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Aysha Al-Mudahka is the chief executive of the Qatar Business Incubation Centre, the largest mixed-use business incubator in the Middle East, and a founding member of the Roudha Centre, which promotes women’s entrepreneurship and innovation. Before this, she worked for the Qatar Financial Centre Authority and the Qatar Finance and Business Academy.
Ms Al-Mudahka has completed two executive education programmes at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business. She also recently studied for an executive MBA at HEC Paris, the first European business school to open a branch in Qatar. During this time, she specialised in reinventing business in emerging markets.
1. Who are your business influences?
My first boss, Fetooh Al Zayani, who was managing director of business development at the Qatar Financial Center Authority at the time. Fetooh showed me how to search for my career path and follow it with passion.
2. What have been your best and worst business decisions to date?
Taking an internship in New York City at an insurance company at the beginning of my career was both the best decision and worst. I learnt that working in insurance is definitely not what I’m looking for in my career.
3. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
Read, read, read. Never stop reading as it’s food for the brain.
4. What would you do if you were dean of a business school for the day?
I would create an endowment fund to encourage entrepreneurship in all the different schools at the university. We cannot live without innovation in education any more.
5. What advice would you give to women graduating this year from business school?
Everything and anything is possible, never use gender or culture constraints as an excuse, but rather an opportunity to become better in society.
6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I’m learning how every day. I stick to my intuitions and I am patient to choose the right battles. Some battles are not worth fighting when others think in different ways. A lesson learnt from my current boss is play with what you have and manage it.
7. What is your favourite business book?
At the moment The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, as we are living by the book’s principles at the Qatar Business Incubation Center. My favourite quote is: “If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.”
8. Which website would you recommend for businesswomen?
MaRS, the website of a Canadian incubator, as it has a huge free library and great resources.
9. What are your top tips for networking?
Keep networks going by doing activities together and make sure that these networks are with like-minded people. I’m a member of the Global Shapers Community — Doha Hub, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, which is a network of hubs developed and led by young people who have exceptional potential and drive to make a contribution to their communities.
I’m also a member of Tomouh. This is a Khaleeji (Gulf) network of hand-selected top achievers, in any academic or professional field, that enables different leaders to co-operate with each other, and achieve greater success by sharing career opportunities and resources.
10. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I’m a multitasker, which works well for me, although sometimes I think that focusing on only one thing at time would achieve more. Having said that, I wouldn’t change anything because I have learnt a lot from my mistakes and the challenges in my everyday life. I am grateful for all the learning experiences that came along the way.