Sheikha Hend AlQassemi: A challenging road to success

Photo courtesy Sheikha Hend Faisal AlQassemi

By Fatma Albastaki

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – After being bullied in a university abroad because she stood out as the different student, Sheikha Hend Faisal AlQassemi dropped out from that university, but that was only one station out of many in her rollercoaster journey towards being a successful entrepreneur.

“When people bully you, you’re doing something right,” Sheikha Hend said. “They first attack you, make fun of you, then they copy you and become your biggest fans.”

Sheikha Hend payed a special visit to Zayed University on Jan. 30 to conduct a workshop on how to be a successful entrepreneur. She identifies as a “parallel entrepreneur” as she is a published journalist, has her own best-selling book and magazine, and her own fashion line. Sheikha Hend also has a strong academic background: She has a master’s degree in management, marketing, communication and media from Paris Sorbonne University, a master’s in project management from the University of Manchester, and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Design Management from American University of Sharjah.

Sheikha Hend’s inspiring discussion and charismatic personality filled in the room during the whole workshop as she explained the concept of parallel entrepreneurship, and emphasized the realistic side of starting a business, and how being an entrepreneur is not just a self-fulfilling journey but rather a journey full of ups and downs where failure is highly possible.

Sheikha Hend started off the workshop by explaining that a “parallel entrepreneur” is a person who is an entrepreneur in multiple areas of business. She gave an example of Elon Musk as a successful parallel entrepreneur who was among the inventors of PayPal, introduced the electric car Tesla, and has a space manufacturing and transportation company called SpaceX.

From these example of Musk’s success, his career path seems very idealistic.  But Sheikha Hend wasn’t trying to fill the head of the student workshop participants with dreamy visions of success. The workshop was perfectly balanced by her empowering words that made students dream, and also by realistic examples of the challenging world.

As examples of challenges that one must face in the real world, Sheikha Hend said that Musk was bullied in school for being different, and until this day he faces breathing problems as a result of being beaten by his classmates. Sheikha Hend also told students that at some point of his life he even got kicked out of his own company. Musk faced many other rejections in his rollercoaster journey and failed many times in his space projects until he succeeded. Musk’s career was finally a success after many failed attempts, generating nonstop ideas and not giving up—persistence, being according to Sheikha Hend, the most important ingredient in success as an entrepreneur.

Aside from persistence, however, Sheikha Hend shared some other tips of success with the students. She encouraged students to gain knowledge by reading.

“Read every day,” she said. “Even if it’s one page.”

Sheikha Hend also said that having strong social skills is crucial for any career or business. She pointed out that being a female is powerful but in the Arab culture a female might face many challenges.

“It is considered feminine to be shy,” Sheikha Hend said and countered that by saying “If you have a good thing to say, speak up.”

Sheikha Hend ended the workshop by giving the students a chance to ask her questions and engage in discussion with her. I took the chance and asked her what makes a business stand out and succeed when it is difficult to compete with other businesses. She answered by saying that anyone who wants to stand out should think outside the box and stand out by being different.

About the author: Fatma Albastaki majors in International Studies with the concentration in Political Economy and Development at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Zayed University in Dubai. She is also pursuing a minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Fatma is a Dean’s List recipient and a contributing writer at Zajel.

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This story was edited by Yulia Medvedeva, an assistant professor in the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University in Dubai.

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