Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Hanane Benkhallouk,Founder @ Tawazoun
and Executive Director @ Sustain Leadership Consultancy.
How could you describe your career path in few words?
Made in Casablanca, Shaped in New York city, thriving in Dubai since 16 years, this is the geographical journey that looked like an upward spiral, and also a very common statement that I open with my answer to a similar question. I like to think that the most important part of my career journey is its diversity that is not just represented in his path that took me through these major cities I call home, but also through the many geographies that I had worked in, or visited because of work throughout my journey.
What makes my career journey special is that I had the chance to pivot many times across careers, industries, from the private sector, to the government, NGOs, that pivoting meant I had to start over many times, and throughout it all, I realized that I could only achieve my goals, only if I had the courage to let go of the stable job to go on my own entrepreneurial journey, and despite its many challenges, I would do it all over again.
What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?
With a journey like mine, changing continents, industries and roles, there were definitely many challenges, and that’s what happens when you choose “ the road less traveled.
But if I must share one of those, I would like to tell the story of when I wasn’t taken seriously by some potential clients that were the same clients that were keen on the same projects I was managing when I was working for a big NGO, it made me see how much the market is still focused on big brand names and that no matter how confident I was of my value proposition, it wasn’t going to be an easy sell. I knew that I needed more than just a clear idea and promising offering, I needed what I I call today my 3Ps that drive me: Passion, Proactivity and Persistence.
When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?
Uncertainty is a fact today, but it is also our biggest weakness as human beings, we like to be in control, of course some people are more at ease with dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity than others, but in general, I think that our species is not comfortable with uncertainty. I learned to be self-aware of how I react to uncertainty that will continue to be the name of the game in today’s business landscape. I try to make the best of what I know, and focus on my circle of influence and control, rather than wasting my energy in worrying on what is unknown. Staying present, and focusing on milestones and short wins, rather than wanting to control the final outcome, helps me handle uncertainty better.
What’s the key success factor for a female entrepreneur in cross cultural context based on your experience?
First, think of self just as an entrepreneur, not a female entrepreneur, and make that affirmation, because sometimes, thinking too much that we are a minority creates invisible boundaries, and most importantly, never be afraid or hesitant to ask for help, what truly helped me thrive in my entrepreneurial journey, was all the peer support that I received from the spaces that I initiated thinking I was creating them as safe spaces for other women, but ended up feeling nurtured through all the members. Peer support is crucial especially when we embark on the entrepreneurial journey in a country that is not ours.
Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?
Leverage on the feminine attributes that are much needed today more than ever, such as empathy, collaboration and participatory leadership. Understand that being a successful leader doesn’t mean that we should embrace the masculine model of leadership to prove that we are credible as leaders. Strive to cultivate balance rather than seek perfection.
Acknowledge vulnerability and build on it as a strength rather than a weakness, and most of all, be bold, and brave in order to push the boundaries and smash that glass ceiling.