From Corporate to Entrepreneurship in the Middle East
“I don’t want to be boxed into a corporate world!” Leila Rezaiguia said. She talked with zeal about her professional journey from corporate setting to becoming a first-time entrepreneur last year in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Originally from Algeria, Leila has worked in the UK, Abu Dhabi, and now in Dubai. She describes Dubai as an ideal place for entrepreneurship in the Middle East: “it is exploding, flourishing and an amazing platform for women.” Previously she worked in oil and gas, human resources, and financial services.
Today she is Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Kompass Consultancy, which provides career development and management, and life and career coaching. Founded in September 2013, her team works with organizations, individuals and universities.
Leila is strong, driven and fierce – she knows what she wants and where she is going, even in the often uncertain waters of entrepreneurship. Part of this comes from being the first-born of four kids; raised in a supportive family with high expectations. She was expected to be independent and well-educated. This was not the perspective of typical Algerian families. “My parents were different than my friend’s parents because they were extremely open-minded,” Leila said. “My mom is a French teacher and my dad is the CFO of an oil and gas company where he has worked at for 42 years. I was a competitive swimmer, did Judo and played basketball. I was raised with the mindset of respect and the importance of education.”
“I remember a conversation i had with my dad when I was thirteen. He wanted me to study science and I wanted to study language,” Leila laughed. “We argued. I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to be a doctor! I want to be an interpreter!’ and he’d say ‘No, you’re not!’ I’d yell, ‘I AM NOT CHANGING!’” Sure enough, Leila studied language like she wanted. “And when I graduated with my English degree, my dad was so proud!”
Leila is also no stranger to crises and hard times professionally, which have greatly shaped her path. She was open about the lessons she has learned. She has worked for companies whose values clashed with her own and she therefore decided to leave. She has lost two different and great jobs due to economic crises. She lost interest in a job when it was no longer challenging, as well as recognized her deep need to be growing and learning in her job in order to be happy. She has even packed up and moved to a new place – Abu Dhabi – without knowing anyone. “I can be a risk taker when I see the opportunity,” Leila said.
Seeing opportunity is why she ultimately decided to start her own business. “I took a few months off of work, traveled and did some soul-searching,” Leila said. “And when I came back I realized I was going to start my own business. People were shocked, and said ‘How can you leave the corporate environment without anything?’ But, I had always had an idea to set up my own business but, it was never the right time. Last year was the right time.”
She came together with the two other co-founders of Kompass, Gaj Ravichandra and Joanna Dawson, both connections from previous jobs. “We share the same core values, and to us, values are the most important building block. We felt there was a niche in the market here, because we have all managed our own careers and we’ve all quit corporate careers. We want to support other people manage and develop their own careers. We hear the miseries of people every day, and we want to enlighten and unlock their potential.”
A big thanks to Leila for sharing her time, passion and path with us. Follow Kompass on Facebook for regular updates.