Cognism’s Sales Chief, Nazma Qurban, on Her Career and Leadership

What has been your source/s of motivation to achieve in your career and/or in the technology field?

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My motivation has always been to grow personally and professionally - to be a better version of myself. I like a challenge, and that’s why I pursued a career in sales. Sales challenges you. You can’t rest on your previous achievements in sales. It’s a very fast-paced culture and every day you learn something new.

I wanted a career that pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and a career in sales definitely does that.

Can you tell us about the experiences you had that helped shape your leadership style?

My leadership style evolved from watching the ways that others did it. Like everyone else, I worked with a few managers who didn’t get the best out of me and some that created environment for me to strive in- which inevitably i did. However, having negative experiences with others made me want to do better. When I started at Cognism, right from the beginning, I was determined to reverse that misguided management style.

Can you provide our audience with some background on your Company and your role within the Company?

Cognism is a B2B data and sales acceleration company. Our solution speeds up prospecting for B2B sales teams and automates the outbound process. Using our tools, our clients are able to generate leads, engage with their ideal buyers and grow their revenue faster - all in a GDPR-compliant way.

I joined Cognism in January 2017 as its first salesperson and first employee. The growth of the business, and my own career progression, has been rapid. At the start, it was my job to set up our London office and kickstart Cognism’s sales operation. Now I’m the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, overseeing both the sales and marketing functions. Our sales team is one of the fastest-growing in London and we’re having to take on new staff all the time due to our phenomenal growth.

How do you get the most out of your people?

I’m a great believer in being a mentor, not a manager. 98% of Cognism’s staff are millennials and it’s been so important to create an inclusive company culture that empowers them to thrive. How do I go about doing that? By being honest and building genuine relationships with them. I want them to grow in their careers and develop personally and professionally. It’s not about me telling them to complete tasks - it’s about me giving them everything they need to grow as people.

One thing I’m very proud of is helping others to grow in their careers. At Cognism, I’ve had a policy of hiring recent graduates and giving them the very best start to their working lives. Many of them have been promoted quickly and won awards for their work. That’s always been a motivation for me – giving other people a chance and inspiring them to achieve their best.

I’ve put in place clear and realistic progression plans for each employee, and I think this has been a key motivator for them to go above and beyond. I’ve promoted an inclusive sales culture, where every team member is valued. Also, what I’ve done over time is tailor training materials to meet the needs of each employee. My staff has responded really well to this personalised approach to learning and development.

Is there one piece of advice you could give to the upcoming generation of aspiring women leaders in technology?

I wrote this quote for International Women’s Day 2019 and I love it – it’s genuinely the one piece of advice I would give to any woman who aspires to be a leader:

Aspire to become your own role model. Think, is she strong? Does she own the room? Would your younger self look up to her and, most importantly, does your vision give you goosebumps? Create a vision of the role model you aspire to be and focus on becoming it.

What was the toughest professional challenge you have faced and how did you manage through it?

The toughest challenge I’ve faced was definitely starting at Cognism. I had to build a sales process from the ground up. We scaled very quickly and I had never managed people before. For me, it always comes down to the people. If you hire the right team, you can get past any challenge. I’ve sought people with ambition, positivity and energy to work at Cognism - and I’ve been lucky enough to find them.