Top 50: Farah Al-Shaikh of Siemens Energy on Women Leadership and Social Media

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In this episode of our Top 50, we sit down to interview Farah Al-Shaikh, she’s the Head Of Procurement for Region Middle East & North Africa at Siemens Energy. Farah shares her perspective on why you should maximize social media to enhance your personal brand. She shares about her sharing positive causes on social media such as her work on women leadership. She even shares her success stories on how she use social as a way to nurture and re-engage customers.

About The Top 50 Series

The Top 50 is the podcast about employee advocacy powered by PostBeyond hosted by Nicole McLaren, Customer Success Operations Manager and Daniel Ku, Director of Marketing. This podcast explores how the top 50 users of PostBeyond leverage employee advocacy to amplify their brand message. We analyzed over 36,500 professionals using employee advocacy to uncover their social media habits, how they built their personal brand and more. Hear from a handful of the top 50 users to uncover their personal stories and insights.

About Our Hosts

Nicole McLaren, Customer Success Operations Manager

Nicole McLaren is the Customer Success Operations Manager at PostBeyond. She joined the team a little over a year ago, and has developed a keen interest in exploring data to improve user experience and optimize program performance. Nicole’s interests outside of work include painting, trying new foods and listening to niche music genres. Ask her what she’s listening to today!

Daniel Ku, Director of Marketing

Daniel Ku is the Director of Marketing at PostBeyond and has spent the past several years bridging the gap between companies and customers through social media. Daniel is on a mission to help marketers get onboard with social selling, content marketing best practices, and employee advocacy. Outside of work, Daniel likes to practice his squat form, listen to podcasts and tell bad jokes.

Episode Transcript

Daniel: Awesome. I noticed on LinkedIn you have a very interesting role. One that I would not expect to use social media, Head of Procurement. I’m so curious, can you describe your role and how you got started in your role at Siemens?

Farah:  Okay, it’s an interesting story. Okay, maybe I go a little bit more back. My parents are engineers and of course they would want their kids to follow in their footsteps and go into engineering. Siemens is one of the top engineering, let’s say companies worldwide. Straight out of high school, I decided to do like a summer internship at Siemens, Kuwait. This is where I’m originally from, just to explore, see how it is in the workplace, and then hopefully make a decision what I’m going to major in. After finishing the internship, then I knew that I don’t want to be an engineer and I decided to do my bachelor’s. I actually majored in interior architecture. This is what I wanted to do and yeah, that was it. Then I followed it up with my master’s.

Then I don’t know what happened. It was like the energy on Siemens. In 2012, I had worked for an investment company and I didn’t work in architecture and then some thing led to another and there was this program, it’s called the Siemens graduate program. The program itself was very interesting and appealing to me. You had to do rotation six months different projects just to explore and experience different aspects within the company, and yeah. I decided to apply for that and it was the first rollout in the Middle East. I entered Siemens with that graduate program. Then through the graduate program, I got the position in supply chain in Kuwait because they were restructuring and that’s how it started. I never planned to enter supply chain or procurement, but then working in it, I actually really love it. You get to work with all the different units in the company, internal and external. This is how it begun with me. Then with time, I ventured out to work in Qatar. Just recently I moved to UAE to head the region, Middle East and North Africa for service for Siemens. This is how my journey with Siemens began.

Daniel: Nice, so there’s certainly not a straight line–

Farah:  No.

Daniel: for your career, which is awesome. I think the best part of the journey in trying to figure yourself out. I went through the same way. I’m in marketing but I’m a fine arts major and my parents wanted me to be an engineer as well. I can definitely reflect in what you went through.

Farah:  Yeah.

Daniel: How do you use social media in your role from day to day basis?

Farah:  Honestly, I have to credit our comms team. Before, okay, we used social media just on a personal level and then it was fine. But I think the comms team really invested in some of us to elevate the usage on the social media platforms that it can be part of our day to day and not just have a very boring traditional workwise. The PostBeyond honestly really helps. It made it so much easier and it doesn’t feel like a task. For workwise, because we deal with a lot of different markets and different suppliers, and especially on LinkedIn, it just opens a lot of opportunity and doors to reach out to different suppliers, different opportunities and different connections either within the company or even externally. Yeah, I would say that was the biggest part really.

Daniel: That’s good to hear that PostBeyond has definitely helped with your social media knowledge and how you use it.

Farah:  It’s organized, the postings. You have a lot of material, but not a lot of time and you just want things easy and organized, so it’s just easy. And then it has also good, let’s say study material as well. I want to reference like some article on a project that we had to send it to someone to give them info, I can just search like our Egypt project or something, get the materials, send it over to the supplier, and I know it’s vetted, so you can externally share it, and yeah. And then they get the info very easy.

Nicole:  Amazing.

Daniel: It’s very engineer ask of you to look at the problem and then organize it, find it very easily, and efficiently get the solution.

Nicole:  Looking at this, this is basically a really great way how social media has helped you in your role. Is there any other way that you found social media has helped you specifically with your role?

Farah:  I have one really good example. It’s a true example. When I was in Qatar, we had a major problem in our division, in mobility division where we had a big issue and we had a short timeline to renegotiate with all of the suppliers because… how can I like vet the info while not disclosing really what’s going on? Yeah, it was a major issue with the end customer and as a result, we had to renegotiate all the terms with existing suppliers on the project. But they were not necessarily our suppliers but we needed to complete it. Of course, there was a lot of issues with outstanding liabilities in the market and it was a really, let’s say, tough discussion with many suppliers. We had over 250 suppliers on a short amount of time that we needed to close and get them into the project.

Of course, we had many lovely discussions. We had one specific case where we had the supplier that they were not willing to come back to the project and back at the site. We had met with them a few times but it wasn’t going anywhere, and they had a key role. Of course, I wanted to escalate it to see if I can reach someone from their management to get things moving and discuss with them on that level. I searched on LinkedIn and then I found that actually that their managing director had sent me a message but because I have so many messages, I didn’t pay attention. So then, that was great. I replied to him, we exchanged phone numbers, and then we got in contact and he’s like, “Yeah, I see you’re very active with Siemens and your posts and everything.” Okay, we managed to talk a few meetings there and at the end I think we concluded in a good way. We had to compromise a little bit but at the end, we did get them back on site. Yeah, that was a real true example.

Nicole:  I like that. It’s actually interesting how you’re able to connect with people in real time even people that you don’t necessarily have a relationship with. You always have that communication available, which is really good.

Farah:  Yeah.

Nicole:  That kind of also sounded like a success story in terms of being able to wrangle back in somebody who was leaving. You were able to get the customer back or get the supplier back, which is amazing. Do you have any other success stories where you’ve personally experienced that social media has helped you based on your presence on social media?

Farah:  One good thing, I think with time and with the years and just being, let’s say more active, if like using PostBeyond or just generally active, so everyone now automatically associates to me and Siemens, which is a good thing. I think it gives a lot of awareness to what the company does because we don’t deal with consumers, we deal with utilities and Governments. So, not a lot of consumers around the world know us. I think it’s given more for the company, at least more awareness in terms of on the people side.

Then also from our side, not a lot of people also know what procurement or what we do in procurement. It’s also given a little bit more of information on that end. Just being a woman as well, it’s really, you know, earlier in beginning of my career, I didn’t really kind of consider it. You have these women role models but you didn’t really consider the impact it would have. But I think as you grow within the organization, as in you become more senior, you see that there is really a lot of challenges there. I’m happy to represent that side of the table and just show maybe new entry level guys that you can be a senior person in a role that’s not necessarily labeled as woman friendly.

Nicole:  I really like that. It resonates with me personally. I’ve always been somebody who has been inspired by women leaders and I recognize very quickly if there aren’t any presence within an organization. I like the fact that you are aware of this and that you own this presence and that’s amazing to hear actually. On that note, do you have any advice for anyone wanting to build their personal brand on social media?

Farah:  I think it’s good to have a goal on it and you need to put in the work. It doesn’t really happen naturally. You need to dedicate the time. I think the app really makes things so much easier. But yeah, you need to filter really what you’re doing, be organized in the information you’re putting out there and yeah, just put in the work and enjoy it. It doesn’t have to feel like it’s not worth really. But enjoy it and get the most out of the information. I think there’s a lot of information there and it’s really good if you’re using it for a corporate, like a business aspect as well. Really, you’re knowing so much about the organization just like for free on your spare time, so why not?

Daniel: Yeah, I think that’s definitely good advice. Previously, you mentioned your success story of the supplier getting in touch and I thought that was an amazing way of using the social platforms to stay in touch, stay on top of mind with different people. Well, we’ve noticed in the past couple of months because COVID, that has actually increased the usage of PostBeyond and social media across all of our customers. I’m curious to learn if and how did COVID impact your social sharing habits?

Farah:  To be honest in the beginning, and also it was a combination of a few personal things, my usage declined. I think the last few months it has gone down. I have picked up now because I was stuck in the middle due to COVID and traveling and I wasn’t in my work location. There was a lot of things going on. But now being back in UAE and I have joined the role and settled, I see myself picking it back up again and back into, let’s say work mode. We’re starting to go to the office a bit more. Yeah, it came naturally, really. Also, the competitive aspect because I do see the leaderboard. I’ll be like, “Okay, I was away for a while, but I’m going to be back.” Yeah, I think in the beginning with everything going on, for sure is declined, but now with everything and everyone getting back into business and working, it’s helped. And it’s my go to. It’s my work Google. It’s like I want to search a supplier or anything, let me see who works there and then na na na, okay, fine.

Daniel: Yeah, I love the competitive spirit. It’s a good warning for anyone who’s trying to get–

Farah:  And we do compete for the really active guys. In Doha, honestly, they’re very active. In UAE, okay, they’re much bigger but when you see a person you always know like, you go over that person or they go over you. It’s always the same people. You know in the elevator like, huh, this month is my month. So, yeah.

Daniel: I love how the social activity has translated to office politics and competition in the elevator now. That’s funny.

Farah:  No, but it’s fun.

Daniel: Yeah, that’s good hear. Our last question for you is, what’s your advice for anyone who’s wary of social media or just simply getting started with social media and don’t know where to go?

Farah:  I think for sure, accept it really like enjoy the ride because yeah, it’s 2020. The world is changing. I think if you maximize what it gives, then for sure it opens up many avenues for you to complement your work, whether you want to enhance your brand, your personal brand maybe, and also, just use it for work. I think it’s great if you just apply yourself to really using it and making the best out of it. I think you should have a plan and have that mindset, especially if you’re using it for work. It’s not the same if you’re using it personally. I would always have that kind of filter. Okay, I’m in personal mode and now I’m in work mode, even though now for me it’s kind of the same. I had to compromise a little bit on what I can share on a personal level because it’s so mixed together. I have board members following my personal Instagram, so it’s a bit tricky.

But yeah, I think if you’re just aware of it, so then you avoid a lot of maybe inconvenience circumstances. But definitely, I think use it and make the best out of it because it has a big reach. Yeah, for sure.

Daniel: That’s a great answer, especially the split and balance between personal and professional. I like that approach. Cool. With that being said, we just want to thank you for sharing your insights and everything on how you’re using social media. I think it speaks volumes to why you’re one of our top 50 users, so thank you.

Farah:  Great. Thank you for reaching out. It was great. Yeah, I look forward to what’s new in PostBeyond.

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