"I’m a passionate leader who believes in herself!"
Women in Business: Intesar Zenki
Region: United Arab Emirates
With nationalization quotas playing a more significant role in recruitment across all sectors and industries with every passing year, we continue to work with professional, well educated and highly experienced Arab Nationals across the Gulf. At the senior levels we are seeing more loyalty and commitment to employers than ever before as well as a real desire for career development and a constant challenge.
As women play more and more of a role in the business world across the Gulf, we wanted to look at what it means to be a woman in the world of work here, find out more about their experiences and see what advice they would offer to other female GCC nationals looking to develop their own professional career.
Intesar, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule and joining us today. Can you start by telling us about yourself, background, and your most recent role?
Hey Alice, thanks. Well I’m Intesar and I’m blessed with a wonderful family that is always supportive and positive.
I have around 14 years of experience in HR, I hold a Master’s Degree in Global Human Resource Management and I have extensive experience as an HR generalist - applying best international practice in diverse environments.
Most recently I filled a role at NYUAD as Associate Director, Talent Management, setting up employees’ management strategy and implementing best practice to highly engage employees as well as maintain this engagement.
That’s a long time in HR, and I expect it’s quite an interesting role, somehow being responsible for employee motivation levels. So, my first question is how did you get where you are today? Who has helped you along the way?
On a personal level my husband has definitely played the ‘hero role’ in where I am today, he has always supported me to pursue my education and helped me in raising our kids so that I’m able to get to where I want to be in my career.
On a professional level, I was blessed to be trained and coached by international HR professionals, such as one of my first managers who was from south Africa. They’re responsible for establishing all the essential HR blocks required to build and cement my career. Since then I’ve, in another role, been involved in recruiting a person that is a real blessing in my life. Even today her ongoing support keeps me updated and on track in what I do - she is a Canadian HR professional who has held very senior HR roles in many international companies. She is my mentor, friend and sister.
The opportunity to work for international companies within well diverse cultures has impacted my career opportunities significantly. Definitely. I’ve had the chance to be exposed to different nationalities and with this comes all the different practices and mindsets.
That makes complete sense Intesar, I think that the diversity is a real benefit to the business world in the UAE. Next. Why is gender balance and having a more diverse workforce important, especially in senior management teams?
I believe that a gender balanced workforce allows the company to serve an increasingly diverse customer base, as employees and customers can identify with one another. Also, gender diversity generally helps companies attract and retain talented women - this is especially relevant as more women are joining the labor force around the world - thus widening the talent pool.
Retention is becoming so important, especially in a limited talent pool such as female GCC Nationals. So how did you get to the top? What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations?
My father once told me, ‘money is a tangible thing that gets less every time you spend it - unlike knowledge which grows more every time you share it, the more knowledge you get the richer you become.’
We should always seek knowledge and seize the right moment to learn everything, grabbing the right opportunity in life when it comes along is one of the key success factors in holding senior roles.
My college teacher saw me at college after graduation, (my company was participating in a careers fair at the same college I attended) and she was happy to see me. She said ‘Intesar, for you to climb the ladder take the right opportunity when it knocks your door, staying in the same company all your life will not help you build your career’ and that was what I did.
That’s great advice, it’s important to constantly make sure we’re developing ourselves. So with that in mind, what is an area of the corporate world that you still think needs improvement & development?
Well, as an HR professional I have been exposed to almost all of the business areas, I have not been involved in depth with their business, but from my experience I believe HR still needs a lot of improvement in terms of practice and building the right professional relationship with the other departments in the business.
Something which I expect you’re great at Intesar – bringing HR away from an administrative function to a valued ‘business partnering’ function. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Work life balance! Never waste your life just working, enjoy every day, do the job you enjoy and like, don’t work only for the salary. The day you wake up feeling that you hate going to work, (and if that feeling remains making you unhappy), then that is a sign to look for another job.
It really is important to remember that we spend 2/3 of our lives at work – we need to be enjoying it! Well I’m sure this interview will certainly be helpful for many of our followers. What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Hmmm, the fact that I’m a passionate leader who believes in herself!
We believe in you too Intesar! Last question - If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be? Is this the same advice you would give now to young Emirati women out there?
Never give up. Stay focused, make sure you do the right thing and keep evidence, always have plan B, your reputation will always remain so make sure its impressive in a positive way.
Good morals go a long way. Thank you so much Intesar, for your time and for sharing your experiences with us today. We wish you all the best in all your current and future ventures!
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