Despite a very humble start in life, Raja Hammoud, the senior vice president of product at Coupa, beat the odds to become a senior executive at a NASDAQ-listed company. Growing up in Lebanon with wars breaking out seemingly every year, it was a wonder Hammoud was able to survive, let alone thrive in life. But thrive she did, thanks in large part to a family that understood the importance of helping one another and the value of education. This created a rock solid foundation for her love of learning, which helped propel her to where she is today.
“Learning brought control and meaning to my life. I also saw education as a way to be a strong, independent woman while living in a society with pockets of old-fashioned thinking holding women back from reaching their full potential,” said Hammoud in a recent interview with The SaaS Report. “My older sisters were the first to go to college in our family history, and I respected them so much for doing that while also having full-time jobs, and supporting the whole family financially - something that was extremely rare at that time in Lebanon.”
Hammoud started off her career by pursuing math as a major in college, taking a computer science class only as an elective. She quickly fell in love with computer programming, switched majors and never looked back. She has carried that passion with her into her career, pursuing assignments that light her up and help keep her in a state of “joyous flow.”
At the very heart of her success are the personal core values she naturally adopted during her upbringing, namely those of positivity, fairness, empathy, forgiveness, humility, and grit. “My mom faced tremendous difficulties raising her eight children but was always able to start every day fresh with a contagious dose of positivity and unconditional love. Watching her overcome challenges with grace, forgiveness and empathy always inspired me,” she said. ‘My older siblings were my early role models. They were top students, hardworking, down to earth, and would go to the end of the earth to help each other.”
These core values became the foundation of her leadership style, which helped her progress in her career from a computer engineer to where she is today at Coupa, where for more than six years, she has been driving the rapid expansion of the cloud platform. Her leadership has resulted in the launch of a host of new products fueling the growth of the early startup to a public company with almost $200 million annual recurring revenue.
Hammoud relies tremendously on her team to drive Coupa’s success in the market. “It always starts with hiring the right people,” she said. “That means luring top talent with the right competencies. I look for professionals who are positive, authentic, energetic, and hungry for learning and growth. I have seen it time and again that when you provide a nurturing and supporting environment for such talented professionals and point them in the right direction, magic happens.”
She believes that people are more empowered and free to express their full potential and grow beyond their wildest dreams when given this kind of support. She also puts a lot of stock in understanding what motivates individuals. Aligning people strengths with the right assignments is what Hammoud says is key to bringing out the best in them.
As for what she would advise the upcoming generation of female tech leaders, Hammoud said to forget the notion of managing your career, and go after those jobs that get you fired up. “Do things you can enjoy on their own merits,” she said. “As long as you are working in a supportive environment, focused on what lights you up, while, of course, ensuring it is aligned with strong value creation for the company, the rest will naturally follow in terms of increased opportunities and recognition.”