As originally published on Startup MGZN.

It’s not everyday you hear of a person as impressive as the first Bahraini woman to obtain a PhD in the FinTech domain, and that’s only one of Wajeeha’s many accomplishments! Wajeeha Awadh is the Chief Digital Officer at Al Baraka Banking Group, and she looks after the digital transformation journey and all of the bank’s subsidiaries in different continents, be it Asia, Africa or Europe. She focuses on building strategies and visions, as well as creating synergies within the digital projects she handles. 

Where did she start? 

Coming from a tech background, Dr. Wajeeha graduated with a Business Information System Bachelor’s Degree, and she also obtained a Master’s degree in Project Management with her thesis focused on Project Management and Cloud Computing. She worked at an IT company before joining Al Baraka Banking Group. Her relationship with banking automatically drew her to the field of FinTech, which she regards as an industry that is changing the traditional landscape of banking. Being quite the techies ourselves, we totally agree!

The studying and learning journey to reach where she is now must have been extraordinarily hard. “As tough as it was, I still found incredible enjoyment in every part of it. The experience of studying abroad added an exciting flavor to the journey!” We’re sure it did, but what made you pursue a PhD degree? “It’s always been a goal of mine, regardless of the timing of it. 

My father is my biggest supporter, he encouraged me to just go for it.” That must have been incomparable to anything else. “I agree, studying for my PhD was excruciating given the fact I was working and studying at the same time, but I enjoyed the research part immensely!” 

But even with all these accumulated awards, we wondered which one meant the most to Dr. Wajeeha. 

In 2019, she was named among the Top 300 Most Influential Women in Islamic Business and Finance by Cambridge IFA, ranking 29th worldwide and the 1st in Bahrain. (Standing ovation, everyone, come on!) “Being part of such a niche market that lacks an abundance of women in high positions, it was an honor to be recognized! The award distinguished and reflected my contribution to both the Digital and Islamic Banking sectors.” she shared. 

When asked what kept her motivated to push through, she responded with: “The key is to do something you are passionate about, and have a clear goal of where you want to be. You need to keep a specific destination for yourself, and that itself keeps you going.” We couldn’t agree more! 

So, what does she think of Bahrain’s FinTech Landscape? 

The Kingdom’s ecosystem is a very supportive one for the industry, especially from a regulatory perspective. According to Dr. Wajeeha, B-Town is the best destination for FinTechs that want to test out their ideas. The pace of technological advancement in the financial sector is changing rapidly and the future is full of possibilities. 

“I think increasing the awareness about FinTechs and their services can play a vital role in speeding the adoption rate. Additionally, focusing on building the right talents to be hired by these FinTechs.” Dr. Wajeeha emphasized the importance of the education sector in cultivating people’s talent to cope with the market needs.

As for the matter of increasing inclusivity, many organizations including financial services companies in Bahrain started to adopt environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting, and diversity and inclusion are both components of the social pillar of ESG. “Adopting ESG and SDGs that are part of the United Nation initiatives can lead to taking serious and measurable steps towards achieving diversity and inclusion in the FinTech domain.” Dr. Wajeeha stated.

“To be more specific, I think encouraging more women to enter the FinTech industry by building the right skills and knowledge is a must for a wider spectrum of inclusion.” she added. Currently donning the Women in Tech pin proudly.

Some words of wisdom.

With all that in mind, we couldn’t let Wajeeha go without asking her advice for all the young women aspiring to become part of the FinTech industry or are currently navigating it. “The technological field is changing very fast and the best way to excel in such a domain is to be agile, willing to always learn, and keep your eyes open beyond Bahrain to learn from other experiences.” Sage words from a sage woman! 

Do you feel invigorated and motivated after reading this? That must be the Wajeeha effect! Let us know what you think, get in touch with us on our social media platforms through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you!