TheFace: Shahd Attar, Saudi digital transformation consultant

Shahd Attar with her husband and children. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 08 November 2019

TheFace: Shahd Attar, Saudi digital transformation consultant

I remember exactly the moment I decided to pursue a career in technology. I was born into a home where there were hundreds of computers and devices lying around. My father is an electrical engineer who founded a software company and then went on to run several other IT companies. He was a CEO by day and a gamer by night. Technology was a way of life for us and our house was a perpetual computer lab. Whenever he would dismantle a PC to install a new graphics card, he would use my small hands to hold the tiny screws for him, and I knew then as I stared in fascination at my dad whilst he operated on the mysterious green board, shiny interior and intertwined highway looking cables, that I would be hooked for life.

My career formally started at Cisco, a global leader in networking solutions. It was a dream come true to me. Reality hit me very quickly when there were not many other women around, especially after graduating from an all-girls school. I realized then that a noble higher calling would be to play an active role in bringing more women into the workforce and collectively working with everyone on creating a positive environment that celebrates diversity. However, after many years of dealing through the various challenging and rewarding situations, those colleagues became my friends, supporters and mentors. It was the growing pains that we, as a society, had to go through to transform, to find the right balance and the right culture that defines the new Saudi Arabia.

As our country marches into the future, global markets and technology will undoubtedly be the underlying enabler for many years to come. That is how I got to where I am today as a consultant in digital transformation with Accenture. I work with many clients everyday on leveraging technologies such as big data, the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing to change the way they do business and to enable them to innovate and deliver new digital experiences that are memorable and customer-centric. Change is happening quickly, and I am fortunate to be part of this positive momentum.

"There are so many wonderfully talented professional women in the market, but many employers have difficulty finding them. This invisible cultural barrier is slowly disappearing."

Talent shortage in technology is no joke, we are racing against time to fill the jobs required to execute all the digital transformation initiatives. Employing women is no longer optional, it is mandated by the government. I cofounded a nonprofit called “CellA,” which means “connection” in Arabic, in order to promote women’s economic participation in Saudi Arabia, supported by Al-Nahda Foundation. Professional women needed a platform in Saudi Arabia to connect to find jobs and to grow their careers through inspiration, mentoring and personal development. We held regular meetings and ran many events where great female role models spoke about their journey and the challenges they faced. I am so proud of the incredibly positive force of energy we created for women in Saudi Arabia.

There are so many wonderfully talented professional women in the market, but many employers have difficulty finding them. This invisible cultural barrier is slowly disappearing. However, over the years I have met and spoken with hundreds of women and I understand many of the problems and challenges they face. I continue to speak up and advocate for them and be personally inspired by their achievements and stories.

Recently, we held the largest meetup for women in technology in Riyadh, at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. 1,500 women attended all-female technical panels and workshops. Today, no one can say that there are no women in cybersecurity, data science or any field of technology. It has been a great and rewarding personal journey, from feeling lonely to seeing hundreds like me, sharing the same passion and aspirations and realizing great career heights.

Like my father, my mother also influenced my personality and brought me balance. She is the reason I look up from the screen of my computer and to try to connect to people. She taught me kindness, empathy and positivity. She taught me to how to love life and give love. I have been blessed with a son and a daughter and a wonderful husband. It is for my family that I work and hope for a brighter and better future. I am blessed to be in a professional position that sets the foundations for the future of my country. 


Misk Initiatives Center signs 12 deals to develop youth talent

Updated 15 November 2019

Misk Initiatives Center signs 12 deals to develop youth talent

  • MoUs with top firms such as Chinese tech giant Huawei, French oil major Total open new opportunities

RIYADH: The Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Foundation Misk Initiatives Center has signed 12 memorandums of understanding (MoU) on the sidelines of the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh with local and international companies to support and develop youth talent.

Among the companies were the Chinese tech giant Huawei, the French oil firm Total, the Emirati Federal Youth Authority, and the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

The agreements stipulated joint work between the two parties in the fields of talent development in Saudi Arabia and information and communications technology, in accordance with the National Transformation Program 2020 and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

This initiative aims to find ways of cooperation and employment opportunities between the two parties.

The MoU signed between the center and the Emirati Federal Youth Authority provides for the enhancement of joint cooperation in support of youth. 

The two parties will seek to discuss future cooperation, to build a strategic partnership between the two parties in exploring potential cooperative opportunities and setting a framework for such cooperation, in addition to organizing the exchange of technologies and innovations through the joint organization of courses, forums and workshops.

The MoU aims at creating a specialized scientific dialogue between the two parties, conducting joint research at the institutes in the field of entrepreneurship and the skills of the future, considering launching joint initiatives, and examining the possibilities of cooperative programs based on the extensive experience of Misk and the Federal Youth Authority.

Misk’s Initiatives Center agreement with Total will promote joint cooperation, find training opportunities for Saudi talent at the company’s headquarters and facilities, and cooperate on educational programs that support entrepreneurship and an ecosystem for startup companies, especially in the fields of energy and technology.

The Misk Global Forum also witnessed the signing of a MoU with “Hub71” to promote learning and leadership among Saudi youth, and enhance opportunities for joint collaboration, in addition to two MoUs with 500 startups and seed stars “to promote joint cooperation between the two parties, to develop and grow the business of startups and provide them with the necessary

Misk also signed a MoU with the Public Institution for Education and Global Leadership to promote joint cooperation and achieve the objectives of both sides, to support innovation initiatives that instill the entrepreneurial mindset of young people, as well as the establishment and organization of entrepreneurship approaches. 

Both parties agreed to focus on exploring potential collaborative opportunities related to the Entrepreneurship World Cup, and establish a competition with competitors coming from 170 countries.

Both parties also agreed to support international competitions aimed at identifying the best solutions in various fields and sectors, as well as exchanging programs on entrepreneurship and innovation.

The center has signed a MoU with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to discuss the possibility of providing training programs and courses for the center’s employees of the Fund and the relevant authorities. In addition to discussing available opportunities for cooperative training within the Fund, and providing opportunities for participation and contribution of the Fund’s staff in Misk’s programs.

The MoU aims to explore the benefits of existing agreements between the two parties with international financial and educational institutions, in order to find opportunities that provide programs, training and educational courses, and granting cooperative trainings for Saudi youth in those global institutions.

The center also signed a MoU with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), aiming to enhance joint cooperation on educational technology and its integration into the educational systems in the Islamic world.

An MoU with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) will enhance the cooperation between the two parties in several initiatives, including academic development, training, entrepreneurship and innovation programs.

An MoU with Endeavor Saudi Arabia will support the Kingdom’s youth, enhance their talents and potential, stimulate economic growth, and find ways of cooperation between the two parties that serve their common interests.

The center’s MoU with the Ministry of Economy and Planning aims to spread awareness, provide new information on the education and training of human resources in the administrative and economic fields, youth empowerment, and coordinate efforts to raise their abilities.

The MoU aims to create cooperative training opportunities in local and international institutions with the purpose of workforce growth in the Kingdom’s economic sector, contributing to the development of national competencies in the economy, policies and procedures, strategic planning, in addition to providing job opportunities for graduates from areas that serve the interests of both parties and support the achievement of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.