With a 10 year background in software and telecommunication, Soumaya oversees the Operations and Product strategy for RedCloud, as well as heading the Design and Business Development and Customer Engagement teams. She has deep expertise in Product Management for highly evolved digital financial services. Previous to RedCloud, she worked on the development of Orange Money in Africa and supported multiple industries in their transformations towards new technologies: Transport, Banking and telecommunication.
What was your motivation behind launching RedCloud?
I wanted to democratise the access to business technology by building a platform that is accessible to everyone and easy to use for any business regardless of their education level, language or size. A platform where everyone wins.
I find it very hard to reconcile in my head how an influencer whose main investment is in image management and marketing, is often more successful than a retailer who invests in real estate, products, stocks etc. and I wanted to do something about that.
Where did the idea come from?
I worked my way up from an employee in small businesses to where I am now, and it was really through that experience that I was making observations. I could see clearly then how vital small businesses are to the economy, especially in more impoverished areas, and how underserved they are in tech and in financial products.
While working with Orange Money, I saw that even big groups like Orange found it difficult to attract small businesses and bring them into a digital economy as it wasn’t their core business.
I knew these people deserved to have a business that focused on their pain points and helped address them.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I wouldn’t say there was one main challenge, but generally growing a business internationally is incredibly hard, especially as a small company operating in such a competitive space as ours.
One of the biggest challenges, but also the most exciting to take up, was to build a single technology that speaks to any business in the world, whether you are a grocery shop in Buenos Aires or a hairdresser in Lagos you can get value from our product.
Why do you think there are fewer women in the industry and what do you think is needed to improve this?
I think there are so many reasons for that.
First in the education system, there’s a perception of what it’s like to be an engineer that isn’t necessarily accurate and that needs to be addressed I think. It is often perceived as a career where you are locked in a room coding, setting up servers, and generally lacking engagement. But an engineer is a problem solver, leveraging their knowledge to create solutions that solves problems, and who better than women can do that? I think women are great problem solvers.
So I think there is not enough work being done selling the tech career to women. There is a lot to do but I think things are changing and getting better now.
What made you choose a career in distribution/tech?
I didn’t really choose a career in tech, it was more that my journey has naturally led me here. I did choose the entrepreneur life, though. I’ve worked with large organisations in my career but never felt it was the right fit for me, so I knew very early on in my career that I wanted to create a business.
I think that is on one hand influenced by my family background as my dad is an entrepreneur and always pushed us to act and create the situation we needed/wanted rather than expect them to come to us.
On the other hand, the level of freedom and creativity that comes with the job is priceless to me and I couldn’t imagine doing anything that didn’t offer that.
What do you think the future holds for the industry?
We’re in a very quickly evolving industry, new technologies are emerging everyday from robotics, to AI going through Cryptocurrency and digital payment.
I think it is fascinating to see all the innovation avenues available for the different players in the industry - tech suppliers, fmcg companies, regulators, and distribution companies. But I also think we need to create a technology that resolves the core issues of the industry and not add layers of technology just for the sake of innovation.
Building technology that helps the growth of society while also growing the economy is the balance we must keep in mind.
What would be your main piece of advice for other women interested in a similar career?
Do not consider yourself as a woman in the industry, but be the best individual you can be in your industry.
Whether you are in engineering, finance, health, or retail - whatever you do, invest in yourself. Take the time to learn and understand your industry. The rest is about your attitude, always act professionally no matter what is said about you, your gender, your religion, your origins... What matters most is the way you react to it.
What have been your biggest career and personal achievements?
Building Redcloud, launching products in multiple markets concurrently, and having a positive impact on our users.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Live a healthy lifestyle and learn to sell. You can build the best product in the world but if you don't know how to pitch it, it’s worthless.