INTERVIEWER: MAHMOUD MANSI
About Gihan Hussein: Gihan (www.gihanhussein.com) is an internationally accredited and recognized professional in HR field, where she holds international MSc. Degree in HR, SPHR, CPLD, AIOBP. She is a certified EQ coach from “Six Seconds” the global EQ leader where she is the Six Seconds representative in Egypt.
Gihan has more than 10 years of hands-on experience in mastering HR SME experiential learning events and projects.
She has always been ranked as class A speaker, coach and consultant.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Before starting your own company, did you work in Egypt? Tell us about your working experience there and how did you find the working environment?
Gihan Hussein: From the very start of my professional career, I was employed on a fulltime basis; however, there is an interesting story behind that move. Having just graduated from the Faculty of Arts, the English Department, I was fortunate to be offered an opportunity to join the workforce even before receiving my graduation certificate. My very first job interestingly was as a TV presenter on national TV and surprisingly I wasn’t happy with this career move, and I kept reiterating to myself from the first day that this was not a career move that excited me and definitely not what I wanted.
I recall an incident where I was once in a reception where so many diplomats and businessmen were invited and I had an enlightening conversation with one of the businessmen about my aspirations and my ideal career path while also expressing my unwillingness to not pursue the TV presentation role as a career option. As he persisted in knowing where my professional idealism lay, I recall telling him unequivocally that my passion was in developing, teaching and educating corporate employees. Expressing surprise, he asked me what were the driving factors motivating me in this direction, given the fact that at this stage in Egypt – around 14 years ago – Human Resource Development (HRD) was non-existent. However, he was impressed by my ambition, sincerity and positivity immediately hiring me before the end of my second month in the TV-presenting career with his meaningful statement, “Gihan, I don’t fully understand your vision but I believe that you will make a difference to my company. So with immediate effect I am appointing you and its now up to you to prove yourself.”
So, that initiated a start of an interesting journey where my career dreams were to be fulfilled and made all the more meaningful by the CEO empowering and providing me with everything that was needed to make a difference in the organization.
My HR path started off as a Learning and Development Manager, a senior position for someone so young and with no experience but driven by passion and commitment, something I look back at with a lot of pride and satisfaction having never had to move up the professional ladder as I never been a subordinate or junior employee even though this did cause certain disruptions at a later stage in my career.
Interestingly, the company was one of Egypt’s biggest printing and publishing companies and through the continuous support of the CEO, I managed to equip myself with further HR certifications and my first master’s degree. The knowledge and expertise gathered during these learning experiences made meaningful impacts on the lives of the employees and this was well received. After many trials of failure and success I learnt many lessons and this has shaped my philosophy in practice, which is realizing that knowledge dissemination is a fortune but knowledge creation is a treasure.
My personal satisfaction during these five years of excitement, learning and achievement did create a new trend what works in the printing house in order to make the anticipated difference. Some of the significant outcomes of my role were a 40% reduction of employee turnover, 70% employee satisfaction rate and willingness to stay in the company and above all the fact that the company became a fostering learning organization where learning is not a choice but an integral part of corporate culture. I must say it wasn’t an easy task to transform traditional organization culture and policies into a learning organization one without the complete support and belief of the upper management. This was the second lesson I learnt which I always impart to my attendees. So all in all, this experience strengthened my belief, passion and management commitment, which are all essential ingredients to a successful HR model.
Let’s say this was the moment that I realized my purpose in life was to educate and guide HR professionals, visionaries, dreamers, or any one who wishes to take HR as a career in a meaningful way that blends theory and experience for optimal awareness.
Later on in life, I was determined to share experiences, both difficult and easy in the journey of leading with the correct science of HR. Being an HR-accredited professional and a qualified HR MSc holder I was able to apply it to the local market through my teaching at the American University in Cairo and the American Chamber of Commerce and later on through my own brand company.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: How did “Gihan Hussein – Your HR Shell” for training and consultancy start?
Gihan Hussein: Well, “Gihan Hussein – Your HR Shell” is not a run of the mill training and consultancy company, rather I like to view it as an HR education platform. As a matter of fact, my company does not provide general training or soft skills training or even consultancy. What the brand does is support and educate HR employees through best practices and equivalent local needs, to create their own HR brand with confidence.
The concept started in 2012 in Egypt and now commands the respect of the whole MENA region, including the UAE where I am currently based.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: You have brought to the minds a new concept which is “Personal Branding”. Can you please tell us more about that and how did the concept start?
Gihan Hussein: It started when I wanted to visualize my entity spirit into the design of my website and basically decided to select the shell as the brand logo. It was another awakening journey, where I questioned myself many times on how I could visualize my purpose, my passion, as I am the only asset here. Therefore, I developed the Shell logo and indicated the learning that started between me and my multimedia team led by the most professional, talented, and passionate multimedia designer on earth.
The idea is that as humans, we have our skeletons on the inside of our bodies, while snails have their skeletons on the outside of theirs. This way they help protect, save and encompass its elements. I saw the similarities between my being and the tiny shell, which protects its purpose and dares one to discover the secrets of the HR field. When a snail grows, it makes its rooms in the shell, which perfectly describes the varieties and the wide range of the HR fields that I’m experiencing!
The logo symbol is an abstraction of a snail cross section. Making the ending line free emphasizes the movement of my clients towards a successful, personal and business life, while the red colour reflects the passion of my brand towards the HR world.
I believe that my brand is my only asset, a reflection of ME that portrays the distinctive, relevance, and consistency. That’s the main reason why I am able to hold and have a lasting relationship with all my audiences and clients. Being distinctive, relevant, and consistent, the personal brand is shaped and instituted the seeds for personal and employee brand concept. After years of interacting with so many different nationalities, I learnt that personal brand is one of the energetic dimensions that stand talent out from the crowd regardless of nationality, culture, or even experience. That was the moment where I gave thorough thought about it and started working on the idea. I developed a simple employee and personal brand technique where it helps every employee specially the HRians to position themselves properly and to use their brand as a source of healthy empowerment at their workplace.
The approach and many other interesting facts and techniques will be available so soon in my new book.
As a result of my successful personal and employee brand approach, I was chosen to teach employee and personal branding to the MBA students at Synergy University, Dubai Campus.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Speaking about “Personal Branding” some know that “Branding” in general is branched from marketing, and your core work is HR. What is the relationship between Branding and HR?
Gihan Hussein: Historically, Personal Branding was known to be related to marketing but it is actually related to people not functions. Personal branding means identifying and communicating individual uniqueness, relevance and commitment to advance personal career or business. It’s a way of clarifying and communicating what makes the difference and distinctiveness of individuals and using those qualities to distinguish the person from his or her peers so an expansion of success can take place. In other words, it is about understanding employees’ unique attributes – strengths, skills, values, and passions – and using these traits to separate them from competitors and guide business decisions. I believe that Personal Branding is a fun and systematic way of becoming clearer and more defined as a person, not only in other people’s eyes, but also in ones own mind. To know “what you stand for” is not just a philosophy of life and personal ethics, it’s a practical decision tool for the individual, a way to promote career and harness potential.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: As a “personal-branded” company, how many employees are working with you, what are the departments and organizational chart like? And how do you use HR to make your company better?
Gihan Hussein: We are a diversified multinational team from Tunisia, Egypt, Pakistan, UK, the Philippines and Russia. We all have the same HR passion, dedication, commitment and of course expertise.
Given that fact, that we are not a big team in number, the organizational chart is simple. We work based on the agreed values that stand out from the crowd, and we are driven by noble goals and knowledge transfer.
On the personal side, I don’t use HR to make my company better, I inspire my team and challenge them and ask them to be challenged too. We complete each other, challenge each other, support each other, and of course teach each other. The brand sphere is based on three dimensions that supplement each other:
- Leadership assessment center design
- Mind-set assessment center
- Learning and development interventions
- Instructional design for mobile learning
- Performance management
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: From your personal experience, what are the common HR problems between Egypt and Dubai?
Gihan Hussein: I have lived and worked in Egypt, Libya, Dubai, and did HR projects in the whole region. Where I interacted and worked with hundreds of nationalities, I came to one conclusion: it’s all about the mind-set!
This is the only challenge not only in the Arab region but in the whole world, differing only in the percentage or level of thinking.
Since the time immemorial, people have thought differently, acted differently, and fared differently from each other. It was guaranteed that someone would ask the question of why people differed. Why some people are smarter or more moral and whether there was something that made them permanently different. Herein appears the challenge that lies beneath their mind-set. Either you have a fixed mind-set that in a way affects the entire health of corporate life or a growth mind-set that does the opposite.
I’ve seen both, experienced both, and witnessed real life examples of fixed mind-set managers who destroyed their talented subordinates because they showed their growth mind-set.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Many entrepreneurs have a dream that their organizations would last after their death. Do you have any plans about that regarding your company too? Please share with us.
My dream is not to sustain my organization as long as I can. My dream is to be remembered by every single soul I have had the good fortune of interacting with and to live in their minds and hearts even after I have left this world. The reason why I’m collecting and documenting all my academic lectures, speeches and HRD projects is in order to make them available to everyone at any time free of cost.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Can you tell us about the book you are writing?
Gihan Hussein: I am co-authoring two books at the moment, the first is about Emotional Intelligence and the second deals with mind-set impact on corporate learning interventions.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: What piece of advice would you give to HR Directors in Dubai and Egypt?
Gihan Hussein: Never apply any HR process or tool unless you get it from the right source and you have tried and tested it experimentally several times as a pilot project before launching it.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Working environments differ from one culture to the other, as a trainer how do you help the trainee understand the difference, and apply foreign books in the Middle-Eastern business society?
Gihan Hussein: I study my audience very well as I study the Middle Eastern business society so that when I train or teach, I introduce subject matter expertise wrapped with current workplace challenge, and the audience and I create the best learning solution together. That’s why people have enjoyed my teaching because they learn and apply at the same time.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: I’m sure you were offered to be an HR Director/Manager in several companies. Why did you refuse?
Gihan Hussein: To be honest I did not refuse. I apologized gently because this is not my purpose in life. I’m not a kind of cubical employee. I know that and this in fact can cause harm to both me as a professional and the company as a corporate entity. When I receive such offers, I transform them into opportunities to help their HR team grow and support them with what they need from me and my organization, under the agreed norms between the two parties.
HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Thank you so much Ms. Gihan for sharing this massive amount of knowledge with us.
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