Off hours: DMCC director determined to make a difference

Feryal Ahmadi is the executive director of corporate services at Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) and a member of the DMCC Executive Committee. The Emirati, 35, previously worked as the centre’s IT director and describes her leadership style as open, trusting and dedicated. She lives in Emirates Hills with her 12-year-old daughter.

How do you spend your weekend?

Life today is very fast-paced, so I rarely plan my weekends. I prefer being spontaneous, leaving my weekends open and just going with the flow. My daughter and I love baking, so a lot of mother-daughter time is spent making cakes and goodies during weekends.

How did you become an executive director?

Through determination and hard work. Everyone has to be prepared to take on new opportunities, challenges and risks. I firmly believe in Richard Branson’s advice: “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”

What is your go-to gadget?

I know it is a cliché, but definitely my mobile phone. It is my portable hub and key enabler to all my professional, social and even health activities. It’s a gadget that is very hard to give up.

What was the lowest point of your career?

I am lucky enough not to have had a low point, but I have certainly had extremely challenging times. However, it is always a team effort, never solo. You continuously need to communicate, acknowledge and, most importantly, lead and take deci­sions.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Believe in what you do and be passionate about it. That’s the main driver to success. Starting out in any business is challenging. As organisations and businesses grow, so do challenges. The ones who recognise such challenges and understand that facing them is a fundamental requirement of success will succeed.

What is your most indulgent habit?

I was a coffee addict and gave it up about a year ago. I do occa­sionally have a cup on quiet Friday mornings, while I sit back and catch up on some talk shows or just delve into a good read.

What do you have on your desk at work?

My task list. It helps me focus on priorities and get them done.

What can’t you live without?

Exercise. Apart from the health benefits, it is a major stress relief. I make sure I mix it up though between TRX, kick boxing and circuit training. It really helps me unwind after a long day and sleep better. Most importantly, I don’t get any guilt feeling if I indulge in a chocolate fondant from time to time.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

To be honest, I believe work-life balance is a myth. “Work-life” suggests the two exist separately and “balance” that you’d negotiate between the two to find an equal weighting. Emily Hall, the chief executive of the strategy consulting firm Olive Grove, recently pointed out that the fundamental problem with “work-life balance” conversations are that they assume these two things are oppositional. The starting argument is that work and life are in conflict with one another. This is incorrect. Work is life and life is defined by our efforts. We assume that “work” makes us fundamentally unhappy, and only “life” can balance out that misery. It doesn’t have to be like that. I’d rather pursue an integrated life. Our ultimate goal should be sustainable happiness. This is a journey where we continue to enjoy what we do and design our lives so that we purposefully do more of what makes us happy. This makes us more productive people – better partners, parents and professionals.

If you could swap jobs with any­one who would it be and why?

I do thoroughly enjoy my current role, but if I were to choose a completely different path then it would be to work full-time for a non-profit organisation. Raising awareness, education and long-term community development initiatives significantly impact the fate of generations. I am very passionate about this and have been co-operating with different organisations regionally and globally for the past few years to further educate myself, participate and learn more about how one can contribute to make a difference.

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