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  • Hi, my name is Saadia Zahidi, and I'm currently  a Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

  • Here are my five biggest career lessons.

  • The number one thing that I have learned isit's important to figure out your purpose  

  • early on, and ensure that it is  a critical part of what you do.

  • For me, it's embedded into where I've come from.  I grew up in Pakistan, you know, belonged to a  

  • middle-class family that really valued education  and economic opportunity for girls and women,  

  • and that was certainly not the norm around  me. I was very aware of how privileged I was,  

  • and what happens if you don't have that privilege.  I was very aware of the fact that this is exactly  

  • how I wanted to create some change in the worldprovide more of that educational and economic  

  • opportunity to more people, especially to those  people that have traditionally been left out of  

  • that kind of privilege. And so that's been the  red thread throughout my career. And here's why  

  • it's important. There are inevitably going to be  moments where things will be hard, where you'll be  

  • working with somebody you don't want to work withwhere you are burning the midnight oil to get  

  • something done, where you have you're overwhelmedbecause there's simply too much work to do, and  

  • that's where it matters. You have to be able to  connect it back to that fundamental purpose, that  

  • fundamental mission, those fundamental values, and  remind yourself, here's why this matters to me.

  • It took me a while to figure this out, butwork best in the mornings. So whenever I've got  

  • difficult tasks, strategy documents to write oryou know, long reports to edit, or some kind of  

  • complex problem, I'll often do that thinking and  some of that solo work very early in the mornings.  

  • Second is using music for concentration. I play  a lot of classical music when I'm doing some of  

  • those long assignments, that long set of work. And  third is around exercise. I know that it's always  

  • going to work best if I've taken a bit of time to  connect with my body, get some physical exercise,  

  • and then get back to some of the work that many  of us do in front of screens for very long hours.

  • This third lesson is something that I picked up  in my second master's degree, and probably one  

  • of the most practical things that I've learned  in academics. Getting off the dance floor and  

  • onto the balcony. Now, you'll often find yourself  in meetings where things are getting very heated,  

  • where everybody is going down a specific rabbit  hole, where a conversation is going very off  

  • track. And you'll have this huge temptation to  also get on the dance floor, to also present  

  • your viewpoint, to join that argument, to get into  that conversation. And it's incredibly important,  

  • I think, especially as a leader, and not just  as a manager and a decision maker, to step back,  

  • to be able to look at the bigger pictureto understand what are the real underlying  

  • dynamics behind this conversation, and to start  naming it for people to help others do the same,  

  • to ask the right questions and say, what is it  that we're actually trying to solve for here?

  • My fourth lesson is surrounding yourself with  people who've got the right mix of skills and  

  • values. And when I'm saying skills, it's important  to have the hard skills, the technical skills,  

  • the right knowledge, the right capacity. It's also  important to have the soft skills people who are,  

  • for example, good at relationship managementpeople who've got good active listening skills.  

  • All of that is incredibly important, but the  passion piece, the values piece, matter a lot,  

  • especially for an organization such as the World  Economic Forum, where we are working on some of  

  • the most intractable challenges in the worldfrom education to climate change to technology  

  • governance. People have to be able to connect to  some fundamental, personal reason why it is that  

  • what they're working on matters to them, and  I think you can never go wrong with that mix.

  • There is going to be a moment where you're  facing some level of imposter syndrome,  

  • where you're wondering, how did you get to this  particular role? Are you really the best person  

  • for this role? How should you be responding? How  should you be acting? And I certainly had this  

  • moment. I mean, I've always had a lot of faith  in my abilities mixed with an appropriate level  

  • of trepidation about if this something I can  actually do. But about three years ago, when  

  • I was appointed to the World Economic Forum's  managing board at the age of 37, it became  

  • pretty ingrained within me that clearly I was  only here for bringing some youth diversity,  

  • some gender diversity, some racial diversity  and some religious diversity. And it became  

  • very much ingrained into my thinking at the  time. And what it did was I held my voice back,  

  • I spoke up only on the issues that I thought  I was supposed to speak about, and not on the  

  • issues where I actually did have opinions, ideas  and thoughts, and instead held myself back. There  

  • wasn't necessarily a sort of an 'aha' moment, when  I suddenly realized that this is what I'm doing.  

  • I was speaking to a lot of external mentors, and  especially some of my female mentors said to me,  

  • I think you're going through a phase of  imposter syndrome, and I didn't quite  

  • believe it. And it's only once I understood  that fully, embraced it, named the problem,  

  • that I was then able to move forward and say, I'm  here for a reason. I've got a seat at the table,  

  • and this is the moment to use your voice to try to  move things forward to make a difference, and also  

  • give myself the freedom to make some mistakes.

Hi, my name is Saadia Zahidi, and I'm currently  a Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

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How WEF's youngest managing director overcame imposter syndrome | My Biggest Lessons

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    Summer posted on 2021/09/13
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