Amal Dahawi Al Shammri has played many roles, from working in the petroleum field to founding Embrace Doha. She has managed to present a new project to the market whilst progressing in her career at the same time. As a woman with insightful experience, we felt it was important to share her story to inspire others. So, who is Amal Al-Shammri?
I graduated from Qatar University with a bachelor’s in business administration. Following my graduation, I started working for Oryx GTL in the Strategy Division. Through hard work and dedication, I managed to land the Head of Strategy and Business Management position which, despite being a demanding job, did not stop me from pursuing and developing my own side projects. Interestingly, it was because of my job that I decided to create Embrace Doha. This company was born as a response to a phenomenon that I encountered in work, in which most of my foreign coworkers were curious about the Qatari culture. Due to my social personality, I would always chat with them and tried my best to provide answers to their questions. At times I was shocked by some of the questions that were posed, because they were very simple and touched on subjects, I expected to be public knowledge and for foreigners to know about. However, there were times in which I could not provide answers, as I lacked the knowledge on certain origins of some Qatari traditions. During these moments I would consult my family or look for references in Qatar National Library for the most accurate answers. This prompted me to carry out a discussion session in the traditional Qatari style (floor majlis) to introduce my coworkers to the Qatari culture. With time and growing interest in the project, I was getting more requests to carry out these sessions of introducing foreigners to Qatari culture from other companies. Thus, “Embrace Doha” was established in 2014.
What would you say is the main goal of Embrace Doha?
It is a cultural consulting firm that addresses a gap in cultural marketing in Doha, by presenting the Qatari culture to foreigners in a way that facilitates acceptance and integration into the Qatari society. The importance of this company/idea also comes under the framework of realizing Qatar 2030 vision which focuses on the development of the country while preserving the cultural identity, and that is exactly what “Embrace Doha” is trying to do. Over time, the company grew from holding one specific session to many different sessions, and we have also introduced tours and cultural celebrations. This demonstrates that with time the services and goals of the company will continue to grow and develop for the better.
What do you see in Embrace Doha’s future?
Part of the company’s future is to establish an official headquarter, as at the moment it does not have one. The purpose of the headquarters is more than just being the face of the company, but also to create a friendly environment to welcome foreigners and build relationships between them and the Qatari community. We also want the headquarters to be a platform in which Qataris are encouraged to participate in cultural dialogue, so that citizens have an active role in spreading their culture to others.
How do you balance between two jobs?
Balance is easily achieved through proper planning; I always walk around with my notebook organizing my chores and thoughts. I give each of my tasks my complete attention through dividing up a set period of time to each one, so as to not overwhelm myself with work and to be more productive. To add to that, I have a deep desire to give back in any way possible. I have the energy to share, give and produce, so why should I limit my ambitions and abilities? Even with my current jobs I have a vision for myself, and that is to evolve and turn my other ideas into actual projects. What encourages me to continue on with this mentality is seeing my achievements, that is when I feel that all my time and effort put forth was worth it. Another important factor in achieving this balance, is delegating. Knowledge is not concentrated on one person, that is why it is important to share knowledge and experience with others. This contributes in the personal development of other people, and lessens the burden that befalls on you as it is now shared with others and ensures business continuity. For example, my role in Embrace Doha is decreasing day by day as I want the project to be associated with the Qatari community instead of it being tied to my name. Having a job does not limit the person’s life, as anyone can develop themselves outside of it. At the end of the day, a person needs to give themselves the opportunity to explore and expand their outlook on life.
Did your studies in university play a part in realizing your personal goals?
My education played an important role in certain projects only. For example, the things I learned in university do not contribute significantly to my job in the petroleum field, but it played a huge role when I established Embrace Doha. In my major, I studied about business through an all-inclusive set. In reality though, my job at Oryx GTL is about focusing on a specific department with specific goals as part of a larger organization. It is when I began working on “Embrace Doha” that my studies made an appearance, as it forced me to focus on all aspects of business (e.g. salaries, logo etc.).
How would you describe Qatari’s reaction towards Embrace Doha?
In the beginning there was a lot of questions because the purpose of the company was not clear to them, and they could not see how it would bring about change. There were also a lot of people who did not see the importance of this project, as they believed that brochures and flyers do a good job of introducing foreigners to our culture. The difference between Embrace Doha and the brochures is that we aim to create a comfortable and friendly environment for foreigners, in which we facilitate a better understanding of the culture. This allows foreigners to live and coexist more easily in an environment that is different from what they are used to. We do not simply state what to avoid and what to wear, but instead give reasons and explanations behind such rules.
What have you learned from this project?
Through this project I have learned a lot of important lessons that changed my personality and the way I think for the better. I used to be very shy in terms of not attempting to talk and befriend people I did not know. It was when I established my company that I learned to be more outgoing and outspoken, and to interact more actively with the people around me. I also learned to give more than just what the country is asking for, because no one should just wait until someone asks them to do something in order to help their country. My desire to give back has increased, and now I am actively attempting to give back to my country in any conceivable way instead of just thinking about it. I also learned that when I work on an idea that I love a lot of doors open up that elevate me for the better, and other doors open up to the rest of the society that were not there before. Another important lesson that I learned was to accept other people’s opinions, even if they differ from my personal opinions. It is also important to be open towards other people, because a person can change their mentality to the better by simply listening to other people’s perspectives. This contributes to breaking stereotypical ideas we have of one another, and diminishing prejudice. I also learned the importance of trying, even if I am afraid of failure. To do something and fail is better than regretting not taking the first step, because then you end up wondering ‘what if’ and why did I not try. Even if I failed, it is through this failure that I learn and grow.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
Talent is not defined from the beginning, nor is it confined to a limited number of people. Talent comes through experience. Venture and try more than one job, do not limit yourself to one thing. Through exploring you get to discover skills that you may have never known about. Do not confine your plans to one idea and rely only on them, you have to be more open to other opportunities that are available to you. This advice is especially useful to university students, as they have both the energy and time to explore. Volunteer more to expand your personal perspective, for it allows you to learn what you like and do not like. It also opens doors and allows you to discover thing that you would not have even thought of. Most importantly, do not say “no” to anything, because it closes doors and opportunities. Say “yes” to find out more about yourself, the society and the bigger picture.
- Interview written by Al Anoud Al Kuwari.
- Interview was edited to improve readability and flow.