Maya Shoucair: Focus on learning from others

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Maya Shoucair started her career in government and nonprofit in Ottawa before moving into tech in Toronto. A first-generation immigrant to Canada, Maya built up a network of mentors to help her get to the next level in her career. Now a Community Development Manager for Shopify in Toronto, Maya helps Shopify make commerce better for everyone.

As part of the #movethedial: Women You Should Know series, we’re sharing the stories of some incredible women in technology; stories about their contributions, insights, and how they have grown to express themselves.

How did you get involved in tech?

I started my career in government in Ottawa, focusing on social media. I did a lot of work with charitable campaigns, which ended up leading to me going to the nonprofit space for a while.

I always had a passion for tech, so on the side, I used to run workshops to help kids learn how to use tech. I’d teach them to make videos or websites to help them tell the stories they wanted to tell.

That work ended up with me doing digital literacy education work with an organization called MediaSmarts. We worked closely with our sponsors, many of which were tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. We also partnered with tech nonprofits like Canada Learning Code.

Then I moved to Toronto. I knew it was a huge tech hub, so I decided to apply for tech roles instead of going back into the nonprofit space. I worked at Uberflipdoing community management for a bit, which used my social media and marketing skills. After that, I joined Shopify in June 2017 to work on  community development.

How have you overcome some of the hurdles in your career so far?

Something that’s always difficult for me is the resources and mentorship I had available. I’m a first generation Canadian and the first in my family to go to university, so navigating that process was new to me and there wasn’t anyone in my family I could turn to.

Early on, I didn’t know how to find that mentorship. There was a block between how I’d see my peers reaching out to professors or other people in their worlds versus what I had access to.

My career so far has definitely not been a straight line. Looking back, I overcame hurdles in my career by reaching out to someone who had been there already. I leaned on my peers at the very beginning. I used their examples and tried to model myself after that. In my current role at Shopify,  I’m part of a group of colleagues with side hustles or other personal goals, who check in weekly and support each other.

Overcoming hurdles is about admitting when I didn’t know something, and then knowing there are other people who have been through that problem and can provide me with the advice I need. But I also realized that any mentorship relationship has to be mutually beneficial.

At the base of it, it’s all about building strong relationships with people. Of course, it will partially be a business transaction to get help from anyone to overcome a hurdle. However, I don’t think you actually get ahead if you only think about relationships in terms of the benefit you get from it.

#movethedial is premised on four things: connections, amplification, partnerships, and programming. Which is the most important to you and why?

I think for me, it’s always connections. All these things work together, but connections are really important.

With connections, it’s about listening to other people’s stories and being able to understand each other. I think one of the biggest things that’s come out in the last little while is that we all need to listen more. Often, we forget that everyone’s experience is not the same.

I think connections are important because our circles are so small. If your group looks exactly like you, then you aren’t going to get the most from your community.

Is there any advice you'd give to your past self?

My advice is to get involved, stay involved, and build a community around you.

I’ve been working for about 15 years now, and I think you have to find something you’re passionate about outside of work.

If you spend your whole day just on your computer or getting your work done, you’re missing out on so much more. You’re missing out on the reality of what’s happening around you.

What does International Women's Day mean to you?

To me  IWD is a celebration of all women and a recognition of all of our achievements. But it’s also recognition that if we are not working for all women and making sure that everything we are doing is intersectional, then we are not progressing.

I think it’s celebrating who we are as women and the progress that’s been made - and recognizing that there is so much room for change still and so much more we have to do.

 
articleElektra Simms