Google is the ultimate dream place to work. Voted the top company to work at five years in a row by Forbes, Google’s name is enough to make anyone in the room turn around and listen. The perks, the technology, the spirit of innovation- it’s the job you always dream of landing. And I was lucky enough to work there. I accepted the job the morning of January 25, 2011, the day the uprising in Egypt began. Of course at the time I had no idea how this would impact me. The internet in the Middle East took center stage. The “Arab Spring” emerged and with it came an unleashing of freedom- press freedom, internet freedom, and freedom of expression that had never before been witnessed. The web became a powerful force for change and it’s hard to imagine what the region was like before this historical moment in our tech-driven lives. The internet was not just a catalyst for movement, it was a liberating force that unleashed a generation. Through my role at Google I was part of a team that launched some of their largest brands for the first time in the MENA region: YouTube, Google Maps, and Street View to name a few. But after three and a half years at the tech giant, it was time to say goodbye. Why? Because I had a deeper calling and realized it was time to move on. It was time to go back to my core values and devote my energy to what I believed in. And I encourage you to do the same. Become an entrepreneur. The MENA region presents an oasis of opportunities for entrepreneurs, and the marketplace here is thriving like never before. Our future has never looked brighter, and for proof of that you only need to look to the youth demographics in the region.
Being an entrepreneur, I see opportunities in MENA everywhere; in the media industry there has been a marked shift among journalists, advertising, blogs and even the traditional work of the “daily” sector, that of the newspaper. The web has also affected how we do business, beginning with the methods we employ to communicate and engage with customers, build brands, manage reputations, and vie for the all-important share of voice and consumer attention. And let’s not forget the impact on society, knowledge and culture; there is a huge demand for Arabic content, not just in entertainment, but in education, the arts and across the sciences. Entrepreneurs have a huge opportunity to leverage this and to use this gaping need to their advantage by impacting social norms and advancing cross-cultural understanding.
Along the way, I learned a few things that I want to share with you as you leave behind the corporate world -to proudly be an entrepreneur changing the world- one idea and one passion at a time.
Be The Architect Of Success
Believe in yourself, you don’t need a name like Google to feel secure. Trust yourself. Leaving a job with fixed income, health insurance and benefits can be scary, but being the sole architect of something, and going on the journey is far more rewarding and can reap benefits that go beyond the financials. Don’t push your dreams aside. Become the world’s leading expert in what you believe in. Prove that to yourself. Compete with yourself. You must believe in order to achieve.
Reevaluate The Risk And Reward
Taking risks is part of growth and it can lead to success. While most people know the former to be true, they forget to acknowledge that failing is also part of success. If you take a risk and it doesn’t work, learn from it and move on. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things, and this involves leaving your comfort zone and pushing yourself.
You’ll be amazed at what you can do if you challenge yourself. This isn’t to say your risks shouldn’t be calculated, think them through since taking them at the right time and place is vital to the outcome. Always take risks where you are betting on yourself, thus automatically stacking the odds in your favor.
Passion Is A Type Of Currency
If you are passionate about something pursue it. My father was fond of telling me that “if you’re passionate, hard work always pays off.” It might not pay off immediately, but it garners a return on energy investment. Being passionate about something is not about injecting emotion into your work, it ties back to your personal values. For example, I’m passionate about helping people and adding value. If I’m not adding value or creating value, I feel that I’m not properly servicing my passion.
I can’t say at what point I became passionate about communications, but now I can’t see myself doing anything else. I love examining campaigns, analyzing strategies, and building knock out narratives- I thrive on it! Work hard at servicing your own passion, and give 110%.
Get Ultra-Educated Across Disciplines
As the daughter of an educator, it was clear to me at an early age that learning doesn’t stop when you’ve earned one degree or two or even a post-doctoral. I have become, in essence, a life-long learner. I’m always hungry for fresh knowledge and to absorb the intricacies of how things work. You’re never too old or too smart to learn, and the best entrepreneurs will vouch that educational opportunities are everywhere. I learn from people that I interact with, everyone from my employees and my clients, to my friends and my mentors. I also invest in reading- gleaning as much as I can to learn from what’s out there. Find a few blogs or authors that you love to follow and read on your morning commute or during downtime in airports. Improve your ground game by learning when you can. Fill your white space with the abundance of learning that is out there and go grab it! And guess what- learning is free. Bonus!
Ask Your Network For Assistance
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is good business. Let your friends and colleagues know that you’ve started your own business and would appreciate their support. You’ll find new business opportunities, free advice and maybe an investor. If you need help from someone in particular, prepare your ‘asks’ and be specific. When approaching someone for help, give them all the information they need to make a decision. It’s important to think through what you need as the opportunity may only come once. You want to ensure that you do your homework and that you are well-prepared. I have never been in a situation where I went to someone for help and they haven’t been up to the request; quality people usually deliver.
As you take off on your wild ride as an entrepreneur, don’t think of it as losing something or leaving something behind. Shift perspectives and think of it as making space for something new that will inspire you and broaden the current limitations of your imagination. Pursue your ambitions, be persistent, and success will follow.
I want your feedback and to hear about your journey as an entrepreneur. I know I can learn something from you so please reach out to me at @mahagaber on Twitter. I will sign off with my personal mantra (which I usually write on emails to my team).
Stay low, keep moving.
Maha Abouelenein will be one of the speakers at Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women's Forum 2015, to be held in Dubai on May 25th. For more details about the event, click here.