Clad in an ivory coloured shift dress, Fariba Rawhani could easily pass off as a powerful technologist. Throughout the conversation, Fariba stressed on the absence of women at the helm of management and technology companies. The Iranian descendant, who is now a Canadian citizen, makes you wonder whether she is a feminist or not. She is the Chief Information Officer at Teranet, a leading delivery and transformation of statutory registry services company in Canada.
Fariba was in Thiruvananthapuram recently on a whirlwind trip to launch Teranet’s new office at Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram. She explains how she learns many things from her journalist daughter, Anisa Mercedes, on a daily basis, where she is ‘searching for truth’. She sounds like a philosopher when she says, “Humanity is one, no matter what we are, and we are members of a family where I always grew up in a just society”.
With a tad bit of disappointment, Fariba says the technology sector is facing major shortage of women. Traditionally, women prefer to work as business analysts, quality controllers and some in the management sector and few in development field. She says that these sectors are converging now and more women should come to the helm of companies.
Fariba says she keeps giving more attention to women as she finds them more timid. But she quickly adds that through mentoring, they can conquer their fears. She has a reason to say so, as it will be the company that will be losing the talent which will be untapped unless you give the fairer sex an opportunity to excel. She admits that some people have advised her that she will face difficulties if she gives too much attention to women. All through her over-two-decades-long career as a leading technologist honcho, Fariba has felt that as she went up the ranks, there were fewer and fewer women. She reached the top echelons of power step by step climbing from the developer background.
Fariba holds an MBA from the Ivey School of Business and studied Computer Science and Business Administration at the University of Vienna. She is a frequent speaker on subjects of technology, business transformation and global learning and is passionate about mentoring underprivileged youth as well as community and volunteer involvement. She had immigrated to Canada in the early 80’s where she was on her own. With conviction writ large on her face, Fariba explains that nothing was given to her personally on a silver platter throughout her career. “Yes, I always work harder than men. I am sure that there are men who work harder. But I think I work harder than anyone else,” says Fariba, bursting into peals of laughter. She has no qualms in saying that men are confident and if they know only 50 per cent of the work, they convince you that they know 200 per cent.
“I am indebted to my mentor, Brendon Calder, director of a leading Canadian bank, who always pushed me to the wall to excel in my career which is synonymous for its male bastion,” she says. Twenty-one years ago, her mentor offered her a job which she was not keen to accept, but he convinced her as he was adamant about enrolling her in his company. Fariba recalls fondly that she was the lone woman in all the meetings where he went out of the way without showing favouritism.
Most recently, as the CIO of York University and the Executive Vice President and CIO of the Home Trust Company, Fariba was responsible for the digital transformation agenda, process and technologies innovation, advanced analytics and machine learning, as well as enhanced governance and collaboration across technology and business units. In her previous role as a technologist, Fariba was leading the global business wing. So, by the time she joined Teranet, she was keen to ensure that the “global footprint” was established in India as well apart from Canada and Ukraine. Fariba realised that majority of the employees on the payroll were from India, China and Canada, while Teranet has a work strength of over 1000 employees and a few hundred in the IT division.
Not all her colleagues supported her idea of opening an office so far away in Nila and Pamba buildings in Technopark. But so far, the transition has been good for Fariba where a team of 40 people are working from Thiruvananthapuram. Fariba’s mantra has been “seize the moment” as she felt it is definitely an opportunity to spread the wings across the globe. Her strong belief is that the role of the CIO can bring in change through her global team where “meaningful work” is divided. Fariba is proud of her boss, Elgin Farewell, president and CEO of Teranet, who is also a great believer in providing equal opportunities. Fariba is hugely indebted to her parents, the Late Syed Abdul Rahman, an intellectual and a businessman and homemaker mother, 85-year-old Poran (pronounced as Puran).
Fariba vouches that she will soon be returning to Thiruvananthapuram, not only to meet her team of colleagues, but to meet someone special at an orphanage here. She accidentally met a plus one girl student, Surya, who lacked confidence to face her life. She told her about the value of education and that as a representative of the next generation, she should be leading the world. “I like to come back just for her,” says Fariba with a smile....