Reach New Professional Heights With The Help Of A Mentor

One thing to note is that a mentor always wants you to succeed- this kind of support is invaluable for any female professional, especially here in the Middle East.

learn more about Jumana Abu-Hannoud

By Jumana Abu-Hannoud • Apr 8, 2018

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Diversity in the workplace is still an issue in this region, as it is in many other parts of the world too, so it can be a lonely place for women, whether at the start of their careers or at the pinnacle of their success. Therefore, Reach Mentoring was founded in October 2013 by four Dubai-based professional women with a vision to help support and develop the skills of women professionals in the region through structured mentoring.

Our main motivation is to make a meaningful contribution to the development of women by offering support from highly experienced mentors, both men and women- it's very rewarding to see the progress being made by both the mentors and mentees involved in the program. The programme offered through Reach Mentoring helps young female professionals unlock their true potential through structured mentoring and professional support.

Mentors and mentees are paired through an online platform, overseen by a professional and qualified coach, according to various criteria, such as communication styles, development objectives and personality traits. At Reach Mentoring, we have seen over 300 professional women complete the program with gratifying results.

My first mentor was when I was just 19 years old -I was still and intern- and he taught me the ABCs of professionalism and guided my confidence, motivation and potential. His advice and teachings have stayed with me throughout my career. Over the years, I have gained more knowledge through guidance from others which has helped shape me into who I am today. At the very beginning of my career, I was learning by doing, and learning from my mistakes.

Fortunately, I was always lucky to have people around me who invested in guiding me and giving me opportunities to grow, not just as a businesswoman but on a personal level too. I realized that these people were my "mentors", and that their impact on me and teachings would remain relevant to this day. The region has seen significant changes and milestones in the areas of female empowerment and bridging the workplace gender gap. But even as more women enter the workplace, there are still many obstacles they have to overcome such as work-life balance, a lack of support, and a host of others which their male counterparts are less likely to face.

As a mentee and a mentor, here are the ways mentoring relationships have helped me:

1. Support As a professional woman, it is important to have someone who gives you a safe space to express your vulnerability, while also pushing you harder beyond any limiting beliefs that you may have set for yourself. Someone who has succeeded in the system, or even in breaking its barriers, is able to understand the challenges and obstacles which you face on a daily basis, and offer the right amount of support you need. My last mentor taught me to be kind to myself, and not let personal circumstances affect my career decisions. One thing to note is that a mentor always wants you to succeed- this kind of support is invaluable for any female professional, especially here in the Middle East.

2. Confidence All my mentors have been instrumental in helping to shape and balance my confidence. There are times when confidence might be misinterpreted as dominance, and humility perceived as weakness. Each one of my mentors has helped me hone different aspects of my confidence, and all have encouraged me to stay true to myself and remain assertive.

3. Change of perspective It is easy to expect too much from yourself, but a mentor is there to help direct, inspire and motivate the mentee. One piece of advice which I will never forget is to be aware of my place in the world in a way that allowed me to make a change, but also be mindful of my capabilities and surroundings. As a young woman, I was always ambitious, and had a clear idea of what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. My mentors helped me see myself in a more balanced context while still pursuing my dreams, and achieving my personal best. We are not alone in this world, and there's a fine balance between dimming your light so that others may shine, and shining bright without blinding others.

4. Positivity It is no secret that many industries are still male-dominated, and succeeding in these industries remains a struggle for many aspiring women. We face challenges which most men do not have to encounter on a regular basis. Having a mentor who has faced these kinds of challenges is a key ingredient to staying positive throughout your journey. There is an element of validation in knowing that there is someone who has been through these obstacles, and managed to come out on top. I have always found the male perspective to be very useful and empowering, as often times, women place limitations on themselves that a male's perspective can really help diminish and create a transformational shift in mindset. Some people immediately assume that a professional woman's struggles are inflicted by the men in the industry- while that might be true for some sectors or working environments, in my opinion, it's a myth and we can be our own worst enemies if we allow our limiting beliefs or other people's obstructive behaviours, whether male or female, have the best of us.

Related: VentureSouq's Sonia Weymuller On Mentorship And A Soft Skill You Should Remember

Jumana Abu-Hannoud

Cofounder of Reach Mentoring

Jumana Abu-­Hannoud is a cofounder of Reach Mentoring and Managing Director of SOS Children’s Villages International, Gulf Area Office.

Abu-­Hannoud comes from a seat of policy making in the humanitarian and public service field, having served as Chief of Staff for HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of UAE Vice-­President and Prime Minister, Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. During her five-­year tenure with HRH Princess Haya, Abu-­Hannoud started out as Communications Director and was at the heart of the development of several national, regional and international strategies and projects in the fields of health, education, social development, peace and humanitarian aid. She was appointed by Royal Decree as Member of the Board of Directors of the International Humanitarian City, a dedicated free zone authority of the Dubai Government that facilitates humanitarian aid and development work. She was also tasked with the restructuring and transitional management of the IHC for two years, during which she also managed the humanitarian portfolio of HRH Princess Haya as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and Messenger of Peace.

In 2010, Abu-­Hannoud ventured into entrepreneurship and established a first of its kind agency specializing in CSR, fundraising and humanitarian communications. She then became a partner at FEEL Brands, where she led responsible branding and consulted on projects for WFP, UNICEF, Dubai Cares and Plan International. She also worked as a Public Information Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and supported the SOS International Children’s Villages, Gulf Area Office in a voluntary advisory capacity for three years prior to joining the organization as Managing Director of the Gulf Area Office.

Committed to women’s leadership, Jumana is a Founding Partner of Reach Mentoring, the first non-­profit incorporated organization in DIFC, dedicated to female mentoring and professional development in the Middle East. She is also a co-­founder and Steering Committee member of the 30% Club GCC chapter, a collaboration platform for businesses and individuals to accelerate representation of women on boards and in senior executive positions. She also headed Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Hills Group, owners of the largest outdoor advertising agency in the Middle East.

Abu-­Hannoud is a graduate of the University of Jordan, a certified Chief Sustainability Officer by the International Leadership Management (ILM) organization in the UK, and a member of the Wharton Executive Education alumni. 

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