In April of 2013, I found myself cold, exhausted, and trying to conceal the pain I was in as I stood at the bottom of the top of the world—Mt. Everest. Just 8 months before this moment, I felt like I was on top of the world: I had just been on the cover of Forbes Middle East, nominated as a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum, was a member of the board of a number of banks and non-profits, and was making an amazing salary while having few living expenses since I lived at home.
Yet, in August of 2012, I decided to step down from it all.
It had been no easy task to reach the heights of success which I enjoyed: I had joined the Arab Bank at the young age of 26, taking on a position that was at a senior level that no other woman had yet held at that time. The position saw me managing an existing department, and centralizing operations across 10 countries into 4 new ones.
Being the Chairman and CEO’s daughter added even more challenges: I was faced with numerous attempts to make me fail and many of my coworkers questioned my capabilities and right to hold this position. I worked like I never imagined I would ever work, into late hours and through weekends and vacations to prove myself to my peers, to myself, and to my father, who treated me more strictly than anyone else. I had thought THAT journey would be the most difficult thing I would ever have to overcome… but I was wrong.
When I agreed to join the team climbing to Everest Base Camp to raise money for a cancer hospital back home, I took it on as a personal challenge: I had never climbed to any kind of altitude before and was not physically fit when I said yes to the trip. To top it all off, I had an almost paralyzing fear of falling.
The trek itself mirrored the storm of the internal turmoil I had been in since I stepped down from a successful and secure career, feeling lost and unable to take the next step before I was able to see where my foot would land next.
As a fourth generation member of a banking family who practically lived and breathed the bank since birth, I had never considered my life without it. The bank was my family and I, and we were the bank… but when we felt the tide sweep it off the path that does not echo the values built over four generations, we decided to walk away. Having been climbing the same mountain since birth, how do you decide which one to move to next? I had never felt so lost before in my life.
When we are lost, we feel too afraid to make a move in any direction because we don’t know where that path may lead. As much as we prefer to stay put where we think it might be safe, we have to find a way to move forward.
As I took the first steps towards base camp, I decided that if I were able to make it through the next 13 days, then I would be able to do anything I set my mind to.
I kept setting small goals for myself each day: During our 8-10 hour treks, I was so exhausted that I would look forward to our next stop for the night, and each freezing night I forced myself to sleep as early as possible, looking forward to the warmth that the late morning sun would bring.
“I always felt safe and secure with their financial backing and I want to at least create a little bit of that for girls and women.”
Despite everything, I couldn’t help but appreciate the beautiful scenery we would pass through and the unfaltering smiles on people’s faces living such simple lives and being so happy and at peace.
I realized that I was looking at myself as a helpless victim, when truly I was so fortunate that I could start a new life and begin a new challenge. I did, after all, come from an entrepreneurial family with a great grandfather who was courageous to leave his hometown, family, and the comfort of it all to embark on an adventure to the USA where he built himself from a door-to-door salesman to owner of a textile company and factory, to finally bring banking to the Arab world by establishing the Arab Bank in 1930. I wondered if he knew it would grow to become the fabric of thousands of successful stories throughout the region and touching the lives of many.
The world was my oyster. At the end of 2014, I moved to the U.S. to create a company that would enable young girls to become financially empowered women. I strongly believe that women are the fuel of changing the world and improving it, and to do that, they need to be financially empowered. When better to start that than when they are young girls?
I am so blessed to have grown up in a family that taught the importance of valuing money; and though I did not learn all the basic concepts at an early age, I do believe what I did get may have helped me make smarter choices in my life.
I always felt safe and secure with their financial backing and I want to at least create a little bit of that for girls and women by instilling the knowledge and skills needed to become confident about managing their money. Financial freedom was a key to my own journey of self-discovery, and I want that freedom for every girl. That is why today, I am on my own personal Quest to create the products that can give girls the early financial education they need that is also fun.
Photo By: Dina Shoman