Life is a roller coaster; time passes by so fast you feel like a hamster on a wheel. I feel in the short 32 years that I’ve lived so far that I did it by the book, so here is to a year where I should go with my gut instead. I did my dues, earned a bachelor, earned a masters, went up the corporate ladder and advanced my career, quit and started my own, got married, had kids, the whole nine yards. What’s next? Here are a few thoughts:

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Empowering women in the workplace, marketplace and community is a responsibility that falls on everyone’s shoulders.

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It’s been two weeks since you passed away! Life has an unfair way of driving us back to our daily routine. Wake up, give Hana breakfast/prepare her lunch box, send her off to pre-school, pick her up for lunch, then head home to mmom’s for lunch, only this time you aren’t there. Stay till 4:30 and leave. Play with Hana till bed time around 8:00, and then call it a day. REPEAT!

I haven’t written for quite a while now, and I wish that I had, every time I wrote a new post you’d call me the next day to talk about it or discuss – which really makes me feel like I should’ve written more, I would’ve loved to hear your opinion.

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The first time I attended the MENAICT Forum was the year it was officially launched was back in 2010, I had just started my journey to blogging Sleepless in Amman was only two months old at the time, and I honestly wasn’t sure why I was invited, but trust me when I say a friendship had been initiated among many special people since then, and six years later, I enjoy seeing them all whenever an occasion comes up.

So, in 2010, the highlight was Reality & The Cloud, Cloud Computing, and who could forget Werner Vogels of Amazon?

Werner Vogels with Ruba Abu Judeh - Too much brains in one picture!

Werner Vogels with Ruba Abu Judeh – Too much brains in one picture!

In 2013, I attended the MENAICT from the lowest point on earth, hosted at the Dead Sea which focused on the state of Arab ICT and its transformation and Peter Ryan whom six years later, I still keep in touch with. Not to forget two exclusive interviews with Stuart E. Jones United States Ambassador to Jordan and with Lorraine Hariton, Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

Left to Right: Lara Abdulhadi (Sleepless in Amman), Ms. Lorraine Hariton Special Representative for Commercial & Business Affairs, and Mr. Khaled El Ahmad

Left to Right: Lara Abdulhadi (Sleepless in Amman), Ms. Lorraine Hariton Special Representative for Commercial & Business Affairs, and Mr. Khaled El Ahmad

Finally, 2014 – Which I still refer to as last year’s ICT (Inside joke that only a few will understand) was no disappointment either.   The theme was Disruptive Technology, and two cool interviews with Ahmad Hanandeh CEO of Zain Jordan, and Jean Francois Thomas CEO of Orange Jordan.

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What all previous years had in common? The types of people you get to meet at the MENAICT Forum! For the sake of humor and supporting this year’s theme DIGITIZING THE ECONOMY, I’d like to add the human factor of who you are most likely to meet at the MENAICT this November.

Generally speaking the MENAICT is an ideal platform for C-suit Business Executives, Governments, Policy Makers, Non-Profit Executives, Investors and Financers, Entrepreneurs, ICT Professionals, Enthusiasts, and Hobbyists… But if we were to break them down by persona, I would say:

Meet the Networker

This person will be chatting up multiple people during breaks, exchanging business cards, adding people on LinkedIn, and simply being a social butterfly. You can’t go wrong meeting people, so if you’re one of them, stack up on those business cards and keep your professional profiles polished and up to date.

Meet the Learner

This person is like a sponge, they try to soak up lots and lots of information, they write notes, type into a laptop, and they try to diligently keep track of everything, including a possibility of live tweeting that they could get back to later as a reference of what has been discussed.

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Meet the Leader

Thought Leaders and possibly experts in their field, and are most likely speaking at the forum. Follow them, get to know them, and see who you would like to meet after works if you get the chance for Q&A. You can check out the list of speakers here.

 

(C) Fadi Ghandour - Photo by Ala'a Tarawneh

(C) Fadi Ghandour – Photo by Ala’a Tarawneh

The Hoarder

I’m not talking about the person who is always hoarding a front row seat, but also those on a mission on collecting the best free swag! I mean how many pens and stickers and book notes do you possibly need?

 

 

…and finally…

Meet the Blogger

Just like me, don’t be surprised if you see a person totting a tablet, a phone, multiple power banks, and trying their best to remain composed. The trickiest part for bloggers is making a decision on which sessions to attend if any are running in parallel, because there is nothing like FOMO on great content. Nevertheless, they could be blogging, or micro blogging on Twitter, make sure to follow them for top industry insights and trends, their feeds will keep you on your toes.

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Will you be attending the upcoming MENA ICT Forum? What are you looking forward to the most? Tell us in the comments below.

August 31st marks Queen Rania’s Birthday! If you know me at all, you would know that after my mother, I would consider her my role model! I love Queen Rania’s passion for initiatives for education development, children, refugees, and family!

On occasion of Queen Rania’s 46th birthday, here are 30 reasons why we love and adore her beyond words can describe…

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Remember project runway, a reality series hosted by model Heidi Klum with Nina Garcia, Michael Kors, and Tim Gun about fashion? The show was all about having these contestants come up with fashionable garments with limited time, materials, and a theme for each night. As the case with most reality series, contestants were being eliminated one at a time, until the lucky finalists enjoyed the perks, in the case of project runway, prepare a complete collection for New York Fashion Week!

Now that we’re done reminiscing, this brings me to say why I’ve mentioned this in the first place. That was actually the first time I have heard of TRESemmé, a lit bit over a decade ago, I was fresh out of high school and enjoying my freshman year of college, and man oh man have I enjoyed the products since I laid my hands on them or what?

TRESemmé’s products are popular for hair repair treatment from heating damage caused by hair ironing and blow-drying, initially the product line was designed for Salon’s, and then made its debut for home use and became available in supermarkets worldwide. Personally, I have used a variety of their products, mainly because they were not consistently available in Jordan. I used to have a friend grab me some shampoos and my favorite “Split Remedy Leave-in Conditioning Spray” from the states, and after I had a baby, my go to was TRESemmé Smooth and Silky Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner which is great for dry and brittle hair (talk about the perfect combination postpartum).

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Fast forward a good 12 years, and one day I get this beautiful arrangement of flowers delivered in a black box, talk about a trendy fashion statement, that’s out of the box, and delivered in a box with a little black card placed over a bed of white roses…

The invitation read:

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“TRESEMME is finally in Jordan! We would like to invite you to a night of fashion, girl talks, image consultancy, and of course gorgeous hair! Join us at U Lounge on July 27th at 7 PM and bring your trendiest friend along. PS: Dress to impress and leave your hair & make up for us to take care of.”

Considering all variables, I called and arranged for a sitter, or else how would I dare step out so late? (Trust me, it’s late when you have a one year old and go to bed at 10.), and then thought of a trendy plus one. Now all of my girls are gorgeous inside and out, trendy with their own style, and making a decision was as hard as it can get, but I couldn’t think of anyone better than my cousin Inaam, she too has a one year old, and between juggling a job, a home, and a daughter, I felt that someone in the same boat deserved to step out for a night full of glamor.

Come Wednesday we were sipping mocktails and catching up over one of the best views and breathtaking sunsets in Amman, Inaam and I were definitely full of appreciation of our free time for the evening. Showing up au naturel with our hair undone and our make up as minimal as a slight eyeliner, ULounge was quickly buzzing with the sounds of chatting ladies, waiters going around with mocktails and canapés, and high heels clicking away while kisses were air exchanges and acquaintances were reunited.

The Sleepless Besties Inaam and Betty...

The Sleepless Besties Inaam and Betty…

The night kicked off with a very brief introduction of the brand followed by the announcement of the brand ambassador for TRESemmé Jordan, Shirene Refai. I’ve known Shirene from within assistance for almost as long as I’ve used TRESemmé for my hair. When I was just fresh out of high school I got an internship for the Summer at Living Well magazine and I got to see her work as the Fashion Editor there and then got to invite her a few years later to a Fashion Show held by the students of the college I worked at. Amman being a small world and all eventually I graduated and landed a job in a digital marketing agency, we ended up working in the same building only this time she was the Editor in Chief for UMagazine brand… Being a non-practicing lawyer in the fashion industry seemed to serve Shirene very well, as her career has spanned off into her passion, brand management and image consultancy.

I got the chance to catch up slightly with Shirene post event and we discussed her latest appointment as a TRESemmé brand ambassador, check out the transcript below for details:

SIA: What aspect of being a TRESemmé brand ambassador makes you the happiest?

Shirene: To begin with, I love my hair and I enjoy taking care of it. TRESemmé intensifies that experience and makes it even more fun. Having always been a fan of TRESemmé, it’s exciting to be their brand ambassador while providing women with the tools necessary to achieve their dream hair. However, it’s become about more than having great hair. Empowering and inspiring women in their quest to be more confident is the ultimate achievement for me. TRESemmé has always been that kind of partner to women all over the world and just to be part of that journey, a part of something I have great passion for, is exhilarating.  Everyone knows that I’m also an avid supporter of emerging designers. It’s important for people to see how involved TRESemmé is in embracing the local talent and supporting them to be greater. It’s not just about taking care of our hair. This collaboration is a means to influence and inspire, and ultimately command greatness.

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SIA: Your field of work has allowed you to work with endless designers and artists, and with your impeccable taste designers are now killing to dress you. How does this impact your daily life?

Shirene: Fashion and style come naturally to me. I love to dress up and look stylish all the time and I enjoy working with my fellow designers, both local and international. For me, they are my friends and partners but the best part of it is that I style my own wardrobe and so I’m constantly on the lookout for new talent that can inspire my look and express my mood for the season. I appreciate the various tastes and approach to design that exists, so it’s a great honor to experience global talent. I find endless inspiration in the clothes, and styles which instills a personal prowess to kindle all my dreams.

SIA: You’re a mother who just celebrated her child’s high school graduation, what is your advice for other working moms when it comes to looking after themselves and pampering themselves?

Shirene: It’s such a beautiful chapter in my life seeing my eldest off to face the world with all its challenges. (I promised him I wouldn’t get emotional during our goodbyes.) My advice is to be the best at what you do. In my opinion, looking after yourself includes having self-respect not just for you, but towards those around you. It will spotlight your authenticity and make you memorable. It’s a style that no one can replicate. I strongly believe your self-respect will arm you with happiness and the power to overcome any challenges that may come your way.

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All in all, it was a wonderful night, just look at the pictures of all of these beautiful ladies glammed up and having a perfect night out in town. Being a mom and all, (and I don’t use this lightly because any mom can relate), we managed to leave around 9:30 with Inaam sporting a fresh blow dry, and myself I managed to walk out with a broad smile, with we did not manage to get all dolled up with make-up, there is always time for another day for that, for the time being, we managed to get home to our sleeping babies in a timely manner, pay off the sitters, and plan our next “Mommy night Out” which is hopefully not far away from now….

Ladies, thank you for taking the time to read this, and gentlemen, if you survived this long, good for you, don’t forget to pamper your special lady with lots of love and book her some quality time too. No one says no to being pampered and taken care of.

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While visiting Sweden earlier this June and attending the IKEA Democratic Design Days, I got the chance to sip a quick cup of coffee with the lovely Iina Vuorivirta, now this is a name that you would want to remember in the design world, because what she has pulled off for the 2017 collection is out of this world.

Iina Vuorivirta had her own design studio, and she left it to work for IKEA, in a world where most people are leaving corporations for startups, this is quite different, and refreshing to hear. Apparently the decision was quite easy, “I’m here to stay…I love my work, and as tacky as it may sound, it comes from the heart!” she exclaimed when I asked her about it, adding that while having her own freedom while running her own studio and the thrill of going to sleep and not knowing what’s going to happen the next day is great, working for IKEA is even greater, because you really never know what’s going to happen the next day at work, so the element of surprise and the adventure is still there. The communication between people and making products together at IKEA is just amazing, with 1,500 people working together daily, it’s a match made in heaven.

Prior to meeting Iina in person, I wanted to see what her previous work has been all about, and I was impressed to check out some really impressive domination and manipulation between objects and lights that could totally change a home space whether small or vast. You can check out the designs on her tumblr blog http://iinav.tumblr.com/objects

When asking her about her work and focus on lights and objects she said: “I think that lights and objects are also materials, it’s not only a thing that you see, but it’s a feeling itself. Especially when it comes to using different materials, so we have the LEDS and new high end techniques but you also have a candle that can also give light, so it’s so many different ways of you can work with the material because it has so much to say and gives warmth and light, but then it also offers a depth”.

Her inspiration to working with light did not happen overnight, it’s not really something that you can manipulate as easy as actual objects. On the contrary Vuorivirta seemed to differ, and told me that it definitely is, because you have to start building around it and because you do have to start from scratch and you do not have anything around it. After all, it’s an immaterial thing, and how you start collaborating with other materials in order to get something that you want, and in order to get the result you want and a story to tell, light really allows you to do so.

For the upcoming 2017 collection, Iina Vuorivirta has created has worked tremendously with waste and recycled materials in an effort to make sustainable living accessible to all. The 2017 line of “no waste products”; includes seating, vases, and kitchen cabinets that are all designed and produced from recycled materials.

Check out this prototype kitchen below, I first approached it because I couldn’t help but be attracted to the shade of black in the cabinets, and the way the light hit it made me want to consider redoing my own kitchen. Imagine my surprise when i learned that 99.9% of this kitchen doors is recycled. The doors are made using recycled plastic bottles. Named the KUNGSBACKA, the kitchen door launches February, 2017.

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Also impressively sitting there to be admired were these colorful vases which have a beautiful story behind them. See those vases were inspired by one of IKEA’s suppliers in Chine who were throwing out products that were damaged or imperfect. In an effort to minimize waste, IKEA has decided to melt the glass and turn it into these mouth-blown vases that are so unique and different.

While they all use the same mold, the melted glass comes from various left over materials of glass, ensuring that each vase is unique and different in its own way.

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I had to ask, working so hard on a product and to find it in the catalogue and in the actual store, how does that feel?

Iina: When I had my own design studio, I was designing for certain people, and it was simply that community, so thinking about the scale, it’s completely different. Working for IKEA, I’m designing for the world, from people in India, to Jordan, to Brazil. I’m not telling the story in a different way, and it’s just amazing that all of these people all over the world are buying the same story that I have been working and breathing for so long; I really do feel that whatever story I am telling is carrying out a different context within the cultural that’s buying it, and it’s just an overwhelming feeling.

I also asked her about her sentiments about the IKEA Democratic Design Days, from a designer’s perspective?

Iina: The interaction that is now possible is amazing; it’s not every day that you get to talk about your work. Work is not only a job, it’s a way of thinking and a way of interacting and communicating, so when you are able to share that, that’s how you end up going places. You are the ones that help us tell the stories throughout our work, and it’s not only about the products, so to get the chance to interact and share the story is what the IKEADDD is all about, and it’s a win-win situation.

What are pieces of advice that you can give my sleepless readers about decorating their own space?

Iina: If you really see something that you like, take it into your home because since it got your attention then it has a place where you can tell your own story about that object. I also think that when you buy something, sometimes it’s just something that you need that goes beyond the décor, and it could even be functional while being decorative, so don’t be afraid to bring it into your home.

The best advice I can give is whatever you own, whatever you want, it’s something to appreciate!

Finally, what is your favorite room in your home?

Kitchen! Easily, it’s the kitchen. Because the home is a place where I want to share with loved ones, where I want to invite in my family and my friends, and the best part is, it’s usually around the food when you get to have these blessed memories. If I’m cooking, I can be cooking alone for these people, or even cooking together, so a kitchen to me is a place to gather…

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On average, a product designed at IKEA from the preliminary sketches to the final product on the shelf, takes around 3 years in the making, but it does depend on the actual product. Iina Vuorivirta is currently working on the textile range for 2020 and is incorporating different techniques that should be a crowd pleaser by the time they are launched…

Last week I was in Sweden attending the Democratic Design Days by IKEA. The IKEADDD is organized annually, and it’s all about discussing the impact of design on our everyday life, especially in making affordable and sustainable designs at the same time.

This year, IKEADDD was inspired by the LIFE AT HOME. Sounds simple doesn’t it? What is a home? Is it a physical place or a spiritual one? Is it where you sleep and rest, or is it where you build relationships and memory? Life at home differs from one person to another, from one culture to another, but it all revolves around one major point, which is the comfort place for a human to be.

By 2030, 7 out of 10 people would be living in the city, meaning smaller spaces, less time at home, more time at work dealing with a fast paced life. Smaller spaces also mean the extreme need to rising living standards, which means organization and functional storage is a must, because you can’t really live in a cluttered small space now can you?

With that said, this year IKEA is launching 2,000 new articles across the world to be added into their enormous product line, here is an insight of what I have gathered first head during my visit to IKEA One.

As mentioned earlier, as the years pass, people will be leaving in small spaces, urbanization means that life at home is about to become more limited in space. While many people are currently there, the number will be decreased enormously. By 2050, it is expected that 3 out of 4 people will be living in the city, which means each space at home needs to be carefully planner, and possibly be multifunctional. IKEA offers many versatile solutions; here are some that would interest you.

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Isn’t that kitchen just right for a tight space? The table folds in and out when needed. Behind the table a pantry hides in plain sight, and the folder table doubles as a rack for the tea towels and more. The space below the table serves as shelves that can be utilized for fresh produce or just about anything while the very top shelf is great for bottles and spices.

One of the most fascinating things I have seen has influenced my husband thousands of miles away, and i can see why. Growing your own plants and produce at home is no longer a hobby. Many people do it decorate their home and have fresh produce available within arm’s reach when preparing meals. Surprisingly (I’m surprised as I thought the number would be much lower), six in ten people across cities are bringing nature into their urban homes.

With that said many people have issues growing at home. Personally as Lara, I tend to think that I don’t know where to start so I stick to flowers and try to ensure that they aren’t high maintenance as i don’t have the time especially with Jordan’s climate, plants really do require your undivided attention. While my reasons for not planting much are among the same barriers by people from the IKEA Life at home report who had the same reasons at 14% and 28% respectively, the majority of 42% said they didn’t have the place to grow plants. Which brings me to share my next project at home when the product becomes available, let the pictures inspire you…

The kitchen featured below is made out of waste and recycled wood. I’m really motivated to learn that IKEA is moving to work towards a more sustainable society through innovative ways to minimizing waste. While I would like to dwell more on this topic because it’s among my topics of interest, I’ve actually met the designer behind both and managed to have a nice 15 minute chat with Iina Vuorivirta, so I’ll save the mesmerizing details for another post…

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The IKEADDD had so much to offer, here is an Exlusive behind the scenes from upcoming designs that could be hitting your local IKEA Soon!

 

The JASSA Collection, inspired by Indonesian Craftsmanship

The JASSA Collection, inspired by Indonesian Craftsmanship

 

SVÄRTAN Collection Textured and modern interpretation of India

SVÄRTAN Collection
Textured and modern interpretation of India

 

SÄLLSKAP Collection Redefines traditional that brings together old & new

SÄLLSKAP Collection
Redefines traditional that brings together old & new

 

AVSIKTLIG Collection Takes Sweden's design heritage into the future of IKEA

AVSIKTLIG Collection
Takes Sweden’s design heritage into the future of IKEA

 

LATTJO Collection Sparks the imagination and together time

LATTJO Collection
Sparks the imagination and together time

 

SPRIDD Collection By British Designer Kit Neale

SPRIDD Collection
By British Designer Kit Neale

Finally, saving the best for last, IKEA’s Social Entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs are in the business of making everyday life better in their communities. They use business as a way to tackle social and environmental challenges such as reforestation, reducing poverty and empowering women. IKEA actually have a long-term partnership with various social entrepreneurs around the world. If this isn’t impressive enough, the products that are co-created are all made by hand and offered in limited numbers to be sold in selected stores. Profits all go back to supporting the initiative and keeping the wheel going. If you’re interested in learning more about this check out this inpiring video https://youtu.be/gmlpwIRmuBY

IKEA Social Entrepreneurs an innovative way to contribute to social change in local communities

IKEA Social Entrepreneurs an innovative way to contribute to social change in local communities

That’s it for now… I still have a lot more to share, but i figured I’ll keep you coming back for more, because this is a journey worth writing about, and I’d like to do it justice by sharing all that I could. Stay tuned for more.

The road to Älmhult for the IKEA Democratic Design Days was like no other. I was accompanied by IKEA Jordan’s Marketing Specialist Jehan Aggad to the two day event which aims to build trust and desire for IKEA Products (both of which I proudly have). The event is held at IKEA One, which was the first store ever opened in Älmhult, Småland in 1958. As of March of this year, IKEA now operated in 48 countries and has 384 stores open; an impressive number since their first store opening in 1958.

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With 800 million visitors in IKEA Stores last year, the brand still considers its self-small and at the beginning of a long journey. The IKEA Democratic Design Days was about growing IKEA, making a better one, and growing the brand to be available for just about anyone with better products, improved quality, and to offer value by becoming more accessible to people.

In 1958, IKEA held 2,000 to 2,500 products in their range of designs, today they issue around that number on annual basis, all by ensuring that the design of each product has four main pillars.

Form: All products should be beautiful, simple, and absolutely irresistible.

Function: Products that work for the design they were intended to do.

Quality: Whether it knows how to sleep best, designing beds that kids can bounce off (safely), or furniture to come home to and relax, quality is always important when designing IKEA products.

Sustainability: It’s very important for IKEA that products are both made and function in a sustainable way.

The above four pillars according to IKEA are worth nothing if not accompanied by the fifth and most important of all which will aid with any decision making process, and that is PRICE.

Price: IKEA strives to always be affordable, at the lowest possible price. That’s why some products are discontinued and you find them again under a new name, many products are redesigned under different names after they have managed to cut down on costs based on new findings and research and you end up with the newer variations at more appealing prices.

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During the opening session IKEA announced their collaboration with HAY. While not a very familiar designer in the Middle East, HAY co-founders Rolf and Mette Hay are like design celebrities, and the collaboration announcement was met with a huge round of applause. One of the their announcements was giving the IKEA Blue bag (Frakta Bag) a face lift, the yellow handles are now forest green and the bag is a shade of grey.

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IKEA’s R&D Department spends a lot of time prototyping and working on the LIFE AT HOME Report and getting work down in the test labs. They see themselves even going smaller in packaging, which means more products into shipping containers, and thus even lower prices.

The Life at Home is an interesting subject to IKEA because home is everything. The annual report aims to study how people perceive their homes and how they spend their times in them. Here is to sharing some knowledge from the 2016 findings, which is the 3rd annual report released by IKEA…

Life is changing drastically and the world is pretty much changing at an astonishing pace, this means that people’s lives are changing as well. Life at home is becoming redefined by people…

People today define their homes by where they have their most important relationships. Only 7% of people say that home is a physical place. With urbanization, living spaces are changing, people are forced to live in smaller spaces, and not surprisingly with digitization everything is just out there, so people are seeking their homes for privacy as well, as a private haven. Many people are now saying that if they had an extra hour a day, they would actually spend it alone, at home, unwinding from the fast paced life. At the same time, people are constantly on social media, being connected around the clock, so there is something about defining the line between privacy and being social that makes a home what it is today.

Impressively, a team of 20 designers oversees the creation of 2,000 affordable products each year at IKEA. Stay tuned to my blog for a sneak peek of 2016/2017 collection…

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I was asked to speak at the Personal Development Session hosted by the Rotaract Club of Amman West. The session “The Road to Success- Feel it, Work it, Achieve it“, was aimed to inspire participants by sharing professional experiences to influence and enhance their confidence in both the work place and their career paths.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say at the session, and I wanted to utilize the 15 minutes I’ve been given to the best of what I can offer, so I chose to speak about one main topic that has affected my life in the past couple of years, leaving a corporate life for a startup. Unfortunately, time was a crunch, the event was running a tad bit late, and I had to be elsewhere by the time my turn did come, so I managed to crunch it down to a quick 5 minute chat. Nevertheless, here is what my original PD session was like.

Lesson #1: Dream Big, Start Small

For as long as I could remember I would tell my dad that I would want him to loan me a couple of thousands because I wanted to start my own thing. He would say, money isn’t an issue, I’ll give you what you want, but starting your own thing with no work experience is a big mistake. You do no necessarily have to work in the same field that you want to establish, but work experience is a MUST! You learn a lot about yourself, and you develop beyond your comfort zone when you have to report back to someone, you need that kind of responsibility. The whole learn to then earn was a model my father is a firm believer of. I got my first job straight out of high school as a hotel receptionist over the summer, by the time the fall semester came in university; I had a part-time job on campus and was hired straight after graduating in 2007. I worked for 5 years and worked myself up the ladder before I decided to leave and start my own thing.

Lesson #2: Don’t be your own CEO

When you first start, clearly you are the CEO of your own company. You have a business plan, a vision, a goal, and you are in the process of hiring a smart team to help get you there. In addition to a lot of paper work, legal work, finances, and governmental work, it’s like a one-man show. But as you grow, you want to be able to identify who you are and know your strengths and weaknesses. I’m personally a go-getter, and if you’re anything like me, you would know that being my own CEO would’ve killed me. So I assigned my partner who is also my husband to be the CEO of the company. This way I get to focus on growing the company and taking it to where I want to be one day, and he can focus on what he does best.

Lesson 3: Learn to Fail and accept it

You can’t hear it enough! Everyone says it, and it’s as real as it can get. Yesterday during the sessions two esteemed speakers mentioned it as well Mr. Marwan Juma, and Mr. Ghassan Nuqul. There is nothing wrong about failing, it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen more frequently than you think! If you haven’t failed in my opinion, you aren’t trying hard enough. Fail, get up, and learn from your mistakes, it will make you a better person and a better leader for your organization.

Lesson 4: Be tenacious, don’t give up

Start Ups can fail for multiple reasons, the most common being a lack of market need, being unfunded, or hiring the wrong team. However, if you have a good product that is demanded in the market, then you need to hold on, be tenacious and fight. Founders tend to get bored, lose focus, lose interest, & passion. This will hurt your business, so don’t give up and remind yourself why you did it all. Feel that you aren’t getting paid what you need? That’s ok too! Startups don’t really make money at the beginning, focus on the big picture. My income got slashed down to a third of what I used to make, so on the side I did a lot of freelance work and I even did social media training, this generated the cash that I used to make working for a corporate office while allowing me to grow my business in a manner to where I have become today.

Lesson 5: Time Management

Time Management is something that you hear often, and yet not many people seem to manage their time. You would read articles online that say that you should never start your day with email correspondences because you’ll get lost in small details and you won’t be able to accomplish much during the day, but how true is that? It could be for some people, but not really for me. See, people have different learning styles, and time management is no different, you just need to find your rhythm. Typically my day starts around 6:30 or 7:00 AM, my first order of business over a steamy mug of coffee is firing up my outlook and getting to my emails. The cool thing is, no one is ever in office before 9, that’s colleagues and clients combined, so that gives me a good 2 hours to get started before the world becomes demanding again. I read my emails, type in quick responses when adequate, flag the ones that require follow up during the day, and write down a list of tasks for both myself and my team that need to be accomplished by the days end. Once the tasks are prioritized, I sent them out, set the deadlines, and head to the office, I’m in by 8:15 tops in the morning, and I get a good head start for my day.

Lesson 6: Work when you don’t have to

Early mornings, late nights, weekends! Whenever creativity and productivity strikes, go for it. Surely you’ve heard that a startup is a 24/7 job and isn’t your typical 9 to 5, which couldn’t be truer. I am a firm believer in channeling your energy for work, so when you’re feeling inspired, motivates, and productive, go for it, even if it’s past work hours. The best ideas I’ve had to date were the child of late night insomnia or break of dawn brainstorming. With that said, sometimes, I feel completely unproductive, so on rare occasions I just leave the office, have a cup of coffee, run an errand, or busy myself with just about anything, because I know when I’m back, I’ll be able to make up for last time instead of staring into the space of my computer screen.

Lesson 6: Become an Expert

In any field of work, you never stop learning. While curling up with a good book is a preference to me, I spend a good amount of time reading and learning before I go to bed each night. Reading not only increases your knowledge but it keeps you inspired and increases your capabilities. There is no such thing as being a guru because the day you stop learning about your field of work and relative fields, you become ancient, so invest in yourself, keeping on learning, and never ever turn down an opportunity to network unless you really have to.

Lesson 7: The Power of No

Having a startup is financially challenging, so every client you bring in is usually potential for your growth and getting you one step closer to your finish line. However, there are rare occasions when you have to politely and gracefully turn down a client.

Whether you are unable to do a good job within an unrealistic deadline set by the client, a client that you find to be beyond demanding, and could literally drain down your entire team and work hours by driving you nuts before he/she even signs on that dotted line, or a client that is requiring something that is “off your brand”. A simple “Thank you but no thank you” will do. Sometimes you just don’t want to invest your resources into a client that will demand an extra 200% of your effort and time than you had projected, because it will simply end up costing you much more.

Lesson 8: Separate Company Needs from Personal Desires

Who doesn’t want big office space? Modern furniture, top notch everything for their start up? I’d be lying if I said we didn’t want fancy offices. But what we have served its purpose. 8 fully equipped employee desks, two manager rooms, and a spacious kitchen/balcony in the cozy Jabal Amman area. Now, personally, I would love something posher, think Suits the TV Show? Who wouldn’t want an office like Harvey Specter’s? I’d kill for one, but then getting my team top notch supercomputers, fiber optic internet, and resources to make everyone’s lives smoother at work are far more important than a fancy office, or that latest version of the MacBook pro I’ve been eyeing for a while now.

Lesson 9: Take Customer Feedback Seriously

90% of our customers came in through referrals of Happy Customers! 85 Percent of Small Businesses Get Customers Through Word of Mouth, and this number shouldn’t be surprising because a happy customer is not only a returning customer but is also your brand advocate and brand ambassador. So whether you offer a product or a service, take your customer feedback seriously, it will allow you to go beyond your comfort zone when offered with constructive criticism, and that’s when you shine.

Lesson 10: Know your core competency

Determining your core competency isn’t easy; it will require that you look at things in a fresh perspective. Many starts ups look up at their competitors in the market, and they try to imitate them. Instead, identify what your company stands for, and determine what makes you stand out from your competition, that will be your core competency that should allow your company to expand and achieve your goal. There are so many occasions when people ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them that Digital Marketing Strategy Director at Fairooz Digital Solutions. Then, of course, I heard the story of “Oh, not sure I’ve heard of you, who do you represent”, and I say X,Y,&Z. Typically that’s followed by how big is your company, and when I say I currently employ 13 people and were expanding to the UAE and the KSA, people are surprised, what most of them don’t know is that our core competency is not only B2C, we also do a lot of B2B, we sell other agencies our work product, whether it’s designs, copywriting, content marketing, websites, social apps, or animation, we’ve down so much work for competitor agencies on a white label deal, we don’t publically advertise it, we don’t pouch their clients, and we bring in return business and grow all while not bothering with the ego of who did the work.