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Beth Comstock on Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change

Beth Comstock is former Chief Marketing Officer and Vice Chair of General Electric and is the author of Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity and the Power of Change.

For the opening episode of Season 2 we are fortunate to have an international powerhouse in the world of marketing. Beth Comstock spent 25 years at GE where she led efforts to accelerate new growth and was named GE’s first Chief Marketing Officer in 2003. Beth served as President of Integrated Media at NBC Universal, from 2006-08, overseeing ad revenue and the company’s digital efforts, including the early formation of Hulu. She is a corporate director of Nike and has been named to both the Fortune and Forbes lists of the World’s Most Powerful women.

We discussed Beth’s new book, Imagine It Forward. We covered many aspects of innovation – how entrepreneurs approach it, how entrepreneurial people within a corporation can innovate and disrupt, and how the corporation can encourage and support them. We explored the personal and professional price that disruptors might pay as organisations resist change. Beth gave practical tips for introverts like herself – introverts who wish to lead, as well as tips for managers of introverts. We touched on the problems that have rocked GE and talked about gatekeepers versus goalkeepers and how they can shape your job choices.

My favorite quote was: “You cannot mitigate risk, you have to navigate it.”

Beth recommended three books: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Management Principles by Peter Drucker and The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker.

If you would like to follow Beth on social media you can find her on LinkedInInstagram, Twitter, and Facebook @bethcomstock. Her book, Imagine It Forward, is available in stores and online.

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Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas: (00:00)
Welcome to season two of When Women Win. I’m thrilled to be back on the air. My guest on today’s show, the opening episode of season two, is a titan in the corporate world of marketing. Beth Comstock is a former vice chair of GE, where for 25 years she led efforts to accelerate new growth. She built GE business innovations and GE ventures and was named chief marketing officer in 2003. She served as president of integrated media at NBC universal from 2006 to 2008 overseeing ad revenue and the company’s digital efforts, including the early formation of Hulu. She’s a corporate director of Nike and has been named to the fortune and Forbes lists of the world’s most powerful women. We discussed in great detail, Beth’s new book. Imagine it forward. We covered many aspects of innovation, how entrepreneurs approach it and how entrepreneurial people within a corporation can innovate and disrupt. We explored the price that disruptors pay as organizations resist change. Beth gave practical tips for introverts like herself, introverts who wish to lead, as well as tips for managers of introverts. We touched on the problems that have rocked GE and talked about gatekeepers versus goalkeepers and how they can shape your job choices. So let’s get into it.

Rana Nawas: (01:29)
Beth, thank you so much for making the time to come on When Women Win. I read Imagine It Forward in just three days, but before we get into it, could you please tell the listeners a bit about yourself?

Beth Comstock: (01:39)
Sure, again, thanks for having me, Rana. I just wrapped up a 30 year run working for largely big companies, but working a lot with small companies. I think the thread line through all of that is I’m a storyteller who loves invention and got to be somebody who followed change, which is kind of ironic given I grew up in a very small town in Virginia, and you know what, I had a great upbringing, small town girl, but couldn’t wait to see the world and take on the world. I originally thought I wanted to be a reporter and it turned out I had little confidence and wasn’t very good. So, quickly, I went behind the scenes and found my way into communications promotion then marketing and marketing really became my awakening to business and innovation and I took my job very seriously. It was about living in the market, which is where you start to understand trends, insights, see change early. And that became a bit of a calling card for me in business.

Rana Nawas: (02:37)
And you mentioned in the book that you’re an introvert. So actually I’m going to start there because you go from, as you say, small town, Virginia, you know, you went to a normal college, not an ivy league and you studied biology and you’re an introvert. So how’d you go from that to becoming a master communicator on the international stage for really what practical tips you have for introverts? Because you mentioned in your book it seems that business is made for extroverts.

Beth Comstock: (03:01)
Yeah, I do think business is an extroverts game because well, for one thing, everybody’s kind of putting on a brave face, which we can come back and talk about later how that may be. That may not be the best thing for everybody to be doing, but everybody is, in all the situations I’ve seen. I mean it’s everybody yelling over everybody, talking over everybody, trying to get a word in. So if you’re an introvert, it’s really hard. To me, my whole life I’ve been shy, reserved and introverted and I think they’re slightly different, but they’re all kind of around the introvert, which it means quiet. I love that book by Susan Cain called Quiet, which to me brought to life the benefits that introverts offer in organizations. So I think as introverts we are. Excuse me, we’re the quiet ones.

Beth Comstock: (03:49)
I think we’re good listeners. That’s always been a skill that I’ve been able to adapt from that perspective. I think we’re good synthesizers because we listen. We’re able to sort of say, here’s what everybody said, let me bring it in for myself. I came to realize earlier in my career that my introversion was holding me back in this extrovert arena. I’d see people come into meetings and say things that sometimes didn’t even seem that smart, but they kinda got credit just for talking up and sometimes just talking, sucking the air out of the room and I, in fact I talk about in the book, there were a series example of examples I gave were in one case I worked at CNN and Turner Broadcasting and I was doing publicity for Ted Turner, who was then kind of a swashbuckling entrepreneur of his day and I had to work with him and he didn’t know my name and I gave him no reason to know my name.

Beth Comstock: (04:42)
I would go and do the events. I was very efficient. Everything went beautifully, but I had no confidence or I just didn’t want to put myself out there. People don’t appreciate if you’re an introvert it just takes so much energy to put yourself out there. I share a story in the book of how I finally summoned up my courage to just awkwardly introduce myself and I picked the worst moment as he was coming out of the men’s room, zipping his fly and you know, we both felt very awkward by that exchange, but that was kind of my awakening of like I’m doing a good job and no one knows me and I’ve got to get myself out there and I got to get over being awkward and so I just for myself and I think that’s a theme that I tried to put in the book.

Beth Comstock: (05:24)
That 1) Accept your nature. Like there are good things about being an introvert, but 2) recognize when it maybe gets in your way and 3) it’s just small steps of behavior change. So you know my first, okay. It was awkward shaking his hand right there and the outside the men’s room. But then next time I’m going to go meet one person. I’m going to say my name before I get to that awkward point. When I go to a networking event, I’m not going to stand at the chip bowl, I’m going to meet one person next time I’ll meet two and just those kinds of little challenges that if you’re not introverted you think that just so silly, but it takes a lot of energy and to me that’s really a lesson I’m trying to share. I’m not everybody who’s listening to this, it’s going to be introverted, but we all have things we fear doing and that’s some sort of that like everyday courage you need to summon at work. Really just small steps. Just saying I’m getting in my own way. Let me take a step, let me get, let me conquer that. So introversion was that a bit for me. How do I accept the strength of what that gives me but not let it derail me?

Rana Nawas: (06:27)
And what about managing introverts? You have some tips for that too.

Beth Comstock: (06:31)
Yeah, so I think that I’m more sensitive to it. I and I’ve appreciated managers I’ve who’ve appreciated that in me. One manager I had was always good and if I hadn’t spoken up, which was usually often, he would say: “Beth, what do you have to say? You have a good perspective on this.” So he wouldn’t put me on the spot, but it got to be that I knew he would ask me. So I think that would be one thing for managers, you know, find a way to ask the more quiet people on your team for a point of view. Now sometimes putting people on the spot in a meeting just creates more panic. So I do think there are ways to call on your folks beforehand: “Hey, I need you, I need this perspective from you. Think about it”, or “synthesize for me after the fact, the key points from that meeting, an action you’re going to take and what you think others should do. So I think it’s just knowing how to use that style and the difference of people. And if you need someone who’s going to ask thoughtful questions and synthesize a meeting, count on your introvert to be able to do that.

Rana Nawas: (07:32)
Right. So given everything we’re talking about when you were asked to become GE’s first chief marketing officer, how did you feel and how did you prepare yourself for a job like that?

Beth Comstock: (07:43)
Well, I felt excited. It was something I saw potentially as a path for me. I am ambitious and I think many people are. And so I wanted to keep moving forward, so it was in line with my ambitions, let’s put it that way. So I was, I was excited for that. At the same time, I was also intimidated and nervous. While I had done promotion roles and advertising. I hadn’t really done a full-on marketing role. I didn’t go to business school. I had come up on the communications and promotion side. So I wasn’t steeped deep on the business side. And so I was intimidated and I think for me what I did was kind of one of my little methods of just going into new things, which I love to do, is I just immersed myself in learning about marketing.

Beth Comstock: (08:31)
So I gave myself 90 to 100 days and basically said I’ve got to give myself a crash course marketing MBA and actually went out and got books like that, you know, the marketing MBA and all the Phil Kotler books of where he is the father of marketing, the four P’s. I reached out to chief marketing officers who, I’d call head hunters and say, who are the best? I’d reach out to them And I’d say, “Hey, I’m a newbie. Can I pick your brain?” I’d ask them, you know, how are you structured? How are you held accountable? What are you measured on? How do you train your people? Could you share with me the training that you give your people? And it was amazing how many of these people were so gracious to help me out at the time. I remember when I got the job Ad Age said something like, one of the rare breed of marketers with no marketing expertise and I don’t think they meant that as a compliment.

Beth Comstock: (09:23)
So I give those market.. those CMOs at other companies a lot of credit for, you know, helping me out, right? Like they had known me from their networks, but, I think they understood my sincerity, my curiosity and my willingness to learn. So that’s really my lesson from situations like that. I mean, I like being thrown into situations where I don’t often where I haven’t had the experience, I love to learn, but it’s intimidating. And what often happens in those situations is you think you’re supposed to know everything and so you go spouting off language, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You try to take on projects or things to prove you’re smart. Really perhaps the challenges to see how much you can learn and how open you can be for a certain period of time before you put your mark on what you need to do. And that’s not our natural instinct. I think in business.

Rana Nawas: (10:16)
Yeah, you tapped your network to learn from others. I think that’s a big lesson for everyone when we talk about networking and the value of that as well. Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about innovation within a corporation because there’s a lot of people, say, stuck in the bowels of the corporation who want to innovate or who have entrepreneurial desires but don’t necessarily want to leave the company. They want to stay within a corporation. Can these, do these people have the opportunity to innovate internally?

Beth Comstock: (10:48)
I love that question and I hope so. I mean, honestly that was the reason I felt it important to write the book I did. I want, I wanted to share kind of the personal journey it is, just say this is hard work and you’re going to fail. But really I want to create sort of a call to action for the entrepreneurs everywhere. I think for too long we’ve assumed that to be an entrepreneur you have to just be in silicon valley or some kind of, you know, come out of some kind of startup accelerator. Every organization needs entrepreneurs and I think every profession, if you’re in business, if you’re a teacher, if you work for the government, you have to be more entrepreneurial. Why? What does that mean? I think it means problem solver. I think it means moving with speed.

Beth Comstock: (11:33)
I think it means moving, in a way that, that can grab whatever resources and whatever colleagues you can to make things happen. So entrepreneurial I think creates a bit of a movement for action and what organization doesn’t need that? So most people in companies feel they need permission. And to me that’s, that was at the heart of my learning with, with myself and my colleagues is there’s always a million alibis why we can’t do something, and excuses, and many of them are or may well be true. I don’t have a budget. My boss will never let me do that. My board won’t let me, my investors won’t let me. No one thinks it’s a good idea. On and on and on. And as I said, many of those may be true, but you got to fight for it. You got to keep working it and I think the entrepreneurial mindset is that fight and that, that hustle, if you will, so what do you do if you’re in an organization or on a team and you feel that you have these ideas and you want to innovate and they won’t let you.

Beth Comstock: (12:35)
The first thing I always say is just keep pushing it. Maybe your idea is just not ready. Maybe the idea is not very clear. You need to keep refining it. It’s not your idea – it’s a vision of a future that is going to be better and so the more people you can get to join in and make that idea better and it becomes a team effort, the better chances you’re going to have. If five people on a team of seven think it’s a good idea, it’s probably gonna happen, so you have to spend time building those influencer skills and to me it’s a lot of crafting your job in a way. Look, we all have core responsibilities in our day that we have to do, but is there a bit of time you can carve out to start adding things and articulating things that maybe others don’t see, and I say don’t wait for permission to do that.

Beth Comstock: (13:25)
I mean you can’t go grab someone else’s job or take on something totally crazy that’s going to cost a lot of money for the company, but there are deliberate steps. Maybe a first step if you want to innovate more. Just say you work in a team and you want to innovate more. One would be can you just start sharing ideas with your colleagues or trends or like Ted talks or anything from newsletters of other people that say this is happening and this is what it means to us. Can you organize lunch and learns at your workplace where people are coming together to talk about this issue? The future of work means this for us. How are we going to react to it? Can you invite people in to speak? People often will be happy to speak and they don’t expect to pay or be paid a lot of money for it. So there are ways you can start to kind of get your team ready for these new ideas and I say if you have the sort of mindset, just keep pushing it, keep pushing the idea, trying to create small examples so people see what you’re talking about. It doesn’t have to be the big beautiful, you know, big, biggest finished idea. What are small examples that people can see of how you might be working on something.

Rana Nawas: (14:38)
And you also mentioned that innovation requires tension. Conflict. I think we’ve all seen this, in our jobs. So what tips do you have on managing conflict in the workplace?

Beth Comstock: (14:48)
Well, I think conflict is inevitable. I will tell you right up front, I hate conflict, but heaven knows what you know from reading my book is a lot of conflict that I share. And I think first you have to stop and say conflict is inevitable. I believe conflict gets you to a better place. So it sounds sort of counterintuitive, but if things are going along too well, if everybody thinks an idea or a project is just so great, maybe you haven’t injected enough conflict, you haven’t beaten it up enough to see what the pitfalls are. What are the unintended consequences? Are you betting it with enough scenarios? So that would be the first thing is sometimes you have to invite the conflict in. I’m big on forming teams. You need teams at different stages, sometimes in brainstorming is the worst place to have conflict, but when you’re considering some of the ideas that you have brainstorm, do you need to bring in a couple of people who are critical?

Beth Comstock: (15:41)
And so do you have colleagues or people on your team who are the critics? And I mean thoughtful critics, not the negative, negative Nancys who hate everything, but that’s the people who are thoughtful and they’ll really get it, get into it with you. And often they leave feeling like I was heard. They contributed and they become part of that effort. And then the other thing was conflict as I think you have to keep, you have to build trust. And often that’s what we ignore. It’s me against them. It’s the marketing team against the sales team. It’s product against supply chain. You, they just don’t get it, do they? And so you build up this, you sort of go to your tribal instincts and conflict ensues. The reality is a couple of things I think can stop that. One is bring the integrated teams together to go where the problem is that you’re trying to solve it.

Beth Comstock: (16:36)
Go to the customer, go out to the market, go out into the world and discover what competitors are early adopters are doing together. You see that problem solving. Whenever you have those tense moments return to that. To me, this key question, what problem are we trying to solve? That’s should be the tension breaker because do you agree on the same problem? If not, maybe you have a bigger problem that you have to work through. And take this from somebody who learned painfully, you need to establish relationships outside of the problem solving. Go to have coffee with someone who you consider an adversary. Maybe you’re in marketing and they’re in sales. Go and have coffee with them. Just get to know what their issues are. Say to them, I need your help. I’m afraid of this. I think too often we don’t want to admit our fears, our anxieties, and then we put on those fake brave faces and go to war with each other when, when that’s not what we need to do. The bottom line is people hate, most people hate change. I don’t like change that I’m not in control of. None of us really do. And so partly what you’re trying to do is just communicate and get a team together aligned around a shared mission. I think that’s the best way to deal with conflict, but it’s hard and you have to admit that it’s a necessary part of what we do.

Rana Nawas: (17:51)
Yeah, it is hard and it can… It’s exhausting, isn’t it? You talked, for example, about being the outsider on the inside. So it’s almost like trying to improve an organization against its will, which can be draining. It can be thankless, and exhausting. And I know from your story you were up against this a lot. I mean, why do it, you know, what, what would motivate you to keep pushing and, and at what point should we give up?

Beth Comstock: (18:17)
It’s such a good question too. I don’t know why do it on one level. On the other it’s quite clear if, if you see something, a better way, don’t you feel an obligation to do it? And I think some people are just wired that way. As I said earlier, I’m ambitious but I also just know who I am. I can’t not do that and I want to be part of helping to find a better way and unlocking that solution. So to me the struggle is part of what comes with it and it does take a lot of energy and just when you’re about ready to give up, there’s a breakthrough or the team coalesces on a new learning. And I think why people fail to do it is it’s hard. It is iterative and sometimes you feel like you’re never going to get,

Beth Comstock: (19:02)
You’re never going forward. It takes a lot of energy and let’s face it, there are a lot of pressures in our, our work to just, you know, be more efficient every more focused in what we’re talking about in some ways is not a very efficient process. That’s why I like for teams to think about kind of innovation and change in almost a portfolio approach. You know, there’s certain things you need to do just to kind of have the day to day operations of your business. But you can’t…you have to make room for what’s next and what’s new. I like those kinds of business school portfolio views, where like 70 percent of your time’s on the core, 15 to 20 percent on what’s next and 10, 10 percent is on what’s new and I believe you have to make time for that and not enough companies make time for that hard work and the long journey.

Beth Comstock: (19:53)
And the last thing, just to what you said is I don’t think you can make people change. So any leader who says you will do this. I mean, yeah, they have some, they have some sticks and carrots to. But to truly get people to feel like they are part of it, it’s about influence, movement building and allowing people to discover the change on their own. So I’m a big proponent of sort of alleviating some of that struggle by doing it with others, get take your team out to the world and discover together the changes that are happening rather than you constantly have to be the proselytizer and the one beating everybody up on the head, like you just don’t get it, do you, because they’re not going to get it. If you just tell them they’re going to get a lot better if they see it and experience it themselves.

Rana Nawas: (20:39)
Yeah, and, Beth in your decades of experience in GE and from HQ and traveling out in the field and various countries, how different is this attitude or is it the same across GE? And I don’t just mean GE, obviously it’s, it’s really the corporate world. But I mean, for example, would a 30 year old lady working for GE in India be facing the same, inertia as a 30 year old lady in Fairfield? Or today, Boston, I guess.

Beth Comstock: (21:11)
No, and, um, I think there are different levels of inertia. In some ways. I feel most hope for the 30 year old lady in India because,she’s in a distributed role, away from the sort of bureaucracy of a corporate structure and with that entrepreneurial spirit and giving herself permission and getting out in the market and seeing what, let’s say she works in healthcare and going out to visit a local third tier three hospital in India, she starts to realize that the big honkin MRI machine that the center wants her to sell doesn’t work there. They don’t have power and they don’t have, they don’t have uninterrupted power. They can’t afford it. They need more mobile solutions. So in some ways I believe she’s more empowered to innovate and make change and be that translator. What often happens in companies is you get these layers and the, the people, especially at the head HQ and every company has multiple age.

Beth Comstock: (22:17)
They just are in meetings all day and they just, their tension is they want some consistency and some, some frameworks and some initiatives and those are helpful. But they’ve got to trust that the lady in India knows what she’s doing because they’ve hired somebody good and let her do it. And their job in the corporate land is to get out of the way, give her the resources, be asked the right questions. And so I think that’s some of the tension we see in companies today is that we’re not distributed enough. We’re not empowering our people who are really good. I actually think we need to sort of call for activism in the middle of our organizations. We have great brainpower. Go do it! Get out of the way for some of these layers. So as we say that scenario, I feel much more a kindred spirit with the lady in India. Now that being said, it’s really hard and every culture has its own restrictions and what the expectations are and you know, but again, what are the real restrictions and what are the perceived restrictions and are constraints of budget really an issue or are there interesting creative ways you can work around it? And um, and so I, I challenge anybody to ask themselves or the constraints real or are they in their head?

Rana Nawas: (23:39)
Well, I worked at GE Capital Aviation Services for many years and I was frontline sales for Africa and Turkey and it was really funny to me that the, our head of risk, was sitting in Fairfield, apparently he had never left the United States. So I’m there trying to sell a deal, you know, whatever. And I, of course I did Libya and uh, you know, Congo and this, but forget that. I mean even Turkey and Tunisia, the case had to be made and it’s so easy for someone in HQ to just say no when it’s just something… and that’s what we come up against in the field, you know,

Beth Comstock: (24:23)
It is! And it’s somewhat naive for me to sit here and just say, you go, you keep going. Because obviously there are constraints. Partly we’ve got to get our, those leaders to realize it’s not a risk free world if they think risk mitigation is real. Wake up. It’s not, it’s how do you navigate risk? How do you have more options? How do you have more Ranas in Libya and you know, and all the places you said who are planting seeds and giving you optionality and doing it in a way that you can manage the risk but you can’t avoid it. And so, you know, I think there comes a point when maybe you do too much in Libya, you create a bigger risk than they want, but there is a level at which they can empower you to take a risk and feel comfortable that you got it. How do we fight for that? And I think some of it is on us, the individual actors and some of it is just reminding this institution and hoping. And the third is just training our, our team leaders to just lead more by empowerment and vision and less by micromanaging and checklist.

Rana Nawas: (25:33)
Yeah. Yeah. We got there on the third attempt on the structuring the deal.

Beth Comstock: (25:39)
Can I just say, I love that example. That’s often what it takes. How many times have I seen people come into a meeting and the first time they’re told no. And you say the third attempt. Often people hear no and they leave and they’re like, see, I can’t do it if you really believe it. I believe no is not yet. Three times, six times. I mean, there comes a point maybe like no is going to be never and you have to use your judgment, but I love that story.

Rana Nawas: (26:03)
Yeah. Thank you. You mentioned permission a couple of times best. What do you mean by that?

Beth Comstock: (26:09)
I mean, we have to give ourselves permission to take a risk. We have to give ourselves permission to not know the answer. And it is that sense of agency and in organizations. Let’s be honest, most most everybody works works because they feel joy. They want to, they want to contribute, but they also need a paycheck, right? I mean, that bind creates in us, just brings out some weird fears, because we fear we’re going to lose our job, but it takes a lot to lose your job, right? I mean, we’re not talking about smart people doing dumb things were just about smart people taking smart risks. And so give… believe in yourself. Give yourself permission. I used to, when I was in an office, I used to keep a stack of permission slips on my desk and when a team member or someone would be struggling like, no, I can’t do that, or so and so won’t let me, I’d hand him a permission slip and um, it’s literally like in when you were in grade school or high school, you know, I grant myself permission to do x and I’d be like, just, this is so silly, but it’s symbolic.

Beth Comstock: (27:11)
It’s just a, it’s just a prompt. Write yourself a permission slip. What are you going to give yourself permission to do that just scares you a little bit. I don’t mean go jump out of a plane. I mean go ask a question, go try that thing. And I found that was helpful. That is what to me, that’s at the heart of what often holds us back is we’re afraid to just try something and the repercussions are often not what they, what we think they’re going to be

Rana Nawas: (27:36)
In terms of repercussions. let’s talk a bit about failure. You talk about it a lot in imagine it forward, you know, I love the concept of a return on failure, right? That resonated with me. And also, you know that if you create a culture where failure is not an option, then neither is success. So could you perhaps talk to us about one or two of your own big failures and what you learned from them?

Beth Comstock: (27:57)
I worry a little bit these days that failure is becoming, it’s like a hashtag, you know, fail fast, fail more. I think coming out of silicon valley and the kind of entrepreneurs and there are, you sort of assume like I fail and I get funded and it’s just check I’m done. Whereas this, what I’m talking about is hard work. It’s really learning. It’s a continued effort of learning. Companies are going the other way. Companies are, especially once they go public or once they get kind of a certain scale, they need to kind of rigor. And that’s often at odds with failures. So I’m not suggesting everybody fails everywhere, but I do think when you were trying to figure out new methods, new ways, which you constantly have to, do, you need to create a space for the failure to be smaller.

Beth Comstock: (28:44)
I share a couple of examples. I mean, some are really small, some are bigger. I’ll take a big one. I had partnered with and really backed a consumer connected consumer electronics play as we were leading into the digital of industry with a partner, a startup company called Quirky, and I put a lot of the company’s money. I put our brand into it. I put our team resources and that company went bankrupt. It was incredibly painful. The financial loss in the scheme of things at GE wasn’t going to break the company, but it was not something they felt good about. And yet out of that came incredible amount of learning and moving forward. So we had partnered with our appliance business at the time. And out of that failure came this amazing set of new advances in, for example, our appliances business by working with a team in Quirky that can rapid prototype the open innovation, meaning inviting others in.

Beth Comstock: (29:41)
They came up with an amazing concept called firstbuild, which was about, using the community to create products and test them and make them in a small run to see if they’re viable long before they needed to do it, when it was, you know, millions of dollars of investment, they could do it for hundreds of thousands and then with confidence that they had a good product and people wanted to buy it, they could scale up. So that was a huge return on failure for us that the original idea didn’t work, but it led a path to a whole new way of working and a whole new mechanism for, for the appliance and other manufacturing. So often those failures are what you need to figure out the next step. And too often we just go, “that failed we’ll never touch that again. Oh my God. Don’t ever mention that name again”.

Beth Comstock: (30:31)
As opposed to stopping and going, no, but what did we learn? What’s it going to keep us from doing? What will that speed us too so that we don’t have to go through that pain again? I think it’s essential. Yeah. Maybe we need to recast it as learning. I talk about being a sort of setting yourself up as this living lab of change and that’s what I mean, you’re, there’s a stage when you have to test things before you scale them. And that’s at the stage you want to do those failures and on an individual level you’re not going to get everything right. It’s okay. Try to do it when it’s early. Not like when you’re pitching the board do it when you’re pitching your colleagues, that’s okay to sort of mess up with them. So by, even if you do get to the board and if you mess up, you got another, you probably get another chance at some point. So the third thing would be just to accept that as part of the process.

Rana Nawas: (31:21)
Yeah, I totally understand. When it comes to an organizational level, you know the return on failure, but it’s difficult if you bring it down to the individual actually in the middle of the organization failing themselves. You know what that’s gonna mean in their performance appraisal and their bonus and their promotion opportunities and all of that. What’s the return on failure really for them personally?

Beth Comstock: (31:43)
Well, it’s learning. I mean, who, who can get better if you don’t learn and how do you learn? You try something and you figure out what works and what doesn’t. If you’re just doing everything that works, are you learning? Are you getting better? Really? So I, I think that’s what’s at stake for the individual and I do think how you recast it. So control your story. Here’s what we tried, here’s what we learned. We’re going to test and this is just for me as an individual, five people team. I’m going to test these things. I have a hypothesis. Let me see if it’s valid. So you’re, you’re not setting up. This is like my make or break idea. You’re just setting up a different level of, framing it, I do believe in organizations we’re going to be going to much more of a continuous feedback loop where you’re getting continuous feedback all the time from customers, from your colleagues, and so you start to create those records of this didn’t work, this did, so that when you do those annual reviews, you’re able to give much more granularity about the profile of those things and giving you control over that, over that story.

Beth Comstock: (32:54)
So what I’m saying is partly it’s how you position it and partly it’s asking for the feedback loops that allow you to kind of show what, I mean like so and so said it couldn’t work, but hey, they said that we never would have had this relationship with this customer if we hadn’t done that. Right. So those are the return on failure things that are all in our control.

Rana Nawas: (33:17)
Yeah, I think managing expectations is key upfront. You know, I’m just testing a hypothesis.

Beth Comstock: (33:23)
Exactly. Exactly. And can you get credit for. I like to turn it around and say, give me credit for testing all these ideas. I, you know, there, there was a certain stage where we have a vitality of testing things that. Should give you confidence that I’m coming to you with something that’s tested. It should give you options for the future. Any company that doesn’t want that, I would question how viable the business is going to be if they can’t, if they can’t expect that from you.

Rana Nawas: (33:56)
Yeah. And it really comes down to individuals in the company because the company is made up of different people and sometimes you have managers who are open to that and you frame it in the book as gatekeepers versus goalkeepers. Could you tell us a bit about that?

Beth Comstock: (34:11)
Yeah. Well, I would imagine everyone listening to this has, had or has a gatekeeper in their life and their lives and to me a gatekeeper or the people who, uh, who, they don’t want you to get ahead. They want to prevent something from happening. I share an example of, of a, of a gatekeeper boss I had early in my career. I call him JR when we finally mustered the confidence and courage to tell them what wasn’t working. He basically told us too bad, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t believe what you have to say. And I left that job and worked other places. I ended up coming back to that company which was NBC because I realized there gatekeepers everywhere. And sometimes the gatekeepers are in our head. Back to what we said earlier, it sort of brings up this almost sort of calculated rebel and you, you were talking about the going back the third time.

Beth Comstock: (35:01)
That kind of I’m going to keep going back and finding different ways and that’s part of what you have to do with gatekeepers is you have to find a way to work around them and work with them or you have to leave and try to include as many people that you have access to when you, when you’re going to be hired in a job. I think there’s a lot of diligence about how much freedom do you give me to figure these things out? Are you helping me get the goal or you’re going to keep me from making the goal? That’s what that gatekeeper versus goalkeeper concept is, and so when you were entering a team project are going to take a new job, spend some time trying to understand the environment, that’s going to allow you to do that and some of that you perhaps can head off before you even get to the situation.

Rana Nawas: (35:44)
Speaking of your job, I was really surprised at some of the the job choices you’ve made that you talk about in the book. So for example, you know, you left a great job at a booming CBS to join an NBC that was in real trouble at the time and then just as you helped turn NBC around you accepted a job at GE and when you were at a very low point, steve jobs called you and offered you a job. Not once but twice and you turn them down both times. So do you believe you made the right choices?

Beth Comstock: (36:16)
I do, but I didn’t always at the time. I think for me, you know, like for example, when I left CBS to go back to NBC, it was in the aftermath of a really horrible kind of fake news incident at NBC that literally brought the news division to its knees and everyone thought I was crazy to take it, but I, it was just pure gut. I just wanted to be part of a rebuilding and a rebirth and I wanted to do that. To this day. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It brought out my entrepreneurial spirit. I knew I could be an entrepreneur in a company. It allowed me to see the value of a great team. I worked with a great leader I wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t trade that for anything. At the time it was very scary because everybody starts questioning, you know, this is career suicide.

Beth Comstock: (37:01)
You’re an idiot. So I think the message is you have to trust one that you know yourself and if you don’t need to spend some time getting there and sometimes you can’t even articulate why you need to do this. You just know you have to do it. And so in the case of, going from NBC to GE, most people wanted to go from GE and NBC. She didn’t want to leave NBC and go to GE. And I just felt, wow, this is a global company at this amazing point in industries like energy and healthcare that I’m passionate about. I can learn a lot. And so for me it was I want to see the world, I want to make myself better. And then when I was back at NBC and I had the opportunity to get to know Apple and Steve Jobs and he offered me a job not once but twice.

Beth Comstock: (37:49)
And I said, no, that was the one for a while I did regret that decision because apple went on, at the time apple hadn’t quite been apple and he wasn’t quite the Steve Jobs. We came to know and yeah, I was like, oh, did I miss something? But in the end I just didn’t feel like what I was looking for in terms of innovation and creativity was going to be on the path there. And so I just trusted my gut on that one. But did I regret it for a long time or not regret but question it, you bet. And I think part of the message is you pick a path and if you’re entrepreneurial and you have passion for better, you’ll make it work. So that’s the other thing just to remind yourself is I actually, I mean, you can pick a bad job and then you to leave, but if you pick a job and you’re worried about, you should have done the other, you got to make work where you are, and that’s often maybe lost on us that we have the power to make that role better.

Rana Nawas: (38:46)
Right? If you really commit to it, you can make a success of it. Yeah. When I joined GE in 2004, it was the place to be and everything was going great, especially in the MENA region where I was working. Things have changed. So here we are GE’s had an awful year, kicked off the Dow Jones share price at its lowest point since 2009. And lots of people have been fired, lots of my friends and assets sold. What went wrong, Beth?

Beth Comstock: (39:13)
Well, I’m still making sense of everything. I mean, I think you and I both know because we’ve worked there, GE is an amazing company. I mean the people we worked with are incredible. They have such passion for their industries. I mean they lift people up and bring them home safely in aviation. I mean they just, they love what they do and they make amazing things and so don’t let the stock issue confuse you with a good company of good people doing good things that that’s what I feel is important to say. And from a stock perspective, I’m not a stock expert. I don’t know what’s been happening in the past year. I think I would say there’s just reset moments that companies need and I wonder if one, the companies themselves realize the complexity of what they’re entering into. The investors appreciate how hard it is to kind of untangle some of this complexity.

Beth Comstock: (40:08)
So in GE’s case for a long time had become a financial services business and that didn’t work for it anymore. That had left a lot of debt, a lot of complexity that had to be untangled and I don’t think people appreciate the hard work and the reset that it takes. I can’t talk, I don’t know what they’re doing now. I think any company, any team that’s leading through resets or complexity needs to have a vision of where they’re going. They need to be very clear about what they’re doing and I think investors need to be patient and need to understand that the complexity isn’t, just, there isn’t an easy button to hit. That and I actually, part of why I wrote this book was some of this issue of complexity and we can’t just solve everything with an algorithm and a formula and we need people with… able to think ahead to the future, have scenarios, do critical thinking. It’s not about risk free. It’s about navigating the risk and getting… having a portfolio of the right kind of risk and I worry that in our companies we’re a bit formulaic and mechanistic, especially in public companies and I think some of that may be playing out here. Anyway, that’s how I think about. How about you, Rana? How do you think about it?

Rana Nawas: (41:23)
Yeah, I think, I mean this, the analysts have told us for many years that there no value in being a conglomerate. There are no synergies and being in finances, healthcare and aviation and this and that. I guess I just wished we listened sooner.

Beth Comstock: (41:40)
I think they’re saying there’s no value because they didn’t understand it. I saw value in it and again, it was maybe too complex to extract the value. That’s one of my takeaways on it. The analysts don’t run the company. This is where I get a little frustrated sometimes they don’t, they’re not inside the company. It’s easy to second guess when you’re, when you’re removed, this is what’s in vogue and what’s not. Um, but you’re right, I think some of those things could have been anticipated or thought about. Again, that’s kind of why we’re having this conversation. How do you think forward, imagine forward what may be, what may be next, what disruption may be lurking, and are you doing that in your organization?

Rana Nawas: (42:19)
Yeah, I mean, your book has really… It’s symptomatic of the issue is that we need to change and evolve and where there’s this huge inertia to doing that. That’s the big problem.

Beth Comstock: (42:30)
Yeah. Yeah. But what does that mean? So as we end here, what does that mean? You and I aren’t going to change the system right now, but in our own way we are, right? We’re gonna, we’re gonna change ourselves. We’re gonna, in the teams you work with, become more adaptable, more ready for change. We have agency. There are things we can do, questions we can ask and cultures we can create within our teams and if enough of us do that, hopefully the system starts to change, but if we’re fearful, we get the system we get.

Rana Nawas: (43:00)
Yeah. No, I think it will because it has to. So I’m just going to bring it back before we end with to some personal stuff if that’s okay. Well, one thing is the GE Women’s Network. I think you helped start it. Is that right?

Beth Comstock: (43:11)
I did. I’m like a grandmother of the GE Women’s Network.

Rana Nawas: (43:15)
That’s fantastic. So could you just tell us, because then I grew up, if you like, to co-lead it with Rania Rostom in the Middle East, and I’ve, I run a business women’s network across Dubai and I really would like to hear more about the GE Women’s Network, why you started it and what your vision for it was. And do you think we’re there yet?

Beth Comstock: (43:36)
Well, there were, there were about, there were a group of about eight to 10 of us who helped seed the women’s network. GE just hadn’t had a good track record with women and we knew we were good and we wanted more good women there. And so we got together and I actually get Jack Welch credit when it happened, when he was leading the company and, and we said, we’re going to do this and we need your support. And he, he said, of course. And the woman just got together and said, we’re going to be about making sure we have great… we’re developing great women, we’re attracting, keeping them and we want to be a network for women leaders. And what. I love that it created and you saw it, Rana, you and Rania you, I mean like you guys are, were forces for GE in the Middle East and we just wanted more of you around the world who were flexing your leadership muscles and I can think of many women who the system might have seen them one way, but by taking on a leadership role, there were a hub leader, a regional leader,

Beth Comstock: (44:36)
they lead an initiative in the network. Suddenly people saw different dynamic to their leadership and saw them as more well rounded leaders and so I know it was particularly helpful for giving women a support and a platform for flexing their leadership muscle. And just, it’s good to have networks. I think just to kind of reinforcement and confidence building that, hey, I’ve had this experience. How did you get to get through it?

Rana Nawas: (45:05)
Beth do you have a book that you think everyone should read?

Beth Comstock: (45:07)
I have a ton of them. I have just books everywhere. These days. I’m… I keep coming back to a couple of them, but one, I just love Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit and in fact I was inspired by her book as I wrote mine. What I tried to do with mine, was share stories and then give practical advice and exercises or I call them challenges and that’s what Twyla does in her book.

Beth Comstock: (45:31)
It’s about the rigor and discipline of creativity and so it’s kind of oxymoronic. People think creativity. You’re just like, wooo! You know? And she’s like, no, it’s very structured. It’s structured and serendipitous. So I highly recommend that one. And then just like a business classic book, I love sort of management principles by Peter Drucker from the 1950s. It’s just such a basic business book, but it’s still timeless. Like my favorite quote is, without a customer there is no business. I mean, it’s so basic, but if you just keep bringing yourself back to that, like it guides you well. So those would be two books. And then a third of a woman who has a book out right now called, her name is Priya Parker, and it’s The Art of Gathering and relevant to this discussion of women’s networks and the women listening, it’s about, it’s about why we gather and how to make better use of our time and connection and gathering so that you’re getting more out of it and it’s just lovely.

And Beth, is there a woman who’s had a profound influence on you?

Beth Comstock: (46:37)
There’ve been many women. I have to say at this point, I mean, it’s going to be my family. I mean, I had an amazing… I have an amazing mother who is very outgoing, and I being very shy, she kind of pushed me to get out there when she knew I needed it. And now I can, I’m at this point, when I think of the thread and the arc and I see my two grown daughters who are now women and I’m incredibly inspired by them, their independence, their passion. I’m like, wow, like if I had been you what you are when I was your age in my twenties, what would I have done? So I’m, I’m just incredibly inspired. My younger daughter’s an actress, which is not at all related to anything I’ve ever done. And she puts herself out there every day to be judged and critiqued and and yet she would do nothing else.

Beth Comstock: (47:27)
And so I’m learning a lot from her terms of how she’s navigating the world that way.

Rana Nawas: (47:31)
That’s wonderful. Well, Beth. Thank you so much for your time and for talking us through Imagine it forward. How can listeners find you?

Beth Comstock: (47:38)
I’m on social so, you can find me on LinkedIn or on Twitter at Beth Comstock. And, I would love to hear from you. My book will be out. It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so all the, all the usual places.

Rana Nawas: (47:51)
Great. All right, well thank you again. Thanks for your time.

Beth Comstock: (47:54)
Thanks. I enjoyed talking to you. Thank you.

Rana Nawas: (47:57)
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. I’d love to hear from you. So please head over to to give feedback. While you’re there, you can also find all episodes, show notes, and sign up for our monthly newsletter wherever you’re listening right now, do remember to hit the subscribe button to be notified of future episodes. And please write a review when you can to let others know what to expect. Thanks and have a great day.

End Of Transcript

Marshall Goldsmith on Breaking the 12 Habits Holding Women Back

This episode is packed full of actionable tips and truth bombs. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has been named the World’s #1 Executive Coach and the World’s #1 Leadership Thinker. Marshall has coached over 150 major CEOs, is the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers and has decades of experience helping men and women win.

Marshall is the first male guest on When Women Win! He has recently co-written with Sally Helgesen an incredibly powerful book called “How Women Rise”, which breaks down the 12 habits holding professional women back in the workplace.

While structural and systemic changes must be made to the workplace to give women equal opportunity to rise, this book rather focuses on things that a woman herself can control to make herself more effective. I was blown away by the insights and I recommend the book highly to all women, dads of daughters, HR managers, and CEOs out there.

It was also a humbling experience to be coached on air, during my own interview. In the end I was hit with a well-deserved fine (charitable contribution) for starting too many sentences with “but” and “no”. I really want to thank Marshall for this eye-opening experience.

Here’s a few of the insights and quotes from our chat:

“When men and women get an offer, men negotiate – women say thank you.”

“Don’t fall into the trap of being indispensable.”

“The average woman leader gets better 360 feedback than the average male leader.”

“Don’t worship the corporate God.”

“Don’t be ashamed to need help.”

To further upgrade your skills head over to where Marshall makes all his material available for free. You can also find Marshall on LinkedIn where he has over 1 million followers.

A big thank you to Naseba, Moustafa Hamwi and Right Selection for making this episode possible.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas: (00:00)

Ladies and gentlemen, my guest on today’s show is the first man on When Women Win. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith has been named the world’s number one executive coach, and the world’s number one leadership thinker. Marshall has coached over 150 major CEO’s, is the author of multiple New York Times bestsellers and has decades of experience helping men and women win. He has recently co-written an incredible book called “How Women Rise” which breaks down the 12 habits holding professional women back. While we definitely need to modernize the workplace to give women equal opportunity, this book rather focuses on things that a woman can control to make herself more effective. I was blown away by the insights and I recommend the book highly to all women, HR managers, and CEOs out there. I was also being coached throughout our conversation and only realized this when I was hit with a large fine for using too many naughty buts and knows, so let’s get into it.


Rana Nawas: (01:08)

Marshall, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today on When Women Win.


Marshall Goldsmith: (01:12)

Very happy to be here and thank you for the good work you’re doing.


Rana Nawas: (01:15)

Thank you. So I think it’s fair to say you’re the world’s number one executive coach and I just have a question. What exactly does an executive coach do?


Marshall Goldsmith: (01:23)

Well, what I do is I help very successful people achieve positive lasting change in behavior. So I’m not an expert on business or strategy. I’m an expert on the more human side, leadership behavior. So if you do a google search, helping successful leaders in quotes, the first 500 hits are me. So I’m the authority on that one topic.


Rana Nawas: (01:47)

Okay and do they come to you specifically telling you they have a behavioral issue or do you kind of work it out with them?


Marshall Goldsmith: (01:52)

Well, I get hired for a few reasons. One, I get hired by the board to coach the CEO. I may get hired by the CEO to coach himself or herself or may get hired by the board or the CEO to coach the future CEO.


Rana Nawas: (02:05)

Okay, great. And how did you end up becoming a coach?


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:11)

Well, I met a very famous man named Dr. Paul Hershey and he worked with Ken Blanchard. He invented something called situational leadership. Probably the highest paid consultant in the world in our field at the time. I was 28, he got double booked. He said, can you do what I do? I said, I don’t know. He said, I need help, can you do it? I said, I don’t know. He said, I’ll pay you a thousand bucks for a day. I was making 15,000 bucks a year and by the way that was 41 years ago, I was 28. So you know what I said? Sign me up, coach. I did this program, that client was very angry when I showed up because it wasn’t him. But I got ranked first place of the whole speakers, they said send him back, that’s how I got into executive education.


Rana Nawas: (02:46)

Wow, incredible.


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:46)

A lot of life is luck.


Rana Nawas: (02:46)

Yeah, amazing and you’ve also written a lot of books.


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:49)



Rana Nawas: (02:50)

38 books. So how do you find the time to write 38 books during your extensive travel and coaching career?


Marshall Goldsmith: (02:58)

Well now, this book, “How Women Rise”, I didn’t write it. She wrote it. So I’m the second author. I’m a very good writer. She’s a better writer. Kelly Helgeson wrote this book. She’s good. And I’ve done three mega sellers. “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” “Mojo” and “Triggers.” I didn’t write any of them. Those are done with my comrade, Mark Rider. So he’s my agent and he writes the books. So I talk. He writes. I talk. He writes. So we have a great relationship. So again, all three of those books I can say this without bragging, they are phenomenally written because I didn’t write them. If I give you the secret of writing a New York Times best seller having done a few, find someone who can write it. Have them write the book.


Rana Nawas: (03:36)

Excellent, love it. But I mean that’s


Marshall Goldsmith: (03:45)

Oh you said but.


Rana Nawas: (03:45)

I did, I couldn’t help myself. I know, I just read your book.


Marshall Goldsmith: (03:45)

$20. Taking notes now.


Rana Nawas: (03:48)

You must have a secret or tips on writing books other than get someone else to write.


Marshall Goldsmith: (03:54)

Well you could get a secret on anything. It’s not just writing books. It’s called the daily question process. I’m going to teach your viewers something. It takes three minutes a day, costs nothing, help them get better at anything. People are skeptical. Three minutes a day, costs nothing and helped me get better at almost anything. Sounds too good to be true. Half the people quit within two weeks. They don’t quit because it doesn’t work. They quit because it does work. So I’ll teach you something and it works. It’s very easy to understand, incredibly difficult to do. You get out a spreadsheet, you write down a series of questions of whatever is most important in your life, friends, family, work, whatever it is. Every question has to be answered with yes and no or a number. Seven boxes across, one for every day of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and fill it out every day. At the end of the week, the Excel spreadsheet will give you a report card. I will warn you in advance, the report card at the end of the week may not be quite as beautiful as the corporate values plaque stuck up on a wall. I’ve been doing this for many years. You know what you learn when you do this. Every day. You learn that life is incredibly easy to talk and life is incredibly difficult to live. You do this every day. You don’t hear those talk values or those live values. They’re not as pretty as the talk values, not as pretty. I pay a woman to call me everyday to make sure I do this.


Rana Nawas: (05:12)

Every single day?


Marshall Goldsmith: (05:13)

You know what? My name is Marshall Goldsmith. I got ranked number one leadership thinker in the whole world and number one coach in the whole world. I have a woman call me every day just to listen to me read questions I wrote and provide answers I wrote every day because my name is Marshall Goldsmith. I’m too cowardly to do this by myself and too undisciplined. I need help and it’s okay. You need help. We all need help


Rana Nawas: (05:39)

Absolutely, you make that point brilliantly in the book which is, you know, you can’t do it on your own. In fact, I’m going to come to that in a little while.


Marshall Goldsmith: (05:46)

At least I can’t.


Rana Nawas: (05:47)

I’m sure nobody can.


Marshall Goldsmith: (05:49)

One thing I’m very proud of in my book “Triggers”, 27 major CEOs endorsed the book. Why am I so proud? Thirty years ago no CEO would admit to having a coach. They would have been ashamed, embarrassed to have a coach. Today, these important people. I’m president World Bank, I need help. I’m CEO of the year in the United States, I need help. I’m CEO of the world’s largest drug company, I need help. So it’s really good I think for us to get over this silly macho I can do everything on my own nonsense.


Rana Nawas: (06:13)

Yup. How do you find a coach that works for you though, right?


Marshall Goldsmith: (06:17)

Well, very good question. I mean, I’m gonna give you very counterintuitive advice. Do not tell the coach what you need.


Rana Nawas: (06:23)



Marshall Goldsmith: (06:24)

Ask the coach what he or she does. You say, what are you best at? You see, you tell a coach what you need. There’s too many coaches. They’ll have a tendency, oh yes, I can do that. Don’t do that. Say, what are you best at? If they say they’re best 50 things, no they’re not. Nobody’s good at 50 things. So you see for me, I have a specialty, helping successful leaders achieve positive lasting change in behavior. I don’t do getting organized. I don’t do giving speeches. There’s many things I don’t do. Not good or bad, I just don’t do those things. So really find out what does a coach do and then does that match what you need? Don’t tell the coach what you need though.


Rana Nawas: (07:05)

So I just read “How Women Rise” in 24 hours.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:08)

Thank you.


Rana Nawas: (07:08)

Absolutely, and it’s a book I highly recommend to everyone. Obviously the audience it’s targeted at is professional women.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:15)

It is, yes.


Rana Nawas: (07:16)

Yet I see the value in getting it for men who have daughters, working wives, mothers, or CEOs of companies who have women in the company who want to rise.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:26)

Now, very subtle point. This book does not make a value statement that says women should want to get ahead. What it says though is if you do, this is designed to help you.


Rana Nawas: (07:36)

Got It.


Marshall Goldsmith: (07:37)

It doesn’t say you should, it just says if you are a woman and you would like to add more power, more influence, this will help you. The definition of power is influence potential. Now, you might say, I don’t want more power. Well, that means you don’t want more potential to influence the world. That’s the definition of power. Well, I think it wouldn’t be bad if more women had more power and that’s what this book is about.


Rana Nawas: (08:03)

Agreed. Now before we get into the 12 habits holding women back, I’d like to pull out some major themes that resonated with me.


Marshall Goldsmith: (08:09)

Sure, sure.


Rana Nawas: (08:10)

Could you tell us where the phrase “speaking while female” comes from and I hear you, I totally get it. That the book is about how women can empower themselves and fix themselves but there are certain structural things around us that I just wanted to ask, especially this one “speaking while female.”


Marshall Goldsmith: (08:27)

Well, what happens is in some cases women say the same thing as men, but it doesn’t get heard. It’s kind of like the man then comes up with the same point five minutes later and people start paying attention to it and it just doesn’t get heard and then other times women can be put in stereotypical boxes, which is you’re too aggressive, you’re not aggressive enough as opposed to just dealing with them for what they’re saying and who they are. Again, on the positive side, this is all better than it used to be. On the negative side, it certainly hasn’t gone away.


Rana Nawas: (09:00)

Let’s get into it. 12 habits. Our listeners will have to get the book. Must get the book to get to each and every one. So let’s talk about habit one, the reluctance to claim your achievements and this is huge, right? And I get asked this a lot like how important is self promotion and how can I do it safely without coming across badly?


Marshall Goldsmith: (09:21)

Right. Well and again, I’m a great believer in self promotion. Now why are you talking to me? Because I’m good at self promotion. Why do I have a million followers on LinkedIn? Because I’m good at self promotion. Well, as an author, as a speaker, you either do or do not want people to hear what you had to say. Well, if you want to hear what you have to say, you have to be good at self promotion because you have to be good at marketing. It ties into another chapter of the book and that’s this foolish belief that my good work should speak for itself. Have you ever heard that before?


Rana Nawas: (09:55)

All the time.


Marshall Goldsmith: (09:55)

My good work should speak for itself. What a bunch of nonsense. Is God supposed to fly out of the sky recognizing your good work? God probably has better things to do this week than recognize your good work. If people’s good work should speak for itself, no company would need a marketing function. There would be no marketing. What, you just do good work and it quote speaks for itself and it’s all taken care of. Well, that’s not the real world. Now, in the real world you can’t assume your good work is going to speak for itself. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. Your good work doesn’t speak for itself and if you believe in yourself, don’t be hesitant to promote the product.


Rana Nawas: (10:32)

But how do you do that? Oh no, did I say but. Oh no, forgive me, you’re right. Okay $50 now. Okay, alright. So how do you do that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (10:45)

Well, I think the first thing is, let me just talk about a few specific. One, women are much less likely to negotiate for price than men.


Rana Nawas: (10:53)

For salary


Marshall Goldsmith: (10:56)

For salary. Not a theory effect. Man gets the offer, negotiates. Women gets the offer, says thank you. So really, you’re your own agent.


Rana Nawas: (11:05)

Marshall, I have a question about that. Don’t women and men get treated differently when they negotiate?


Marshall Goldsmith: (11:11)

They may or may not. The reality is women don’t negotiate.


Rana Nawas: (11:14)



Marshall Goldsmith: (11:15)

They don’t negotiate. So you’re not gonna find out until you do. If you don’t negotiate, you’ll never know. You’re making an assumption. The second thing is many women, and it ties into another thing, are hesitant to leave their jobs. They feel they’re letting their teams down. They fall in love with the team. Nothing wrong with that, if you want to stay that team forever. Only reality is, that’s where you’re getting stuck. You’re getting stuck because you won’t leave the team. Whereas men say here’s 10 percent more, you know, bye bye team. Moving on. Well, I’m not saying women should want to get ahead. You can’t have it both ways.


Rana Nawas: (11:50)



Marshall Goldsmith: (11:50)

You can’t want to get ahead and then not want to get ahead at the same time. So one thing is don’t be ashamed to have a plan for your life. The word ambition has different feelings with women and men. Men almost always hear the word ambitious as positive. Women sometimes see it as negative. As trying to get ahead, being greedy, whatever. Well, the whole idea of the book is, I don’t think the world would be a worse place if more women were in high levels of power and authority. So go for it.


Rana Nawas: (12:19)

Easy. Let’s do it.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:21)

It’s highly unlikely you’re going to get there if you don’t go for it.


Rana Nawas: (12:24)

Yeah, no, I understand.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:26)

No, I understand.


Rana Nawas: (12:29)

I’m not doing well here, Marshall


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:31)

I’m gonna teach you something, ready? The most common phrase used by smart people, when people tell us something we agree with, no I agree with you or in your case, no I understand.


Rana Nawas: (12:43)



Marshall Goldsmith: (12:43)

It doesn’t make any sense, does it. Yes, I understand.


Rana Nawas: (12:46)

Thank you for that.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:47)

So we’re so afraid the other person may not recognize how brilliant we are that no I understand means no I already knew that.


Rana Nawas: (12:53)

Let’s come back to self promotion.


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:55)



Rana Nawas: (12:56)

What recommendations do you have for women to do this?


Marshall Goldsmith: (12:58)

Well, the first thing is figure out what you want. You’re highly unlikely to get what you want if you don’t know what it is. Number two is don’t undersell yourself. For example, women, they get this thing about well apply for the next job. They’re much more likely to say, I’m not sure I’m qualified. I’ve never done that before. Whereas a man who’s never done it before is going to say, yes, I can do this. Right? Well, don’t undersell yourself. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t put yourself down. Be willing to go for that next level and also don’t be ashamed. Don’t be ashamed to be ambitious. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed, you have nothing to be embarrassed about and again, just go for it. Look at it this way. If you believe the world would be better off if you were at a higher level in this company, why shouldn’t you try to be at a higher level in this company?


Rana Nawas: (13:56)

I believe that a lot of women do feel that way. They do feel that they could do a better job.


Marshall Goldsmith: (14:00)

And I agree. That’s what the whole book about.


Rana Nawas: (14:02)



Marshall Goldsmith: (14:03)

And then the point is, don’t be hesitant to go for it.


Rana Nawas: (14:07)

Yup. So let’s talk about habit three, overvaluing expertise.


Marshall Goldsmith: (14:11)



Rana Nawas: (14:12)

Because you can imagine a situation where a woman is constantly trying to hone, hone, hone her expertise against some imaginary arbitrary standard. How do we, why does that happen?


Marshall Goldsmith: (14:25)

Well, it goes back to this perfectionism thing. The need to prove that you’re as good or better than a man or anybody else for that matter and then what happens is it ties into another theme of the book and that’s sacrificing your career for your job. So what happens is, I’ll give you a personal example of where I did this in my own life. I was working for the New York Stock Exchange and my client, who’s now my friend, Rick Culley was there and I got ranked 4.8/5 from the speaker. So I go to Rick and I said, Rick, how can we do better? Rick said, you’re asking the wrong question. 4.8/5 is about as good as you’re going to get. Some people don’t get fives. You should be writing more, thinking more, reading more. Really focusing on how you can make a much larger contribution as opposed to changing the stupid 4.8 to a 4.9. He was so right. It was great advice. Women fall into the same trap I did much more than men do, which is, look, you’re doing a 95% quality job, now let it go. Take that extra five percent, by the way, which by the way, the extra five percent is going to take you about half your time rather than focusing on this extra five percent, really say, how can I get someplace else? How can I broaden my horizon? How can I make a bigger, larger contribution to the world?


Rana Nawas: (15:41)

Right, to take that time and effort and use it more wisely.


Marshall Goldsmith: (15:45)

Exactly, because you’re sacrificing a little here, but you may be gaining a lot there.


Rana Nawas: (15:51)

What’s the cue for us to know all right, it’s time to?


Marshall Goldsmith: (15:55)

Well, the first thing is you really need to focus in on the future and you need to structure your day so that you don’t sacrifice tomorrow for today. Structure your day so you are investing in the long term. Structure today so you are leveraging and building relationships across the organization. Structure your day so you’re not just doing tasks. The other problem with doing this great job is let’s say I’m your boss. I give you something to do. She does a great job. As a recognition and reward for that great job. What do I give you now?


Rana Nawas: (16:28)

More of the same more.


Marshall Goldsmith: (16:31)

More. She does another great job. Guess what you get now, more and then eventually you become indispensable.


Rana Nawas: (16:41)



Marshall Goldsmith: (16:41)

That’s what you get for it.


Rana Nawas: (16:43)

And that’s the last place you want to be.


Marshall Goldsmith: (16:44)

Indispensable means she’s never going to get promoted.


Rana Nawas: (16:48)

Actually, a former boss of mine used to say the best thing I can do is make myself indispensable, which he was great. Okay and you brought in some other habits, so let’s talk about those instead of going one by one. So sacrificing your career for your job.


Marshall Goldsmith: (17:06)

That one is one that had the biggest learning for me. Sally came up with that one and I never even thought of the concept because again, we have kind of naively been brought up to believe if I do a good job, I will be promoted. Well, number one, that’s not true, and number two, it shouldn’t be true because the next job is not this job and you really should be promoted based on your potential for the next job, not your performance necessarily just for this job. So I think women particularly caught into that. I have to do a great job and they get so focused on doing a great job that the job takes on a life in and of itself, sometimes at the expense of their career. They’re focused so much on the team the company, they won’t leave. They feel it’s disloyal to leave. Well, you know what? I always tell people, you go to work, you do a great job. You don’t worship the corporate God. Corporate God doesn’t worship you. Well you work for GE, right? Hey I missed the numbers a few quarters. Bye Bye.


Rana Nawas: (18:11)



Marshall Goldsmith: (18:12)

Bye Bye. That’s life.


Rana Nawas: (18:13)



Marshall Goldsmith: (18:14)

I’ve seen a lot of people who worship the corporate God and welcome to security guard and the box and 35 years later you’re walking out the door and don’t do that. No. It’s okay to leave and you know, my cup. I coach CEOs and I tell them, you know, hey, sometimes its time to go. After about five, six years, you know, it’s time to leave.


Rana Nawas: (18:35)



Marshall Goldsmith: (18:35)

Don’t hang around too long and that’s not that you’re disloyal. It’s just, it’s good to leave. It’s good not to be there forever to, you know, get stuck.


Rana Nawas: (18:44)

It’s good for them and it’s good for the company.


Marshall Goldsmith: (18:45)

It’s good for the company, I completely agree.


Rana Nawas: (18:48)

And so let’s


Marshall Goldsmith: (18:49)

By the way, 100% of the people I have told to leave that have left, 100% have thanked me. The only that person didn’t leave was a woman leader. She’d been there seven years. I told her, why are you here? You’ve been here seven years. One more year, one more year, one more year. She got fired and great person. Look, hang around too long. Also, if you’re at the CEO level, it’s like you’re throwing the dice. One year, you’re going to get bad throat. Well, you’ve been there 10 years, out. That’s what happens.


Rana Nawas: (19:21)



Marshall Goldsmith: (19:25)

Life. I don’t feel too sorry for her. She’s worth tens of millions, nobody’s starving.


Rana Nawas: (19:30)

No, no. They’re all okay.


Marshall Goldsmith: (19:33)

The people I coach, there’s no starvation. It’s a little psychologically tough.


Rana Nawas: (19:41)

They’ll live.


Marshall Goldsmith: (19:41)

I feel sorry for starving kids in Africa, really. These people are not objects of sympathy.


Rana Nawas: (19:46)

No, but let’s talk about relationships.


Marshall Goldsmith: (19:49)

But let’s talk?


Rana Nawas: (19:51)

Oh, thank you for all of these lessons, Marshall. So et’s talk about building rather than leveraging relationships because this is one that really hit home for me personally. I’ve always been lauded for like, oh, you’re so good at building relationships. Go do sales, regional director of Africa, this, this, this, and then it occurred to me after reading the book, my God, I’ve done nothing to leverage them.


Marshall Goldsmith: (20:13)

Well and again, I think it’s very healthy to look at relationships as win-win. Men are more likely to see relationships as win-win, not a bad thing. I’m going to give you something, on the other hand, down the road, kind of expect you to give me something to. This is a two way street. Women are much less likely to think that way and always feel bad about asking for payback.


Rana Nawas: (20:37)

Feels a bit shameful, maybe.


Marshall Goldsmith: (20:38)

Yeah. It’s like, I mean manipulative. I should just give out of the goodness of my heart and never expect to get anything back. Well, the reality is if you want to get promoted in an organization, a lot of it is subjective and a lot of it’s relationships and you need to be able to sometimes say, I put money in the bank a long time. It’s time to get some back out now, and I’ve done this and this and this and I really appreciate you help me with that and that and that. Also, most people don’t mind you asking them to help, they’re happy to.


Rana Nawas: (21:09)

And fundamentally, I think also is that you have value to add and you have to remember. That when you ask someone to help you, that you have to believe in your ability to add value to them. So it’s worth their while.


Marshall Goldsmith: (21:21)

Yeah, it’s win-win.


Rana Nawas: (21:23)

I think, yeah. Where possibly the breakdown would happen in a lot of women that I know is undervaluing their own value, like impact.


Marshall Goldsmith: (21:31)



Rana Nawas: (21:31)

Great. So we talked about allies. Let’s talk about that some more and listing allies from day one.


Marshall Goldsmith: (21:35)

Let me ask you a question cause your saying you didn’t do this, didn’t think of it or?


Rana Nawas: (21:42)

Didn’t think of it. It literally didn’t occur to me to leverage relationships. Now, having said that, I’ve been fortunate in the workplace. I’ve had sponsors pull me up. I wouldn’t be, I wouldn’t have got to where I got without that, without male allies pulling me up along the way. It was eyeopening when I realized that it had never occurred to me consciously, hey, let me leverage that relationship. It just hadn’t occurred to me. It’s not that necessarily I would feel bad about it, it just, I didn’t think of it.


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:18)

Right, you didn’t think that way. Which is an important way to think because if you do want to become, let’s say you do want to become a CEO and let’s say you are a good person and you believe it helped the company in the world if you became more powerful and you become a CEO. Fine. Then the decisions made by the decision maker. If you leveraged relationships, it’ll improve your odds on becoming a CEO. It’s okay.


Rana Nawas: (22:42)

Yep. Win-win.


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:43)



Rana Nawas: (22:44)

Yup. Let’s go into that. Let’s talk about allies.


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:48)



Rana Nawas: (22:49)

What do you mean by allies in the workplace?


Marshall Goldsmith: (22:51)

To me, anybody that you have a win-win relationship where you are trying to help them and they are simultaneously trying to help you and you’re perfectly comfortable saying, you know, I really want to move to this next level in the company. Can you help me?


Rana Nawas: (23:04)

And that can be juniors, peers, seniors.


Marshall Goldsmith: (23:09)



Rana Nawas: (23:09)

And you talk about that being important from day one. Why is that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (23:12)

Well, because what happens, it ties back to overvaluing expertise in the job, sometimes it gets into the tomorrow problem with women. I’ll do that tomorrow, next week. That’s a good thing I should think about. Now, I’m very busy though. Well, once you keep doing that, tomorrow thing never comes. It never comes. It never comes. Why don’t people do what I teach? I’ve collected research from tens of thousands of people have been in my classes and measure do they do what I teach and do they get better and people do this stuff get better and people don’t get better. They stay the same. Why don’t people do what I teach is typically we have a dream. A dream sounds like this. You know, I’m incredibly busy right now given pressures of work and home and new technology that follows me everywhere and emails and voicemails and global competition, I feel about as busy as ever have sometimes I feel over committed. Every now and again, I don’t tell others my life feels a little bit out of control, but you know, I’m working on some very unique and special challenges right now and I think the worst of this is going to be over in four or five months and after that I’ll take two or three weeks and get organized and spend time with the family and begin my new healthy life program. Everything’s going to be different and it won’t be crazy anymore. Have you ever had a dream that resembles that dream?


Rana Nawas: (24:32)

Yes, I think everyone I know has. One day, one day it’ll all calm down and I’ll focus on this. That one day never comes.


Marshall Goldsmith: (24:39)

And if you don’t get started in the beginning thinking this way, you may never think this way.


Rana Nawas: (24:45)

Got it, okay. Well, we talked about the perfection trap a bit, but could you go into that a little bit more?


Marshall Goldsmith: (24:52)

Yeah and again, the average woman gets better 360 degree feedback as a leader than the average man.


Rana Nawas: (24:59)

Sorry, the average woman gets?


Marshall Goldsmith: (25:01)

Better 360 degree feedback as a leader than the average man. Now this doesn’t mean every woman gets better feedback than every man, it just means statistically the average woman gets better 360 degree feedback than the average man. Not a theory, that’s a fact. For the women I work with, the average woman has one issue to do with consistently and amazingly more than the average man. The desire to be the perfect everything to everyone, wife, mother, friend, daughter, boss, team member, the perfect everything, and women are too hard on themselves. You can’t be the perfect everything to everyone. I was just in India, women there got a bonus problem. They have to be the perfect daughter in law.


Rana Nawas: (25:40)

Yes. The in-laws in India, wow.


Marshall Goldsmith: (25:43)

The perfect daughter in law. And by the way, let’s face it, you’re never quite good enough for her little prince, are you?


Rana Nawas: (25:50)

No, never.


Marshall Goldsmith: (25:50)

And the food? Oh, that’s okay.


Rana Nawas: (25:55)

We talk about that a lot at Elevate Dubai, at the businesswomen network that I run. This it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to not be okay.


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:05)

Yeah. You can’t be perfect about everything.


Rana Nawas: (26:07)

Certainly not all the time.


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:08)

Right, let go.


Rana Nawas: (26:10)

Yeah. I love your term in the book, oh, well. Like just, oh, well, you know, my kids have to eat frozen nuggets tonight. Oh, well. I wasn’t there to make fresh sweet potato mash, you know.


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:29)

Live goes on.


Rana Nawas: (26:31)

Yes. Let’s talk about the disease to please and this definitely affects a lot of women and also a lot of men I know, to be honest. Where does this come from?


Marshall Goldsmith: (26:42)

Well again, I think that the feeling that I have to please everyone or there’s something wrong with me, you know, that if I don’t please everyone around me there’s something wrong with me and unfortunately social media is making this worse. Oh my God, my own daughter, who’s normally sane right, probably kill me for telling you the story. But my own daughter, who’s a professor at Vanderbilt. She already has tenure, right? She’s only in her thirties, she’s a brilliant woman. The kids are one, she has twins, one in a one year old birthday party. She wants to have a forest themed birthday party. Kids are one. What does that mean? She says, my wife baked cookies that looked like acorns, but the cookies have to look like acorns. So my wife cooks a cookie, but they don’t really look a lot like acorns. Right? Then she tells her wife, well maybe you should redo the cookies. My wife is just going, can I shoot you, what is wrong with you? Well, she puts it on Pinterest, of course. That’s all. That’s all.


Rana Nawas: (27:50)

Again, perfection.


Marshall Goldsmith: (27:51)

Prove everyone I’m a good mother, you see. I had these cute little acorn cookies. Who cares? These kids are one year old. They don’t care about cookies.


Rana Nawas: (28:02)

Yeah. No, you’re right.


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:03)

No, you’re right.


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:08)

You’re right. Yes, you’re totally right about the social media. Making everyone’s life worse, including mine right now, definitely feeds into the perfection trap, social media, and also to the disease to please. They’re very connected and that’s something that I’ve noticed. A lot of these themes are very


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:27)

They’re all connected.


Rana Nawas: (28:30)

Yeah. How does one say no? I think I’m not a pleaser. I think I’m not. My husband tells me I’m not a pleaser and I believe him. Yet I still have trouble saying no to some things. For example, if I don’t want to take a meeting or how does one say no without coming across badly?


Marshall Goldsmith: (28:51)

A couple of things. One is how many times do I get asked to do things? The standard response is, you know, I just published our new book with Sally Helgason “How Women Rise.” I’ve just been buried with request. I normally would love to do this. On the other hand, I’ve been buried in requesting and can’t make new commitments at this time. Please ask again in the future. How many times have I’ve written that? Everyday.


Rana Nawas: (29:17)

Pretty well rehearsed, I imagine.


Marshall Goldsmith: (29:21)

Everyday. Over and over, everyday.


Rana Nawas: (29:25)

So have your, know your rationale and then just repeat the mantra.


Marshall Goldsmith: (29:31)

Yeah, exactly and don’t feel guilty. Number one, it’s true. Number two, I don’t have to feel ashamed. There’s only so many hours in a day.


Rana Nawas: (29:38)

Right, great. Let’s talk about minimizing. I like this one because it involves body language. Could you tell us a little bit about that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (29:43)

Again, this one Sally taught me this one. More her observations in mind because I didn’t pay attention to this, but women tend to have with body language sometimes minimize themselves. She gives an example of a meeting and people are coming in late and the women are all scooting in and make it more room.


Rana Nawas: (29:59)

The men have their arms draped around chairs, yeah.


Marshall Goldsmith: (30:02)

And women also minimize though themselves in their language. Well, I kind of know a little bit of this or this might be okay or well I hope you don’t mind if I tell you about blah blah, blah, and they can sometimes minimize their impact in the way they talk about themselves too, so it just gets back to that. Don’t put yourself down. Don’t minimize yourself with your language and don’t minimize yourself with the way you look.


Rana Nawas: (30:27)

Yeah, the caveating has to go. All this caveat before, you know, may I ask a question? I call women on that now. Of course you can, that’s why you’re here. Great. Too much, what’s this habit number 10? Too much.


Marshall Goldsmith: (30:43)

That ties in into women’s radar. So Sally talks about how many of these qualities are positive in a lot of ways. For example, the idea of not taking too much credit is a positive thing in many ways. The idea of not over promoting yourself can be very positive to a point, but somebody wrote a book once called “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Brilliant book and you can overdo these things. You can overdo these things and the point is back to this point, it’s the same thing. Now women have more what’s called radar and you could go back to, at least Sally does, the hunter gatherer difference. Women tend to be more focused on the broad picture, the men are more focused on the narrow. Not good or bad, just different. On the other hand, let’s take a board of directors. I’ve worked with lots of board of directors. The last thing they need is people talking too much. Women talk a lot more than men. Not a theory, a fact. Women pick up more than men. Not a theory, a fact. The reality is the rest of the world could care less and so you could talk too much. You could share too much information. You could over qualify as opposed to just getting to the point.


Rana Nawas: (32:04)

That’s too much, great. And I think this also ties into letting your radar distract you.


Marshall Goldsmith: (32:09)



Rana Nawas: (32:10)

So get to the point


Marshall Goldsmith: (32:12)

And also, women can be more sensitive than men. Again, each one of these is a blessing and curse kind of thing. So the good news is you’re more sensitive. The bad news is you’re in a meeting with a board of directors and one person has negative nonverbal communication. Rather than just ignoring them, you may focus on that which distracts you from the rest of the meeting. Whereas most of the board would rather just get to the punchlines. You know, they just want to move on.


Rana Nawas: (32:35)

Yep. Yep and the last habit we’re going to talk about from “How Women Rise” is ruminating.


Marshall Goldsmith: (32:41)

Yes that’s worrying too much, which is connected to perfectionism and one of the most common themes I had with women much more than men is, well, one, don’t be so hard on yourself. Two, don’t worry so much. Make a decision. Move on. If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out and nobody’s perfect. Don’t ruminate, don’t worry too much. I had a very interesting experience oddly enough from a hedge fund guy illustrating this point, this I was listening to two hedge fund guys. One was worth a billion dollars, the other worth three billion dollars. And the billion dollar guy was interviewing the 3 billion dollar guy. And the 3 billion dollar guy was a very fascinating guy. He quit managing other people’s money and the billion dollar guy said, why’d you do that? He said, you know, when I was younger, I didn’t worry so much. I just made decisions and I made obviously billions for people and lost billions. In fact, I lost billions, didn’t bother me. He said, when I got older, I started thinking, these are retirees and I started worrying about it and he said, I became much less effective, wasn’t willing to take risk anymore. Oddly enough, the more he ruminated over things and worried about things, he didn’t become more effective, he actually became less effective because he was unwilling to take risk. Well, you know, to get ahead in an organization, you have to take risks. You can’t worry about it forever. You have to make decisions. Some of them are going to be wrong


Rana Nawas: (34:07)

And you need to be okay with that.


Marshall Goldsmith: (34:08)

And you need to be okay with that and just move on and not sit there and say, oh, I should have. I wish I would have. Ruminating and I, Sally talks about rumination is good for cows, it’s not so good for people.


Rana Nawas: (34:17)

Yeah, I read that. Well, I love the practical suggestions at the end of “How Women Rise.” So in particular, the to don’t list. Could you tell us a bit about that because I’ve never seen that before.


Marshall Goldsmith: (34:30)

I like the idea of to don’t and then for me, I do this on my daily questions. One of my everyday is how many times yesterday did I try to prove I was right when it wasn’t worth it


Rana Nawas: (34:40)

And do you still do that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (34:41)

I still do that, of course. It’s hard for the old professor not to be right all the time and so it’s just an instinctive habit. So, and you know, I mean my problem is not doing what I do, my problem is stopping. Sometimes I’m on the plane, sometimes on an eight hour flight, sometimes some a poor man sits next to me occasionally makes an awful mistake, what do you do for a living? Eight hours later, why did ask? I end up coaching the poor guy, I have collected thousands of dollars.


Rana Nawas: (35:20)

Alright, so the to don’t list, definitely include that in your daily question. What should I stop doing? Because that’s why a lot of these habits are bad habits. I mean, this is actually the bad habits, right? The 12 habits are bad habits. So these are things we need to stop as opposed to things we do, which is


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:35)

Don’t do them all the time, right.


Rana Nawas: (35:38)



Marshall Goldsmith: (35:38)

One of mine is don’t start sentences with no but, it’s a bad habit, you see.


Rana Nawas: (35:42)

Well this I think is going to cost me a lot, today.


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:44)

The money all goes to a charity of your choice.


Rana Nawas: (35:47)

Does it?


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:47)

Yes. You can donate a book as well. What’s a good charity?


Rana Nawas: (35:51)

Amnesty International.


Marshall Goldsmith: (35:52)

Well fine, well you’re donating the money. Isn’t this nice?


Rana Nawas: (35:54)



Marshall Goldsmith: (35:54)

How much money have I raised for charity harassing my friends? Over $1,000,000.


Rana Nawas: (35:58)

Well, if this is harassing then you’re coaching by harassment, I love it or harassing by coaching.


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:04)

I’ve raised over a million dollars and it doesn’t hurt anybody.


Rana Nawas: (36:07)

Oh, wonderful.


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:08)

It’s a nice idea.


Rana Nawas: (36:10)

Another thing that I speak about often at our Elevate events and our networking events is how nobody achieves anything on their own. How you need to build your tribe, find your tribe, and you talk about that a lot. I mean, what advice do you have for women on building their tribe?


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:22)

Well, I think one thing is don’t be ashamed to need help. Don’t be ashamed. You know, once we get over this macho, I can do it on my own nonsense. Life is so much better. Well, I need help? You need help.


Rana Nawas: (36:40)

And all the CEOs you mentioned need help.


Marshall Goldsmith: (36:41)

How many of the top 10 tennis players have coaches? 10. Why do they have a coach? They’re smart enough to realize they need help. That’s why they’re the top tennis player. They would never be there if they didn’t have coaches. Well we all need help and it’s okay. Just getting over that macho. I could do it on my own thing. You can do something on your own, not so much.


Rana Nawas: (37:04)

And the other aspect of building your tribe is, it doesn’t all have to be close friends, you know, it can be acquaintances. Loose ties, right? You have a massive track. You’re on


Marshall Goldsmith: (37:15)

Well I’m adopting people, do you know my adoption story?


Rana Nawas: (37:18)



Marshall Goldsmith: (37:18)

So what happens is I went to a program called Design the Life You Love and in the program we were asked to, it was done by if you ever get a chance to interview her name is Iyshay Bersel, one of the world’s top designers. Oh she’s, I love her. She’s wonderful, you should interview her. So she wrote a book called “Design the Life You Love” and then she said, who are your heroes? And my heroes were all very nice, generous people who are great teachers and they never charged me any money. And she said, you should be more like them. So I thought, that’s so sweet. I should adopt people. I decided to adopt 15 people, teach them everything I know for free and the only price is when they get old, they have to do the same thing. Pay it forward. So I made a little selfie video and put it on Linkedin. It turned out to be the most widely viewed video in the history of Linkedin.


Rana Nawas: (38:05)

How many applied?


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:06)



Rana Nawas: (38:07)

for 15 spots


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:09)

Well turned out to be 100, but 16,000 people applied. So now I’ve adopted all these people and it’s just wonderful and so I teach them all I know for free and they help each other and the only prices though then they had to adopt other people. It’s so nice.


Rana Nawas: (38:26)

Yeah, that;s social impact. That’s really positively changing the world.


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:29)

Very positive and the reality is the biggest winner of the whole thing is me.


Rana Nawas: (38:34)

How’d you figure that?


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:35)

I get more out of it than they do. It’s so wonderful. So nice. Such a nice idea.


Rana Nawas: (38:42)

I’m going to check that out, if I may.


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:46)

You should apply for adoption.


Rana Nawas: (38:48)

I will. When’s the next round?


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:49)

I don’t know. I’m always looking at new adoptees.


Rana Nawas: (38:52)

Okay, well count me in now. You’ll get an email from me tonight.


Marshall Goldsmith: (38:56)

I would be honored for you to be my adopted daughter.


Rana Nawas: (38:58)

Oh, that’s incredibly generous and kind. I do want to ask you about Alan Mulally. You mention him as a role model in the book. Tell me why.


Marshall Goldsmith: (39:06)

Well I mean Alan, I was hired to coach Alan many, many years ago and as is often in life, those that want help the most need it the least. He was already one of the greatest leaders that ever lived and I spent less time actually coaching him than anyone I’ve ever coached, 200 people got better and I asked him, what should I learn by coaching from you? He taught me so many lessons. He said, great lesson is your whole job is pick great customers. I picked great customers, I always win. I don’t get paid if they don’t get better. I get paid nothing for the entire coaching assignment and she learned quickly. You need great customers and Alan has taught me so much about life that he number one, is very clear in the way you deal with people. When you treat people with respect, you have fun, you don’t hurt other people. You’re not cynical, you’re not sarcastic. He’s an amazing guy and he’s incredibly generous. So he’s one of my adoptees. He’s so sweet. He called me, I want to be adopted too.


Rana Nawas: (40:14)

Alan Mulally, you’re in.


Marshall Goldsmith: (40:18)

Yeah and he in Ford, the stock went from $1 to 1840.


Rana Nawas: (40:23)

That’s incredible, in a short period of time I think.


Marshall Goldsmith: (40:25)

He’s a union company, Ninety seven percent approval rating from every employee, in a union company. They normally hate CEOs. They love this guy. He’s just an amazing human being. A great friend of mine, so he’s one of my 100 coaches and he is personally at least five or six times, spent six hours with all these people helping them.


Rana Nawas: (40:44)



Marshall Goldsmith: (40:44)

Amazing man, for free. Just a generous, nice, good human being. Aside from being a spectacular leader is also just a great person. So I love the guy and so he’s a wonderful friend of mine and just a great role model for, you know, giving back and being a great leader and also, I mean, nice guys can’t finish first. Well he’s a nice guy in the world, he certainly finished first.


Rana Nawas: (41:12)

Well that’s an incredibly inspirational thing to remember because a lot of people say that in the corporate world. Nice guys always finish last or whatever.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:20)

He didn’t finish last.


Rana Nawas: (41:22)

No, he did not. Amazing. Well, my last question, Marshall. If you could have coffee with one person from history, who would it be and why?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:29)

Buddha. I’m a Buddhist.


Rana Nawas: (41:31)

Are you?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:31)

Yes, I have been a Buddhist for years. Yes. So I would have


Rana Nawas: (41:36)

What would you ask?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:38)

I wouldn’t ask him much.


Rana Nawas: (41:40)

Just hang out.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:41)



Rana Nawas: (41:42)

Love it. Well, thank you so much for your time. I can’t tell you how impactful this has been.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:48)

Thank you so much.


Rana Nawas: (41:48)

And for the book “How Women Rise” I mean, this is the perfect book for When Women Win Podcast.


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:55)

Well, thank you for the good work that you’re doing.


Rana Nawas: (41:57)

Thank you and how can listeners find you, Marshall? LinkedIn, is that best?


Marshall Goldsmith: (41:59)

Yeah, I give everything away. All my materials online. You can copy, share, download, duplicate it, use in Church, charity, nonprofit, use any way you wish. Linkedin, facebook, everything. Linkedin, I have the most followers. Yes.


Rana Nawas: (42:13)

Okay, thank you so much. All this will be in the show notes guys. Thank you.


Marshall Goldsmith: (42:17)

Thank you.


Rana Nawas: (42:19)

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. To find show notes, give feedback, and sign up for our monthly newsletter, go to our website Also remember to head over to Itunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to When Women Win. Finally, make sure you’re following us on instagram @WhenWomenWinPodcast. Thanks and have a great day.



End Of Transcript

Leaving a Successful Corporate Career to Start a Business – Lily Kandalaft

Lily Kandalaft had a fulfilling and successful career at one of the largest food companies in the world. After she had her first baby, she realized a large gap in postnatal care in the region and decided to take on the massive responsibility and challenge of building a business that countless families have grown to rely on over the past 5 years.

Lily Kandalaft is the founder of Malaak Mama & Baby Care, the UAE’s first maternity focused childcare agency providing prenatal classes, maternity nurses, babysitters, sleep trainers, breastfeeding support as well as other pre- and postnatal services to support families in the UAE. A passionate supporter of working moms, Lily tries to be for others what she needed herself.

In our conversation Lily shared valuable lessons she learned in the corporate world that have served her well in entrepreneurship. We also talked about the challenges on her journey as an entrepreneur: the burden of constant decision-making, how she’s had to give up on the myth of perfection to be kinder to herself and how she’s learned to say no. Lily has found that managing people and various stakeholder interests becomes both more difficult and important as a small business owner.

For people who see a gap in the market and want to start their own business, Lily’s advice is “just do it.” She also talks about the value of starting out as a side hustle before committing fully to your passion enterprise. She also reveals how she’s managed to And she credits maintaining her sanity through this journey to the support of mentors, role models and sympathetic friends.

If you would like to know more about Malaak you can visit or find them on Facebook (@malaakuae) and Instagram (@malaakbabycare)

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

[00:00] Ladies and gents, my guest on today’s show is a corporate executive-turned-entrepreneur. Lily Kandalaft is the founder of Malaak Mama & Baby Care, the UAE’s first maternity focused childcare agency providing maternity nurses, sleep trainers, breastfeeding support, and more. A compassionate supporter of working moms, Lily is for others which she needed herself. Prior to launching Malaak, Lily had a happy career at Mars, the global chocolate giant. So why leave? During our chat, she explained how her perspective changed upon becoming a parent and why she decided to take on the mammoth responsibility of building a business that hundreds of families have grown to rely on over the past 5 years. We discussed the lessons Lily learned in the corporate world that have served her well in entrepreneurship, such as Mars’s Four Guiding Principles. We also talked about her journey as an entrepreneur, the burden of constant decision-making, how she’s had to give up on the myth of perfection, how she balances competing interests, and how she’s learned to say no. All this with the help of mentors, role models, and sympathetic friends. So let’s get into it.


[01:16] Lily, thank you so much for coming on When Women Win. I’m so happy to have you here.


[01:19] Likewise.


[01:21] Great. So let’s start at the beginning. You were born in Jordan, raised in the UAE. You went to Canada and got a degree in economics from McGill and then got a masters in finance from the London School of Economics. Why economics and finance?


[01:35] It was kind of, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do once I graduated high school and economics seemed like the perfect option. I was good at it in school. Everyone in my family is in the banking field and I wanted to kind of keep my options open. I wanted to actually go into law. So the idea was to do four years of economics, kind of get my management background and then go into law afterwards.


[01:55] Okay. But you didn’t


[01:55] That changed along the way.


[01:58] Yeah, let’s go there. So then you started to work for corporations


[02:01] Yes


[02:03] And you started to the Bank of Montreal and then moved to Mars. So did you find that your studies prepared you adequately for the corporate world?


[02:12] That’s a good question. So I think it prepared me from kind of basic courses in accounting and finance and the basics in terms of communication, but I think really it was a lot of on-the-job learning. So my experience at Bank of Montreal interacting with different people, interacting in different languages, you know, meeting different people from different cultures and learning how to manage myself. I think it was a lot of on-the-job learning, especially at Mars. I think Mars, you meet a lot of different people and different backgrounds so you get a lot of access to different mentors, both female and male, working in teams. So I think it was a lot of on-the-job learning and I think education is nice because it’s, you know, but I think a lot of the things that I learned were through my experience.


[02:53] Yeah. Well let’s talk about Mars. It was your first job here in the UAE and how was it different working at Mars in the UAE versus the Bank of Montreal back in Canada?


[03:03] So I think what’s lovely about Mars is everything being based on principles. So I think bank of Montreal was great because it’s quite dynamic, it’s quite fast paced and I think what’s nice about Mars, it was very family oriented as a business and they worked very much based on principles.


[03:18] What does that mean, sorry?


[03:19] So they had four principles that they based all their decisions on. So every time you had any business problem that you faced, they went and took you back to the principles and when I first joined that was like, you know, kind of what is this concept? And you don’t really believe in it until you go through these challenges in the business and then you refer back to the principles and it’s really like you’re a Bible of, of kind of approaching things. And that’s what’s really nice and that’s what I took out from working at Mars and applied it to my own business afterwards. And for me, the principles that I have at Malaak are literally every time I have any challenges that we face, I ask my team to revert back to the principles and that’s how we base our decisions. So it’s very helpful.


[04:00] Okay. So, okay, that sounds like a big lesson you learned from the corporate world that you took into your entrepreneurial journey. We will definitely come to Malaak very soon, but first, what are these four guiding principles at Mars?


[04:12] So it was a lot about kind of quality. So making sure that the products, everything that you provide for our consumers was based on quality. There was responsibility, so responsibility in terms of making the right decisions and caring for your consumers. So always having the consumers at heart. It’s a lot about mutuality, so anytime you get into any partnership or any agreement, it’s about looking at the other side and making sure it’s a win-win situation. And the last one is passion and that for me means a lot. So it’s about having passion in everything that you do. Between the four of them as a family and as a family business, it really helps guide you in terms of your decision. So those were the four principles of Mars.


[04:49] Mars is an incredible company. I mean it’s amazing.


[04:50] Privately owned. Family owned, exactly


[04:50] Massive FMCG globally.


[04:50] Exactly.


[04:57] And you had lots of different roles there. Can you tell us what you did?


[04:59] Yeah, so I was basically based first in finance, which was my background, so finance and economics and that’s what I started off with. I started off in the factory, so I worked night shifts, day shifts, working on the line in the factory for galaxy. And then a little bit down the line I thought, you know, I started getting very interested in the marketing aspect. I’m a very creative person by nature. So I started taking on a few projects and then, you know, my manager came to me, he said, look, why don’t you move to marketing, you know, I think you could really add a lot of value there. So as soon as I moved there, actually I found kind of my calling because that’s really where I felt I had a lot of value.


[05:34] That’s the incredible thing about working for a corporation.


[05:36] Exactly.


[05:36] They have all these departments


[05:39] The access, exactly, to doing so many different things. And I think that for me is where it prepares you, if you do want to go into entrepreneurship, it’s that exposure to different people, you know, kind of different roles that then expand your mindset and then you kind of see a business from, from, from the full perspective.


[05:56] So let’s about how the corporate world prepared you for your entrepreneurial journey. I mean you, you spent six, seven years there between the Bank of Montreal and Mars and what did you learn? What skills did you develop that you have found very useful in building your own business?


[06:11] So I think working at Mars, you work with a lot of people, so it’s about dealing with different personalities, managing conflicts, being honest and approaching things head on. So for me that was something that I learned a lot. So a lot of communication skills in terms of, because things will go wrong and it’s about how you manage them, how you confront and having an honest conversation and trying to find the solution that works for everyone. I think in terms of building your confidence from a communication’s perspective, being able to present your ideas and if you have an idea, especially when I was in marketing, to kind of influencing skills or convincing your managers or your team, you know, why your idea makes sense and bringing it to life and I think it’s that process that you learn as you go up the corporate ladder that’s really valuable. And for me it was a lot about, I think what Mars was, was amazing at is how they treated their employees. They really value their employees. When they say it’s a family business, they treat it like a family business. It’s not just saying it’s a family business, you really are treated as a family member. Your opinions are extremely valued. Women are extremely valued and it’s lovely to see how they push you to kind of, you know, bring out your inner passion and your inner creativity and, and that’s what I really respect them and I think the whole family mindset is what I’m trying to do, being an entrepreneur afterwards.


[07:37] Wow. Sounds like an amazing place to work.


[07:41] It is. A lot of other companies, honestly, will establish them because they put a lot of support, like I said especially for women, you know when you go on maternity leave and afterwards just in terms of support things like options of working from home, or when your child is sick, they were very understanding and very supportive. And at the time the president was female and I think that added a lot for us.


[08:02] We got to get her on When Women Win.


[08:02] Yeah, you have to get onboard, definitely.


[08:07] Yeah, for sure, she can tell the other corporates how to do it right.


[08:08] How to do it right. Exactly.


[08:10] So it sounds amazing, but I’m sure there were some challenges in the corporate world that every woman, not just woman, everybody faces, man or a woman. Can you talk a little bit about those?


[08:21] Yeah. So I think, I mean what’s nice about the corporate world is that stability, is the fact that you get to work with teams, you get to experience different aspects of the business and there still is less of a risk. You know, when you would do take projects on board, it’s kind of a shared responsibility amongst you and the team. Where it becomes challenging is when there is that bureaucracy, where, you know, you do have that passion for something and you want to bring it to life and then there are kind of steps you need to take, toll gates, you know, it limits you a little bit in terms of, you know, kind of you want to just go for it. And I think that’s probably where, from a corporate perspective versus entrepreneurial, you’re a bit limited in that perspective and that there’s a lot of people you have to bring on board with you before you make those decisions. And sometimes you might be blocked for reasons that you probably feel frustrated about.


[09:11] So just general bureaucracy toll gates


[09:16] General bureaucracy I would say process basically, you know. And sometimes that limits creativity. I mean Mars was great sometimes at it, but I do feel sometimes it does limit your growth potential, and for me that was the hunger I had, is I wanted to do much more and that’s where I kind of switched to kind of entrepreneurship.


[09:33] And was there any other push that led you to leave the corporate world and go into setting up your own business?


[09:38] Yeah. So I think it was more on the personal kind of side of things. So having my child, it really made me look at work a little bit differently in the sense of I really wanted my time away from him to really make a big difference and that pushed me to start thinking about what do I want and what value do I want to kind of


[09:56] Make a difference as in have social impact


[09:58] Having social impact.


[09:58] If you were spending time away from your child, it had to mean something


[10:01] Exactly. It really had to make a difference. And I loved my job at the time, but then I found kind of an opportunity and at the same time I felt like I want to add a lot more value and I felt this was an opportunity for me to do so.


[10:11] So you found a market gap?


[10:13] Yes. So at the time I was, you know, giving birth to my son, realizing that there is a, there wasn’t that much support for, for mothers in terms of kind of postnatal support and although my mom was around and that was very helpful, I found that I had a lot of questions all the time and as amazing as Google is, you kind of want someone to talk to and just to know that you’re doing it, you’re doing the right thing, especially as a first time mom. And I found that there is that gap in the region in comparison to, to, you know, abroad. And that’s where the opportunity came up and saying, look, I’d love to give support for other moms like me were going through the exact same thing and want to go back to work and want to contribute, but feel like they need to have the right support and that peace of mind for their children.


[10:59] Well, maybe I mean just for the benefit of those listeners who don’t know Malaak, tell us a bit about Malaak. Now you left and you set up your own business, postnatal support for mothers


[11:05] Yes


[11:08] And maybe tell us a bit more about Malaak.


[11:12] Sure. So Malaak is basically, you know, the idea’s it’s that kind of a one stop shop for moms for everything taking you through your parenting journey. From when you get pregnant, we provide prenatal classes, we provide then, as soon as you have given birth, we provide all the support afterwards from, you know, kind of you want maternity nurses, childcare options, you know, just sleep support, breastfeeding support and then afterwards, you know, baby classes, baby stimulation, baby massage, so everything. And we’re also trying to provide kind of a hub for moms to hang out in. So every Thursday we do like a free mom support group and then we basically bring speakers from all walks of life.


[11:47] Sorry every single Thursday?


[11:47] Every single Thursday morning


[11:47] For free?


[11:52] For free. It’s a free coffee morning for moms. What we found is that moms, as soon as they’ve given birth, it’s very lonely.


[11:57] Yes. I felt that.


[12:00] And unless you’ve been to a prenatal class, met some other moms, you kind of feel on your own. Breastfeeding is challenging sometimes. And you would get lack of sleep, you have a lot of questions and for us it’s, you know, it’s about providing that safe space for moms. They can come, they can breastfeed, they can bring their babies and it’s just listening to speakers talk about different things that might help you and they might refer you to someone if you’re facing a particular challenge. And the idea really is just somewhere safe to hang out, have a coffee, we have snacks, we have also our staff available so that you do get that a little bit of time off, and a bit of a break if you need it.


[12:37] Wow. Lovely. Okay back to Malaak.


[12:42] So Malaak is really about support for moms, so it’s everything we’re trying to be that hub for moms in terms of pre and postnatal support.


[12:49] Okay and how, so you established it in 2013, right?


[12:49] Yes.


[12:54] And can you give us a sense of how it’s grown over the past five years?


[13:00] Originally we started off as 6 employees and now we are around 95.


[13:02] Wow.


[13:03] So in the past five years it’s grown quite tremendously, still with a plan to grow further. Over time, we’ve, we’ve expanded from different things, adding on different surfaces. So that was one aspect. And then the other aspect was of course growing the team in itself. And obviously now moving geographically across the region.


[13:22] Yeah and I think is your biggest service the maternity nurses?


[13:23] Yes.


[13:26] Yeah. That’s got to be your most popular one.


[13:28] That is quite popular. So I mean it’s, you know, we’ve got, you know, different needs in the market. Some people need the support kind of full time, so we provide services from either, you know, anything from 6 hours all the way up to 24 hours. And some moms need that support, whether they’re going back to work, whether they need that peace of mind with, the first time moms need that support. Second time moms that want to focus on the older child, have specific family circumstances we provide support for that family, but as well you can opt for, if you’re facing just breastfeeding challenges, we can send someone to kind of support you through that. If you’re baby isn’t sleeping through the night, and we’ve seen that grow tremendously, it’s just someone coming in help you provide just in terms of information, the right habits, so the right healthy habits for your family and the right routine, so it’s not a military sleep training but it’s just encouraging health habits for your family, so that your baby does end up sleeping through the night.


[14:20] Yeah well, I asked one of these professionals about my baby who’s now over a year. He’s a year and four months, and he’s still waking up at 5:00 AM, 5:00 AM everyday everyday everyday.


[14:30] We need to get you in touch


[14:33] Well I think the advice I got was just, let him cry and that’s okay.


[14:36] That’s okay yeah.


[14:36] I’m totally fine with it, if I don’t have an older child. You know, I have two so I can’t just leave him to cry.


[14:42] Definitely. And it’s not. And I think that’s the misconception people have that sleep training is all about letting your baby cry it out and it’s not the case. It’s, you know, it’s working families and a lot of the feedback that we’ve gotten, it’s a lot about training the parents versus training the baby. It’s a lot about your approach, you know, during the day, how well is he eating, how long is he sleeping during the day, what are the different dynamics surrounding your family circumstances, and then working through those to make sure that you’re getting the best out of it, in terms of the right routine for your family. So it’s not, you know, maybe 5:00 AM wake up is good for you.


[15:14] No


[15:17] Maybe that works for your family


[15:17] Maybe it’s a sign I need to do yoga.


[15:22] So it’s just about adapting. So it’s really personalized and that’s why we say, there’s no one solution for it all. It’s about coming and understanding your family dynamics and then customizing the solution that suits you.


[15:34] Okay. What else has Malaak taught you about, for example, parenting?


[15:37] So I mean, what’s nice about, you know, kind of the entrepreneurial journey that I went through is you learn a lot about yourself, the relationships with people around you, and for me it taught me a lot about my parenting style. So I read, you know, you’re exposed to different types of families, different circumstances, and for me what’s nice is it’s important not to compare. And I think that’s really important as a new mom and seeing so many different families with so many different experiences, different children, different lifestyles, comparing yourself to other families won’t help, and comparing your parenting style won’t help.


[16:10] Comparing your children


[16:14] Comparing your children won’t help. So if you’re focused a lot on, you know, my baby’s not walking at this age or my baby’s eating early or my baby’s eating late or he’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a lot of stress on families and you see, you’ll always end up the same, you know, your child will be fine in the end. It’s important to be aware. But I think what’s lovely about it is seeing that every family is extremely unique.


[16:34] Okay.


[16:36] And looking at, for me it was a lot about, you know, as a first time mom, you know, is my, is my child eating enough, is my child sleeping enough, you know, and reading a lot and a lot of these parenting kind of self-help-books, they stress you out a little bit because then you expect it to, you know, your baby should be doing this at this age and your baby should be doing that, it’s very stressful in families. So once you realize that every family is quite unique, you get a bit of, you know, confidence and a bit more relaxed about things. And you start to enjoy the parenting journey a bit more.


[16:46] Yeah.


[17:07] So I think that’s been very helpful for me.


[17:09] Well that’s a relief for me because I had a mini breakdown when I was, when I had my first kid at the six week mark. So I was trying to Gina Ford him. Right? And then I was online and all the information I was getting, the advice, was all conflicting.


[17:16] Yes.


[17:25] And that’s what upset me and I really, at the six week mark, I just broke down. I was like, I can’t do this. I’m the worst mom in the world. I don’t even know what’s right or wrong. And that’s what was upsetting me. I didn’t even know which way to go.


[17:37] And there is no right or wrong. And I think that’s what’s, you know, understanding that because we see a lot of families that go through a lot of postnatal depression, and a lot of it is linked to you’re feeling that guilt or feeling stressed out that you’re doing a good enough job and you’re, and you’re doing an amazing job. And it’s just about that confidence, about that reaffirmation that you are doing an incredible job just keeping your child healthy and happy. And that’s all it takes. If your child’s on a routine or not on a routine, it’s what works for your family and don’t stress about it. You know, seek the help, get advice. It’s amazing, but take it with a pinch of salt as well because it might not work for your family. And it’s about reading the signs. You will know your child the best.


[18:14] Yeah, and I mean the stats for postnatal depression are pretty high. I think, do you know?


[18:19] I don’t know actually to be honest, but we see it, we see a lot of it, you know, we see a lot of cases and we obviously refer them to the right people. But for us it’s about noticing the signs and giving moms that support. So you know, a lot of it is not just childcare but a lot of it is about mama care as well right. So taking care of the moms and it’s a lot about kind of taking time out for yourself, you know, remembering who you are before you became a mom as well and taking care of yourself and your needs.


[18:46] Sorry to ask this again because I think it’s important for listeners, but what are the signs of postnatal depression?


[18:52] So, I mean we’ve, we see different, different kind of signs, but we see a lot of moms that, you know, are irritable. So there’s obviously the baby blues, that’s quite natural


[18:58] That you cry over not sleeping.


[19:05] You’re not sleeping. You’re tired. You know, and, and, and you know, I’m not an expert in this, but we have seen several cases of moms not wanting to be around their children and this is when they’re breastfeeding, they’re tired, they’re kind of unable to be around their children and being upset when they’re around their children, kind of either being extra irritable, really upset with people around them, being angry, you know, lashing out, either physically or emotionally. And I think it’s about noticing those signs just to give them awareness that maybe we can provide support to seek help and we work with a lot of other companies that are experts in this field so it’s just about noticing the signs, speaking to another family member.


[19:27] Or their partner.


[19:47] Their partner just to say, look, have you thought about this? And there’s, you know, there’s no taboo around it anymore. I think what’s nice, people are talking about it a lot more. And if you are proactive about it and, you know, manage it early on, then you’re going to enjoy the whole journey much more.


[20:02] Okay. Well, let’s talk a little bit about the challenges you faced on your journey as a professional. So what’s Malaak taught you professionally about running a business. I mean you left the corporate world, you started this, this company five years ago and it’s grown like crazy in terms of services and employees. So what have you learned professionally?


[20:23] For me, just because of the nature of the business, I think, you know, the fact that we have such a big responsibility and I learned a lot about kind of, you know, looking at the bigger picture, focusing a lot. I used to be quite quite a perfectionist and it was a bit easier to do when you’re in the corporate world because you kind of have a specific project and you try to manage all aspects of that project before you present it or before you share it. In entrepreneurship, it’s very difficult to manage everything. It’s very difficult to anticipate exactly to be perfect, anticipate any type of consequence. You do your best, especially given the nature of our business, we have a big responsibility because we’re caring for children, so we do our best to make sure that processes are 100 percent, so that quality aspect is, is there, but you will face challenges throughout and there will be times where you would look back and say, well, I need to fix this in the process or this might not work properly. We tried it, it didn’t work, let’s learn from it and kind of move on. So this idea of you can’t be perfect all the time was quite a big learning for me. I think another thing was just how many decisions you have to make consistently


[20:58] Like everyday.


[20:25] Everyday and you know, a lot of them are big decisions and in the corporate world you’re kind of sharing that with the team and you have people to talk to. And a lot of the times it’s, as an entrepreneur, it’s very difficult to talk to everyone about the big decision you have to make. And that’s quite challenging. But it builds your confidence because as you make those decisions, there will be times you make amazing decisions. There’ll be times you make mistakes. And of that learning process is not being hard on yourself, so I think that’s a huge learning for me before it was if I did something and it didn’t work, I’d be really hard on myself afterwards and I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to be encouraged and pushed to make those mistakes. With us, because of the nature of our business obviously the mistakes are, you know, you need to be quite vigilant about your processes


[22:21] Yeah, where you allow the mistakes.


[22:25] Where you allow the mistakes to happen. And for us, it’s, you know, we take risks with new ideas and creativity and if it works, great, if it doesn’t, that’s fine, but we don’t take, we’re, we’re quite strict, from a policy perspective in terms of quality controls. So that’s something that we won’t budge on and I won’t kind of compromise.


[22:41] Okay. And so these learnings are. Yeah, pretty different to the corporate. But what challenges have you faced in building Malaak? Because it can’t all have been rosy.


[22:51] No, it’s, I mean, in every business it’s quite challenging and, and Malaak went through, for me personally, we deal with a lot of people. So it’s balancing. I think that’s the biggest challenge is you’re dealing with taking care of children at the same time you’re taking care of the parents and you’re taking care of your team or taking care of the families and it’s very much a people business, so it’s kind of balancing the needs of the families, the children and your team that I find, that I think we went through a kind of different phases of how do we balance it all and we still go through it. I think we’ve kind of learned a little bit more the formula on how, what works best, and it’s about taking care of everyone at the same time and there will be time you need to compromise, but it’s about that communication. It’s about being quite honest from the beginning and setting out expectations from the beginning for everyone so that everyone’s on the same page.


[23:50] Okay. So that’s how you solved the balancing the people equation


[23:54] Because that’s, I mean that’s the nature of our business really. That’s the challenge everyday. It’s people, it’s making sure your team is happy, it’s making sure that your clients are happy. It’s making sure the baby’s healthy and happy and it’s that balance that is quite challenging.


[24:07] Sorry. Why is that difficult? What are the competing, where, where are the tensions?


[24:12] So I think it’s about, you know, sometimes family circumstances would require extra support or extra, you know, something simple like time off, right? So they’re facing a specific situation where they need our nurses to work extra hours and it’s a, it’s a situation. So it’s sometimes it’s an emergency situation and then that’s an easy decision to make. You speak to your team and ask for those extra hours, but at the same time when it’s, it’s happening quite often or if it’s a situation where isn’t necessarily an emergency situation, it’s about balancing and speak to the clients about, you know, our policies and kind of going back to the maximum we do is x number of hours. We can’t do anything more than that. And it’s about balancing the needs to make sure that your staff is healthy, happy, sleeping the required amount of hours they need to function, but at the same time keeping your clients happy and making sure that they get the right support because they have their work, they have their career ambitions, they have their family commitments. So you want to also kind of balanced that as well.


[25:12] Yup. Okay. Yeah. Learning to say no


[25:14] Learning to say no when needed and sometimes you need to make tough decisions and it’s just about how you manage it because that’s where I say the communication part and I think that’s where we missed kind of in university and you deal with, you learn a lot kind of being hands on in the entrepreneurial world is just communicating. Sometimes it’s really the way you say it as opposed to what you’re saying.


[25:37] I find that a lot. I find that in life, I find that in everywhere. It’s not just an entrepreneurial journey. It’s often not what you say, it’s how you say it.


[25:45] How you say it and it’s really about that and it’s about making people feel special and, but then bringing them, making them aware of the full picture


[25:54] Yeah. People are special too.


[25:57] Exactly. Just just to kind of make that whole list because sometimes you’re, especially as a, as a new mom, you’re stressed you’re, you’re quite tired, you’re already going through that anxious kind of journey of just making sure that your child is healthy. So just sharing the big picture is, is important and you need to be quite sensitive on how you say it.


[26:15] Yeah. And so are most of your clients first time moms.


[26:21] No we have quite a big mix. So we have a mix of first time mom, second time and third and forth. And it’s, it’s quite a nice mix. You would know the difference. So once you talk to the moms the first time before they register for any of the services, you can tell whether it’s a first time mom or a second or a third time mom and it’s all different. But then you know who the right person is to match for their families and you kind of get a feel for their style as well. Because I mean, you know, it’s all about chemistry. It’s about finding the right fit for the family.


[26:51] Oh. So you look at your nurses and you say, well, I know her personality would go well with that client.


[26:55] Yes, yes.


[26:55] Oh, really. Okay.


[26:58] It’s, you know, it’s a lot about understanding your team as well. So we spend a lot of time with our team to understand their strengths and weaknesses, development areas, and a lot about their personality because a lot of them are bubbly, some of them a bit more kind of calm. And what we’ve realized with families is sometimes you don’t really know what you want. You want someone to do the best and care for your child in the best possible way. And that’s what we promised our clients. And in terms of finding the right fit, it’s a lot about chemistry and we don’t always get it right, but you know, we’ve gotten better at understanding the clients. We would go through a lot of questions, we try to meet them, we try to understand their needs and their requirements so that then we find the right match


[27:37] And if you don’t, they can always say, look, this is not working out


[27:41] Exactly. And that’s kind of the benefit versus kind of agencies abroad because it’s, it’s immediate. If you have that connection. Great. That continues. If you don’t, there are alternatives available.


[27:50] Yeah. So we talked about the challenges that you faced, basically balancing the needs of different people communicating and all of this, learning to say no. What helped you through that, apart from experience? I mean, did you have any mentors or role models?


[28:06] So I’m lucky to have amazing mentors in my family, from my husband who is an entrepreneur, my father and my uncle and kind of my cousins as well. All of them are male. I don’t have any female mentors. I’d love to have at some point. It’s just because then there’s another whole aspect of having your family as well and the juggling that I’d love to get advice on, but I’m lucky to have amazing mentors in my family that are there as kind of sounding boards through the challenges that I face and the business. So they’ve been extremely helpful throughout the journey. I try to read as much as I can, but really it’s a lot about, for me, it’s conversations, with other people that have opened up businesses or you know, someone, mainly it’s for me my husband and my dad that are always my sounding board for big decisions.


[28:56] So your husband, you said is an entrepreneur. Your dad as well?


[28:58] Yes. So my dad, I had 35 experience in a, you know kind of, the corporate world, went up the corporate ladder and it was, a lot of the push came from him to become an entrepreneur as well. He was very much for, you know, he became an entrepreneur after 35 experience


[29:15] Sorry he was 35 years in the corporate world.


[29:15] 35 years in the corporate world. And then he became an entrepreneur right after that and then he, you know, kind of a lot of him, a lot of his experience was start early, you know, get your experience in the corporate world. But if you do want to become an entrepreneur, start early.


[29:29] Okay. Let me ask you something about that. Okay. Because there’s a lot of women in the corporate world who are looking to start their own thing, but thinking of it as a side hustle. Okay. What are your views on that?


[29:47] So I mean for me, I started Malaak while working at Mars so I wasn’t ready yet to take the risk from, from a financial perspective and, you know, I just had my first baby, I had an amazing job, so it was not an easy decision to make. My decision in the beginning was let me do it on the side and see how it goes. And then, you know, nine months later it became very challenging to do both because you had, you’re adapting to becoming a new mom, you have your regular job and then you have your side job. And I think if you really want to give it your all, it can’t be a side thing, it can probably start as a side thing and I encourage that because then you, you’re kind of testing it out a little bit, you know, and if you’re able to juggle and say probably share that with your family so you get the right support and give it your all in the beginning. Even if you’re doing two things at the same time, test it out, see how you feel. And if you feel like, look this can go places, this is my passion and I’m much happier doing this, then it’s probably the right time to take a risk. And if you’re not feeling, feeling your job, I mean I just feel like it’s a shame to continue in something that isn’t driving you every day.


[30:50] So you would encourage or you advise them to start as a side hustle just to test the concept.


[30:55] Yeah. So for me, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be my job. So that’s where it made sense for me to do it on the side and you know, and not take the full risk. If you’re unhappy with your job and you’re not feeling it everyday and it’s not, you know, it’s not stimulating you, then probably it’s not the right place for you and will probably be, well give it your all and go for it, you know, take that risk, jump on it, give it your all and then there really is that potential to make it, make it successful because you do have to give it your all


[31:25] Yeah, for sure. But I mean, it’s interesting. You loved your job at Mars and yet you left


[31:29] Yes and that’s why it was a challenge. Yes, yes. I loved my job because I had an amazing team. Like I said, they treated you like family, really. And so it was tough for me to leave. Where I felt it was missing for me was that passion. You know, I, I got the opportunity to share my creativity and, and, but I felt that, you know, I was a bit limited and I wanted to do so much more.


[31:54] And also you talked earlier about social impact, which is


[31:56] Exactly.


[31:56] It’s not quite as much. Yeah.


[31:59] Yeah. And for me, leaving my son, it was a big deal for me. I honestly, the minute I gave birth to him it was, you know, if I’m going to be away from my son, it really needs to be quite something to take my time, because you also go through that, you know, once you’ve given birth do I stay at home? Do I take care of them, you know, give them my all? Or do I go back to the corporate world? And you know, for me it was, I wanted to work, I wanted to give back and I wanted that stimulation for myself and it’s very personal, but I felt it was the right decision for me and that, you know, it pushed me to kind of make that decision and go back.


[32:34] Yeah. No, I mean it is very personal. You know, everybody’s different. And what works for you actually today might not work for even you in a few years time.


[32:42] Exactly, in a few years. And it’s about being agile honestly. And it’s about listening to yourself, looking at your circumstances. And for me, I sat with my family and I said, look, I really want to try this out, you know, can I get the support? And my dad was on top of saying 100 percent, go for it. I’m here for you, to kind of, my dad’s in the medical field. So it was very helpful to have them on my side, kind of pushing through with me. And then in the moments where you’re like, am I making the right decision? It’s nice to have someone behind you saying, of course you are like, look at the amazing things that you’re doing. Look at what you can change, you know, look at the gap, look at, you know, kind of the difference that you’re making. It’s, it’s amazing to have that.


[33:18] Yeah. Well that sounds really powerful to have, as your dad, a mentor and role model.


[33:19] Yes.


[33:23] That’s fantastic. If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently? Would you do it all again?


[33:30] I would do it all again.


[33:30] Would you leave Mars again?


[33:32] I would leave Mars again. Yeah. I Love Mars and I will always love the people that I met there. They’re, you know, people that I met, they will always be friends for life and the lessons I learned, you know, kind of amazing and built, you know, prepared me for Malaak to be honest. But I think I wouldn’t change anything to be honest.


[33:47] Even in Malaak?


[33:49] Even in Malaak, I wouldn’t, I mean there’s obviously lessons you learn that you’d probably make, I would make different decisions. I think the journey that we went through has gotten Malaak to where it is now. Really, the experiences, the people I hired, the people that work, the people that didn’t work, they all taught really powerful lessons along the way. The team I have now, absolutely incredible. And I think it might’ve been different had I not gone through those mistakes and those challenges, I might have chosen different people or, we wouldn’t be where we are today, I think, have we gone a different route.


[34:20] So the mistakes are not regrets.


[34:25] No, no. And that’s what’s amazing, is learning that because naturally coming from an environment where you’re in corporate world and you know, mistakes are, you can’t really make mistakes because there’s someone there to kind of tell you, why don’t you do this properly or whatever. In the entrepreneurial world, it’s, it’s quite amazing because every mistake has come with a huge learning curve and you grow so much faster. So if you don’t make those mistakes, you’re kind of, it’s much slower. So mistakes are actually quite an advantage.


[34:52] Okay. So let’s talk about you as a person and how you cope. Your coping mechanisms. So you built a business and you know, you’re married with two kids. What do you think is fundamental to you keeping it together every day?


[35:13] Well I have an amazing family to provide that support. I always have incredible girlfriends, incredible, that are there as you know, kind of sounding boards as well. And when you go through kind of the, the questions that you have everyday of, am I doing this right or the guilt, you know, making mistakes and then going through that journey because even when you do make mistakes, it’s tough going through that uncomfortable situation and I think I wouldn’t have my sanity if I didn’t have my friends and my family to kind of, I’m the type of person I like to talk through things. I like to talk through what I’m going through. I’m very open and then you know, kind of getting different views from different people and then choosing what works for me in the end, but I’m not the type that keeps it in. I like to talk


[35:48] Yeah. External processor.


[35:51] Yeah, exactly. I’m an external processor so I like to talk about it and that’s for me, my, getting my sanity. My kids sometimes, it’s funny, but you go through something really tough and then just my, like my eldest son Ryan who, who’s five, he’ll see it on me a little bit and then he’ll say something so amazing that you’re like, this is really what it’s all about. You know, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s about the learning, the experience and at the end of the day you’re doing it all for your family and it’s nice that through conversations with your family or through conversations with friends or your children that you’re brought back a little bit down to earth and you’re kind of looking at the bigger picture versus the details that you were kind of worked up about in that moment. So I think conversation, communication and, honestly I have an amazing team. So a lot of it is about, you know, being, trusting your team, talking to them about what you’re going through personally even. And then, you know, having the right insights and the right, you know, strong people around you that really support and push you through.


[36:52] Just two quick questions before we wrap up here. How do you switch off when you’re overwhelmed?


[36:59] I actually find that very challenging to be honest. I, I find it very difficult to switch off. So again, when I am going through challenges, I find that I need to pick up the phone, call my best friends, have that conversation, find some sort of a conclusion, and then make a decision about it. I don’t switch off to be honest. I find it very difficult. That’s definitely one of the challenges I have, definitely an area that I need to work on. When I do switch off, it’s really when, you know, things that I love. So I love dancing. So that for me is my escape. And it’s my kind of letting loose and at that point, I’m not thinking of anything other than dancing at that point and that’s probably the only way I switch off to be honest. But I try as much as possible that when I am spending time with family, with friends, that I am putting my phone asides, that I am trying to focus on enjoying the moments. And I think working on that more and more.


[37:55] Great. I think all of us need to work on switching off.


[37:57] Yeah, it’s tough to be honest.


[37:59] But necessary.


[38:02] Necessary. Extremely necessary. And when you do you come back way more productive and you add so much more value.


[38:07] Yeah, I agree. Okay and if you had a billboard, what message would you put on it?


[38:07] I always go by this, which is “just do it”. You know, I’ve been, you know, quite starting off quite cautious in, like I said, making mistakes and taking that risk and for me, the more challenges I face, every single time you go for it, the process might be challenging, you know, during, but then after, it’s just so much more amazing. So for me, that would be my kind of billboard sign. Just do it. If you feel it, just do it, you know, and then take it as it comes and if it goes well, amazing. If it doesn’t, learn from it and the next time, maybe do it a bit differently.


[38:54] Great. All right, well listen, thank you so much Lily. This has been such fun.


[38:57] Thank you.


[38:58] And how can listeners find you?


[39:01] So, I think the best thing would be to visit our website. So, and you know, obviously through our facebook and instagram pages are probably great to kind of follow too, so you can see all the activities or the events that we do from moms and a lot of them are free events, a lot of support, kind of opportunities for moms around the UAE. So that would be the best.


[39:22] Yeah. Great. Well we’ll put all these handles and links in the show notes.


[39:28] So you can find them on facebook @malaakuae or on instagram @malaakbabycare.


[39:28] Great.


[39:33] Thank you for having me.


[39:34] Pleasure. Thank you.


[39:35] I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at or search: When Women Win on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram @RanaNawas. Thanks and have a great day!



End Of Transcript

Mona Ataya: Being a Serial Entrepreneur

Mona Ataya is one of the Middle East’s most prominent entrepreneurs, having built two hugely successful online businesses in the last 18 years: Bayt and Mumzworld.

Mona Ataya founded Mumzworld in 2011 to fill a void for mothers that she herself faced twice: firstly while preparing to become a mother of twins and couldn’t find local resources, and then later in trying to buy her children quality, affordable toys. Prior to Mumzworld, Mona co-founded Bayt, the first online search engine for jobs in the Middle East. Mona actually started out in the corporate world and spent 10 years working for FMCG giants Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.

We discussed Mona’s career drivers and how her desire for social impact shaped her path. We talked about lessons from the corporate world like resourcefulness and accountability. We addressed the challenges of e-commerce and how to overcome them, and how to build a company culture that is ìcustomer obsessedî. I asked about support and coping mechanisms – because none of this can be easy! Finally, we discussed what to look for in investors, given her experience raising 5 rounds of funding for Mumzworld. (Hint: it ain’t just the money!)

This episode was extra-special as it was recorded in a Careem! For international listeners, Careem is the Middle East’s leading ride-hailing app. So yes: this was my first ever WWW interview in a taxi – and we had loads of fun. A big thank you to Careem for making it happen. You can find them at or @CareemUAE on Twitter.

If you would like to follow Mona Ataya you can find her through or @Mumzworld on Twitter and Instagram.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas: (00:00)

Hello ladies and gents. My guest on today’s show has built two hugely successful online businesses in the last 18 years. Mona Ataya found in 2011 to fill a void for mothers that she herself faced twice. Firstly, while preparing to become a mother of twins and later in trying to buy her children quality affordable toys. Prior to Mumzworld, Mona coounded, the first online search engine for jobs in the Middle East and that was after a corporate career working for FMCG, Giance, Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson. We discussed Mona’s career drivers and how her desire for social impact shaped her path. We talked about the challenges of ecommerce and how to overcome them and how to build a company culture that is customer obsessed and we discussed what to look for in investors, given her experience raising five rounds of funding for Mumzworld. Now this episode was extra special as it was recorded in a Careem. For international listeners, Careem is the Middle East leading ride hailing app. So yes, this was my first ever interview in a taxi and it was so much fun. A big shout out to Careem for making it happen. Now let’s get into it. Mona, I’m so happy to have you on When Women Win. Thanks very much for taking the time.


Mona Ataya: (01:22)

My pleasure.


Rana Nawas: (01:24)

Awesome, and on Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day.


Mona Ataya: (01:26)

Thank you very much. You too.


Rana Nawas: (01:27)

Which is really apt for a Mumzworld interview, isn’t it? Right, we have so much to cover. So I might just do this chronologically.


Mona Ataya: (01:35)



Rana Nawas: (01:36)

So you’re the second child of five. How has that shaped you?


Mona Ataya: (01:40)

As number two of a large family, you fight for your time and you fight for your achievements. So they always say that the first child gets over the trial and error of the parents. So the parents are kind of testing their way around parenting. With the second child, the parents are much more relaxed. So I got the benefit of very relaxed parents who essentially believed that a child needs to be let free to kind of discover and as a young child I was, I think by nature, a very energetic, very competitive, very athletic, and I was let free to discover what I liked, what I was good at, and what I wanted to eventually achieve.


Rana Nawas: (02:28)

And you had to probably speak a little louder. Cause, five children in the house, how’d you get heard?


Mona Ataya: (02:33)

So the five of us were very close. The first three siblings were very close in age, the younger two were, there was an age gap so there was less kind of interaction. We really were three growing up, if you like and we were very close both in personality and kind of respect for each other. So we got the same attention from our parents, but we’d obviously went our different paths.


Rana Nawas: (02:58)

Got it, okay. So you started your career at Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, US. A big corporation and then you moved to another big corporation, FMCG, as well. Johnson & Johnson, first in the Middle East and then in Switzerland. So how many years in all were you in FMCG Corporate world?


Mona Ataya: (03:16)

Too many years to admit. I was in the corporate world for 10 years.


Rana Nawas: (03:23)

Ten years and why did you go into FMCG?


Mona Ataya: (03:26)

When I graduated as an undergrad, my initial plan was to go back to Kuwait, which was home for me back then, get a couple of years of experience, and then go back and do an MBA and that was the time of the Kuwait invasion. So in the summer, we woke up one morning and we were


Rana Nawas: (03:46)

This was 1990.


Mona Ataya: (03:46)

This was 1990. We were told that, you know, Kuwait is no more. That we didn’t have a place to go back to, essentially. So we had to reinvent our future. So our parents and ourselves, we moved to the United States. I applied to grad schools and the intent was to go back to grad school for a couple of years and then start working. As fate would have it, I met in a career fair, the career head for Proctor & Gamble and I applied. It was an unplanned application and one thing led to the other and I got the job offer very shortly after the application and that’s when I started my career.


Rana Nawas: (04:30)

And what did you learn from your experiences at Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson as a corporate environment?


Mona Ataya: (04:36)

My very first project at Procter & Gamble was creating a continuity plan for a baby and child product, for baby detergent actually and I remember my first day on the job, I was called into my bosses office. She was about to leave on a two week vacation and she sat in front of me and said, I want you over the next two weeks while I’m away to develop a continuity plan for these two products.


Rana Nawas: (05:03)

Did you know what that was?


Mona Ataya: (05:04)

So I had no idea what a continuity plan was. I didn’t know anything about the product and I certainly didn’t know anything about the systems, the processes of the organization. So I was thrown into the deep end on day one and that for me was probably the best crash course early on to figure it out. So I had to be resourceful. I had to talk to the right people, figure out the right network that would allow me to succeed and two weeks later when she came back, I presented my continuity plan and my entire journey in my early career was really about learning accountability, learning ownership, learning how to be resourceful and to figure it out and I remember one afternoon I actually was at the printer making photocopies for a presentation that I had and a manager passed from behind me and tapped me on the back and I looked back and I said, good morning and the manager said, I am so happy with what I see because what you’re showing me is that you’re taking basically A-Z responsibility over everything. So you don’t just delegate the small or the big things to others, but you are doing essentially the entire A-Z so you’re learning what it takes to make a project come to life and this is something that I’ve taken into my career throughout.


Rana Nawas: (06:29)

Okay. So what advice would you have for women in the corporate world?


Mona Ataya: (06:35)

So again, I think the advice I would give a woman would be the exact same advice I would give a man. Each of us has to determine what it is that we a are passionate about. What is it that we want to achieve and every person’s journey. Again, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman is different. So what is it that I want to achieve? What’s my passion, what am I good at, and what do I want to develop? And follow that regardless of your gender. Now, given that we’re Mother’s Day I will maybe add a little snippet about mothers because for the mother it’s a little bit more difficult because a mother at the end of the day has a different level of responsibility. She is ultimately the first point of call for her children. She’s like go to for her children first and foremost. I believe although a father can be and is oftentimes very hands on and very involved and certainly is a partner in parenting, but at the end of the day the mother is at the frontline and so for the mother who chooses a career, particularly an entrepreneurial career where she is pulled in every direction, she needs to make some tough choices and you she needs to get into the buy in of her family, her children, her husband. That’s it. Do you accept that I’m making sacrifices in time? Do you accept that I’m making sacrifices and priority? Do you accept that I’m not always going to be with you and supporting you because I’m going to be pulled in other directions and then so far that the family unit buys in on that, then it’s an easier path.


Rana Nawas: (08:12)

So you need the support. You can’t do it on your own.


Mona Ataya: (08:15)

You definitely need the support of your entire network starting with a family. So again, I think I answered you in a long winded way. So the advice I would give again is follow your passions, follow your skills, and make sure that what you’re doing you’re doing for the right reason, and I keep saying this, make sure what you’re doing is for the right reason. If you are commercially minded and you just want to make a lot of money and that’s your motivation, then great. Find something that’s going to drive you in that direction. If your motivation is a social impact footprint in your life then follow that path and regardless of what comes your way during that journey, it becomes almost secondary because you are moving one step closer to that journey that you want to put for yourself.


Rana Nawas: (08:59)

So it sounds to me like your advice for women in the corporate world is actually quite similar to advice you would give entrepreneurs.


Mona Ataya: (09:05)



Rana Nawas: (09:05)

You know, about the support network, about the balance. Well, I don’t want to use the word balancing but could you tell us, I mean you’ve talked very openly about working 365 days a year and you know, sacrifices you had to make, you just mentioned. So could you share perhaps some coping mechanisms over, like specifically over and above the support of the family, which is absolutely essential.


Mona Ataya: (09:27)

So again, when I read, when I read sentences like Mona worked 365 days a year, I almost cringe and I’ll tell you why. Because at the end of the day, we all choose our path. What is it that we’re trying to achieve for ourselves and for our surroundings and work per se is everything we do is work. Whether you decide to work at home taking care of your children, whether you decide to go into the office. In so far that you are doing something that has a end goal, it is work. Regardless of what you say. So yes, I’m in constant mode of productivity. I’m in constant productivity. Whether it’s with my children, in the office, in my community, in my family, etc. Productivity for me as Mona that is absolutely central to who I am as a human being. You ask me about coping mechanisms. First and foremost, in order for you to give your maximum, you need to be healthy.


Rana Nawas: (10:32)



Mona Ataya: (10:32)

And healthy, by the way. Physically and mentally and emotionally. So how do you as an individual make sure that you are equipped physically, mentally, and emotionally? Many of us are healthy physically, but emotionally and mentally we’re drained. So it’s very important to have these checks and balances constantly. I do that all the time.


Rana Nawas: (10:49)

How do you check them? How do you check in?


Mona Ataya: (10:52)

So for me, one of my coping mechanisms, my emotional and mental health is really time with my children. It really is. So my time with my children, it sounds almost cliche, but my switch off when I go home every day and I spend some time with my youngest, for example, that really is an emotional release. It’s an emotional release that takes everything away and puts it, pushes everything to the side and put that smile back on my face and makes me remember why I’m doing what I’m doing.


Rana Nawas: (11:21)

Why do you say that makes you remember why you’re doing.


Mona Ataya: (11:24)

What I’m doing?


Rana Nawas: (11:25)

What’s that got to do?


Mona Ataya: (11:25)

Again, it’s again teaching my children productivity. Teaching the kids to take life full on and to contribute to life.


Rana Nawas: (11:34)

Because you have three sons, right?


Mona Ataya: (11:36)

Yeah. To be proactive in their life. To be proactive and when I see my children and their happiness, I remember that it’s all about I’m teaching them the right values. So coping is again, find the things that allow you to reconnect with yourself. It could be spiritually, which is very important. So prayer is a very important aspect for me. You know, the occasional spa time, the reading time. Music is for me a big release and just family time. Family time really is magic.


Rana Nawas: (12:09)

Let’s go back to your career if we could, Mona. You moved from the corporate world into entrepreneurship. You cofounded


Mona Ataya: (12:17)



Rana Nawas: (12:17)

The Middle East, I thin first online job search engine.


Mona Ataya: (12:21)



Rana Nawas: (12:21)

Why did you leave Johnson & Johnson, the corporate world? What motivated you?


Mona Ataya: (12:25)

Okay. So I believe that life presents to you opportunities when you’re ready for them and I believe that you prepare yourself over months or years with knowledge, resources, data points, and when you’re ready for a tipping point, opportunity presents and you have a choice. You either take that opportunity or you walk away from opportunity and life is about choices. When I was with Johnson & Johnson in Europe, I was, I consider to be at the peak of my corporate career. I loved every moment of it. I was based in a wonderful part of Europe, surrounded by very smart people working on projects that I was obsessed with. As faith would have it, I was ready for that opportunity to knock on my door and my brother at the time who was a serial and continues to be a serial entrepreneur, had an idea and he wanted to revolutionize recruitment in the Arab world. Back then in 2000 internet penetration was very low. A lot of great talented Arabs were leaving the region and not coming back for perceived lack of opportunity and connecting employers and job seekers was very difficult. You need a network to allow you to reach the right employer and employees couldn’t find the right talent. So Rabea’s vision at the time was to create an information flows and resources to allow better connectivity of job seekers and employers and he called me one afternoon while I was in Switzerland and said, would you like to do this with me? And I told him I am in a brilliant job, making a lot of money, living in europe, as free as a bird. Why would I want to do that with you? And then when I shut the phone, I realized that what I wanted in the next phase of my life was to be empowered to make decisions that would create impact. Not only for me as an individual but for my surroundings and ultimately my family. And I knew that once we made a business like Bayt successful, and it wasn’t if we made it, it was once we made it successful and we empowered job seekers and employers to connect, we were really creating a regional impact story and that was so important for me. And that’s when the decision was made to kind of let everything go and jumped the ship, jumped into the ship of entrepreneurship.


Rana Nawas: (14:54)

Okay. So you were driven by the desire to have social impact.


Mona Ataya: (14:57)



Rana Nawas: (14:58)

In your region.


Mona Ataya: (14:59)



Rana Nawas: (15:00)

Okay. So can we talk a bit about what has taught you about online recruitment? So let’s get technical now cause some of our listeners will be using these online platforms to look for jobs and others will be using them as recruiters.


Mona Ataya: (15:13)



Rana Nawas: (15:13)

So what tips do you have for job hunters to make their profile more attractive?


Mona Ataya: (15:18)

Sure. So is really a safe environment for job seekers to showcase themselves to the largest network of employers in the region. Like putting their CV up there and their cover letter and being very specific with what skills they have, what experiences they have, what talents they have, and really bring these to life. Employers can connect with them through the base platform. So for example, if I’m an employer and I’m looking for a marketing manager and I’m specifically looking for PPC and SEO skills. So with a simple click of two buttons, which is PPC and SEO, I can find a portfolio of candidates that I kind of am able to then tap into very quickly and seamlessly. So Bayt is that environment.


Rana Nawas: (16:04)

How effective is online recruitment? How much do you, how much success do you have?


Mona Ataya: (16:09)

So Bayt currently houses over 55 million job seekers and has worked with tens of thousands of employees across the region and employs 350 employees across the MENA region. So how successful it is, it has been very successful for now 17 years, 18 years and it’s growing from strength to strength. So again, safe environment, confidential environment, and a no intermediary environment for job seekers and employers to engage effectively and cost effectively.


Rana Nawas: (16:44)

Great. So you were going to come to the tips for people to make their profile more attractive.


Mona Ataya: (16:50)

So again, they can do it themselves by really bringing to life their skills and experiences or they can hire help. Now I know that Bayt, for example, has resources internally that guides and assists job seekers who want help in positioning their CV in a more articulate way.


Rana Nawas: (17:07)

And any tips for people using your platform to recruit?


Mona Ataya: (17:09)

So again, we have tens of thousands of employers who post their jobs and job seekers apply to these jobs. Alternately they can just go into this database of hundreds of thousands of job seekers and search based on criteria that they’re looking for. So for example, at Mumzworld we have hired 85 percent of our staff within four five days through Bayt.


Rana Nawas: (17:33)

Oh wow. So let’s talk a little bit about Mumzworld. You decided to leave or you’re still involved somewhat.


Mona Ataya: (17:39)

I’m still a, I’m still a shareholder.


Rana Nawas: (17:41)

You’re still a shareholder but you’ve left the day to day?


Mona Ataya: (17:44)



Rana Nawas: (17:44)

And set up an ecommerce website called Mumzworld. Why? Why did you Mumzworld?


Mona Ataya: (17:49)

In 2004, I became a mother of twin boys. At the time I was still at I was the VP of marketing and business development and for the first time in a very long time I felt that I was stuck. I actually did not know where to look for information and resources about preparation for the babies. I was expecting twins. What do I buy? Where do I find it? How do I keep them safe? How do I, how am I going to prepare myself to be a good parent? The questions were endless and here I am an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, who thought of herself as very resourceful and for the first time ever I actually realized that I wasn’t resourceful at all, that I had no answers to endless questions and that’s when basically I turned to the internet to educate myself on how to prepare myself for children and the reality is all the content that I absorbed in the nine months of pregnancy was international content. It wasn’t local content. It wasn’t about what mothers in Dubai faced or what mothers in Saudi faced or mothers in the Middle East faced. It was all about what international, US, or european mother’s faced and I wanted localized content. I wanted mothers that I could relate to locally and that didn’t exist. Similarly, products while I found a lot of information about products internationally, I didn’t know how to tap into them locally.


Rana Nawas: (19:29)



Mona Ataya: (19:29)

So Mumzworld, the seed for Mumzworld was so because I experienced firsthand the frustration of lack of quality choice of products. When I went into the stores to find the products, the prices were very high in the world is very transparent. So when you compare local prices to international prices, you know very quickly that there’s a big discrepancy or big variance in local versus international prices. So prices in the region was super high. Information about these products was nonexistent, particularly Arabic information and a network of mothers or community that I can tap into that can support me. Particularly again, in my case, I was expecting twins. I wanted to tap into a community of twin mothers that can guide me and support me and give me advice and none of that existed. So Mumzworld was built to empower mothers to make the most informed decisions for their children. How do we do that? By giving mothers access to the widest quality choice of product under one umbrella that they can search, compare, and buy. By giving moms access to everyday low prices, so no ups and downs of prices, but letting the mother know that we’re giving you the best value for your money 365 days a year. Third, information about these products in arabic and english that’s comprehensive that allows you to make informed decisions. Fourth, a community that you can tap into that can support you and guide you and share information with you and last but certainly not least is getting you the product that you want, when you want it, as quickly as you want it. So again, if you want to buy a bicycle or a stroller, finding the widest range under one umbrella that you can search, compare, and buy and get it delivered to you within 48 hours.


Rana Nawas: (21:17)

So you have a story about bicycles. I remember when we met you had a great story. Can you share, and I think that was a real eyeopener for you. Can you share that story?


Mona Ataya: (21:26)

Sure. So the business plan from Mumzworld was written in the summer of 2011. At the time, I was fully entrenched in Bayt. I was a mother of three children. So starting another startup was not something that was on my agenda at all. I wrote the business plan out of a sheer need to bring to life something that was so important for the region without an intention for me to launch it and then when I shared it with my partners at Bayt, they were very excited and they encouraged me to start the business. I paused the business plan again until a faithful afternoon and I said this earlier, I said how dots are crossed and the opportunity presents itself and so here’s another opportunity that presented itself and I decided to take one way versus another way and basically it was one afternoon with the business plan parked in a closet that’s locked and my boys had been asking me for bicycles for many, many months. I know nothing about bicycles and my husband’s an athlete. He has his super duper bicycle that he rides every weekend. So I asked my husband, please take the boys and buy them bikes. Now, every weekend we would postpone to the next and the next and one afternoon I was looking down from our, from our window into the community garden and my twin boys, seven at the time, were standing there hand in hand looking out at about a dozen children in the community who are riding around in their bikes and my two boys were standing on the sidelines.


Rana Nawas: (23:09)



Mona Ataya: (23:09)

Basically watching and at that time I felt like the worst mother. I felt that I was failing my children and I thought to myself, you know, this is terrible. I’m going to solve this. I put the boys in my car, drove to the nearest mall in mall of the emirates, and went to the only shop there that had bikes. 1900 dirhams later I walked out feeling like I’d been ripped off, robbed.


Rana Nawas: (23:36)

1,900 dirhams.


Mona Ataya: (23:37)

For two bikes.


Rana Nawas: (23:37)

That’s like $500.


Mona Ataya: (23:39)

Yes. For two bikes. For two bikes for seven year olds.


Rana Nawas: (23:42)

For seven year olds.


Mona Ataya: (23:42)

Complete rip off and I knew at the end of the day, you want to, you want to make your children happy but at the same time you feel that you have just been cheated, essentially. So my boys got their bikes, that lasted them another six months and then we threw the bikes away, but that’s when I knew that if I did nothing but create a place where mothers truly feel empowered with choice, great prices and information and I can empower other mothers like I want to be empowered then I’ve made an impact and that’s really when I took the business plan out of the closet and said, I’m going to do this regardless of how hard it’s going to be.


Rana Nawas: (24:21)

Wow. I love that story. So let’s talk about how hard it was, how hard it’s been. Ecommerce is tough. So what challenges have you faced in building Mumzworld and how have you overcome them? Let’s talk about the challenges first.


Mona Ataya: (24:34)

Okay. So ecommerce is, for me, a very difficult industry. Probably the hardest industries I’ve worked in and the reason it’s difficult in the Middle East particularly is because there are so many touch points that need to be perfect for the customer experience to be perfect and ultimately it’s about the customer experience. The reason we get up everyday is to empower mothers to make informed decisions and to make their lives easier. That’s why we do what we do and in order for us to achieve that, we need to have products that are perfect. We need to have an online experience that’s seamless. When the order is placed, we need to have pickers and packers and quality checkers and last mile couriers and payment gateways and customer care. There’s about 21 touch points that have to be perfect for that customer experience to be perfect.


Rana Nawas: (25:29)



Mona Ataya: (25:29)

The reality is it’s easy to get one, two, three, even five customer touchpoints perfect. But you want to get 21 touch points perfect is a challenge. Maybe the packer that day is having a bad day. He might put a plastic box underneath a metal one and then bend the plastic box. Maybe the customer care when she called the customer wasn’t smiling at the time. So any of these touch points, unless they are really buttoned up and perfected, can create a bad customer experience and destroy the experience. So that’s the greatest challenge. The challenge is about how do we as an organization become so customer obsessed that everything, everyone in Mumzworld does is ultimately directed at making the customer’s experience perfect. Not good, not great, but perfect. So that’s one challenge. Another challenge is talent. So finding talent that can survive and contribute in an entrepreneurial environment in the Middle East is not easy because you work harder than ever. You get paid less than the corporate world and expectations towards excellence are tremendous and customer centricity is as, is everything. It’s a no compromise and you need skills and you need skills that are ecommerce specific. So how do you find that equation and that equation is difficult to find in this part of the world. So you have to building it. You have to build it internally.


Rana Nawas: (27:05)

Gotcha. Okay and so is that what you’ve done?


Mona Ataya: (27:07)

We have.


Rana Nawas: (27:08)

So how have you addressed both those challenges? One of the seamless process and the other of the hiring.


Mona Ataya: (27:14)

Okay. The, the ecommerce ecosystem has come a long way in the past seven years, so payment gateways. When we started there was one payment gateway, sweet. Now there’s a handful last month career services, there was two or three that were used to slower deliveries. Now there are more to the ecosystem is shaping up which has made again our touch points or some of our touchpoints much easier. And we have also, we as an organization, very customer obsessed. Everything we do is about empowering our staff to empower the mothers. And so we hire a certain dna. We highly dna that’s obsessed with mothers that are typically parents themselves too. They get it so with customer care or mothers themselves, they get the urgency that the mother feels on the other line, so we have been able to create a culture or dna within mum’s world that is customer obsessed and that has helped us and again, the ecosystem because it’s had shaped up, has also helped us. We had built our own warehouses, so we in the past used to rely on last mile on a third party logistics providers, probably warehousing that. We do everything internally, so we have our own warehouses here in dubai. We’re building our own warehouses and saudi and that gives us much more control over every touch point, which is important.


Rana Nawas: (28:30)

Yeah. I think I read that in Tony Hsie’s book, the founder of Zappos.


Mona Ataya: (28:34)



Rana Nawas: (28:34)

I think he went that way as well and ended up buying his own warehouse. So I read somewhere that if you knew back in 2011 when you started Mumzworld, if you knew then what you know now that you would have done, I think, 90 percent of your decisions you would have taken differently. Why did, what made you say that?


Mona Ataya: (28:50)

I think that the challenges of ecommerce in this part of the world and the sacrifices and the compromises it requires of an entrepreneur are tremendous and I think I went in there recognizing that it was going to be an uphill battle, but not knowing how difficult that uphill battle is and I think that if I had known back then I would have prepared myself perhaps emotionally and mentally to cope with it more. So at the end of the day as a mother, you typically compromise yourself and your time versus your family or your staff, etcetera. So that’s one thing that I would have kind of gone in with wider eyes. The other one is really about the people and hiring talent that fits the DNA. It took us a while to really understand that equation, that DNA equation that will fit within the entrepreneurial environment in the Middle East. It took us awhile. But once we cracked it, we were able to look out for certain professional character traits that even though they may not have the skill set on day one, they have the character traits that we knew would allow them to figure it out and succeed.


Rana Nawas: (30:15)

So are you one of those hiring managers who believes more in character than scale?


Mona Ataya: (30:20)

One hundred percent.


Rana Nawas: (30:21)



Mona Ataya: (30:21)

One hundred percent. Top A players all have similar character traits. All of them have similar character traits.


Rana Nawas: (30:28)

And do you have men and women on your team? Are there men who work at Mumzworld?


Mona Ataya: (30:31)



Rana Nawas: (30:32)

Oh, okay.


Mona Ataya: (30:32)

We have diversity in gender, in age, in backgrounds.


Rana Nawas: (30:37)

Mona, you’ve received many awards and you’ve achieved so much. Could you just highlight two or three achievements you’re most proud of?


Mona Ataya: (30:45)

Endeavor is an achievement. Endeavor approached us six years ago, five years ago.


Rana Nawas: (30:51)

Can you just tell us what endeavor is?


Mona Ataya: (30:53)

Ok so Endeavor is a group of global entrepreneurs that are handpicked from around the world and they are entrepreneurs that are considered to be on the tipping point of great impact. So they are businesses that are expected to create great global or large global impact. For us to be approached by Endeavor very early on was a great privilege and a great honor and we were actually the first women led business in the region to be part of Endeavor so I feel very proud of that. I’m also very proud that our selection process with Endeavor took two months. Usually it takes up to a year. So we were literally selected and in Endeavor in a record amount of time. So and endeavor has opened a lot of doors for us. It has opened doors to a global network of phenomenal entrepreneurs who are really shaping the world’s ecosystem, as well as resources for mentorship and resources for just building the business. So it’s been a fantastic experience from day one. The other, the other thing that I’m particularly proud of is mentorship. So what this role has allowed me to do is to engage with entrepreneurs whether they are women or men and say it as it is I am, I think I’m known to be very, very open and very honest and I will kind of share the good, the bad, and the very ugly. So I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of entrepreneurs and mentoring them.


Rana Nawas: (32:39)

So you have mentees right now?


Mona Ataya: (32:41)

I do.


Rana Nawas: (32:41)

A few. Let’s talk about fundraising because you’ve raised, I think five rounds, which is a lot considering you’re only not even seven years old.


Mona Ataya: (32:50)



Rana Nawas: (32:50)

That’s incredible. Can you tell us a bit about that, how you did it, and what lessons you’ve learned along the way?


Mona Ataya: (32:55)

Sure. So fundraising goes hand in hand with building large businesses, particularly ecommerce. So ecommerce needs heavy capital to grow and to grow fast. We’ve been doubling and tripling our top line since we launched. So we are in hyper growth mode and hypergrowth mode is expensive. You need to build your infrastructure, you need to build your staff, etc. We’ve been proud of every touch point of funding. The seed round was us, the founders. The A round was institutional a brick and mortar investors from the region. We wanted brick and mortar investors in because we gave the online kind of experience and they would add value on the brick and mortar experience so that was a great kind of a marriage and then we raised a women only round back in 2012 and the objective there was to open a funding round at a discounted rate only to women who wanted to come back to the work environment and feel like they’re contributing to the region. So these women investors would help shape Mumzworld. We’re a business built by mothers for mothers. So what better investors than mothers to add value. We sent out a press release about the women only led funding and within two days we had, I think over 300 women who came in to meet us. These are your women who want to create impact. So you had stay at home moms who were doctors before, but decided to stay at home with their kids, which is fantastic. You had business owners, you had entrepreneurs. So out of this large selection we selected seven women who came in on the funding round and these seven women are very diverse. They Include an MIT grad and a venture capitalist owner, a stay at home mother who used to be a media manager, but now she decided to take care of her four children. You had a woman who heads 85 broads. So very diverse and these women meet with us regularly to help shape the future of Mumzworld and they are the eyes and the ears of Mumzworld in the market. We then raised our A round, which was our first really large round led by Wamda Capital couple of years ago. Wanda brings a lot of richness in resources and information and a great portfolio of other investment companies that we’ve tapped into, including I believe Careema and then we recently closed our biggest fundraising to date with six of our existing investors who came in again, which I think is a great testament to their faith and trust in the brands projectory and we also bought in three new, very large Saudi investors and these large Saudi investors are all FMCG giants in Saudi. Tamir group is one example. They are the distributor and manufacturer program with Johnson & Johnson products and Nestle. So they are the perfect for a perfect fit for a brand like Mumzworld.


Rana Nawas: (36:08)

So when I hear you saying all of your rounds actually you weren’t just after money, they had to bring the investors had to bring something else to the table.


Mona Ataya: (36:15)

One hundred percent.


Rana Nawas: (36:16)

Like the women brought, you know, motherhood, their experience and they’re your eyes and ears as you say or Wamda Capital brought a lot of connections and experiences in their investments in tech companies like Careem you’re right and also the last one, the last round is that because you’re planning to expand into Saudi.


Mona Ataya: (36:36)

Saudi will be our biggest market by the end of this year. It’s our fastest growing market, it’s a, we started kind of driving in Saudi early last year and it’s overtaking every other market by leaps and bounds. It’s a very exciting market for us. We’re already the leaders there. We’re the leaders in the region for mother baby and child and in Saudi we have very quickly kind of anchored our leadership and, you know, much of the scale is coming from there. So this, these two strategic partnerships in investors opens a lot of doors for us both into brands as well as into infrastructure in Saudi as we build warehouse capabilities, infrastructure capabilities, hiring talent capabilities to super, super exciting times for us in Saudi and really across the entire region.


Rana Nawas: (37:20)

Yeah. Well I wish you the very best of luck with that move. Mona, I’d like to shift away from the business section and move to some personal rapid fire questions. Just a few. What’s a book you’ve recently gIfted someone?


Mona Ataya: (37:31)

The Why Engine. It’s a book about identifying your why and your motivation. What is it that gets you up in the morning every day? and this relates not only to individuals but also to organizations and this is something that we talk about at Mumzworld all the time and that is why are we doing what we’re doing when the, it gets tough and the challenges are tremendous. Let’s remember what we’re trying to do from others and that why is what allows us to maneuver through the maze.


Rana Nawas: (38:03)

Great and do you have a morning or evening routine that helps you get through the day?


Mona Ataya: (38:09)

So my morning coffee is absolutely essential.


Rana Nawas: (38:12)

Okay. And if you could have coffee with one person from history, who would it be and why?


Mona Ataya: (38:18)

So look, I mean, I’d have to say, I know it sounds a bit cliche, but I’ll have to say it’s my grandmother. My grandmother had 13 children and my father being the eldest of 13 children and she raised them all in Lebanon and they’re all leaders and winners of their own accord. They all are creating impact. So you know, for me a true, a true winner is the mother who is blessed with the privilege of raising a human being and allowing that human being really to create impact, to fly, to do something that’s useful, to use their time wisely, and she was a very kind grounded human being who believed that life was easy in so far that you followed your passion because all of the challenges that come in your passion journey becomes irrelevant because you’re getting to that end goal. So what happens in that journey is secondary to that end goal and in her raising 13 children who each has five children. So my father, the oldest of 13 has five children. We are all very connected, we are very.


Rana Nawas: (39:32)

That’s lot of cousins, Mona.


Mona Ataya: (39:33)

It’s a lot of cousins and many of them live around us. So as a family we are very connected. We’re very united and we cherish that and we value that.


Rana Nawas: (39:43)

Your grandmother sounds like an incredible woman.


Mona Ataya: (39:45)

She was.


Rana Nawas: (39:45)

Now it’s very new agey to talk about following your passion and she was doing it, you know, back then. That’s amazing. Wonderful, Mona. Thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on this show. If listeners want to find you, how do they do that?


Mona Ataya: (39:58)

They can reach me easily through Mumzworld social media. So we have the insta pages, we have snapchat, we have twitter, linkedin, through all of the social media I can be reached.


Rana Nawas: (40:11)

Great. Thank you again, Mona. This was fabulous.


Mona Ataya: (40:14)

My pleasure. Thank you. Thank you, Careem.


Rana Nawas: (40:17)

A special thanks again to Careem for making this interview possible and in your cars. It’s been a lot of fun. Much appreciated. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. You can check out show notes and more episodes at or search When Women Win on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. I’d also love to hear your feedback and ideas for who I should bring on the show. You can find me on instagram at @RanaNawas. Thanks and have a great day.



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