INTERVIEW WITH LAILA DELAWAR ~ HR ASSISTANT LECTURER AT ALEXANDRIA UNIVERSITY

INTERVIEWERS : Gabriela Neves & Mahmoud Mansi

Publisher: Amira Haytham​

“I believe that putting that goal in front of my students and reassuring them that with continuous effort it is much attainable regardless of any obstacles is very significant…”

Laila Delawar

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Laila, being the very passionate person you are, and knowing that jobs should be related to people’s passion, what do you think people can do to find their dream job, and to always renew their passion?

Laila Delawar: Well, knowing my dream job was never an easy task, I never thought that I’d love teaching; actually I thought that I’d hate it! As a kid I thought that I wanted to be an engineer, I really loved mathematics and thought that this was enough. However in my last year at school I studied accounting and business, I started asking about that field and its potential careers. I knew then that this is what I wanted to do and decided to join the Faculty of Commerce, a decision that wasn’t supported by many as it wasn’t one of the competitive top faculties that demanded high grades, the so called “Koliyat El-Kemma” a concept in which I strongly disagree with, as if students that get high scores are obligated to choose among being a physician or an engineer regardless of their real passion, regardless of what they really want!

Yet what gave me a clearer perspective regarding what I want to do is that I joined many activities and job trainings –both related and unrelated to my field– that helped me better understand myself, my strengths and weaknesses, better understand the working environment and above all it helped me discover what I really want to do with the rest of my life. I believe the secret is in being open to new experiences and having the strength to choose your own path regardless to society’s pressure as this could always save you from getting stuck in the wrong place.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You worked as a Curriculum Developer for a short period of time. How can jobseekers develop their activities and CVs in a good way to find the job they want? Can you give some tips?

Laila Delawar: I’ll address my answer to fresh graduates, as I understand that writing a good C.V could somehow be more challenging for them. Every one criticizes that you can’t get a job without experience yet you can’t get experience without a job!

The key is that as a fresh graduate you can distinguish yourself apart from thousands of other graduates by building up your C.V with experience that you have gained not only through formal job trainings which is very important, but also through extra-curricular activities, even if it was totally irrelevant to your field for example performing arts and music will tell your employer that you are a confident person & can address large audience without fear, a skill that could be required in many jobs. Also mentioning that you joined a sports team will reflect that you are a competitive and committed person who is also capable of handling teamwork. Volunteering will show that you are a good citizen and willing to commit to something regardless of any personal gain.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What do you think about HR in big organizations in Egypt? What are the positive and negative things you see? What do they need to change?

Laila Delawar: Well, the role and the impact of the HR function are always dictated by the economic conditions. When the economy is down as it is the case post 2008 recession and extending up till now with the economic turbulences that were currently present in Egypt post the revolution, HR managers know that employees would put up with anything to stay employed, being aware how replaceable they are…that’s why in some organizations you’ll find that most of the hiring, development and evaluation tasks are pushed onto line managers (head of other non-HR depts.) who usually do not have the time nor the skills to properly conduct them. This is not the case in Egypt only, but all around the world. HR find the urge to attract and develop talents only in times of economic booms where workers are hard to keep. However this is not the case in all organizations some HR managers do not wait, as they understand that they can help companies get ahead by investing in programs that are efficient and effective and by avoiding other programs that only function as time-wasters. I believe that one of the most important points for HR success is to take into consideration all stakeholders’ interests especially employees’ in every decision, if employees feel that they are replaceable at any time, they will never excel in their positions as they will never be fully committed to that organization.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a teacher what is your opinion about education related to Business and HR in Egyptian Universities?

Laila Delawar: In my opinion, no one can deny that education needs a lot of reform. Yet until the major reforms take place –that needs to start with primary education–, I believe that the curricula in my faculty could be considered adequate, however the real problem lies in the approach in which students sometimes with collaboration of a minority of professors take toward the studied materials.

A lot of students getting out of “Thanaweya Amma” after getting used to memorizing as the only mean of studying, sometimes don’t easily grasp the essence of studying human sciences. They treat the syllabus as if it represents absolute facts, ignoring that it’s continuously subject to debates. That’s why as much as we can; we try to rely on practical cases related to the Egyptian context to enhance the students’ connection with the practical life. This also encourages students’ creativity and critical thinking. We are continuously trying to fight the wrong concept regarding business studies in Egypt, were a lot believe that it is mainly theoretical, however students who actually join the business section in Alexandria University whether majoring in finance, marketing or human resources fully understand that this is never the case.

Laila’s Motivating Office

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: HR is all about motivation and engagement. In your class how do you motivate your students in a way that make them feel interested?

Laila Delawar: When I feel that students are getting tired and start to lose focus, I usually stop and ask them “why are they here?” I believe people loose their motivation when they forget why they have started, reminding them of their goal, which is success in their career life, gives them the push they need. I believe that putting that goal in front of my students and reassuring them that with continuous effort it is much attainable regardless of any obstacles is very significant. With this stated I then try to engage them into what I’m explaining by raising a debatable point or just asking some challenging questions just in order to avoid one-way communication.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you motivate yourself, in your job, career, and personal life?

 Laila Delawar: Well I personally believe that looking for a balance is the key. If you invested so much in career and forgot about family and friends, things will get overwhelming. Eventually you’ll be demotivated and you’ll loose the balance that helps you move forward and succeed in both and vice versa. As for my job I try to set specific time framed goals as much as possible focusing on the “whys” as I mentioned in the previous question.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a lecturer in the university, what kind of extra support would you like to have from your own HR department that would make you do your job in a much better way?

Laila Delawar: I believe that with the large number of employees working in the Faculty of Commerce, Alexandria University this could be rather challenging but I wish that there would be a better system for employees’ performance evaluation. As an employee this really helps giving you a sense of direction of whether you’re on the right track or you need to be any better.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: If you were working as a recruiter in a university and you needed to hire an HR teacher, what qualities would you search for?

 Laila Delawar: Having a strong academic background is essential yet having someone who has a practical experience in the HR field for a while is indispensable. In my opinion these are not the only requirements; a teacher must have the talent of conveying ideas in the simplest ways, also being a good public speaker is vital to grab the students’ attention.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What qualities are necessary to be a good HR Manager? Why?

Laila Delawar: I think the key of being a good HR manager is being a good leader. Having adequate education and a competent set of leadership skills will help an HR manager successfully fulfill his staff and line roles. Having strong moral grounds is also a priority as they are usually faced by several ethical dilemmas during their tenure.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Do you believe that hobbies as drawing, writing, painting and so on, can help employees in their job, even when the hobby is not related to their job description? How?

Laila Delawar: Of course, I believe that employees spending more time doing something artistic such as these hobbies tend to be more creative, patient and inventive in the workplace, even if the hobby is not clearly related to the job. In my opinion employees who maintain practicing their hobbies, sports or whatever activities they love to do–even if it was just hanging out with their friends–are better performers as they tend to be more relaxed, content and do not feel that their jobs have deprived them from other activities that they loved. Having a job that you are passionate about could turn to be a routine over time, that’s why balancing between your job and personal activities tends to break this routine giving you the chance to be more productive and energetic when you get back to work.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: If Laila were an HR Manager of an organization in Egypt, how would you manage in a different way?

Laila Delawar: Well that’s a very hard question, as I totally believe that there is no one single set of managerial practices that is successful in all situations. As an HR manager here in Egypt, I’ll try to bear in mind that each country and each organization has its very own context that’s why I won’t be able to apply the same HR practices that were successful in other organizations or other countries and just expect the same results/success here. Considering the organization culture is very important as managing in a different way implies a change that is most of the time resisted by settled employees. Also, in order to manage differently and craft company-specific policies that responds to the current market challenges, I’ll need to carefully assess the goals of the organization taking into consideration the environment, the strengths and weaknesses of the organization itself and the threats and opportunities surrounding it.

Laila as a Career Consultant at Alexa Job Fair 2017