Entrepreneur Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin shares her experience with Rozana Sani on how to break barriers as a businesswoman
NURAIZAH Shamsul Baharin is used to taking on challenges.
As a girl, she was told to pick medicine over engineering because the latter was deemed unsuitable for the fairer sex. Nuraizah went for engineering.
Later, armed with an electrical engineering degree from the University of Michigan in the US in 1994, Nuraizah started her career in a largely man’s world — as a product engineer at Motorola Malaysia. She even worked in Germany and Scotland. She then joined Sapura Nokia Software as a senior R&D engineer and later, was at CWorks Mobile, a subsidiary of public-listed CWorks Systems.
After 16 years being an employee, Nuraizah, in 2010, took the leap to form Madcat World with a team of seasoned and award-winning mobile and software developers who have been working in this space since 1998, alongside younger colleagues.
“I was an electrical engineer and programmer for half of my career life before venturing into sales and marketing, and eventually entrepreneurship. I couldn’t find a boss whom I wanted to work for, so I learnt the most important skill in running a business, viz sales and marketing,” says the plucky lady.
Today, Nuraizah and her team have built hundreds of mobile applications, ranging from Islamic and health content to productivity, entertainment and game applications that are penetrating 183 countries around the world.
On a personal note, she is also a mentor for Cradle Investment Program Catalyst and the programme manager for mobile entrepreneurs at Maxis, among others.
“At Madcat, we are all programmers who share the same passion — to create meaningful products. We have gone through ups and downs before becoming Madcat World, and are the ones who have stuck through it all, no matter what.”
While Nuraizah has had her share of break through in the regional and global markets, she believes many of the women entrepreneurs in the country have yet to achieve this despite their potential.
“Very few women entrepreneurs have taken their business to that level as compared with their male counterparts. Perhaps it is due to the cultural constraints on the role of women here and the lack of exposure to entrepreneurial skills. Women entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to think big, not just to expand their businesses but also to grow as entrepreneurs,” she says with gusto.
And this is what Nuraizah aims to do as the newly appointed president of the Women’s Entrepreneur Network Association, which was made official at a handover ceremony in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Wena is a non-profit association, dedicated towards championing women’s rights in business and professions, and was established in September 2003. Its members comprise experienced and new women entrepreneurs, and professionals brought together to create synergy and apply strategies that will facilitate the continued successful development of their businesses, thus promoting a culture of business excellence among women entrepreneurs in the country.
Nuraizah has been a member for seven years and till recently, was the head of the association’s ICT committee and the treasurer.
“Together with the secretariat, I hope to develop Wena further to be the platform to promote principled, knowledgeable and innovative Bumiputera Women Entrepreneurs. Our mission is to create a dynamic network and encourage fellowship among women entrepreneurs. As an association, we are also positioning Wena as an enabler for technology adoption.”
With a conservative membership of 282 and in existence for almost nine years, Nuraizah aims to raise the membership bar.
“Some of our members are already global. But we are only as strong as our weakest member. So, for all of us to grow together, the secretariat aims to improve members’ satisfaction and loyalty, increase marketing effectiveness and strengthen the association’s finance for it to be able to support members.”
This includes being more visible via social media with an aim of having 70 per cent of Wena’s members with a website or on Facebook. It also involves getting to know the needs and challenges faced by each member through focus groups, after which they will work with each group to address specific needs.
On learning and development, Wena is putting in place an online assessment system that will help members gauge their skillsets. Nuraizah says it is a virtual platform that will help Wena members identify the gaps and help enrich their skillsets.
“It is focused on competency building. We are still looking for more materials to be added on. While developed for Wena members, this system is also open to all associations,” Nuraizah says, adding that Wena hopes to have the system “live” in six months.
For global networking, Wena is also developing a networking portal that will become a virtual meeting place for members and other entrepreneurs around the world. Likening it to a digital meeting room, Nuraizah says this can be an invaluable tool for future partnerships.
“The main thing for us is to actively work together to promote the industry we play in. Our members must be prepared to view competitors as partners as we move forward. We are only held back by our own inhibitions. Once we gain courage to step forward, we will be able to break barriers,” she says confidently.