Farah Al Qaissieh, founder of Stutter UAE and Discover AE on women in the workplace | UAE News Farah Al Qaissieh, founder of Stutter UAE and Discover AE on women in the workplace | UAE News
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Farah Al Qaissieh, founder of Stutter UAE and Discover AE on women in the workplace

Farah Al Qaissieh, founder of Stutter UAE and Discover AE on women in the workplace

The authors of Game Changers speak to Farah Al Qaissieh, founder of Stutter UAE and Discover AE


Farah Al Qaissieh is the founder of Stutter UAE, a support platform for stutterers to meet, interact and inspire one another while raising awareness in the broader community.

She also founded Discover AE, a mobile application that features the emirates’ many gems for people who seek to have new and different experiences in the UAE.

With a background in finance, strategy and involvement in entrepreneurship, Farah is a mentor to several social and entrepreneurial initiatives such as e7 – banat el emarat and Flat6Labs, in addition to being the UAE Ambassador for the youth entrepreneurship organisation WeAreTheFuture.

What are the key reasons nations, societies and organisations should invest in greater diversity?

“Diversity generates more return; this is true for financial investments and for human investments as well. Diversity doesn’t only increase levels of creativity among teams, but it also allows for an increase in tolerance and acceptance. Realising differences and understanding perspectives on the same matter boosts the togetherness among people.”

What do you think is the most overrated or overused stereotype related to gender diversity?

“That there aren’t enough women in the workforce. This definitely varies from country to country, but the efforts over the years have demonstrated an overall increase in women in the workforce. All the GCC countries have been putting extensive efforts to ensure women’s involvement and participation in the workforce – the results of today’s efforts might need one or two generations to prosper and bloom. Moreover, with the exponential growth in social media today, women are tapping into their creative side to generate income in new and innovative ways right from their homes.”

To what extent do you feel that society is supportive of a dual-income family?

“I feel in the UAE and other countries in the region, societies are supportive of a dual-income family. Based on the World Bank figures for 2013, the UAE’s female labour force participation rate was at 47 per cent compared to the world’s average of 50 per cent. For the most part, I believe women want to contribute to their household’s income. With the UAE government’s introduction of the Gender Balance Council in early 2015, and along with the continuous desire for women to contribute to their family’s income, society will be even more supportive of a dual-income family model.

What are the three things you wish someone had told you before you started your career?

“There is so much I wish I knew before I started my career, but here are my three.

1) “Passion and values outrun prestigious titles and generous pay cheques. An organisation that shares the same values as your own and allows you to pursue your passion creates a bond of loyalty and proactive desire to contribute more. The last thing you want is to end up working for a person or a place where you are not inspired to challenge yourself every day.

2) “The norm might not be for you and that’s okay. After graduation, I believed the only path possible was to join the corporate world – stable with a good pay cheque at the end of the month. My career in the corporate world began in 2011, and I can’t emphasise the exponential learning and growth the corporate world offers. However, less than a year into corporate life, I knew it wasn’t for me.

3) “Question everything. Just because things have been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it is the right or the only way. I used to have so many questions going through my mind when I first started my career, but I shied away from communicating them because I thought ‘I don’t want to be the one asking all the questions’, or ‘with their experience they know best’. Boy was I wrong! Most of them were doing what they were doing because ‘that’s how things are done around here’. At the start of anything – your career included – you have a golden opportunity to ask a thousand questions without anyone thinking you should already know the answer.”

What advice would you give your 14 year old self?

“Buy a notebook and write down all those crazy ideas that come to mind. Make sure to hold on to that notebook through the years – you never know which of those crazy ideas will turn into reality and generate return. As we grow up and get preoccupied with life, we tend to lose some of our creativity along the way. Being able to go back to our younger selves’ thoughts is an easy and quick way to think outside the box. I wish I had my notebook today.”

Did your aspirations change with the years, with experience?

“Absolutely. Since I graduated high school, until I seriously began looking into entrepreneurship, my ambitions have been all over the place – ranging from a charity volunteer member to the CEO of the world’s most respected organisation. I’m glad I went through all those different aspirations growing up; it allowed me to explore and try out new things that got me to where I am today. Work experience certainly played an important role in filtering out those that sounded better than their reality.”

What advice can you offer an individual looking to start a career in your industry?

“My advice is threefold. Firstly, entrepreneurship is extremely difficult on your own. Find like-minded people who are honest and share similar ambitions and values. Having that circle of trust where ideas are bounced across and you are challenged, allows for an exciting journey with better and quicker results.

“Second, social entrepreneurship and enterprise in general directly touches people’s lives – make sure to remain genuine. The last thing you want happening is working for a noble cause with a greedy attitude.

“Finally, the tech industry is rapidly evolving so don’t miss the wave. If you’re starting your own tech company or are part of a tech organisation, make sure you’re able to adjust and adapt at the same pace as the industry – if not faster.”

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to female entrepreneurs?

“Network. Get out there and network. I’m not just talking about attending conferences or events – network with the people around you; family, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, ex-classmates, even people you know through social media. Having a good product or service by itself can only take you so far – you need to build a brand for yourself and that shapes up through networking and letting people see the person behind the product. Networking is also a great door opener to countless opportunities. So please try making it a habit to network, even if it means attending events on your own. It’s challenging, I know, but it goes a long way.”

What is the best advice you will give to the youth?

“Follow your passion. They might not understand it, but follow it regardless. I remember vividly during my freshman year at Zayed University that I wanted to pursue a career in social enterprise or charity, and I received a long list of reasons why that would mean career suicide. I always knew I wanted to have a role in a social venture – I just wasn’t sure how. So I parked my passion aside – without letting the spark die out – and focused on building a corporate career instead. Two years after graduation, in 2013, I launched Stutter UAE – my own social initiative.”


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