This article was originally written by Ony Anukem and published to the Women of Influence blog.
Marwa Jazi was 12 when civil war broke out in Lebanon. Her family, unfortunately, lived in one of the worst parts of the city — the borderline between the two warring parties. For most of her formative years, there were many times when she was stuck indoors, fearing bombings, and living with limited access to water and electricity. Simply waking up unharmed, and still with a home, was a blessing.
This did not stop her from earning a university degree, nor building a career — even as the situation worsened. When she and her now-husband began dating, they both agreed that they wanted to raise a family away from the conflicts of war, and so the pair began discussing the possibility of moving overseas. By a stroke of luck, she heard the Canadian embassy in Syria was actively processing immigration applications from Lebanese civilians; two months later, with her almost-finished MBA and $3,000 in savings, she landed in Canada.
“I was determined to create a life in Canada, whatever that looked like. Even if I had to wait tables, I was going to do what it took to establish a life in the country,” she says. “I wanted this change.”
While determination and persistence became her driving forces, embracing change became her strategy — and looking at her career, it’s clear it was a recipe for success.
When she felt her growth at a previous employer had plateaued, Marwa challenged her manager to develop an action plan that would earn her a promotion (it worked). Later on in her career, she had the foresight to see that a relocation opportunity with a global company wasn’t something she wanted for her career or family, so she turned it down — even though it meant she’d be taking a step back in her career, and looking for work again.
When Marwa started to feel that a former employer’s corporate culture was not aligned with her own values, something that she says is imperative for a working relationship to be successful, she knew it was time to look for opportunities elsewhere.
It was during this time that she was approached by a former colleague about an opening at Ricoh. After interviewing for the role of Director of HR, she knew it was the right fit. Marwa loved the culture — she describes it as “innovative, supportive, and diverse” — and the latitude Ricoh offered its employees to create change.
In her current role, Marwa partners with leaders to develop and implement programs that support the company through its transformation journey. Since her tenure at Ricoh has been about supporting change, her work has always been interesting, and she is constantly learning. And because Ricoh sets high value on employee experience and growth, she is encouraged to help people make positive and lasting changes in their careers.
“I was determined to create a life in Canada, whatever that looked like. Even if I had to wait tables, I was going to do what it took to establish a life in the country.”
“I’ve always believed in the power of embracing change — whether for yourself, or as an organization — and that means more than accepting the changes that are thrust upon us. It’s about igniting and leading that change as well,” explains Marwa. “Ricoh’s tagline of ‘imagine.change.’ really encapsulates this in everything we do. Change is driven by imaginative thinking. By thinking creatively and collaborating with one another, we are always moving forward, always finding new ways of improving lives, and improving the way communities live and work together.”
Even during the current pandemic, Marwa and her team are helping people to embrace change in an unstable environment, to adjust to working from home, as well as providing them with information to help them stay safe. “Being able to help others, even in small measure, through such an unprecedented crisis, and the ability to see an immediate impact is truly powerful.”
Looking long term, Marwa advises individuals to look for a company that is willing to invest both in them and their career. This is especially important for women who may shy away from applying for jobs that pique their interest when they don’t feel they are 100 per cent qualified for the role.
In these cases, Marwa’s advice is always the same: “If you meet 60 or 70 per cent of a job’s criteria, I’m here to say apply — if you don’t get the job, you are not worse off. If you do get an interview, you will likely gain something from the process.” She adds it’s rare (in the one per cent range) for someone to be 100 per cent qualified for a job. “And if you fail to seize and embrace new opportunities because you fear failure, you’re not going to grow as a person or leader.”
To help enable that growth, Marwa advises it’s also important to seek support along the way from a mentor or a sponsor, and to invest in continuous learning. “Never miss an opportunity to read an article or attend a webinar,” she says.
And the key final piece? “Put your hand up,” says Marwa. “You don’t need to wait for a job opportunity or a promotion to do more. If you see a business need or an opportunity to use your skill to help your company, ask your manager if you can work on a solution to benefit them.”
Marwa’s own story is proof — with persistence, determination, and a strategy of embracing change, you can create the career you want. “You just have to believe you can, and go from there,” says Marwa. “Remember, how you think about things impacts how you behave and ultimately the results you achieve in life. If you let go of limiting assumptions and beliefs, you can be very successful.”
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