From the very first minute she sat down her bubbly and passionate personality shined through. The young Emirati Noora Janahi holding today the position of COO at Key Information Technology; a family business that pushed Noora towards new heights, with her BA in Human Resource and Business Management with Honors, from Oxford Brookes University, Noora was rising up to the challenge and was eager to tell us about her journey and all that she learned along the way.
Arab Woman Platform has the pleasure to put her among our inspirational women in this issue,
Share with our readers a little bit about your background?
I was raised in a traditional yet liberal family. My parents treated me and my siblings as equals, not differentiating between genders; they taught us respect each other at all levels. At 17 and after graduating high school in the UAE my father encouraged me to travel to Germany to learn the language. The first 7 months I was staying with a German family but I found it to be getting hectic especially dealing with a daily long commute, I finally got the permission from my dad to move alone and from there a new stage in my life began… the stage of independence.
I returned back to my homeland to join the AUD to continue my higher education, unfortunately I didn’t find myself in the American system, so I took some time off until my family decided to enroll me at the university in Oxford the UK, where I spent the best years of my life.
It was a great experience; I discovered the joy and freedom of being an independent person, being responsible for my own actions, learning how to organize myself and time. I formed amazing friendships that have lasted till this day and I’m sure will last forever.
During my time there I learned many valuable lessons one of which is money management; thanks to our father allocating a tight monthly allowance for me to be able to manage my expenditure, to teach me how to adapt and learn the value of things.
I had a dream to graduate with honors, so the last year I put all my focus and energy into my studies and it payed off as I reached my goal.
What happened when you returned back to the UAE after graduation?
After returning home I faced new challenges as being away for so long in the UK and being independent I have gotten used to doing things on my own and in my way. I had to learn once again to adapt to my circumstances.
On another front my father is a self-made business man running a number of businesses; I assumed I will come back right away with a job waiting for me. However, that was not the case, my father had a rule not to allow me to work in his territory before getting at least 5 years of experience elsewhere. So I ended up doing what all fresh graduates do and started to look for a job.
I joined a National Graduate Program held by Jumeirah Group and upon completion I was hired into a permanent role. I worked there for two and a half years where I gained some of the best training and experience, revolving through several departments from general HR to system management and recruitment to creating my own HR programs and initiatives. There I discovered that I had managerial skills probably going way back to even managing my younger siblings. My hard work and skills landed me a promotion within a year and a half becoming HR manager for Dubai region, allowing me to create different policies and strategies.
I have to advocate for Jumeirah Group, their policies are very empowering as they respect hard workers and ever differentiate between there candidates, only your work identifies you as an employee.
What was your experience like with EJADAH and why did you move on from Jumeirah Group?
Honestly I left for a change of experience, specially that Ejadah is a company that runs in a different industry other than hospitality, this was seen as an opportunity to apply and improve on my HR skills and competencies. I spent another year at EJADAH focusing on Manpower strategy and planning. I had to travel to rural areas to recruit for employees into the business which was mainly focused on facilities management, mainly recruiting for labor workers, it was very difficult, but I learned to tolerate the inconveniences. Until one day out of the blue I got a call from my father asking me to resign and join him. I jumped at the opportunity especially preceding his five years of experience requirement.
Initially what was it like working for your own father?
After the first few days it was obvious that my way is not as green as I thought. I faced many challenges as working for your own family’s company is a big responsibility; now you have to work for the benefit of your whole family. This company was founded in the 80’s and people there were used to doing things in a certain way bringing change was a challenging necessity to keep up with our modern time.
My biggest struggle at the time was my lack of technical knowledge in terms of the IT industry which is basically the the core work of the company Key Information Technology. At many times I had to fake it and behind the scenes go and self-educate by researching and reading all I can find. I sat with each and every one of our 300 employees, listening to them and gathering information to try and build a new structure to improve on our procedures and policies.
I realized that my weakness in the lack of technical information was a rock in my way especially after receiving our first costumer complaint. Here I decided to find a solution and took a step to contact the IT Support Manager in the UK, who works for our principal company. He very kindly walked me through every detail of the job, and whom I am forever grateful to.
Tell us about your experience in India and why you traveled there in the first place?
My desire to self-improve and develop was ongoing, I discovered that many of the theories I was taught in management doesn’t apply in a family business, so I decided to take a one year course in one of the best institutes in the world, at S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research that offered a course in Global Family Managed Business (GFMB.) This course was only offered in two places either India or Spain with another university; I chose to go to India, due to the cultural closeness of the Middle East and Asia.
One week out of every month I would travel to India and learn all there is in a hands on approach and then come back home not only to apply what I have learned but to teach my colleagues the valuable knowledge I was gaining and in doing so I was able to build an HR department that never existed in our company as well as building and revamping the rest of the departments in terms of their process flow and procedure. Together with a great team we built a new structure, finding ways for investment and building a new attitude and company culture which changed from “This is hard” to “Yes we can”.
What are some other challenges that faced you especially being one of the handful of women in an almost all male company?
One of the challenges as a woman that I am working on improving is being emotional. I discovered after various lessons that I should never allow my emotions to control my decisions especially in business, as doing so will come at a costly price. I learnt that it is extremely important in business to separate your emotions from business decisions and problem solving. Always take a break before deicing on something, think it through for a day or two in order to come up with a sound outcome by the end of it.
Who is your role model and the person who motivated you to reach to where you are today?
I am very thankful to my father for all that he has done for me. He pushed me like no one else and taught me so many lessons along the way, although at times I didn’t understand why he was doing what he did, being tough and forcing me out of my comfort zone, but now I know it was all for my best interest. Because of him and my wonderful supportive mother, who stuck by me through thick and thin, I am Noora Al Janahi a strong confident woman, and just recently promoted as the COO of our company, I’m must be doing something right.
What advice do you give young girls for their future?
Honestly, I don’t have a specific advice to give, I cannot tell anyone what to do or how, it all depends on the individual and character, capabilities, the drive and motivation has to emerge from within. If you have it, work on it, and always strive to improve on yourself and your talents. Always seek knowledge as knowledge is power, always strive to be a better person than you were yesterday. Stand your ground, be confident and keep your chin up. The most important part of this all is to believe in yourself and in your abilities, and believe that Allah will always support you no matter what. I will be very happy to mentor and give you the essence of my experience.