What are you most excited to share and learn in this upcoming Mentorship journey?
I look forward to sharing my professional experiences at the early stages of my career; in doing so, I hope to share some insights that took me years to gain. Work life is demanding, and work-related stress can affect our performance and health. Having a successful career is not just about knowing your job well; a big part of it is how we cope with challenges and setbacks, how we maintain physical well-being and emotional balance. Ultimately, I hope to help younger women starting their career to build confidence, resilience and flexibility at an early stage.
Who were some of your mentors pivotal to your career growth?
I have never been in any structured mentorship programmes. But I have always been keen to learn; and I do that by observing everyone I interact with and asking questions, not just to my superiors, but also my co-workers, subordinates and family.
That said, in my professional career, the person that I have learned the most from is the former CEO, now Chairman, of DP Architects, Mr Francis Lee. I have known him for 28 years – from the first day I joined DP Architects to work on the Suntec City project which he led, to 2016 when I took over the CEOship from him, to now where he advises the BOD as the chairman.
Francis was the one who insisted that I, the only woman in our design presentation team for The Dubai Mall, lead the presentation to the client. I had some reservations about a woman presenting to a room of 30 men wearing traditional Arabic dress, in a country and culture that is still largely male-dominated, but Francis felt that I had the capability and knowledge to make a winning presentation.
What is the most important advice or lesson your mentor(s) shared which has influenced how you work professionally?
I think the most valuable and practical advice I have received is to set my priorities right. Family comes first. If your family is happy, you will be happy and your work will be good.
I have also learned not to worry about what I cannot change, to let go.
Francis has always said “People matters”, that “every client, every DPian matters.” He taught me that a leader must take care of everyone, the employees as well as their family and dependants are our responsibility. I have learned to see and treat everyone as a leader. A director, a junior architect, a secretary or a cleaner are all leaders in their own right. If everyone behaves like a leader and take responsibility and initiative, and not wait for others, we will achieve collective success.
Would you say that your current role at work is aligned with your life purpose? Did mentorship change the way you thought about things?
The most meaningful thing we can do during our lifetime is to nurture, to give and to reciprocate care and love. I am in a privileged position and part of this privilege is to help. My office is always open and anyone can come to me directly. If I can make someone’s life easier by helping him or her resolve problems, I have done something meaningful and purposeful.
Would you advise young women to take on mentorship programmes?
Whether it is a structured mentorship programme or a more flexible relationship with undefined agenda or goals, it is beneficial to receive guidance and advice from someone with more experience and knowledge. Professional skills can be acquired on the job, it is harder to identify and develop the intangible qualities that can unlock your potential.
When we feel locked in a problem or a protracted situation, a different perspective is often the key to finding the solution. A mentor can help you see beyond your blindspot and provide that perspective. Besides advice, a mentor can offer support and valuable feedback that could prove to be turning points in your professional life. If there is an opportunity to be part of a mentorship programme, I would definitely encourage young professionals to take it. A mentor outside your organisation could also provide a higher level of objectivity that you will need to make clear assessment or decision.