What stands out to you/has surprised you about your leadership development through the Fellowship to date?
In a recent interview, I gave the following quote: “The change that you want to see and the things you want to make a difference in don’t come for free; it doesn’t come easy.”
This quote illustrates my leadership development through my Fellowship to date. When I started the Executive MBA program, I thought it would be quite easy because my undergraduate degree is in business and I have worked for various corporations for 15 years. I considered it would be mostly a refresher. However, I found that the Executive MBA program is challenging and rewarding. This year, I took required classes and will not take any electives until next year. My classes included Managerial Accounting, Macro Economics, Marketing Strategy, Law and Business, Corporate Finance, and Organizational Leadership. I pushed myself to learn new skills, explored opportunities for career growth that I had never considered before, developed friendships with people from various backgrounds, and have become more strategic and visionary in my approach.
I have learned my leadership development is a journey and that I have to be ready to adjust and adapt to any changes that may come my way. I may have a strong vision but it may not go exactly as I had planned- and that is okay. I have learned that the journey is more important than the final destination.
Sometimes a curveball is thrown my way and it is not something I had planned on. For example, the current presidential election has created unprecedented Islamophobia. The current situation requires me to be there for my community and to play an active role in fixing the false, negative narrative that is out there about my faith and culture. As a father, I feel a responsibility for making sure that my children do not grow up as American Muslims in a hostile, unfriendly community. My 5-year-old son recently asked where we would go if Donald Trump kicks us out of this country. My son is third generation American Muslim, yet he is worried about his future in his country. That is unacceptable and requires me to speak up and do what I can to connect with my community and build bridges of understanding. I hope to inspire more people to speak out and stand in solidarity with the American Muslim community. It is a challenging time right now, but it is also a historic time that will define us as Americans. It requires all of us to do something.
I have also learned important lessons in prioritizing and time management. With family commitments, work, community involvement, school, there is a lot going on and it can sometimes be challenging. My baby daughter was born in December and I wanted to make sure I was there for her first and was a strong presence in this new little person’s life. I have learned that when I don’t have enough time and need help, it is okay to ask for it. I have also worked on simplifying my life and focusing on the moment. Recently, my baby daughter said her first word- Baba (which translates to father in Urdu). I am proud that I have been able to balance and prioritize thus far and hope to continue to meet that challenge as my fellowship continues.
During the second half of my Fellowship journey, I seek to continue networking. This year, I have made great friendships through my MBA cohort, co-workers and through my community engagement work.
I have sought mentors for myself in the corporate sector, reaching out mostly to people from diverse racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds who are in executive leadership positions in their companies. I am interested in hearing their stories and learning about their journeys, which are filled with both challenges and rewards. This helps me develop and evaluate my own journey.
As I have sought mentors, I also learned that I can- and need to- mentor others. Several new employees at my company have reached to me, especially as part of new role in the Muslim affinity group, to learn about my leadership journey. I have committed myself to never refusing any of these meetings and have made time, even on days when there are project deadlines, term papers, soccer practices, baby appointments, presentation requests and more. I feel a responsibility as a Bush Fellow to be there for others and set a positive example for those, especially young people of color, seeking growth opportunities in a sector that historically has been unrepresentative of them.