From a stable salary to the risk of going it alone
Interview with Rana Askoul,
an entrepreneur who ‘Just did it’!
As part of global womens month, were highlighting an entrepreneur who ‹just did it›, linking nicely with other articles featured in this issue about the role mentors and start-ups can play for the future development of our region.
Thank you for agreeing to share your experience with our readers. Can you tell us a little about when you decided you had to leave the life of an employee and become an entrepreneur?
I remember clearly sitting with a close friend and mentor almost three years ago, being both confused and surprised. I had reached out to her soon after receiving a long-awaited promotion. It was a golden moment in my career life, yet all I could think about was resigning.
After discussing it in detail with her, she summarised my situation in one sentence that resonates deeply to this day: “You are at the top of your career ladder Rana … but perhaps you are on the wrong ladder?”. It was then that I realised the immediate need for me to leave my job and explore other parts of my existence that desperately needed exploring.
What did you decide to do?
As a driven independent Arab woman, I had a strong passion for writing, making a difference in my region and achieving financial independence. With this in mind, I set out to create a new career ladder, one that transforms my values, skills and dreams into a new image that more closely resembles me.
A few months down the line, Changing Pink was born. A first of its kind initiative in the Middle East, Changing Pink’s sole focus is on developing and growing women leaders in the region. My background as a business leader, my human resources and corporate training experience, and my passion for empowering the disadvantaged provided the best platform to launch me into leading such an initiative.
Can you outline your vision and what this means to women in the region?
My vision is to position Changing Pink as the ‘go-to’ resource for women development and growth in the region. This vision can only become a reality through partnering with companies, organisations and institutions. Through such partnerships, we train both men and women on how we can involve and grow more women leaders for the betterment of our economies, societies and communities. We also work on raising awareness through reaching and connecting to women from all walks of life. Engaging women in building their own leadership skills whether in corporate, entrepreneurial, community or political arenas is crucial to lift the status of women in our region, and lift the status of our region all together.
How do you rate your experience of taking the leap and becoming an entrepreneur?
I’m often asked about why I traded a successful, stable corporate career for the risky and often difficult life of an entrepreneur. There is not one particular reason but plenty. They range from an internal desire to make my own mark in the world all the way to creating a life that suits my personal and family needs. But mostly, as my journey on this road continues, I often think back to a quote by Martin Luther King in which he says: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”. So every time I knock on doors that don’t open, and every time open doors all of a sudden close, I try harder. In all that I do today, it is one single thing that I aspire the most to: to change someone’s life for the better.
Rana Askoul is the founder of Changing Pink, the first regional initiative with a focus on developing women leaders in the corporate sector.
Prior to her founding role at Changing Pink, Rana was the Organisation & Development Director for General Electric, covering the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey regions.
Rana also led the establishment of the first regional Board Director Institute in her role as Institute Manager with McKinsey & Company.
Rana is also a published writer. She contributes to ‘The National’ among other regional newspapers. Rana’s writing also includes “So the rain won’t stop”, a collection of poems reflecting her passions, perspectives and experiences.
Rana pursued her education in Canada. She is a graduate in the field of Human Resource Development and an accredited coach. Rana is married and currently works and lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.