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Business Strategist Sarah Sikander Discusses How Adaptability, Empathy, and Performance Are Key to Career Advancement

Business Strategist Sarah Sikander Discusses How Adaptability, Empathy, and Performance Are Key to Career Advancement
Sarah Sikander

Over the past few decades, our world has undergone transformative changes in nearly every conceivable aspect. A rapid succession of events has fundamentally altered the landscapes of business, finance, and communications, marking a significant paradigm shift. In this new era, success favors those who act swiftly and effectively—those who can identify value, nurture it, and enhance its influence and positive impact.

As the quest for scalable and sustainable innovation intensifies around the world, it is the self-imposed role of younger professionals, active in business today, to bridge the gap between what is known and what is yet to be created.

In the search for a better future, however, one could argue that being part of a generation that has experienced such momentous shifts in the status quo can be challenging for some. But others thrive in conditions of complexity; challenging themselves and their peers to perform at the highest level while maintaining a centered core and the conscious observance of personal values and morals that act as the very foundation of all their noteworthy achievements.

For Sarah Sikander, a purposefully driven and highly accomplished 28-year-old Senior Manager of International Ventures at The Private Office of His Royal Highness Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, there are certain qualities that can be key difference makers for those looking to build solid relationships and expand their business operations.

In an interview with Dubai Weekly, Ms. Sikander - a graduate of Heriot Watt University, trained in Public Relations Strategy at Cornell and a former AWS® business developer for the French and BENELUX markets - shared with us her insights on key topics that occupy the minds of most professionals today.

Thank you for granting us this interview, would you like to share more about yourself?

My cultural background is quite a mixed bag. My father’s family is originally from Pakistan but my grandparents moved to the UAE in the early 70s. My mother is American, from Maine to be exact and I was born in Boston. However, I grew up between Dubai and the French region of Switzerland, though I did go to boarding school in Scotland. Since then I’ve lived in Switzerland, France, Spain, and Colombia, amongst other places.

Where do you see Dubai´s burgeoning business ecosystem heading in the near future?

“Ecosystem” is an apt word as I believe Dubai will be leading the world in its sustainability efforts and initiatives. Not only on a municipal and public level, but in the private sector as well. The decision makers are truly making key efforts to incorporate sustainability into their operations and ethos. Furthermore, the innovative technologies that are emerging to support these efforts, whether home-grown or brought in from overseas really demonstrate a strong commitment to this cause.

In the tech sphere, Dubai has always been ambitious in its efforts to be a market leader in the region and maintain its pioneering identity in the space. This is best exemplified by the recent creation of the Ministry of Artificial Intelligence, led by His Excellency Omar Sultan Al Olama. I believe that AI will be omnipresent in the vast majority of the day-to-day lives of residents in some form or another in the future.

How do you leverage your abilities to deliver successful outcomes?

One of the most crucial themes that I have learned throughout my career, and personal experiences is the importance of respect and adaptability.

Ensuring that people feel heard and understood; different people find different situations frustrating. Having empathy, and taking concerns seriously, no matter our own personal feelings is imperative.

I’ve found that this type of flexibility is a big differentiating factor that often allows for relationships to be long-lasting. People should understand that the delivery of what is said is almost as important as what is said. Successful businesses adapt their strategies depending on regions, and cultures. Our approach to how we engage with professionals from different backgrounds should not be dissimilar.

Image: Aleksandar Pasaric

Name three things that you look for in any potential business alliance with an international company.

  • Performance. How have they operated in their home markets? Does expansion make sense for their current business model and product?

  • Working capital. It is important to not discriminate against companies that don't have the advantage of deep pockets, but financial performance and money management should be strong. Is it too early for them to look at expansion? Some companies experience their first moments of success and jump the gun, rather than focusing on maintaining strong cash flows that can take a hit or two should there be unfortunate external circumstances or force majeure.

  • Organisation and receptiveness. Are the decision makers proactive? Are they ready to listen to advice? If opportunities are presented can they deliver on action items before deadlines? Are they consistent in their communication and can they maintain momentum in the market without the need for micromanagement?

As the pace of modern life continues to accelerate, how can professionals achieve a balance between business and personal matters?

We’re more interconnected as a society than ever before and it's really easy to forget the importance of spending time with yourself or the people that bring you comfort, but when we don't take the time to truly disconnect, we burn out. Which means the quality of our output decreases, and in turn makes work harder.

So, the more at ease you are mentally, the better your performance. The better your performance, the better you feel about yourself, your output and your abilities, it's a cycle.

This story was originally published on Dubai Weekly

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