A few years ago, we started bringing together successful Egyptian women, under one roof as part of our #Hanefra7BikiEmta campaign and now we decided to extend this into a series of articles highlighting some of the most successful women across diverse fields.
When it comes to female Entrepreneurs, Nayrouz AbouZeid, owner and managing director of Ego Communicate, proves passion and determination can make wonders. Ego Communicate is an integrated PR and media agency based in Egypt. The leading agency is part of Nayrouz’s effort to provide sustainable platforms for start-up companies and established brands across the region that need healthy representation through efficient and strategic communication.
What is the thing you are the most proud of in your career?
A few years back I would have answered with specific events, or clients I signed, or even targets I personally achieved. Reality is, however, that with hard work and dedication this can be achieved by almost anyone- if they put their minds to it. So, what I’m really proud of is having preserved the principles and values I was raised by throughout it all ; although it came at a high price given the market’s ambiguous moral compass I stuck to my own ‘book of rules’. It may seem absurd that one can feel pride in not submitting to market pressures and consequently losing one’s integrity, but in my very personal opinion THIS is the ultimate achievement.
What are some of the challenges you faced to prove yourself as a successful woman in our society & specifically as a manager of a big PR company like EGO communicate?
I’ve had incidents where associates or partners automatically assumed that my entire career was based on knowing the right people, rather than the effort I put into my work. And although it could be part of the formula, it certainly isn’t the whole truth. It’s hard to deal with a market that talks to you like you’re privileged all the time. I think with PR and Communication in general, the back end of the business is never taken seriously; it is assumed that we make a few calls, sign a few papers and head to our events without any level of stress. For those who know better, can relate to how far from reality that assumption is. However, I can’t really complain, given that I personally know women who are facing tougher struggles in their work space; such as sexual harassment, lower pay and a general gender-based underestimation. These are issues that need to be addressed daily.
Can you tell us more about the challenges you faced when you first started setting up your business?
Oh my… Well for starters my lack of business education was the first and constant challenge. Not having an ample understanding of finance, business structure, HR has made my growth a very organic but unplanned one. In ways, this has benefited me because unlike established “By the Book” type of companies, I was more versatile and adapting to my surroundings faster. Nonetheless, I still face issues where I don’t really comprehend the importance of a strong work structure; I play by ear most of my decisions, and I follow my gut in pretty much all of my business endeavors. Entering a corporate market with that kind of attitude was challenging, because my clients needed to just trust me; not really knowing what to expect. The amount of times I walked out of a meeting where a client literally tells me “I am not sure what you’re going to do, but I trust you and feel like I’m in safe hands” is infinite.
Do you think a male counterpart would have had the same challenges as female entrepreneurs or a female manager?
I have always said that being a woman isn’t a disadvantage. At times, women can be even facilitators to their male counterparts. The problem is that some women enter the work space with a rigid belief that they will be judged and underestimated, killing every chance they have to be taken seriously. Yes, there are realities where women are indeed isolated and not given the same opportunities, but I also know an equal amount of women who have stood up for their work, used their minds, surpassed everyone’s expectation and by default sat at the same power table the men have been sitting at for years.
What is your take on working moms who have to meet unrealistic expectations of their work-life balance?
It’s a conscious decision. We all fall victims to a negativity associated to the lack of personal time due to work, but that’s partly instigated by our mind. If you’re a mother, and you need/choose to work; being perfect isn’t the target. The real achievement, the real pat on the back, is to not feel guilty. Every mother I sit with who has a busy working schedule rants about her sense of guilt, but you have to also appreciate the fact that you’re doing this with a purposeful motive. The state of mind of the working mom needs to be practical, honest and organized. A simple solution is to create a ‘Family time’ that is sacred, even if its only two days a week. This may be the beginning of an attempt to balancing work and life. I don’t know if this means anything to you, but I personally know moms who have all the time and money in the world, and still don’t spend good quality time with their families. We all have our agendas.
Do you think men also hear “hanefra7 bik emta”or face the same social pressure about marriage as women?
Yes. Yes. And Yes. I have male friends who complain about their marriages non-stop because they were pressured into tying the knot – as a result of “Hanefra7 Beek Emta”. My brother, who is possibly the most stubborn man I know, has been asked this question every time he visits Egypt- no wonder he lives abroad. Men are certainly not exempt.
When were you able to convince people that your successes are not necessarily related to marriage & children?
That’s a tricky question because to be very honest with you, I measure my own success by how well I raise my son and how balanced my life at home is, despite my career. No career in my opinion, as grateful as I am for everything I’ve reached, is complete without THAT balance. I never tried to convince anyone about my success, it is either acknowledged or it isn’t. You know what I mean?
As a working mother & boss lady…How do you keep the momentum & encourage yourself to keep going when you feel burnout? Any tips for our readers?
I would love to give tips, but unfortunately I too feel burnout many, many days a year. It comes with the job. The only thing I can say is to know when to stop; life is really about timing. Also, it’s okay to fall apart and pick up the pieces because without this happening no growth can ever take place. Enjoy the process.