Do not be scared to try new things
Natalie Sleiman

Natalie Sleiman

Natalie Sleiman
Nationality: Lebanese Year Graduated: 2014 Current Role: Head of U.A.E, She Loves Tech

What made you decide to do an EMBA?

At the 12th year mark of my professional career, I felt that what had got me so far was not as effective in getting me to the senior ranks where competition, politics and gender favouritism were at full play. I wanted to validate the answer to the questions of “what differentiates me?” and “what can I do to strengthen my profile?” and “how can I do things as effectively as possible?” INSEAD was the answer. 

Why the INSEAD EMBA?

First, the brand: INSEAD is a top-ranked school.

Second, the network, which is known for having one of the strongest, most connected alumnI communities in the world.

Third, the exposure: it is a programme where you are put in the same room with other leading executives from backgrounds and cultures from across the globe, which provided a catapulted learning experience. Moreover, the programme was highly engaging, especially the leadership development programme which gave me an inside vision into how I can improve as a leader and gain the skills to run the team dynamics of today.  

How has the INSEAD EMBA helped you in your career? 

The brand helped to position me as a professional who is keen on building a career and not only running a daytime job. When one invests in oneself, it makes other people want to invest in him/her as well. 

How did you juggle studies and your busy work schedule at the same time?

I think being busy makes you better at getting any job done because you start allocating time more effectively. Honestly, what made it easier was the class spirit. We shared laughs about the stress and knew how to release tension when we all got together. We made the pressure part of the game. To add to the juggling, I actually got pregnant with my first child halfway through. The school offered total flexibility for me and I graduated together with my classmates.

Having gender parity in leadership positions has a long way to go still in the Middle East. Could you share any challenges you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

I not only worked in the Middle East but in the automotive industry as well, where gender parity is at an all-time low.

I think like any woman eager to rise into the higher ranks, I never shied away from revealing my ambitions and asking for more positions of responsibility, which gave me the opportunity to prove myself as a capable professional.

Add to that that in the Middle East, a woman has to break a lot of stereotypes to succeed. I believe, for the most part, the key to success was my go-getter character and knowledge which I supported with research, certifications and then the EMBA. That in itself gave me the credibility to prove that I knew what I was talking about. 

 Any advice to women out there, especially in the Middle East who are looking to step up in their career?

Recognise glass ceilings in corporations and break free from bosses that do not push you forward. Do not be scared to try new things and be proud; there is a lot of power that comes from confidence. Invest in yourself always! One of my best professional experiences is working for a boss that empowered me and wanted to invest in my talent. In fact, he is also an INSEAD alum.

Did the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) make an impact on you?

Absolutely! It showed me what I needed to work on to overcome the challenges that I faced daily, which were sometimes borne out of my own character. It expanded my vision and gave me a fresh perspective both externally and introspectively.

What advice will you give to potential participants looking to do an INSEAD EMBA?

Consider the EMBA in the context of time and commitment. It is a great experience but choose it at the right time for you professionally and personally. 

For me, I chose to do my EMBA when I felt stuck in my career development track and needed to know how I rated as a professional, and how I can be a better one. I never expected that my journey would be this heartfelt and quite an eye-opener. Realising ones’ potential in one of the leading business schools of the world is absolutely empowering. 

Any specific message to women out there who are looking to fulfil their full potential?

It’s a pity how many women in the workplace struggle to compete on the same level as men given family obligations. But my message to all women especially mothers, is to invest in your learning always. Though I have been on an extended maternity break, I am always reminded that I can get back stronger and more focused on what I want to do. The opportunities are endless. All of this, I have learned at INSEAD.

Lastly, don't forget to have fun - that's part of the uniqueness of the INSEAD journey!