life stories series Khayam hissah dubai

Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you want the world to know about YOU?

So in the words of Warren Buffet, I’m the winner of the ovarian lottery. I am blessed to have a wonderful family who gave me incredible values during my formative years.  My mother raised me with love and compassion.  My father taught me the fruits of hard work and the importance of the extended family.  My grandmother labored about forgiveness and devotion.  We are four siblings.  My sisters were my best friends growing up.  We huddled around each other and remained close throughout. Every day after school, we played cricket, hide and seek, go cycling in neighborhood.

I lived away from home for around two years when I was 12.  My parents thought it would be do my asthma some good to be in Islamabad.  However, while returning to attend my aunts wedding, the plane I was in got hijacked.  That put a quick end to my Islamabad days and I returned back to Karachi.

I was an average student growing up.  I found my “calling” when I went to college.  I was fortunate to get exposure in various student leadership avenues and made the most of my student life.  I was blessed to find the jewels of my future life in Houston – my closest and dearest friends, and my beloved life partner.  I got engaged at 22 and married her two years later.  I have four beautiful children mashallah.  My father instilled a sense of purpose in me as I saw how he was always available to help his family. I feel that often times when we want to help someone, we would have one talk/discussion and feel like “I’ve done my good deed for the day.” However, following through with what you start is essential.  I feel that giving your time is the biggest gift.  I enjoy working with people who are inspired.  I find motivation to be very contagious.

At my work, I have tried to make the environment more inclusive.  We have a blend of youth and experience.  We have made a good start with having women representation at management level.  I am also happy that we are supporting the most marginalized community in the country – the “differently abled” people – by providing them with job opportunities.  A lot more needs to be done though and that is the tonic that keeps me going.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I like to wake up early as I love the crisp morning air.  I enjoy that time with my children.  Getting them ready for school, giving them breakfast and then dropping them to school. My youngest is now 8 and we cycle to school in the morning.  I love that I am able to do that.  I am extremely fortunate to have the most loving and doting mother anyone could dream of.  We have breakfast together around 8:30. She makes me my morning tea which keeps me going all day.

At work, my job is basically to provide leadership. I believe in empowerment and am glad to see how it has filtered down to the lower management levels as well.  I believe people are inherently honest.  They need an enabling environment to perform.  Empowering means delegating.  I strongly believe that you cannot give someone responsibility without authority and expect them to be empowered. So I enjoy taking risk on people by letting them paint their own canvas. A peon from my office is now a General Manager at a mid-size company.  A lathe machine operator’s helper is now working as the Admin Officer.  That is the lightening power of empowerment.

I consciously try to divide my day in a manner that I do the creative part in the morning.  The more mundane (I still sign the checks and respond to emails) bit in the mid afternoon and the planning part later in the day.  This helps me stay focused and organized. I also consciously stop myself from answering emails right away.  Often, it avoids redundancy as someone else would have attended to it within the hour. I try to leave my office by 6 pm and encourage my employees to leave by then.  Most of the staff who works for me goes home within 15 minutes after we bell rings.

Once home, I spend some time with my mother over an evening cup of tea.  Aamna and the children would also join me during “tea time.”  We talk about how the day went and what the evening plans may be.  After Maghreb, I go up to my room to change.  Typically that is the time that I would go for my exercise.  I come back and have dinner by 8:30.  I generally sleep around 10:30 pm.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced during your journey to where you are today?

The industry I work in does not enjoy a very favorable status.  My customers are primarily in the goods transportation business.  Hence, the biggest challenge has been to raise the industry’s image.  I helped form an association for the logistics operators and got them to explore the rest of the region to learn best practices.  This has lead to the formalization of a registered organization that the government consults with for every trucking related policy.  I have enjoyed this aspect of my work as I feel I am helping the industry by doing so.

Who would you describe as a role model and why?

I subscribe to the view that you should identify different role models at various stages of your life/career.  At the stage that I am in presently, I look up to people like Dr. Bari (Indus), Dr. Naseer (Childlife) and Jaqueline Novogratz (Acumen) to get a daily dose of inspiration.  At the workplace, I aspire to be an equitable leader.  I want my employees to look forward to waking up in the morning and coming to work.  I want them to have fun at work.  I find my friend Adnan Asdar to be a role model because he exudes positive energy.  He is at work by 7:30 am and has a wonderful work-life balance.

Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know.

I was a very naughty child.  Once in class, I set off a stink bomb and got caught.  That streak is still in me.

What is one piece of advice about how to cope with challenges/struggles you face in life that you would like to give to the world?

I would say choose your attitude and take control of yourself.  Life is a celebration. Each moment that you are alive should count for some thing. At the work place we have a mantra, “if it is to be, it is up to me.”  That sums up the attitude part.

Allah places challenges in our lives for He loves us and wants to build our inner strength. I also feel that reaching out to someone in your life helps bridge the difficulties.  Humans are social animals and we thrive on sharing.  Whenever I am faced with a challenge, I call upon my mother to say a prayer for me.  She has an incredible faith.  I am also privileged to be able to discuss all kinds of challenges life throws at me with two very important people in my life.

What is ONE word that you feel defines you? (It could be your profession, a personality trait, or a quality you possess).

Compassionate