IWD2024 Online Feature Series - Leslie Sarma: Embracing Change from Law to Tech Leadership Across Continents

Mar 8, 2024
Asia Market Entry
IWD2024 Online Feature Series - Leslie Sarma: Embracing Change from Law to Tech Leadership Across Continents

This International Women's Day 2024, the team at Asia Market Entry reached out to the women in our network who are leaders in their various fields, ranging from AI to wine education. Leslie Sarma is Community Builder at Global Tech Advocates. Read on for her journey and her unique interpretation of the #IWD2024 Theme of Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.

This International Women's Day 2024, we spoke with Leslie Sarma, whose journey stands as a testament to the power of embracing unexpected opportunities and leveraging diverse perspectives. As we celebrate International Women's Day in 2024, Leslie's story serves as inspiration for women aspiring towards and navigating international careers across continents in the tech industry and beyond.

A Series of Fortuitous Events: From NYC to London, Lawyer to Tech Advocate

Leslie's path to becoming a tech advocate was marked by what she describes as a “series of accidental, fortuitous moments”. Starting as a New York qualified lawyer in Washington DC, Leslie relocated for her husband's job, finding herself in London working in corporate immigration law. A transformative opportunity arose when she became involved with Tech London Advocates, a small group aiming to bolster London's tech ecosystem. Through her involvement, Leslie pivoted into tech policy work, delving into the intricacies of regulatory frameworks and emerging technologies.

Trusting the Process: Lessons in Adaptability

Leslie emphasises the importance of trusting the process and embracing change. Reflecting on her early career journey in law, Leslie “really liked the people” she worked with and “had amazing female role models but never felt like I (she) was living her dream”. By pivoting into tech, Leslie found fulfilment in advocacy work, which opened the doors for her to launch the Singapore group and manage the larger APAC presence for Tech London Advocates. Pushing for a "female lens" as a running narrative became a cornerstone of all of the work she does, driving conversations around gender equality and diversity, and making it everyone’s responsibility to integrate diversity and inclusion into everyday conversations.

Investing in Women: Leslie's Role in Promoting Gender Equity

In line with this year's International Women's Day theme, "Invest in Women," Leslie underscores the need for greater representation of female founders and investors in Singapore's tech networks. She highlights the importance of nurturing the next generation of women in STEM fields, addressing the systemic challenges that often hinder their progression. By fostering a supportive ecosystem that encourages investment in female-led businesses and prioritises diversity and inclusion, Leslie aims to create pathways for women to thrive in the tech industry. “It’s literally: invest in women. Start pushing investment into female founded companies and female-led businesses. That’s how we’re going to drive change.”

Navigating Challenges: A Woman in Tech

Challenges have inevitably arisen along Leslie's journey, particularly as a woman in a position of influence within the tech industry. However, she remains steadfast in her commitment to empowering women and fostering leadership opportunities. To aspiring young women, Leslie offers invaluable advice: “Embrace your entire skill set, be fearless in pursuing your goals, and trust the journey.” She emphasises the importance of community and networking, recognising that opportunities often arise in unexpected ways. “Don’t feel shut out if tech is not your background. Having a different background and set of skills makes you more valuable.”

Balancing Act: Prioritising Personal and Professional Fulfilment

Balancing career aspirations with personal and family commitments has been a central theme in Leslie's life. She advocates for a culture of honesty and transparency in the workplace, where individuals feel empowered to ask for help and put their well-being first. “The more we ask for balance the more acceptable it becomes. Everyone - men and women - need to be honest about finding balance because it ultimately sets a standard that we will hopefully shift in the corporate world and tech sector.” By challenging the notion of work-life balance and advocating for flexibility, Leslie seeks to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.

As Leslie continues to build diverse and inclusive communities as an international tech advocate, she does so with humility and a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunities and challenges that have shaped her journey. Her story serves as a reminder that the path to career fulfilment is not always linear and that true growth often comes from embracing uncertainty and change.