IWD2020: Q&A with Ilham Said, Founder of Engineer2Engineer

Leigh Jenkins
Marketing Manager - Innovation | Enterprise Europe Network
8th March 2020

As part of International Women’s Day we interview Ilham Said, on her role as founder of Engineer2Engineer, and her views on women in business.

Tell us about your role? 

As founder of Engineer2Engineer my role is to bring the mission statement to life and find like-minded people who share the same vision for the platform. I focus on business strategy, future direction, product development, and strategic partnerships. On a day-to-day basis I work closely with universities and academics to understand user needs and take actions accordingly. 

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

Being a life-long learner, I am always on the lookout for new ideas and ways of doing things which is the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur. I think the value comes from knowing something I’ve started is helping hundreds of students, which is what gets me out of bed every morning!

And what are the most challenging aspects?

The most challenging aspects would definitely be being a full-time student trying to run a business. Amongst other things, keeping the motivation on a high through good and bad times - start-ups can be an emotional roller coaster. 

What 3 things do you think you need to progress as a woman in business?

  1. Confidence boost
  2. Negotiation practice 
  3. Leadership environment 

What are the biggest challenges the future generation of women in business face?

  • Having leadership role acknowledged 
  • Defying social expectations 
  • Owning accomplishments 
  • Work life integration 

What can the next generation bring to business that previous generations may not have?

  • Lead new perspectives and creative solutions to old and persisting problems
  • Seek opportunities rather than waiting to be asked 
  • Bring a redefined force of strength, intelligence, and accomplishment - and not only as a resurrection from victimhood

How has the innovation support you received helped you as a woman?

Innovate2Succeed provided me with the right support system and mentoring to take bigger steps and goals I was previously hesitant to take on, pushing me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. 

What does a more gender-balanced world-view mean for you?

A worldview that does not limit individuals based on their gender but what skills they can bring to the table. I believe gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs. Being an aerospace engineering student, I feel privileged that I am being treated equally to my opposite gender. I stand as a woman and am giving my best in the field of engineering and entrepreneurship. 

How can we enable more women to take a place at the board-room table?

Teach women to assume the best, not the worst, and always assume you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. This is something I try to pass on – to inspire anyone around me (man or woman) that they can achieve whatever they put their mind to. We can also enable more women to take a place by showing how to negotiate and how to discuss family and work-life balance needs when competing against a single male or female candidate for a place at the board-room table.  

What advice would you give to young women and men starting out in business today in context of promoting a more diverse world-view?

I couldn't be prouder of being a woman in 2020. I am proud because I believe I can make a difference. Sure, I'm surrounded by reminders of how tough the struggle has been and the long journey ahead of us to achieve gender parity, but they are quickly answered by the strong and tenacious voices of men and women who are standing up. I personally have been drawn to ways I can make a difference, not just as a part of broader initiatives, but as an individual. One of the things I often tell women who are starting university is to "show up". It is such a simple thing, but a big part of how you'll progress in university and beyond. It’s also how we'll progress towards a society that values everyone equally. 

What women inspire you and why?

The woman who inspires me every day to go after my dreams and never let anyone disparage me for anything, especially my gender, is my mother. From the time I was little, my mum encouraged me to write about book reviews on women who were overshadowed in history, and who’s stories aren’t as widely talked or written about. I like to think that those women would be proud of the leaps and bounds women have made in letting our voices be heard - and know that this is only beginning.

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