Australia, Interviews

Rania Awad – CEO of Smart Asset Software

Meet Rania Awad, the CEO of Smart Asset Software. She’s an experienced founder and entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry in Australia and China. Read about her journey and how one question “What’s the worst that can happen?” triggered her career.

In a Nutshell: What role does technology play in your work?

I’m the CEO of Smart Asset Software, a technology company. We develop software that helps companies more efficiently maintain their assets resulting in a positive environmental impact on our planet and the clients’ bottom line. 

My role is to ensure that we solve our clients’ challenges utilizing the latest technological advancements. For example, I’m very interested in IOT (Internet of things) and the role sensors can play in better managing the asset lifecycle. Ideally, we would like to move our clients from manual processes of maintenance referred to as “preventive maintenance” towards more intelligent methods of maintenance referred to as “Predictive maintenance”.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

Believe it or not, my very first degree is Bachelor of Pharmacy, so I’m a trained pharmacist! I opened my first pharmacy business in the eastern suburbs of Sydney in 2001 – I was 23 years old. I was young and hungry for success. I lived by the motto of “what’s the worst that can happen?” – having experienced living in a war-torn country, Lebanon, for the first 11 years of my life, I felt that this is an appropriate motto to keep reminding me that at the end of the day no business risk is scarier than fearing for your life.

This motto pushed me to take risks and push my boundaries. For the first year of my business, I worked extremely hard, working from 8 am to 11 pm 7 days a week.

Two years later, in 2004 I started the journey of building what would become one of Australia’s very first online pharmacies. This online business pushed me into the world of digital – this world completely captured my imagination and I loved its rapid and constant evolution. As an online business founder, you simply cannot afford to take your eye off the ball. You have to keep up with the digital evolution and stay ahead of the curve. This fast pace suited my personality and hunger for constant learning.

I continued to grow the online pharmacy business with the help of an exceptional team over a period of 8 years, after which it was acquired by a large national pharmacy chain. 

It was time for me to sink my teeth into a new challenge.

The acquisition deal stipulated that I become their Ecommerce and IT director – My role was to focus on rolling out their Ecommerce strategy as well as implement systems to help optimize sales and marketing processes.

Through this role, I was able to achieve two key outcomes:

  1. Developing and executing an international Ecommerce strategy which included China.
  2. Leading the scoping, developing and project management of a best in class sales and marketing custom software.

I spent almost 3 years in this role, and I was ready for my next adventure. This time, I was ready to experience a new challenge in a new industry.

Smart Asset software represented the perfect opportunity that I knew would stretch my skills and brain cells, so I did what I always do before jumping and asked myself: ”What’s the worst that can happen??”.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

I am of the generation that experienced the “before” and “after” of the internet – I’m showing my age now! I consider our generation very lucky to have experienced this exponential growth in technology and the impact it has had on us in our lifetime.

Something that we take for granted as simple as making a purchase online – was very new and cutting edge when I launched my online business in 2003 in Australia.

The instant availability of “everything” has to be the greatest transformation in technology – instant information, instant shopping, instant gratification, instant music, movies, recipes. This “instant everything” has changed the way we view the world… for better or worse? I will leave that up to you to decide!

Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority. What steps should be taken to attract more women to tech?

There are two sides to this coin.

Firstly, companies need to review their hiring processes and the culture/environment they are creating to actively attract more women. 

Something as simple as removing gender bias from a job description e.g. “Looking to hire a Ninja/Rockstar developer blah blah…” or bragging about the beer fridge (I know women drink and love beer) – but this language has subtle masculine messages which discourage women – This leads to my second point.

Secondly, women MUST throw their hat in the ring. Be the change you crave to see. Don’t wait for the invitation. And don’t wait until you tick 100% of the boxes. 50-60% will do – learn the rest as you go, that’s what most successful men do!…after all “ what’s the worst thing that can happen?!”

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the actual tech skills)?

Exceptional communication skills. In most companies that I’ve been involved with, there is a divide between the “tech” and “business” language. This creates misunderstanding and issues when it comes to executing or implementing new technology.

A technologist must be able to “Actively” listen to what the business stakeholders are trying to say or achieve, flush out what they “really” mean and communicate it back for confirmation and “buy in”. 

Who are your tech influencers and why?

Elon Musk – “out of the box” thinker, innovator, risk-taker and keeps pushing forward through the storm.

What has been the greatest piece of advice you have received in your career so far?

“When a great opportunity presents itself – say yes now and figure out the details later!”

If you could host a dinner party with 3 influential people in tech, who would you invite and why?

Hedy Lamar – a Hollywood beauty whose invention helped enable WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth! You can read her fascinating story here. Hedy is my reminder that women can do many things and sometimes all at once –  and have been doing it for many years. 

Melinda Gates – best known as Bill Gates’ wife. Melinda however, is a computer science graduate and was at one point the general manager of Microsoft. Melinda’s work in empowering women and philanthropy is what I’m more interested in.

Elon Musk – I think he would be a  fun guest! I would also ask him what’s the one thing he would take with him to Mars.

Rania Awad is the CEO of SmartAsset Software. She’s an experienced founder and entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry in Australia and China. Skilled in Design thinking, Asset Management, Digital Strategy, Ecommerce, Negotiation, Business Planning, Sales and Marketing, with strong business development professional with a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) Executive and Technology Specialisation.

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