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Interview with Safa Hassan – GM HR at (EIPET) Egyptian Indian Polyester Company



Interviewee: Safa Hassan

Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi

1-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Why did you choose to enter the HR field? And how did you?

Safa Hassan: HR has been my passion for over 20 years. Apart from studying it at college, I became increasingly interested in it during my graduate management training internship, during which I quickly realised the importance of people to any organisations’ success.

I have been fortunate to work in a wide variety of industries in three different contents. This has allowed me to grow my experience and skills in multiple HR disciples and at the same time develop my commercial and operational aptitude.

In fact it all happened during my graduate management training at the prestigious Royal Horse Guards Hotel overlooking the river Thames close to the Houses of Parliament. I was completing my operational and management training for a career in general management when one day I was on duty at the front desk and my eyes caught sight of a rather large sized stern faced lady who was coming across the lobby with an equally plus size cat in between her hands. I was intrigued and began asking questions about who she was. The more I asked the more I wanted to learn about her.

She was the lady of the house! The General Manager who ran the entire show. She was well known for her tough no nonsense approach and had a celebrated track record of success in the company. She was rewarded by being given this jewel in the crown. Wow I thought at first and wanted to know more about her daily routine and personal life.

Her day spanned a good 12 hours at least, often working weekends and holidays too. She lived in and was therefore on call at any time. She was in her mid-forties yet not yet married or even engaged. Her only companion was her ginger cat.It suddenly dawned on me that this was a sacrificial way of life. This lady was giving up a lot to be where she is.

When I pictured myself a few years down, I didn’t feel fulfilled. “No, I can’t see myself doing this. Yes I want a successful career but I also want a family and a life”. Here, my 3 months in HR answered my dilemma. I found myself in a problem solving and analytical type of work which suited me, and I also enjoyed the people aspect of the job. From that moment on, this was my chosen career.

2-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As EIPET, who are your employees? How do you recruit them?

Safa Hassan: EIPET is the first green field PET plant of its kind in Egypt. It is a joint venture investment project between Dhunsari and Echem (the petrochemical arm of the Petroleum Ministry). The plant was purpose built to produce PET resin (a consumer grade type of polyester that goes on to produce plastic bottles for human consumption) for the local market needs and to export to the international market. The plant has a daily production capacity of 1600 tons. Some of our clients are Arma, Nestle, Danone, Pepsi, Coca Cola, etc…

Because the nature of business is industrial petrochemical production, our core business units are production, supply chain, marketing and sales. Production, process and instrumentation Engineers are hired. Chemists, quality control, operators, and technicians are also needed to run the plant. Blue collar staff is also commissioned as labour and fork lift operators.

3-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How does HR cooperate into forming the strategy of EIPET?

Safa Hassan: This process started a few years back when the plant was being built before commissioning. Following on from the joint venture agreement, senior management teamed up and decided on the strategic plan for the next 5 years. Of course this plan has been reviewed regularly and tweaked to adjust the course due to changing local and global environment especially the recent oil price drop and global economic slowdown.

4-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine:You received the Best Trainer Award three times with Six Continents in Dubai. What are the reasons that made you receive this award? And what are the qualities of a professional trainer from your own point of view?

Safa Hassan: Six continents placed a huge emphasis on training and development and at the same time strongly believed in rewarding for performance. One of the main reasons I received the award was that I simply took my job very seriously in conducting the training in accordance with the required standards. From my side I stressed on the “Why” factor of the task, having learned that knowledge is passed on more effectively when you demonstrate the reason and the benefit behind the “what”. In addition, the staffs trained were reviewed by an independent assessor for understanding and performance improvement to test the process had been executed properly.

In my view, an effective trainer will possess a few key qualities. On top of the list, is the ability to impart knowledge to others in a simple and interesting way. Experience in the subject matter is key; and I am a strong believer that academic knowledge alone is never a substitute! Passion in wanting others to learn, understand and develop also gives the trainer an edge.

5-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: At EIPET, do you provide the training programmes to your employees yourself or is it done through another instructor? Why?

Safa Hassan: Technical training is provided by specialized agencies and our sister plant in India. Soft skills and management training is mostly provided in house simply because we can and we know exactly where we need to target the need.

6-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: In 2002 you received the Hilton’s Top Award ‘HUKI HERO’ (Hilton UK & Ireland) 2001/02 for your outstanding achievement to the company and a saving of £350 K. Can you tell us about this achievement? How did you feel on that day? And how did you save this amount of money?

Safa Hassan: This was an extraordinary experience in my career that I will always cherish. It is probably the most challenging and at the same time rewarding. I was selected to work on a huge refurbishment grade 1 listed project costing £70 m. I was the third person to be hired after the GM and the Project Manager. From then on I was responsible for recruiting the rest of the team. We worked from anywhere we could plug in a computer and get internet as we had no offices. We sometimes met at Starbucks for breakfast to touch base with some of our associates who had not yet joined. As the team got bigger we would move premises to accommodate the number and this was not easy. As we began to get our management team together, it was announced the project would be delayed. The challenge increased as commitments had been made to take senior people on and they too had tendered their resignations!

The management company, the building consultants and the owner were not in agreement over the project time laps and this was costing a lot of money. The pressure began to increase as new dates were promised and preparations were made to have the team hired, trained and ready to go for the opening.

Actually, this project ended up being delayed 15 times in 18 months! There were times when we as a team felt disillusioned frustrated and no one would have blamed us if we had walked away. And the thought had crossed my mind several times too. What kept me from doing so were several key reasons.

I took an oath between myself that I would do everything in my power and more to make this assignment a great success come what may. This in itself was a great deterrent against any adversity.

The team we built was exceptionally brilliant the harmony between us acted as a catalyst to keep everyone going and committed. We started a programme of regular meetings and outings to maintain transparent communication and allow new members to be introduced.

When we announced that the owner was not ready to pay our salaries while the project was still not complete, and we came up with the solution of secondment, the majority was enthusiastic and jumped at the opportunity. This was a sensitive task as we were dealing with senior professionals who were now going to be temporarily assigned to other properties to do real jobs. Some were posted in London; others went to Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Some took 2 and 3 posts throughout the delay period. We sent some to France, New York, Germany and Holland.

During this time, I also took on some regional tasks for UK & Ireland while coordinating the postings; keeping in regular contact with each one and making visits to their locations. Something they appreciated very much.

The benefits of this were many. The team was still on the payroll and the owner was happy too since she was not footing the bill! They were gaining valuable experience where they went and many came back with raving reviews for their contributions. The project eventually made the opening and during this long awaited event when our Chairman came and all was said and done people were very emotional. By everyone’s’ admition, this team had endured many obstacles, all of which they passed with flying colours.

A few months later, I was nominated to receive the HUKI HR HERO award. At that moment I felt that all the pain and tears had not gone to waste or unnoticed! It was a fabulous feeling to be recognized.

7-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You have worked as an HR Manager / Director in six different hotels. As an HR in that field how did you support tourism through your job? And what advices do you have to HR Directors who work in hotels in Egypt?

Safa Hassan: In short, my simple advice is “No one should enter this field or any other for that matter, unless they are passionate about it”. Everything you do or say will come through. When you are in contact with customers, your inner soul shines without even uttering a word. They feel it.

To HR Managers I say be careful who you recruit. Your people are your biggest asset and this is where your differentiation lies. Have well trained and motivated staff who are treated well and you’re on your way…

To individuals I always encourage them to be delighting and try to deliver more than the customer expects. Don’t make the mistake of running after money or the tip. Do your job well and be sincere and the customer will automatically respond favourably. Look after your current and regular guests and they will become like family and will be your biggest advocate.

8-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Can you tell us more about the “employer branding” concept, and provide us with examples that you have applied?

Safa Hassan: I was chosen to be part of the steering committee for employer branding for Hilton UK & Ireland. In the early 2000 there was fierce completion for qualified and experienced work force which sparked a new challenge for employers to promote themselves to prospective employees in an attractive way. The equation was simple; “Strong employer brands attract the right talent”.

So, what represents a strong brand in the eyes of the employee? A successful, well-known brand is a start but that can be short lived without the proper follow on. Quite simply it is things that make employees happy to be at work. Getting down to work involved a complete overhaul of work values and ethics, pride, fun, belonging, discovering yourself etc…A lot of the information was elicited from our employees who were glad to share with us their thoughts and emotions. A complete programme was drawn up to translate these values into tangible benefits, rewards and behaviours that everyone can identify with. The entire organization bought into it and it was rolled out regionally. A training programme was designed on branding and everyone’s role. The results were even measured using the balance score card and units began competing with one another for top place.

So, what was the objective? To keep attrition to the minimum, hold on to our good people who we knew were the key to satisfied customers and ultimately profitability.

9-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: From your point of view, what were your success factors that made you become an HR Director?

Safa Hassan: I have been fortunate to work with and learn from some very professional people along the way. But most importantly, I believe it was my initial determination and perseverance to cross over any boundaries that came my way. As much as you put in you get out so a lot of hard work, patience, sincerity and the willingness to learn from others and teach others.

Passionate about people and the great difference they can make to any organisation given the right tools and environment.

10-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What were/are your challenges as a “working woman” in Egypt?

Safa Hassan: It wasn’t so much as a woman, but really my background and credential that posed the biggest challenge here. Out of the three countries I’ve worked in, Egypt has been the most challenging to find a suitable job and gain acceptance. A lot of what I used to hear was “Wow, great CV, you shouldn’t have any problems working here” and the reality was that I did. I wanted to work in a legitimate way without any help from acquaintances. I soon learned that society doesn’t operate this way and even if your qualifications and experience speak for you, you still need that push.

My wish is that one day we can eradicate the “It’s who you know, not what you know” phenomenon. I believe that a lot of our problems will be on their way to be solved if we can ensure that the right person gets on the right bus and is assigned to the right seat! especially in our public sector.

11-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What was the most valuable lesson you have learnt from a situation at work? Can you please share with us this situation?

Safa Hassan: Adversity can often give birth to success.I would say during my industrial release when I was posted to a very posh deluxe property in Green Park, London. The six months were in Food & Beverage and my first 6 weeks were in the kitchen. Heavily dominated by males who were load and had loose tongues to alleviate the pressure and heat, I came face to face with the Head Chef who sized me up and decided I was a waste of time being a female in a man’s world and petite.

He decided to put me to the test immediately by giving me barrels, a knife and a peeler. He showed me to the fresh fruit larder and asked to get to work. For one whole week I did nothing but peel and cut up fruit for 12 hours each day! Huge fruit salad barrels to fill, and standing on your feet all day long, I quickly became bored, frustrated, and very exhausted. “This is not what I came here to do”! I could moan and complain but I knew this was what he was expecting of me and moreover I didn’t want to risk jeopardizing my degree. I decided to bite my tongue and was determined to make it. After a few days of fulfillment, I attempted to make a deal with him that if I successfully pass the week; he would allow me to move on to other things more interesting. He agreed because he was certain I wouldn’t last. When I miraculously finish my 7 days, he kept his word and moved me on to the dessert section where I really learned a great deal. He began to change his attitude towards me and as I slowly gained credibility, he gave me more responsibility. I was assigned to cover room service dessert orders in the absence of a colleague! We became friends and I gained his regard and respect.

From this experience, I learned that prejudice and misplaced judgment have no place at work. Character and attitude are more profound than first impressions. I also learned that you also make your experience what it is. No one is going to take you by the hand and show you; you need to grab it yourself and show others you can.

We should never write anyone off. Every person deserves a chance!

12-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a member of Global HR Forum, how does this add benefit to you?

Safa Hassan: All I can say is that I wish we had this forum 20 years ago! HR has certainly come a long way since and I am pleased with the array of talented and professional people we have in the group. I look forward to more engagement whereby we can make a difference in the field.

13-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Tell us some case-studies / challenges you faced in EIPET and how did you overcome them?

Safa Hassan: I would have to talk about the challenges faced in dealing with blue collar “labour staff” from Suez and the trade union. Although I had experience in dealing with unions before, in the industrial sector it is a different ball game. I found myself faced with an extremely demanding group who can also be hostile towards HR and Management. Today, 3 years on we have managed to forge an amicable working relationship that is based more on respect, open communication and a common goal.

14-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You have worked in London and you are currently working in Egypt. What is the difference between the two business environments from your own observations?

Ms. Safa Hassan: The working culture is very different in London. There is a huge emphasis on commitment and self-discipline. An employee may be protected by the law in many aspects especially against discrimination, but that does not mean that an employer will have to suffer silly excuses for non-attendance or negligence either.

Whatever the challenge, transport strike, or bad weather conditions you simply make it to work! No excuses are tolerated. There is a tendency to have much less manning compared to Egypt. Everyone is kept busy the whole day and there is no time to gossip; just enough for a lunch break. Your work speaks for itself and that cannot be hidden.

Yes, the standard of living is much better in the UK, but this also comes at a very high price. You have to work very hard to earn it.

I have faced many challenges in my career. One of the most poignant was when I had to move from country to country several times. Searching for a new job and starting over again was very trying indeed and at some point even having to take a step back in career! This taught me that fear of the unknown cannot hurt you unless you allow it. When you treat it as an adventure, it becomes OK to go for a new experience and savour all the opportunities that come with it. Believing in your abilities will carry you through any challenge.



Civil Work

Q&A with Sherihan Elkamash; Researcher at the Center of Strategic Studies, Bibliotheca Alexandrina & Charity Activist



Mahmoud Mansi

“I am always trying to not lead members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.”

Sherihan Elkamash

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Sherihan you are multi-talented and active in building the community in several different ways, one of your main roles is working at the Center of Strategic Studies at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, can you tell us more about your role?

My main work is about making strategic researches. I also, write articles about the recent international political events. One of the main roles for me is to organize virtual discussions to discuss different economic and political subjects. I am always in contact with high profile degenerates in the political arena to make interviews with them to be published. I am also the social media specialist for the center, responsible for managing the official page by managing and posting the news, declare about the new events and conferences for the center.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Across your career you have worked in different careers and gained different experiences. Can you tell us what did you learn from these experiences? And how those skills are helping you at your current role?

I have been working in many fields since a young age I have acquired professional experience in many fields for the past fourteen years; working in NGOs, media, research, translation and communications. These experiences taught me to navigate in different kinds of structures (public/private/international), as well as dealing with the internal dynamics of each organization. In my previous roles, I have demonstrated exceptional ability to manage external stakeholders including senior government officials, high-profile clients, and well-regarded organizations. As a trilingual officer, I can communicate effectively in Arabic, English and French.

Working in all those fields taught me how to work in full power with a great performance, deliver my work in a high quality and always being in time and following the timetable.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You also have your own charity project “El Rahmoun”. Can you tells us more about managing people in a charity structured projects?

Let me first talk about myself when I was a regular member in NGO’s and volunteer projects. I starting volunteering since I was a 13-year-old school student. During those 21 years in charity, I’ve learned many things:

-I learned how to take the initiative to start new projects to help the maximum number of people in need.

-I learned more about contributing to the community and helping solve issues.

-I learned how to deal with all categories in my society, understanding their needs and being helpful to them.

-It is not only about leadership, but I have also been a great “team member”, by coming up with new ideas, working with enthusiasm and integrity.

As a founder or a leader for “El Rahmoun” charity group – like any business structure or project – it depends on the number of volunteers whether they are many or few, based on that we put a strong administration and operations management plan.

I am always trying to not lead “El Rahmoun” members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.

There is an interesting difference between a traditional corporate structure and a charity structure. In charity the individual is the one who deicides his/her responsibilities and commitment to the charity work. I cannot obligate them to attend the events or to do their tasks. Which means that I have to be their friend so they love me and maintain a good communication with the youth, meanwhile at the same time I have to be their leader when it comes to the big decisions. And this is the most difficult part. I think after 3 years of continuous work, while our volunteering community is getting bigger… my team and I are doing it well.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you define success your own way? And what would be your success tips for youth?

I have learned the perfect strategy to achieve success, it is balance. We all have the desire towards success but those who are working and planning for it are the ones who are reaching their goals in a steady way. We all grew up with big dreams, seeking success in life, but few of us who understood that sustaining the success is the hard part. Balance is the key, youth need to know the importance of balance in their life between their studies, hard work, community service and social life. Youth need to make balance between physical, emotional and spiritual elements, to keep the high performance in everything they do. When we maintain our balance it shortly affects our sense of security and helps us to move forward. The balance in all activities in our days helps us maintain our mental health in order to have healthy minds and lifestyles. Stress is a serious threat to Youth and one should make it a priority to keep the stress away because stress prevents success.

Balance = Success

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: With the development of technology, virtual communication and accessibility to knowledge, do you believe that some jobs are in threat? Can some careers take another form, offer different services and still impact the community?

The whole world is turning digital. The easy access to knowledge and data is the way of living now. Well, the development of technology can never be a threat. It actually helps us and is not a threat to our existence nor to anything created or made by the human being. NEW careers have been created and much more are on their way to glow and have place due to the virtual life. Furthermore, thousands of activities and services are provided through the internet now (website- social media) which also supports entrepreneurs and organizations to easily create new projects.

The Egyptian Government is taking the same track now in most of its governmental institutions. The pandemic helped a lot. It was a red light to hurry and accelerate our path, not only organizations that are turning digital but also individuals are becoming more focused on e-learning and other daily life services and in their lifestyles. I am very optimistic; because of the development of technology, new jobs are opening and great opportunities for youth which is very advantageous, beneficious and profitable to the growth of our great Nation EGYPT and to the rest of the world.

Thank you Sherihan for this interview and for developing and inspiring the community in such a unique way!

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HR Revolution: Ciao Fabio, grazie per aver accettato la nostra intervista e per quanto vorrai condividere con noi. Cominciamo: chi è Fabio De Lucia?

Fabio De Lucia: Ciao e grazie per questa intervista. Sono nato il 21 marzo del 1986 e il percorso accademico mi ha qualificato come perito commerciale con il massimo dei voti. Dopo la maturità e coerentemente con il mio approccio pratico alla vita, trovavo inefficace continuare a studiare per qualcosa di “non-tangibile”, quindi sono partito per Parigi e una volta rientrato, ho trovato impiego presso un’agenzia viaggi nel 2005. Ho iniziato a interessarmi a piani di sviluppo per implementare e migliorare i prodotti offerti. Credevo in quello che facevo ma, non trovando riscontro positivo da parte del mio titolare, ho rassegnato le dimissioni. All’epoca conoscevo già il mio caro amico e colui che sarebbe diventato il mio socio, Andrea (Dettole), il quale lavorava nel settore utilities nel nord Italia. Unendo le nostre conoscenze e competenze, nel 2008 abbiamo avviato Sundera, azienda di vendita servizi Business To Business (o B2B) e assistenza nel campo delle utilities: mi occupavo principalmente dei piani di sviluppo commerciale.

HR Revolution: Come nasce la web agency Deraweb e quale la sua mission?

Fabio De Lucia: Dall’esperienza positiva pregressa, nel 2016 abbiamo deciso di fondare con Andrea la società di marketing digitale Deraweb, brand partner della primogenita Sundera. L’impreparazione dei titolari di partita IVA in fatto di marketing e digitalizzazione dei prodotti aziendali – riscontrata a livello nazionale – è stato il fattore chiave che ha dato vita a Deraweb. La nostra azienda ha l’obiettivo di fornire strumenti efficaci per lo sviluppo aziendale in prospettiva di promozione digitale. In quattro anni il nostro pacchetto clienti è cresciuto in tutta Italia e su piano internazionale, acquisendo 600 clienti e con proiezione di raggiungere quota mille entro fine anno. La famiglia Deraweb conta oggi 15 dipendenti e 20 consulenti.

HR Revolution: Le Risorse Umane sono le componenti-chiave per il successo imprenditoriale. Il COVID-19 ha inevitabilmente imposto un cambiamento degli equilibri nella gestione aziendale. Come avete affrontato la sfida in fatto di nuovi assetti, ripianificazione e gestione del personale?

Fabio De Lucia: Il nostro metodo operativo prevede la maggior parte del lavoro da remoto. Gli strumenti digitali dunque, si sono confermati lo strumento indispensabile nel nostro lavoro; la pandemia è stata un elemento positivo in fatto di consolidamento di Deraweb. Si è trattato di un periodo di transizione per tutti. Nonostante uno stop forzato per alcuni e il crollo degli incassi nel mese di marzo, i nostri dipendenti si sono messi a completa disposizione dell’azienda, dei clienti, contribuendo in modo non indifferente alla buona riuscita degli intenti. Ci sono stati tutti vicini. Sono stati bravi e vanno tutti elogiati per questo.

HR Revolution: Cultura Digitale Aziendale: la risoluzione di problemi attraverso l’utilizzo di strumenti digitali si è rivelata un elemento vincente nella gestione del pacchetto-clienti durante la crisi pandemica?

Fabio De Lucia: Da titolari di azienda, nel supporto ai clienti e per una gestione ottimale dei servizi offerti, abbiamo deciso di operare in modo differente rispetto ai concorrenti. Abbiamo fornito gli strumenti necessari alla “sopravvivenza pandemica” con metodo studiato e mirato, soprattutto gratuito. In che modo? Creando manuali, guide strategiche “BUSINESS WORKOUT”, webinar e consulenze gratuite a disposizione dei clienti per evitare il fenomeno dell’inazione. Non a caso, il feedback è stato assolutamente positivo: abbiamo rafforzato il rapporto di reciprocità e fiducia con i nostri clienti, premiando inoltre coloro i quali hanno rispettato le scadenze in un periodo tanto complesso, fornendo un’estensione gratuita di un mese del servizio. Quest’approccio ci ha permesso di registrare risultati esponenzialmente più alti nel nostro ambito, a dispetto delle previsioni che la condizione economica generale avrebbe imposto.

HR Revolution: Spesso si pone l’accento sulla fidelizzazione del cliente, sottovalutando che la riuscita di un progetto o l’acquisizione di un contratto, derivi da un’ottima commistione di professionalità ed energie di un gruppo omogeneo e coeso. Dicci di più del tuo team. Sono importanti la Diversità e l’Inclusione in Deraweb e perché?

Fabio De Lucia: Assolutamente sì, per noi Diversità e Inclusione sono importanti. E rendono Deraweb un ambiente stimolante: il clima aziendale assume il giusto equilibrio tra competenze, rispetto delle qualità di ognuno e dimensione umana. Abbiamo messo in atto un modello di leadership che ispira gli altri e invoglia a migliorarsi. Dal consulente commerciale al servizio clienti, ai tecnici grafici, addetti marketing, comunicazione e social media, l’elemento della formazione continua inoltre, ha permesso di stabilire la gestione dei progetti in cui, senza più necessità di definizione esplicita, ogni membro del gruppo conosce esattamente il suo ruolo all’interno del processo. 

C’è fiducia e stima reciproca, spirito di sacrificio e altrettanta collaborazione. Da parte nostra c’è attenzione alle proposte di ognuno. Il mio lavoro mi ha dato modo di visitare tante aziende e conoscere altre realtà, ma qui da noi c’è un clima diverso, un clima che piace e che permette di lavorare secondo un equilibrio che dimostra quanto i nostri ragazzi siano “allineati”: in Deraweb proprio non riesce ad arrivare qualcuno che non abbia i nostri stessi valori.

HR Revolution: La Parità di Genere è un obiettivo di rilievo in una realtà aziendale. Definiresti l’equilibrio di genere parte integrante del vostro successo?

Fabio De Lucia: Sì, le donne nella nostra azienda sono un valore aggiunto e particolarmente apprezzate. Hanno un approccio naturalmente diverso all’ascolto del cliente e alla gestione di una richiesta. Sempre attente ai dettagli, precise, sicuramente meno impulsive in fatto creativo rispetto agli uomini. È una scelta aziendale mirata, quella di impostare gruppi di lavoro misti: sono la sintesi perfetta che genera stabilità. In Italia si parla troppo poco di Parità di Genere sul posto di lavoro, noi invece siamo ben felici di dare possibilità di crescita e carriera alle nostre dipendenti, mamme incluse! Sono tutte ben accolte, troviamo che siano una risorsa irrinunciabile e grande indice di maturità nel nostro team. Da sempre puntiamo su piani di sviluppo aziendale assolutamente paritari; la famiglia Deraweb è un gruppo eterogeneo che ha fatto anche di questo equilibrio un punto di forza. 

Grazie Fabio per averci aperto le porte di Deraweb e condiviso con HR Revolution Middle East, l’esempio positivo di una realtà aziendale solida che ha fatto delle Risorse Umane il suo motivo di orgoglio!

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Interview with HRCI Advisory Council Member Dr. Amir Dhia



Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

” The CEO Advisory Council is a model for other industries as they play a role in connecting the lines between the labor market needs and the professional job industries” Dr. Amir Dhia

Brief Biography about the Interviewee:

Previously, Dr. Dhia was Dean at INSEEC MBA & MSc

Dr. Amir Dhia serves on different boards and educational organization programs. He is a member of the HRCI CEO Advisory Council; a Board Member of the Standards Supreme Council of the Global Academy of Finance and Management (GAFM), and a Board Member of the Standards Supreme Council the American Academy of Project Management (AAPM). Dr. Dhia is the Director General of UBT Executive Education (University of Business and Technology, Jeddah); the Director General of UBT English Language Academy, and Assistant Professor of UBT MBA and MSc programs.

Previously, he was Dean at INSEEC MBA & MSc Programs (Paris Campus), Founder & Director of INSEEC MBA in Business Diplomacy (awarded Innovation Program for 2015 by Eduniversal Rankings), and Director of its MBA program in Marketing and Communication. He was also a Professor at the Center of Diplomatic and Strategic Studies (CEDS, Paris), and at the Department of Diplomacy and Strategic Negotiations of the University of Paris XI, Jean Monnet College (awarded Professor of the Year 2009), as well as Head of English language programs at one of the largest language and training centers in Paris, CFILC.

With a PhD in International Relations and Diplomacy (summa cum laude), Master and Bachelor degrees, Amir Dhia is a specialist in the Information and Knowledge Society, a Legal Translation Expert, an Accredited SME Consultant, a Certified Digital Marketing Associate, holds a Chartered Certification in Talent Management, and completed the Distinguished Leadership Development Program from the National School of Administration (ENA, Paris). Training diplomats, officers, government officials, CEOs, executives as well as undergraduate and graduate students, he has worked, lectured and trained in several countries around the world. 

1. HR Revolution Middle East: Dr. Amir, welcome to HR Revolution Middle East Magazine. It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to make this interview with you.

Would you please share with our readers more about the international certifications offered by the HRCI and how are they exactly designed to help advance HR professionals’ careers at different seniority levels?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI has an outstanding record of global certification and recognition for over 45 years. This is in part due to both the well-established standards and credibility and accreditation of its certifications and their impact on HR practitioners. HRCI’s eight certifications and qualifications requirements are significant for the HR profession. Certification adds value to a professional’s career. The various aspects of HR are included in the HRCI certifications and the exams cover a comprehensive spectrum of topics ranging from HR Administration and Operations, Recruitment, Talent Management, Compensation and Benefits, Employee Relations, HR Mobility, Health and Safety, HR Information Management and Business Leadership. With more than 500,000 certification holders in more than 125 countries, HRCI certified professionals lead global HR organizations and businesses. 

2- HR Revolution Middle East: Providing International Certification for such a sensitive profession like the HR is definitely not easy, considering the changing environments for this profession and how they can dramatically impact even the way of managing the HR different functions. Would you please let us know how do the HRCI succeed to tailor a sound know-how for global professionals? How is this secret recipe cooked?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI certifications are accredited by both the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and International Accreditation Service (IAS), where that accreditation offers impartial, third-party validation that the development and administration of HRCI certification programs has met stringent standards set by the testing industry. HRCI certification exams are conducted at proctored test centres worldwide and to a limited extent online. The certification exams are evaluated and revised to stay in line with current HR practices. Unlike other certifications that may simply require research and memorizing concepts, HRCI candidates need to acquire and master HR concepts and practices to be certified.

3- HR Revolution Middle East:  The aPHRi is the latest Certification added to the series of International Certifications offered by the HRCI. How did the HRCI evaluate the actual need in the market to help support the experience of junior professionals? How can this early certification help junior professionals to advance their careers with quicker steps than usual?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The HRCI aPHRi international certification is indeed highly useful and significant for new practitioners and recent university graduates in the field of Human Resources. Many candidates take the entry-level certification when they shift their career from one field or another towards HR. Recent university graduates also take the certification to combine their university degree with a professional certification to distinguish their qualifications when applying for their first job. HR practitioners who do not have a solid foundation in the field of HR are expressing interest in aPHRi to support them in their positions and careers. Encouragingly, aPHRi professionals are already planning to take their competence to a higher level by preparing for the PHRi certification. UBT Executive Education was among the very first global partners of HRCI to adopt the new aPHRi certification when it was first launched back in early 2018, noting that the number of aPHRi professionals are growing steadily.

4- HR Revolution Middle East: What special tips would you share with professionals preparing for their HRCI certification? How can they prepare themselves for the exams?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

Preparing for HRCI certifications should be a pleasant, enriching and fulfilling experience and challenge. Regardless which certification they target, candidates need to master HR concepts, understandings and practices rather than memorizing definitions for the sake of an exam or certificate. Candidates who take an exam preparation training program are recommended to take the certification exam within a month or two after that training is completed so that the knowledge and concepts acquired remain fresh. The longer the candidates wait to take the exam the more they find themselves spending longer time reviewing the materials. HRCI has a large global network of Certification Preparation Providers (CPP) that are selected for the quality of their training for HRCI certifications. Another important advice that I would like to highlight is that it is better and more efficient to be trained by an HR professional who is already an HRCI certification holder than by a practitioner who is not. That advantage helps aligns the training with the mind-set of the trainer and HRCI certification exams. For example, at UBT Executive Education we only recruit expert trainers who are both active practitioners in the field and are holders of the SPHRi certification. Those two assets are very important for our candidates in terms of trainer competence, qualification and quality standards.     

5- HR Revolution Middle East: The Middle East is one of the most important markets, the HRCI has been supporting for years now. As Member of the HRCI CEO Advisory Council, can you please let us know how did the HRCI expand lately its role in the Middle East? Are you planning to offer especially tailored products for the ME in the coming period?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI has devoted a lot of effort in recent years on its international development, particularly in the Middle East. In terms of exposure, HRCI is more visible in the region than ever before thanks to its participation in forums and events, along with its active communication and interaction on social media platforms. The fruit of all that is becoming increasingly obvious as more companies and professionals rely on HRCI certifications as a reference of quality and competence. With 93% of Fortune 500 companies employing HRCI certification holders, that is a testimony to the standards and reliability of HRCI certifications inspiring other companies and professionals, both in the Middle East and elsewhere. Also, thanks to the coordination between HRCI and UBT Executive Education, as of 2019, both aPHRi and PHRi certifications are approved and subsidized by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) in Saudi Arabia. There has been a growing demand for candidates with aPHRi. HRCI is working on launching the certification exam in Arabic language to encourage a wider audience of HR professionals from the Middle East region.    

6- HR Revolution Middle East: Do you believe that the industry trends in the Middle East are different from that of Europe & America, and thus the HR professionals in the region have to nurture special set of skills and knowledge more related to the region?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The fundamentals and functions of any profession are essentially the same regardless of the industry or country. However, HR has a certain level of legal and cultural particularities that need to be taken into consideration per country specifications. For instance, there are HR laws and practices that are unique to Europe, North America and the Middle East region. As much as HR professionals need to adjust to their companies, they also need to adapt to their respective countries and cultures. This is what makes them global in their mind-set and culturally adaptive in their local practices. HRCI has reflected on that notion through three of its certifications (aPHRi, PHRi, SPHRi) that clearly highlight the knowledge HR practitioners need in both a regional and global context regardless of country or business industry, while encouraging them to be creative, flexible and dynamic, as needed locally.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: We are extremely amazed by the idea that the HRCI has a special “Advisory Council” acting as a resource to the HRCI CEO by offering advice, insight into industry trends and market needs.  Do you believe that this special set-up shall be adapted in other businesses as well? How will this help businesses to advance & grow more in the market with a more “customer-need based” approach?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The newly established HRCI CEO Advisory Council brings unique knowledge and skills. HRCI’s mission is to enable people and organizations to discover, develop and demonstrate their fullest potential through innovative learning and certification in the ever-evolving world of HR. Therefore, our role as CEO Advisory Council Members is to offer advice, insights and a different perspective into industry trends. The CEO Advisory Council is a model for other industries as they play a role in connecting the lines between the labour market needs and the professional job industries. I am proud and pleased to serve as a Member of the CEO Advisory Council along with other colleagues who are specialists and experts in HR.

8- HR Revolution Middle East: Finally, we would like to ask you to give an advice for professionals especially in the Middle East, about how they can support their businesses? How does the various technological/ environmental/ physical disruptions nowadays require them to develop their skills/knowledge/competencies in a different way?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The whole world, including the Middle East, has been going through unprecedented challenges as a result of the pandemic. While many businesses have either closed their doors temporarily or are at the risk of permanent closure, many other companies and industries have sustained, emerged and even grown. We should look ahead and adapt to the dynamics of global businesses and industries by exploring opportunities and alternatives. A lot of professionals have made use of the recent circumstances and environment by reflecting on their careers and potentials. Many others spent quality time developing skills and new competencies. While the economy at-large may take some time to recover, let’s move forward constructively, positively and distinctively. 


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