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Rena Baba - Director of ExperienceLab


Name, Job Title, Years in Serco

Rena Baba, Director of ExperienceLab, 3 years at Serco

Tell us a little bit about your role?

I am the Director of the Middle East branch of ExperienceLab, a Serco company focused on the research, development and continual improvement of customer experience across the services Serco and its clients deliver. Currently, I lead a team of customer experience, innovation and service design specialists across the UAE and KSA.

ExperienceLab and Serco combine human-centered design with operational expertise taking into account the needs, wants and experiences of the end-user to inform the design of solutions that are functional and efficient.

This approach allows us to deliver truly impactful solutions that address the needs of our clients and the end-users, resulting in a better overall experience for everyone involved.

Describe your career progression, and what has supported you to progress to a senior position?

I joined Serco 3 years ago when ExperienceLab had just been launched. I was the first official hire in the team, which was a unique and rewarding experience, as I was offered the opportunity to help set the tone, shape the team’s culture and establish the goals and vision that drive ExperienceLab’s effort in the Middle East. Having the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the team’s direction and success has given me a sense of purpose and fulfilment throughout this journey.

I was promoted into my current role in 2022, after gradually getting more responsibility and ownership of an innovation programme across Serco ME. I was very fortunate to have worked with outstanding people throughout this transformation programme and it enabled me to gain more visibility as I worked with key leaders across the business. The leaders I worked with accelerated my development and provided the advice I needed to keep pushing me out of my comfort zone. I also think the trust that the executive team had in my ability to take ownership really empowered me to take more initiatives and thrive within Serco.

At Serco, 50% of our Executive Management Team is made up of females – how do you feel the business has supported you?

Serco places importance on the right values and the right culture. It’s very clear to me that the executive team are role models to others, and they are committed to supporting, promoting and retaining women.

Personally, I had the opportunity to not only connect and build supportive relationships with successful women in the organisation, but I also had access to insights and experiences shared by my line manager Natasha Bothma, Growth Director and Hana Kharmeh, Chief Human Resources Officer. They’ve both been my mentors ever since I took on the new role and they were both instrumental in helping me thrive by sharing a wealth of knowledge and perspectives to draw upon.

What barriers have you personally faced in your career when progressing into senior positions, and what advice would you give to others to overcome these?

The biggest barrier was setting unrealistic standards for myself, as I remember thinking I needed to be an expert in all aspects of the job before taking on a new role. While in fact, it is possible to progress into a role without being 100% ready. There is an opportunity for growth, and to develop new skills and knowledge in the process.

It is important for anyone progressing into a new role to reflect and set realistic standards for themselves, seek support from mentors and allies, and be more intentional about putting themselves forward for new challenges. This goes along with understanding and recognising their own limitations and seek support and guidance when needed.

What do you think makes a good leader?

Good leadership is the ability to foster a positive and productive work environment, where people can thrive and achieve a common goal.

Some of the key characteristics that I think are essential for great leadership are high emotional intelligence, resilience, and humility

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

Communication and effective planning are key to maintain a work life balance. Whenever possible, I promote flexibility within the team to allow different individuals to share communication preferences and timings and set boundaries. In other times, reaching out to another colleague to ask for support can save the day.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

There have been many, but my highlight has always been hiring and growing the ExperienceLab team. Witnessing the team’s growth from its earliest stages to a mature successful group of talented individuals has been the most exciting and fulfilling.

Who inspires you and why?

I admire leaders who have a unique ability to see and imagine a better future, who have the determination to bring that vision to life by articulating it to others, inspiring and motivating them to join in the pursuit of that goal.

I think this is the type of leadership style that is particularly effective in bringing about significant, transformative change and making a lasting impact in organisations, communities, and the world at large.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders in Serco?

1. Connect with the leaders and professionals who can support your career growth and increase your exposure to new opportunities.

2. Take ownership of your professional development and engage in lifelong learning and proactively update your skills.

3. Cultivate resilience, adaptability and a growth mindset. Never get too comfortable in a position, and always seek out challenges as opportunities for growth.