A Leap Of Faith: What It Takes To Be A Female Entrepreneur In A Male-Dominated Industry Believe in yourself, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something because of your gender.

By Ishita Kochhar

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When I decided to become a female entrepreneur working in the construction industry of the Middle East, I knew from the get-go that I had to bring something different to the table. After all, this is an industry traditionally dominated by men, with very few women working in it.

That said, let me confess here that I had no idea about construction when I was joining my startup, WakeCap. Indeed, embarking on a construction-centric venture was uncharted territory for me. I felt uncertain about my value and contribution; yet, I took a leap of faith by teaming up with Dr. Hassan Albalawi as a co-founder at WakeCap. While many would shy away from a job offer without immediate monetary compensation, I decided to take a risk, and chose to embrace equity opportunities. As it so happens, the company wasn't even formalized until months later.

But it was by joining WakeCap that I discovered technology's potential for revolutionizing traditional construction processes. By addressing digitization challenges in construction sites, the industry can benefit from increased productivity and efficiency, improved safety, and saved time and costs– all of which are extremely important factors in a thriving business environment. While Hassan, along with our three senior engineers, Roy Gilsing, Rene Wassenburg, and Rami Nassouh, leveraged their technical expertise for WakeCap, I took charge of the operations, business management, as well as sales and distribution. Together, we formed a strong unit poised for success.

Indeed, what started as a little spark of an idea has now grown into a company with 82 employees contributing to changes in construction. WakeCap sustained its growth momentum with a steady increase of around 28% from 2020 to 2021, and approximately 23% from 2021 to 2022. The most notable leap occurred in 2023 (which also marks our sixth-year anniversary) with a remarkable growth rate of nearly 500% after owners started mandating WakeCap. And that's not all- we're thrilled about our expansion in Saudi Arabia. With a presence in over 12 projects across the Kingdom, we are rapidly expanding to cover all major developments.

Related: Follow The Leader: Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO, Ruder Finn

While I hope that my journey with WakeCap demonstrates that digital transformation is beneficial for businesses, I also wish that it leads to the provision of more opportunities for women, as well as the creation of pathways for more diverse leadership positions within traditionally male- dominated industries. My career has seen me successfully break into the male-dominated construction industry in the Middle East, and I believe strongly that female entrepreneurs can achieve success in fields like mine, despite traditional gender roles and expectations.

At the end of the day, I hope that my story will inspire other female entrepreneurs to do the same- by taking the initiative and leading by example, we can create a more equal and inclusive business environment for all. Ultimately, this is about creating opportunities for everyone. By implementing innovative solutions to traditional problems, we can drive positive change, and pave the way for a more equitable business landscape in the Middle East. Together, let's make sure that no one is left behind.

To women looking to enter and thrive in a male-dominated industry such as construction, here are my top three tips.

First, have confidence. Believe in yourself, and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something because of your gender. Research the industry, stay updated on the latest technological advancements, and have the confidence to stand up for what you believe in.

Second, be proactive. Don't wait for opportunities; create them! Take the initiative by introducing new ideas, asking questions, and finding ways to innovate existing solutions.

Third, embrace diversity. Surround yourself with a diverse range of people who will challenge your thinking, and help bring fresh perspectives into the industry. Diversity in thought brings about new and innovative solutions- so, don't be afraid to reach out to people different from you!

Finally, always remember that women can make a difference in traditionally male-dominated industries such as construction. If I did it, so can anyone else. With the right attitude and mindset, there's no limit to what we can achieve!

Related: Lessons On Leadership: Rola Abu Manneh, CEO, Standard Chartered Bank UAE

Ishita Kochhar is the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at WakeCap, a leader in smart solutions for construction site management that is setting a new industry standard for data-powered site visibility. In her day-to-day role, Ishita manages operations, business development, marketing and investor fundraising for the business that has offices in Riyadh, Dubai and San Francisco. With her extensive expertise, she has driven operations, business management, sales, and distribution strategies since 2017, overseeing the growth of the startup from inception to a profitable entity working with some of the most recognized construction companies in the world.

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