-up. Trusting and adhering to

this process is crucial for generating consistent results. Those who rely on luck or scatter their efforts

haphazardly are unlikely to achieve sustained success. Secondly, resilience is paramount in the face

of rejection. The best sales people don't let a no deter them; instead, they view it as an opportunity

to learn and improve. Maintaining a positive attitude and persistence in the face of setbacks is key to

overcoming obstacles and ultimately closing deals.

Lastly, adaptability is essential in an ever-evolving landscape. What worked yesterday may not work

tomorrow. Successful sales professionals stay abreast of market trends and changes, constantly

adjusting their approach to match shifting dynamics. For example, while cold calling may have been

effective in the past, todays buyers respond better to personalised outreach and engagement

strategies. Adapting to these changes can be challenging, but it's necessary for sustained success in

sales. By prioritising process, resilience, and adaptability, sales professionals can consistently achieve

and exceed targets even in the most competitive environments.


7. How do you navigate cultural differences and adapt your approach when working with

customers from diverse backgrounds in various sectors?


Growing up in a multicultural household and living abroad, I learned early on the importance of

interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and languages. My upbringing exposed me to

various cultures and languages, from Swedish at home to English in school, and Spanish with friends.

This experience instilled in me a natural ability to adapt to different environments and communicate

effectively across cultures. Navigating cultural differences in professional settings often involves a

concept known as code-switching, which can manifest in language-based or culture-based

adaptations. While code-switching can help individuals assimilate into different cultural contexts, it's

essential to balance its benefits with the preservation of authenticity. You can read more about how

I use and feel about code-switching here.


8. What inspired your passion for travel and exploration, and how has it shaped your perspective

on global citizenship?


My love for travel and exploration stems from my upbringing, marked by constant relocation and

adaptability to new environments. Having called ten different places home, i've developed a sense

of being a global citizen, feeling at ease and capable of settling anywhere I find myself. This nomadic

lifestyle has instilled in me a curiosity about the world and a perpetual sense of wanderlust. Travel,

for me, is not just about escapism or leisure; it's a means of broadening my horizons and enriching

my perspective on global citizenship. Last year alone, I had the privilege of visiting 16 countries,

some included Latvia, Cyprus, Madeira (Portugal), Estonia, and Turkey. Beyond the superficial

pleasures of travel—the new flavours, sights, and sounds—it has deepened my appreciation for the

diversity and beauty of our planet. Experiencing different cultures first-hand has taught me the value

of empathy, humility, and open-mindedness, essential qualities for fostering meaningful connections

with people from all walks of life.

Moreover, travel serves as a respite from the monotony of everyday life, offering moments of

serenity and inspiration amidst the hustle and bustle. Whether marvelling at architectural wonders

or immersing myself in natural landscapes, each journey reaffirms my belief in the transformative

power of exploration. In essence, my passion for travel has not only shaped my personal experiences

but also enriched my understanding of global citizenship. It's a constant reminder that, despite our differences, we share a common humanity and a shared responsibility to cherish and preserve the

beauty of our world.


9. Could you share a memorable experience from one of the countries you’ve lived in that had a

profound impact on your personal or professional life?


My experience in Dublin was a transformative journey filled with challenges and growth. Despite

initial feelings of uncertainty and isolation, my time in the city taught me resilience and self-reliance.

Navigating the complexities of relocating to a new country and starting a demanding corporate job

tested my limits, but ultimately helped me discover a newfound strength within myself. Dublin's

vibrant tech scene and welcoming culture provided the perfect backdrop for my professional

development. I found myself surrounded by ambitious individuals eager to excel in the industry, and

the city's lively pub culture offered ample opportunities to forge meaningful connections and build a

supportive network. Reflecting on my time in Dublin, i'm grateful for the transformative experiences

and valuable lessons learned. It reaffirmed my belief in the importance of taking risks, seising

opportunities, and embracing the unknown. For anyone considering a career in the tech sector, I

wholeheartedly recommend Dublin as a starting point for personal and professional growth.


10. How do you envision the future of tech in terms of diversity, inclusion, and global

collaboration, and what role do you hope to play in shaping it?


In today's rapidly evolving technological landscape, the increasing prominence of Artificial

Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is reshaping industries and everyday life. While the

potential of AI and ML is immense, there are concerns about the impact on diversity, equity,

inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). There's a risk that AI might perpetuate biases and limit perspectives

if not developed and deployed thoughtfully. However, I remain hopeful that the essence of human

emotion and creativity will continue to distinguish us from AI and ML. It's imperative that the teams

driving technological advancements embrace diversity and inclusivity, ensuring that a wide range of

perspectives are represented in the development process. We have seen how teams who are more

diverse and inclusive on average see a 14% higher revenue from innovation (enhanced or new

products), underscoring the importance of DEIB in the tech sector.

As a proponent of diversity and inclusion, I aspire to play a role in fostering a more inclusive tech

industry. By amplifying the voices of underrepresented talent and leveraging my network to connect

them with opportunities, I aim to contribute to a future where diversity is celebrated and embraced

in all aspects of technology development and implementation. Ultimately, I believe that by

harnessing the collective wisdom and perspectives of diverse teams, we can create technology that

not only advances innovation but also reflects the needs and values of society as a whole.



Connect with Soraya Tavakol

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