Work Like is a series of articles dedicated to interviewing star performers to find out what they do to stay on top of their game. This time we are meeting with our very own CMO, who’s experiencing his first full Ramadan in an Egypt-based workplace.
First of all, tell us about your professional background and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Canada to Egyptian parents. I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia where I spent most of my career as an executive in a family run software development and strategic consulting firm, of which I was one of the earliest members. I’m proud to have a professional history where I helped what was once a garage-based startup to grow into a globally recognized software firm.
I gained nearly two decades of deep experience in the information technology sector. As a product owner in a family managed business, I was involved in the entire lifecycle of the business from operations to customer support to product development and marketing and sales.
How was it like to look for a job in Egypt, how is it different from Canada?
Honestly, given my professional career, I thought finding a job in Egypt would be a piece of cake. After trying other platforms, I came across WUZZUF which was a great help; however, I realized that in Egypt and at my level you can’t just sit at home and try to find work. Networking is a valuable career skill.
My story goes as follows: I applied online for the CMO position at BasharSoft (WUZZUF and FORASNA) and was shortlisted. I ultimately made it to WUZZUF’s Matchmaking Event at Rise Up where I was introduced to Ameer Sherif, fast-forward to a few interviews and draft marketing plans later, I landed the job. Sometimes you just need to go the extra mile to get the perfect job so that’s what I did.
Are you usually an early riser or a night owl?
Night owl. In a perfect world, I am usually sleeping at 3 a.m and waking up at 10 or 11. I like to have 8 hours of sleep, that’s important to me.
Did you have a different routine during Ramadan?
Sleep is very important for me so during Ramadan I end up compromising on the 8 hours of sleep. When I have to choose, I would sacrifice eating for sleeping. But don’t get me wrong, I also love eating.
What’s your productivity superpower?
I think for some reason I have been blessed with an endless supply of energy. I used to be a procrastinator in my school days, which made me accustomed to handling the pressure that builds up when things are due. Actually, I work better under pressure. Sometimes, pressure is healthy, I would say.
How do you stay productive in Ramadan?
Typically, I don’t drink tea or coffee so the lack of caffeine doesn’t affect me like it does others. I grew up seeing how people suffer during Ramadan because of their need for their caffeine fix and I made a conscious choice not to have a dependency on it.
Tell us a time-saving shortcut or a life hack you use specifically in Ramadan?
This one is not specific to Ramadan but it still works wonders wherever and whenever.
I think my time-saving hack is being efficient in your communication. I find that having your phone around helps you stay connected, which in turn enhances your efficiency because you are getting things done while you are walking , while you are in an Uber or otherwise. It does mean that you are always connected but you definitely get things done. You still need to know when to decompress and just enjoy some “alone time” and disconnect.
Are you an analog or a digital person?
I think I am a complete hybrid. I still carry a pen and paper to my meetings along with my laptop. I pen and paper for more intangible thoughts, whenever I have to write down brief notes or think creatively. Yet, digital tools are of a great help too with their notification and synchronization options. We cannot live without them anymore.
What are you reading now?
Part of my job is to stay updated with what’s happening in the business world. When I am reading for business, I am usually reading quick technical articles that get me to the point I want to learn about.
However, when I read for committed periods of time, I like to do that for entertainment. I am a big fan of fiction crime novels and comic books. Currently, when I have time, I am reading The Rosie effect by Graeme Simsion and Kill Switch by Jonathan Maberry. I’m all over the place when it comes to what I read. John Sandford, Max Brooks, Peter Clines, Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Buckley and Duane Swierczynski are among my favorites.
How would you describe your workspace?
My work space needs to be organized and comfortable. I view it as a vehicle that helps get the job done. There are a few items that reflect my personality but as long as the desk fits the laptop, I’m good. I like the fact that my work space is alongside the staff here at BasharSoft. Traditionally, I had an office to myself but now I have got a team around me so it’s a lot more engaging and I like it. I find it cozy and practical.
What is in your bag?
In my bag are my earphones, backup headsets, battery charger, sunglasses, laptop, pens… you know the basics. Sometimes my basketball gear if I’m off to a game.
But since the start of Ramadan, I have replaced my packed breakfast & lunch with my toothbrush and toothpaste, protecting everybody from the wrath of Ramadan breath.
How do you minimize your Ramadan fatigue, especially on working days?
I usually stay indoors during work hours and, I keep myself busy. The busier you are, the less likely you would think about food and drink.
What is the difference between Egypt and Canada in terms of work and workplaces in Ramadan?
I find that the participation of those around you is a highly differentiating factor. In Canada, you would be fasting for a much longer day and you have people around you who are eating and drinking all the time. In Egypt, it’s more of a collective experience. It’s as if you have a team who’s in it with you. This makes it easier and it’s generally more motivating to do things in a team environment..
How do you avoid burnout?
There are two factors that majorly contribute to burnout are monotony and being overwhelmed.
Whenever I experience a sense of monotony in what I do, I tend to challenge myself and expand the scope of what I am doing.
As for being overwhelmed, I usually contemplate this quadfecta:
Figure out what you should delegate. Figure out when to know what to give up. Figure out a way to prioritize. Figure out when you need to get some help.
What would you say to managers who are on the fence about asking for help?
When you are a manager, knowing when to ask for help is wisdom, not a weakness.
What motivates you to do what you do?
First of all, we all have to work in order to t cover our basic needs and to maintain the lifestyle we want. We also need other stimulation and motivation to keep us going. For me, it’s also about a sense of accomplishment and achievement. I want to say that I did something with my life. I enjoy challenges and business is all about how to overcome constantly evolving challenges. I love to solve problems for my customers, make a big sale, come up with an innovation, help people grow, find new business opportunities, beat the competition…those things motivate me.
What is the best advice you have received?
It was from an executive coach that I was working with a few years ago. He asked me what was my on my bucket list. I must have had a really a poor answer because he called me out on it and said “that’s a really <bleep> bucket list… go figure yourself out.” I walked away embarrassed and did some pretty deep soul searching. Just the challenge of having to reflect on what I really wanted out of life caused some pretty major changes for me.
I give you all the same advice “go figure yourself out” and then act on it.