Devoted to creating opportunities and empowerment for women in tech

She has experienced diverse cultures thanks to living and working in three different countries on three different continents. When it comes to broadening horizons and embracing different perspectives, Zhilla knows what she is talking about. That will certainly be evident during her presentation at European Women in Tech (EWIT).

Zhilla is a strong advocate for creating opportunities and empowerment for women, particularly when it comes to women in the tech sector. More than 25 years ago, she was one of only six women studying software engineering at university in her native Iran. Moreover, in her first job, she was the only female employee in the entire company.

'At that time, it was normal to see so few women in tech roles'

Zhilla: “At that time, I thought it was normal. But as my career progressed, I increasingly realised that it was unacceptable to see so few women in tech. It’s really important that women work in this field, bring a diverse perspective and are involved in decision-making across the organisation. Living and working in three different countries – Iran, Australia and the Netherlands – has opened my eyes to the challenges woman face in each society. This has made me devote myself to empowering women.”

Demystifying tech roles for girls

“At ING Australia, I led a Women in Tech community, with the aim of inspiring, attracting, retaining and developing female talents. I have also been involved in various mentoring programmes for women in tech which has been an extremely rewarding experience. We’re doing a lot of great work in this field at ING Netherlands including mentoring programmes, and various inspiring and insightful internal and external events like coding meetups for females. We are also an active participant in high school programmes, with the aim of demystifying tech roles for girls and sparking an early interest in tech careers.”

‘Diversity doesn’t stop at having enough women in your teams'

Diversity and different perspectives have always been important themes for Zhilla, both in her previous roles at ING and now as Global Head of Technology. And diversity doesn’t stop at having enough women in your teams. “My team includes 320 people across five countries: the Netherlands, Romania, India, the Philippines and Poland. We work for the 40 countries where ING operates in Wholesale Banking.”

‘I think it’s important that we listen to and understand each other,
regardless of our backgrounds’

“Collaboration is one of the key values in my teams. I think it’s important that we listen to and understand each other, ensuring everyone feels safe to speak up, wherever we work in the world and whatever background we come from.”

Zhilla’s talk at EWITThroughout her career, Zhilla has led large team scale-ups to meet the business demands, driving significant transformation in the process. She will talk about this and the associated challenges when she speaks at EWIT. “A scale-up can be overwhelming and exciting. Imagine suddenly doubling or tripling your team size in a matter of months... That requires a huge transformation for both the leader and the team. By sharing my experiences, I hope to provide both inspiration and practical guidance.”

About Zhilla

Zhilla lives with her husband, teenage daughter and golden retriever named Amber. Her passion is art. She has been painting since she was little and hesitated between art school and computer science studies. Creativity helps her in her work, as does running, which is an ideal way to clear her mind and create space for new ideas. She has run several half marathons and a full marathon.

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