By Yakin Ouederni, as told by Dalia Ibrahim

They say that change is the only constant in life. But recently, we’ve learned that it comes much quicker than expected. 

The main word for this pandemic has been ‘adaptation,’ which is the key to staying alive. Here at Nahdet Misr, coping with COVID was about being agile, facing reality and changing directions. It accelerated our plans. We had three-year projects that we are now on track to complete in a year-and-a-half. While we started digital projects 22 years ago, we are now under strong pressure to move quicker in the digital applications and solutions that we have been providing and to even innovate, as the market is now all moving toward digitization. This concept of being adaptable is one of the biggest takeaways. 

The other major lesson is the importance of caring for people. When your employees feel they are at home and part of one big family, and when they believe that their management cares for them — it’s a priceless feeling. With the pandemic, I felt that the health and safety of my employees was my responsibility as a leader. We gave them their salaries ahead of time, set up the proper strategies for working from home, made sure health was the top priority and provided support at all times. When you care for people this way, you realize that they give it back to you and more. They gave back to me more than what I could ever dream of. People were more productive, and it made me so happy. 

When the pandemic first started, I thought I was going to have a quiet, calm time, but to be honest, I worked very hard from home. Everyone at the company, from me as the chairperson to all the employees, had to sometimes work more than we used to. In some ways, it was easier because technology has helped with a lot of things, and it saves a lot of transportation time and effort. So it has its pros and cons. But I thought I was going to work less, and this was definitely not the case. However, on the bright side, I was trying to give positive energy to my colleagues in the company and my loved ones. I felt that people’s love is more important than anything in life. I got much closer to my kids, my parents and my brother, and I even had time to grow spiritually last Ramadan. 

This period also gave me a lot of time to reflect on the concept and impact of the pandemic. The fact that the whole world is shaking because of something we cannot even see is incredible. It’s really something you have to stop and think about — how it’s changing people’s social behavior. I came out of this time even more ambitious and eager to grow my business. I have a lot of business ideas running in parallel and hope that they succeed. There are a lot of opportunities, and I’m determined to catch them before time runs out. 

Dalia Ibrahim ’93, ’99, ’14 is CEO of Nahdet Misr Publishing House and has received several awards for her work, most recently the 2020 Arab Woman Award for Social Responsibility from the League of Arab States. 

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