April 27, 2023 – At Ahold Delhaize and across our great local brands, we aim to be a leader in enabling seamless digital experiences for both our customers and our associates. To achieve this, we count on our great talent of our tech and ICT colleagues across our business. This is why today, on Girls in ICT Day, we want to draw attention to the great need for more women and girls in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
To learn more, we recently had the opportunity to meet with Seema Singh, Ahold Delhaize's Vice President of Identity Access Management. We were lucky enough to learn more about Seema’s role, her enthusiasm and passion for ICT, how she began her career and the challenges faced in the ICT industry for women.
First thing’s first, what is Identity and Access Management (IAM)? Seema explains it simply: “Identity and Access Management helps improve the user experience of our associates as they try to obtain access to do their daily jobs in a secure and compliant manner. This includes the login and authentication steps needed throughout the day, as well as taking the steps needed to obtain new access into applications. This also involves improving the stability, uptime and performance of our systems that provide these capabilities. IAM is important because it provides a smooth seamless secure and compliant way for authorized people to gain access into Ahold Delhaize’s systems and data.”
Seema, when did you decide to dedicate your career to IT?
I still remember back in the early days of the internet and personal computing. There was a lot of buzz about all the new technologies and spanking new devices you got to own that seemingly had endless power and possibilities! And I certainly got caught up in that wave of excitement! About that time, I applied for and got admission into the computer science program at the University of Alabama – it was like a new world had opened for me and honestly, I couldn’t have asked for more. I haven’t looked back since then.
Were there any meaningful life events or people that you met along the way that helped shape your career path?
To be honest, I haven’t ever sat down and planned a career path for myself. Instead, I’ve allowed my curiosity to be my guide and I must say it has taken me to great and interesting places. However, I have had my fair share of influencers in my career. In fact, I wouldn’t have ever even considered going for a senior leadership role in Cybersecurity had it not been for a dear friend and mentor of mine who spent days convincing me of the value I could bring to the table by putting my name out there for consideration for my boss’s role. I consider myself lucky to have had a well-wisher who took it upon himself to challenge me to get out of my comfort zone, and to realize my potential. I had never seen myself as lacking the drive or passion and yet it took some severe yet well intended prodding to open my eyes to the possibilities. This was when I truly realized how women often opt out, and don’t challenge themselves enough or sometimes at-all. I was lucky to have someone look out for me. Not everyone is as fortunate.
What challenges do you think women in tech are facing today? What challenges have you experienced?
The world of IT in general and Cybersecurity in particular, has always suffered from a shortage in female representation. I recently read that women account for only two of ten cybersecurity professionals, despite representing almost half of the global workforce. Why do we have this big disparity? I mentioned earlier how women frequently did not consider themselves in the running for ambitious leadership roles. Well, it is the same for technology and cybersecurity roles – women don’t often see themselves in these roles because they don’t see other women in those positions, this needs to change. The low representation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, so we must pay special attention to enable active mentoring and guiding female talent.
What advice would you give to large organizations – including Ahold Delhaize – to attract more girls to the tech and ICT industry?
Catch them early and get them excited about a career in tech and ICT while they’re still in school. Bring in role models that they can associate with. Draw a roadmap for them and show them the possibilities, not only of how their future can shape up, but also of how they can shape up the future for everyone.