Insight Dubai Conference: Overcoming my fear of the unknown
A native of Beit Furik, a village outside Nablus, Mai Abu Thra'a is a woman entrepreneur hoping to start her company - Dalili, an online search engine that hosts discount offer for businesses throughout the Middle East. Currently involved in our Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE), Mai recently returned from the Insight Dubai Conference.
In March 2013, with fellow WISE participant Nour at her side, Mai boarded her very first plane, headed to Dubai. Mai shares her experience with us and explains how Insight Dubai will help her future as a Palestinian businesswoman.
What was the conference?
Insight Dubai brings young women from around the world to develop their global awareness, intercultural understanding and leadership skills. We also had the opportunity to network, meet distinguished guest panelists and take field trips.
How did this conference help you in business development.
This conference was so important for me as a businesswoman in terms of networking development - especially in English! I have been taking business English classes at TYO but this was my first time putting my skills to actual use.
I took business cards with me and told people about my website plans. I met other young women who are also involved in technology development and we exchanged advice and techniques on how to market our businesses.
I used to be so shy and reserved around new people but I soon realized the power of networking. In just a few short days in Dubai, I managed to hold conversations, all in English, with people from all over the world! I'm so happy that my shyness didn't get the best of me and that I was able to grow.
What are the two biggest lessons you learned?
- Overcoming my fear of the unknown. I was incredibly excited for the conference in the weeks leading up to it. But on my way over, I was afraid of the roommate situation at the conference. I would be living with complete strangers - and non-Arabs - for the first time in my life. I ran scenarios in my head - what if I wasn't respected and what if they didn't understand me or my culture? But I relaxed and tried to keep an open mind. Turns out, my roommates were incredible and so accepting of me! We had so much respect for each other and learned so much about each others' cultures and religions. It was amazing.
- You can do anything you put your mind to. I had the chance to meet three women entrepreneurs who came for a panel discussion. They talked about their lives, businesses, time management techniques, and the challenges they face. But what really amazed me is how driven and accomplished these women were. One woman talked about how she balances a business with having children and a family. She's even found the time to write two books. I found her inspiring and it gave me the confidence I need to know that I can have a full future and the sky's the limit.
How do you feel going forward?
Insight Dubai gave me a renewed energy! Before the conference, I was juggling a full-time job and also trying to start up my business. Now, I'm excited to be back home and I am ready to focus on my business even more. Seeing how driven my fellow roommates were was also inspiring. They were such energetic and active girls who were busy writing papers and doing reports during their down-time. It made me realize that I can and should be using my free time more wisely.
Check out Mai's slideshow of her and Nour's time at Insight Dubai!