Hiba Shabrouq: How to Grow Your Skills & Succeed from the Middle East

One of the reasons why I started RAHAF is because I always felt there is this space that was missing about telling the stories of people, especially women, from the Middle East, their experiences and what triggers them as a young generation roaming various landscapes, whether at work or at their ordinary everyday lives. There is some exclusivity, at times, to the Middle Eastern culture, but at others, we are just like everyone else in this world, a thriving young generation trying to make a difference and grow.

This is why I will be interviewing professionals whom many of you can relate to. I wanted to start with someone whom I’ve met not very long ago, someone who is charismatic and is someone whom you can’t help but feel the strength she got in a way that does distance people away from her, and that’s, trust me, requires an intelligent person to do. I am interviewing “HibaShabrouq”, who is a recent recipient of the Stevie award, please enjoy reading the rest of the article with the questions I had for her.

RAHAF:Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Hiba: You are most welcome, the pleasure is all mine.

RAHAF: Many university students today don’t understand the major they choose to study will affect them for many years to come. You have finished your Undergraduate inTelecommunications Engineering, afterward, your Masters in business entrepreneurship from Sumaya University for Technology in Jordan,

Can you please talk about how your education affected your career? Am I right to assume you tried to bridge between your technical knowledge (undergrad major) and conceptual understanding through your master degree?

Hiba: I studied Telecommunication Engineering, I loved telecom engineering but unfortunately when I started working in the real market I could not work in that major, so although I started in one of the biggest telecom companies, yet I worked in the computer science field, I actually enjoyed it but I could not see myself continuing my whole life working in computer engineering or computer science so I decided to shift my career path towards business, afterward, I decided to study Master’s in Business Entrepreneurship, it was first of its kind at the time in Jordan back in 2013.

Loved the concept of business entrepreneurship because it tells us how to open a new start-up or how to start your project or delivering an idea to the real market which I currently work in that field, I currently work as a product marketing expert which means I take an idea to the real market, so this shows entrepreneurship does not have to be establishing a startup, at the same time it can mean working on your project within a large company or changing your mindset to be more innovative.

And ‘Yes’ you are right to assume that I tried to bridge the gap between my technical knowledge and my business knowledge, it gave me a wider range and a wider perspective for things.

RAHAF: You have recently won the Silver STEVIE award for the Employee of the Year in theTelecommunication sector, was there a project(s) you worked on that caught the attention of the STEVIE award judges, can you tell us about it?

Hiba: The application for the Stevie award requires to include all your achievements for the previous year, so achievements mean a project you worked on in your large organization if you are working in one, or in your start-up, even if at an individual level. I worked on too many things that I included in my application at that time, including the Tech Woman program which I have been selected to participate in the social project segment of the program where I and other Jordanian ladies won in 2017, and we were recognized by Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, and I was the only Jordanian selected as a woman ambassador in the Women Ambassadors Forum in Dallas last year, besides that there was the project which I worked on at my company that was the minimal part. Basically, there was not like one big project that I worked on, it was the whole resume that I built for a long time in order to make it strong.

The judges were from around the world and that’s why they classified women in different categories to win this award.

RAHAF: In your opinion, what are the limitations that hinder entrepreneurs, especially women, both in Jordan and the Middle East?

Hiba: The first limitation is the one that a person puts for him or herself, the biggest obstacle is an inner obstacle, so if you don’t believe in yourself and if you are not confident enough that you can do what you want and if you are not having the needed skills that require you to achieve that goal you won’t have the confidence and you will not be able to escape this inner obstacle.

The first limitation is the one that a person puts for him or herself

I think the first limitation is something that you put for yourself so if you escape that you will get out of your comfort zone, and when you get out of your comfort zone there are a lot of other limitations, of course, some financial limitations are always there but they are not the biggest obstacle that one can face, we also have the lack of support from the family and friends, because unfortunately in many cases we start hearing unnecessary words of disappointment but we should always teach ourselves to ignore these kinds of words. These are the biggest limitations that I see.

RAHAF: Do you think one can succeed in working on his own or do you believe within an organization?

Hiba: Well, success comes in different forms, you can succeed if you were in an organization, you can succeed if you open a start-up, you can succeed if you are a professor at a university, you can succeed if you were a doctor in a big hospital, you can succeed if you are a teacher in a regular school, so if you want to succeed there are always different ways to do it, there are always many gaps in the field that you are in that you can fill, and when you fill that gap you are successful, it does not have to do with whether to open a start-up or stay at your organization, it is not like that, it’s more about finding a gap where you can fill, that’s success.

RAHAF: In terms of skills, where do you think is the best place to add knowledge to yourself, Is it through working experience, or a university, I am trying to understand, from your own experience, how were you able to add to your skills?

Hiba: I invest in my skills by trying new things, so I might try running but I might realize that I don’t like running, at least I will know that I don’t like it, I can’t say I don’t like something before I try it, for me I always try to get out of my comfort zone in order to know what skills are there in the world and then to know what skills I am capable of investing in, like for an example, let’s say Toastmasters club I never knew that I will love public speaking until I tried going to a toastmaster club two years ago and now I am the president of that club, I didn’t know that but it was like “I want to try something new” and I did it, in that case you should always try to do new things. There is also philanthropy work which is a great addition to your skills, when you do something philanthropic, like taking care of orphans or teaching some students in a public school, this will add to your experience, its never something for free, it is always an investment in yourself, so that is how I add skills to myself. 

RAHAF: What is your advice for all those young people who want to succeed?

Hiba: Never underestimate your capabilities, if you don’t know something say I don’t know, and if you are interested enough to learn, then learn, and sometimes we don’t have to learn things that we love, we have to learn things that are necessary, so distinguish between something that is a necessity and between something you want and love to learn.

The second thing is don’t be afraid to take risky steps, especially that you are young so you don’t have much to lose, another advice would be always surround yourself with positive people, if you find one of your friends is always negative try to avoid being with them, and its ok sometimes to lose a friend that are only being hectic to your life.

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