The story of a leader who believes that the key to happiness and success lies in gratitude

44_Heba El Shabrawy_En

Heba El Shabrawy is a hard working leader who is loved and respected by those who know her.  Her story radiates with gratefulness, positivity, proactivity and acceptance as a way of life for those who want to reach true success.  I met Heba several times, while she was working at Maersk and then again at Astra Zeneca, and every time she leaves on me an impression of strength, will power and self-confidence accompanied by a radiant smile and subtle sense of humor.  Here is her story

I am currently HR director for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, a great company with a mission to always put Egyptian patients first where I have been working now for almost 4 years . I started my career 17 years ago with Maersk, the World’s Biggest Shipping Line. I have to say I was lucky to start off my career with a great school like Maersk which formed my professional personality. I spent great 13 years there exploring different commercial roles until I settled in HR where I found my real passion where I spent 8 years before I joined my current employer. Through the HR career, I have identified that my real passion is making a difference and leaving an impact on the people and the business. Moving things and making things happen is what makes me excited going to work every day. I believe I’m one of those people who finds joy in transforming the environment I work in and the moment I feel “ it’s business as usual”, I would be looking forward to the next opportunity. I remember I had a British manager before I left Maersk and when he asked me the reason why I want to move on to another company although Maersk was a great place, I told him “ I feel like I’m a person who has baked a cake that looks good and tastes good and all what is left is to add some cream on top, what I really miss is to bake the cake and enjoy the smell coming out of the oven” and here came AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals as an opportunity, a place with a lot of potential and what it needed was the drive and passion to transform and make a difference. I realized at that stage of my career that I know what my passion is, what makes me happy, and I went for it.

I’m alhamdullah happily married with 2 amazing kids whom I am deeply proud of. Looking back I have to say, it wasn’t an easy ride to maintain the family life, take good care of my family which is my priority and drive my career forward. There have been ups and downs but along the way I was lucky to have a great support system including my in laws and my family. I know career oriented women with families sometimes feel like they want to give up along the way but you know what, when you are in that situation remember “this too shall pass. Of course, I get stressed out sometimes. If anyone says they don’t get stressed out, they’re lying. But you need to take the time to reflect on what you have and to focus on the fact that “ I have enough”. How you see life is all in your head. Do you choose to focus on what you have and to be thankful for it or choose to look for what you’re missing.  You need to hang in there and to keep going and to believe in yourself and to be thankful and to appreciate all those who support you in your journey. Don’t get embarrassed to ask for support when needed, you give and you take and that’s what keep you going.

Reflecting on my experience, the biggest learning that one gets is at times of change. If you maintain the status quo, you are certainly missing out on a great learning opportunity. I am a very curious person and I link this quality to my success. I am always eager to learn, there is always something new that you can learn if you open your eyes and humbly ask for support. I learn through reflecting on what happens throughout the day, open up your eyes and be observant and reflect. I always think of human beings as currencies, they are never stable, they are either appreciating or depreciating in comparison to other currencies. If others around you are learning and accordingly growing, they are appreciating which then means that you ( with the metaphor of a currency) is depreciating. Change, curiosity, and the humbleness and willingness to learn are key triggers to One’s success.

I think one of the important life lessons that I would like to pass on to my daughter and to any career oriented young woman is to carefully choose her life partner. You need a man who would support your career and would be happy to see you grow and succeed and that’s key in selecting your life partner. If not for my husband and his willingness to support me and his acceptance of my career as part of Who I am, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to make it and I wouldn’t be the person I am now.

I’m blessed to have a great mother, Mona Dokla, whom I am sure has contributed a lot to Who I am now and Who is my role model. I learnt from her discipline, perseverance, persistence,  wanting to be successful and not settling for being average. My mom has always been a working mother and despite of her career, she was always keen on us and has put me and my brother always as a priority, teaching us to love each other that I would say I would gladly prioritize my brother over myself at any point in time.  I wish I am half what she is. The thing I admire about my mom the most is her faith and “El Reda” with whatever God brings. “It’s that feeling of gratitude and content that makes you happy”, my mom always says. It’s how you choose to focus on what you have and to overlook what you don’t have, it’s about how you enjoy those little things and to deeply thank God for them and not to take them fore granted, it’s about that constant feeling that God is next to you and that HE is always there for you through the good times and the bad times. My father, Dr. Adel El Shabrawy,  as well the least to say is ragol 3azeem who believes in women having a career and who considers work as a way to have a “complete” life and not just to earn money.

In my point of view, success is strongly related to curiosity, willingness to learn, not fearing failure, believing in one self yet being humble, and trusting those around you. If you give trust, you get it back. Like I would say it’s very important to choose a supportive life partner, your success also relies on the team you work with. I relate my success to the amazing teams I work with. Look for people who are different from you, ones who will “complete” you, appreciate their work, and challenge them to become the best versions of themselves. I tell my team we all have two jobs 1) to do our job, 2) and to improve our job. It’s that continuous drive to improve and make things better that make successful teams.

There is no one standard recipe for work-life balance. It is very personal to each one of us.  No matter how ambitious you are, it is perfectly o.k. to slow down at times when your family need you the most and to speed up and grasp opportunities when you can. I visualize career life as a dance, it goes slow sometimes and fast and loud at other times depending on the atmosphere around you.

The most important thing is to keep on learning and to keep on going. Avoid drama  with any price, choose to be content and accordingly happy. It’s all in your head.

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