Lessons Learned from a Mom, Muslim and Powerhouse Entrepreneur in Nebraska

Entrepreneur, Project Manager, Agilista, Coder, Change Agent, Immigrant, Muslim, Wife, and Mom...any and all of those titles could apply to Sally Elatta. She’s the president and founder of Agile Transformation, a consulting firm based in Omaha, Nebraska.   Recently,  members of  Women in Tech Heartland gathered at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Nebraska offices to hear her speak about her career as an expert project manager and how she transforms the ways in which companies manage their people and their products.

Sally speaking to WiTH

Sally speaking to WiTH

Sally coaches organizations of all sizes to use Scrum/Agile project management techniques. For those unfamiliar with Scrum/Agile, it’s a collaborative approach that is favored by many software developers, but also requires that companies make big adjustments when they first begin using it. Sally is a dynamic advocate for Scrum/Agile development. She’s also an inspiring person who left her audience with new insights on business and technology.

Here are a few takeaways from her talk:

    • Dream big and don’t listen to ‘no.’ Sally’s mom was raised in Sudan where she was expected to make traditional choices and marry early. She was not encouraged to go to college. Because her mother was persistent she was allowed to attend college, but only if she completed all of the domestic chores before she spent time on her studies.  When Sally was four-years-old her mother moved with her to Scotland and pursued a Ph.D. despite facing resistance from her family.
    • Nurture confidence in your daughters. Sally says she learned a strong work ethic and self-belief from her mother.
    • Don’t be afraid to be the only woman in the room. When Sally started in development she said, “It was lonely...there were not a lot of females or ladies who were programming.”
    • Acquire new skills. Sally advanced her career by going after new certifications and obtaining new skill-sets. She seems to never stop learning.
    • Be comfortable in your own skin. Sally didn’t want to speak openly about being a Muslim for a long time because she knew she would be judged, but she eventually realized that she’s proud of who she is and of being Muslim.
    • Public Speaking is key. Being a good public speaker is critical to advancing your career.
    • Leadership is about serving others. This is the opposite of micromanagement. Being a good leader is about empowering others and being willing to get your hands dirty (sometimes literally).   “I’m a recovering command and control person,” she said, “I had to face that fact.”
    • Positive energy is critical for leadership. “Its a force multiplier,” said someone in the audience.
    • The ranks of women in corporate IT are growing. Sally sees more women in corporate IT positions, sometimes migrating from other departments. She says that women understand the cultural part of corporate transformation and collaboration.   She’s also starting to see more women engineers.