Making an impact: the Women in the IT Channel celebrates four new Hall of Fame honourees

This week, Channel Daily News hosted its annual Women in the IT Channel recognition luncheon at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Ont. to celebrate the achievements of women in the channel. The theme of the event was ‘Making an Impact’.

Four honourees were recognized and added to the Women in the IT Channel Hall of Fame.

Their stories were not the only ones told at this luncheon, however. Author, public speaker and human rights advocate Samra Zafar shared her story in a keynote address.

To learn about Samra, and each of the Hall of Fame honourees, read on.

Savina Alves

Savina Alves is head of partner go-to-market strategy for AWS at Rackspace Technology in Vancouver, B.C. She graduated with a masters degree in Sociology from the University of Mumbai, and started her professional career in consumer products at Turner International. A chance opportunity is what made her pivot and dive into the IT industry. In her current role, she most recently led a team that designed a demo showcasing artificial intelligence, machine learning, severless and computer vision technologies in an interactive activity for AWS’s global conference. The result as an adventure-based game called Knights of AI.

“Participants had to complete knightly gestures in 30 seconds in our computer vision demo and they could win a prize,” she said. “There was a camera that would recognize the poses and on successful completion, they could see themselves as the activity progressed, how many poses they had completed to be able to determine their leaderboard position.”

Savina describes herself as an individual who is motivated, a problem solver and a driven team player. She credits her daughter as her biggest inspiration, and recognizes the need for community and confidence to boost professional growth.

Savina is a firm believer in taking every opportunity to upgrade your skillset through learning. “Be a lifelong learner. That’s what I’m doing. I mean I started off in consumer products and now I’m in IT, and it is a rapidly evolving field. So it’s very essential to invest the time in continuous learning through courses or workshops and just develop that growth mindset and embrace everything that’s in front of you.”

Frances Edmonds

Frances Edmonds has been an advocate for sustainability long before her current role as head of sustainable impact at HP Canada. She graduated from the University of Bradford with a bachelors of environmental science, and worked as a U.K. ministry of labour inspector before joining HP in 2004. She says her biggest source of pride is hiring people that want to make a difference.

“We’ve been hiring people who want to make a difference, and the caliber and the passion and the drive of my colleagues and our leader, Mary Ann Yule, just astounds me on an almost daily basis,” she said. “It’s such a pleasure to work with them, to think of how we can be innovative and bring new products and services to delight our customers and our partners.”

Edmonds also takes part in the Girls E-Mentorship Program, which works with disadvantaged communities. She believes that you don’t have to be in a leadership position to make a difference.

“Leadership is the art of getting other people to do what needs to be done. And we can all see what needs to be done if you take the climate crisis,” she said. “We all know what needs to be done and we can do it from whatever level of an organization we’re in, just follow your passion.”

Rani Pendse

Rani Pendse is senior partner development manager with Microsoft, but has been down several career paths before her current position. While qualified as a geneticist, Pendse worked in marketing, product management and operations research before she joined the global partner solutions team at Microsoft Canada.

A big part of Pendse’s career was recognizing the influence of her colleagues on her learning process, and she recognizes the importance of women supporting one another, as well as of leaders recognizing the importance of their employees.

“I had a manager that took my work and presented it as his, and I was sitting in the room at the same time, and I probably had a really bad expression on my face,” she recalled. “But one of our executive leaders actually paused the conversation and said, ‘I want to hear from other people in the room,’ and specifically picked me out to provide my feedback. And he said, ‘if you have a seat at the table, it’s because I want to listen to your opinion, not to fill up the room.’”

As a mentor, Pendse says the conversations she has with her mentees center around their work skills.

“I would say, take the time to learn, learn really good communication skills, build up your confidence. Just start talking, because one of the things is I find is a lot of women and men, they tend to self-select themselves out of opportunities because there’s a thought process that ‘maybe I’m not good enough for this,’ or ‘I don’t know if I can do it.’ It’s ‘what have you got to lose?’ You just give this a shot, you learn something great. So don’t self-select out, just do it.”

Reihaneh Tabatabaei-Yazdi

Reihaneh Tabatabaei-Yazdi is currently the channel theatre lead at Splunk, and her accomplishments include working with companies on cloud models, as well as supporting the creation of channel programs and billing models. Her dedication to helping women in tech comes from a desire to be a part of the mentorship and hiring process.

“I am proud to say that I have been able to pick up the torch from where the other women before me paved the way,” she said. “And I am absolutely determined that it’s my mission to pay it forward for the other women coming after me.”

Tabatabaei-Yazdi says her motivation comes from her peers, and being a part of her company plays a role in her success.

“I’m definitely motivated to support our sales teams to be able to meet those metrics, but I’m also very much motivated by how our industry is evolving, and trying to stay a step ahead of what the whole industry is bringing to the market to be able to support it. It’s phenomenal to witness that, and it’s definitely a privilege to be part of it and contribute to it.”

Congratulations to the honourees, and welcome to the Canadian Women in the IT Channel Hall of Fame.

Keynote address: Samra Zafar

At 16, Zafar was married off to a man 11 years older than her and moved to Canada. For several years, she was subjected to emotional and physical abuse by her now ex-husband. Her life changed in the late 2000s, when she applied to the University of Toronto for a bachelor of science. She continued her education at the University of Toronto with a master of arts in economics, and is currently studying for a doctorate in medicine at McMaster University.

“Because that [university] was the first time in my life that I was being treated with kindness, respect, admiration, for all the very things that I was ridiculed for forever. My intelligence, my ambition, my individuality, everything that made me who I was,” she said. “And that’s what eventually led me to the counseling center on campus, which is where I started learning about what was happening to me was abuse, that it was not okay, and that I had rights and I had options as a human being, as a woman, as a Canadian. And that eventually, that’s what gave me the courage to leave and break that cycle for my daughters.”

Career-wise, Zafar has worked at companies such as RBC and BMO in various managerial and business finance roles. In 2014, she founded Brave Beginnings, a “personalized mentorship/friendship program for women who have come out of abuse and oppression, to help them build a life of independence and dignity, by providing them with tools, strategies, motivation, friendship and support.”

In her speech, Zafar highlighted the importance of personalizing support, saying that not everyone needs the same type of help or motivation in a workplace setting. Advocating for women, particularly women of colour, women with disabilities, and women in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, will look different for every individual.

“Impact starts with us,” she said. “And when we put out our authentic selves out into the world, it creates a domino effect of change. And big journeys always start with those small steps. Being curious, being deliberate, being open, speaking up, even when we’re afraid to speak up for the right thing, but speaking up because it means something to us. Practicing courage while being afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. It’s ‘Yes, I’m afraid, I’m terrified. But this means something to me. I care about this, so I’m going to do it anyway.’”

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr is a recent journalism graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University. She loves writing about all things data, travel, tech, lifestyle and subculture. You can reach out to Breanna via [email protected].

Related Tech News

Featured Tech Jobs


CDN in your inbox

CDN delivers a critical analysis of the competitive landscape detailing both the challenges and opportunities facing solution providers. CDN's email newsletter details the most important news and commentary from the channel.