Rania Hoteit: Cutting Edge Technology Innovator

Meet Rania Hoteit, the serial entrepreneur who is innovating at the cutting edge of technology. Think robots, articifical intelligence and 3D printing – and a superbrain able to connect the dots across disciplines to see opportunities and value where others do not. CEO and fo-founder of ID4A Technologies, Rania is reinventing the supply chain for companies like Walmart, Steelcase and Amtrak. She’s also a recognized leader in women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Melinda:             Rania welcome to Wings.
Rania:                   Hi Melinda. Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Melinda:             Well, it’s great you’re here. I’m so excited to learn all about your company ID4A Technologies. It’s doing amazing things. What was the inspiration?
Rania:                   ID4A is … I’ll tell you a little bit about the company, how we started and how we grew.
ID4A is the global design technology company that is based in San Francisco with an international team that is currently distributed across six major cities around the world. We are specialized in the design and development of platforms solutions that leverage exponential technologies such as AI, 3D printing, machine vision and industrial robots. We build manufacturing automation software for robotics technologies.
We also collaborate with corporate R&D labs and startup companies to develop their products from early concept stage to design prototype, manufacturing and distribution to market.
I started the company … There’s a little bit of history that contributed to how I started ID4A, beginning with my educational training and my career and also my earlier journey as an entrepreneur since 2007.
My passion always lies in exploring innovative [inaudible 00:05:01] but can bridge humanities and design with technology innovation and business. I had a very broad knowledge base that is both technical and creative given that I came from engineering into design and then I went into our production design and architecture and my thesis in my higher education was focused on creating advanced manufacturing methodologies that use programmable materials and combine computational design with machine vision and 3D printing and industrial robots.
Over the years, I have also built a lot of experience on how products and parts get manufactured for real world applications by working for major companies in automotive and aerospace, architecture and electronics and even in the architecture field, that we’re all involved in fabrication and production at some point.
During that same period …
Melinda:             What an exciting place to be because you really are on the frontier with so much. You mentioned exponential technologies.
Rania:                   Yeah.
Melinda:             You are right on the frontier of so much that’s changing so quickly in our society.
Rania:                   Yeah, absolutely. I think this is one of the reasons we were able to also grow as a company because during that period when I was a student as well and I was working with other companies that are involved in manufacturing I became an entrepreneur and I learned a lot from co-founding and exiting two companies prior to ID4A.
We founded ID4A at the end of 2011, and we moved the company to San Francisco at the end of 2013. I really launched operations out of Silicon Valley, Bay Area only three months after I graduated from my second Masters program. But, being able to successfully consolidate my multi-disciplinary expertise into an operational business that is cohesive and that can create a value add and innovation to our customers with the solutions that we can provide was a game changer for us.
We were able to place the company at the forefront of design technology by … The way how we started, because in the beginning, we also initiated a series of R&D projects and automation experiments that helped us to accelerate the production cycle using exponential technologies like 3D printing and industrial robots. But, through these processes we were able to develop innovative methodologies that we pitched and sold to business and the manufacturing industry to adopt them for a variety of applications. This has [inaudible 00:07:55] the initial success that helped us to position the company at the forefront as well.
Melinda:             For a lot of our listeners, their heads may be spinning a little bit, with trying to understand because it sounds amazing but like, “Okay, what does it mean? What do you actually make? Who are your clients? What are some of the applications?” Can you bring some of those to light for us.
Rania:                   Yes sure. Our clients and partners, we built a B2B business model that allows us to expand by building strategic partnerships and collaborations with corporate R&D labs and start up companies that can benefit from the work that we do.
Some of the companies that we’ve collaborated with, in the past are NASA, JBL, we worked with Amtrak, we worked with Walmart, we worked with a lot of big corporate names to develop processes in the R&D stage. Some of the other work that we do with the startup world is developing all kinds of products in different verticals from medical devices to wearables and electronics and all types of manufacturer-able products.
Recently, due also to a lot of changes in technology we’ve been doing a lot of IoT development as well, which is Internet of Things, that integrate hardware developments with software developments within certain products.
Melinda:             That is just so exciting. I mean, I think listening to you talk about how you’re combining things like artificial intelligence and 3D printing, the cross disciplinary aspect too between design, like the beauty and elegance of design and your engineering is fascinating to me because I do think that women tend to come at these things and come in innovation in a very multi-disciplinary way. Do you think this is a company that a guy would have come up with? I mean, this is very much, sounds like it’s come entirely from your brain and your background.
Rania:                   Absolutely. That’s a really great question because, one of the biggest advantages that I was able to leverage for the positioning of my company and my brand was that, in the industry there was no bridge that was connecting these different aspects together. There’s a lot of fragmentation in the industry where design happens separately, prototyping happens separately, the human research on the design strategy and then design research also happens separately and then you have the manufacturing, the entire supply chain. There is a lot of fragmentation and probably because of more masculine type of politics or mindset around building business, which is very singular in a way.
For me it was about consolidating different aspects and different disciplines that can come together in harmony in a way that can create something that’s bigger and that’s more cohesive. Yeah, that was definitely something that I used to my advantage for sure.
Melinda:             It’s so interesting because guys tend to be a lot more linear, from A to B and women, more likely to be web thinkers, be able to connect the dots or systems think. Are you a systems thinker?
Rania:                   Absolutely I am.
Melinda:             I can tell you are. I use a lot of artificial intelligence in my company Verifeed as well. Everyone I know in the technology space as a woman comes at it with a way to connect A and B but also Z over here. Then, a lot of the men, are like, “Can you be more focused?” It’s like, “I am focused. Thank you.”
Rania:                   That’s just how we do things. We just multitask, we bring things together that don’t necessarily come together by nature but I think we do have the different particular qualities and tolerance that can help us to consolidate and combine and bring things together in a way that is harmonious and that can be more synchronistic.
I don’t want to … We’re not discounting man’s capability of doing so but definitely that’s something that we can all agree on both genders that it’s a more of a female trait than a male one.
Melinda:             Right, indeed. It’s so true. Your company to me sounds like, it’s a big vision. It’s a moonshot. It has applications in so many aspects of our lives. What’s your big vision? Are you heading for a billion dollar unicorn?
Rania:                   I’m right now, we’re at a place where we’re making major organizational changes because we have new investments coming onboard, but we’re also at a point where we’re trying to move from strictly being a B2B operating business model to exploring B2C channels that can make some of the solutions that we have created available online to support individual consumers as well such as inventors or engineers and independent designers who are seeking resources and support to develop new products as well.
For us right now we’re at a place where we’re trying to expand and we will continue to keep pushing more boundaries as we innovate and reshape our business model into the future. I’ll keep you updated on how far we go for sure. The plans are big. The vision is definitely grand.
Melinda:             Yeah. I can imagine you, I can imagine ID4A meets maker culture. That’s a big one.
Rania:                   Yeah.
Melinda:             Let’s go back in time a little bit, when did the entrepreneurial bug first bite you. Did you always know as a little girl that you were entrepreneurial?
Rania:                   Actually not. When, I was a little girl I knew I had leadership inclination. Since I was a kid, I was a very strong, independent, determined character. I was very assertive; I was opinionated. I had my own voice and that was quite a challenge for my family, of course. Having my own voice also meant I had a strong sense of my identity.
Around the age of seven is when I started to discover my inclinations toward leadership and when I began to really connect with my natural tendencies and my initiative kind of instincts. This became more prominent between the age of nine and 12 when I became really concerned about world affairs and my intellectual curiosity and drive and my interest in connecting with people and ideas and connecting people and ideas together really kicked in. This drive continued to develop throughout my teenage years.
I would spend tremendous amount of time writing and reading all kinds of books from astrophysics to philosophy and politics and psychology and literature asides from other science topics and school curriculum. That was because I wanted to be involved in the world. I wanted to engage. I was very active from the young age in the social level. I was very involved in civil activities and debate, whether that was in school or community clubs. I was very courageous when it comes to sharing my ideas and values and principles and perspectives about all kinds of issues and controversial topic.
I was really concerned, from a very young age and I remember thinking about questions like, “How can we change society and how can we break traditions and think creatively and innovatively to create impact on the world?” I would talk about this with my friends and people would look at me thinking this girl is crazy. What is she talking about?
During this phase as a teenager, I also started to understand my gifts and abilities to connect with people and to connect people and to build trust with them and inspire and mobilize others around conception, ideas and activities. Leadership signs appeared gradually at different stages of my life but they did appear very early on.
When it comes to entrepreneurship though, it wasn’t until I started going to college that my deep desire to become an entrepreneur came to the surface. I also came into the sole realization that, “Okay, this is who I am, this is my character. I need to be in leadership, what I really want to do is start my own business and build something for myself.”
I began my entrepreneurial journey about 10 years ago at a time when I was still an undergraduate student. I was attending full time an overly demanding program and I was working multiple jobs to support myself because I had no financial backing from family, whatsoever since I was 18 years old. I don’t know what I was thinking but, obviously the bug was biting really hard by then. My urge to start my own business was at its peak, although the circumstances were extremely inconvenient all around. That was part of also what motivated me and activated in me that kind of leadership.
Again, I wanted to initiate and I wanted to start something. Even before I started my first business, I remember, I was working for a major corporation as an intern and I remember having conversations with colleagues and they would ask me questions such as, “Would you ever think to start your own company?” I remember saying, two little sentences. I would say, “I do and I will.” Then, I would see their eyes rolling and they start laughing. In a way they were trying to say, “Yeah, right.” Or, “Who do you think you really are?” Kind of an attitude.
Of course, I didn’t give it attention but, at the same time, although their intentions was to devalue or dismiss what I was saying or my vision, but in a strange way from their perspective they were absolutely right because starting a business is probably one of the most adventurous and challenging things anyone can do. I don’t think everybody can imagine someone else doing that neither imagine themselves doing it.
Melinda:             Yeah, it’s really true actually about that journey because entrepreneur to entrepreneur, I will say that my friends who are not entrepreneurs, it’s very, very difficult for them to understand what this journey is like, I mean, unless you’re actually on it. Because to be on it is to know there are so many things beyond your control. That the only thing you can take for granted is change. That everyday, within the hour, you can be elated and devastated within the same hour. I mean, there are so …
Rania:                   Very true.
Melinda:             Yeah. There are so … it’s testing in so many ways and so I think it’s fascinating when people see in you even as a seven year old, a nine year old, a 12 year old coming up in your teens and they, that kind of like, eyes rolling or “Who do you think they are?” I often think that when people are making comments like that they’re really making the comment about themselves.
What’s tricky is for a young woman coming up like you with, all this vision and energy and leadership to not let those comments get to you. It sounds like you just didn’t … You just blew them out. You didn’t let them give you any doubt at all.
Rania:                   Nope.
Melinda:             That’s awesome because I mean, really hats off to you because I think a lot of girls that have that coming up especially the girls that were really interested maybe in math and computer science and all these sorts of things, get dissuaded by society around them. What was your secret? What was it about you that allowed you to be so resilient and not let any of that stuff into your head?
Rania:                   The best part of this is that I had a lot of challenges when I was growing up from an early childhood. I grew up in extremely unusual context and difficult circumstances that I don’t want to get too much into right now but, when I look back at the progression of the different events that unfolded particularly from the age of 18 because this is when I first separated from my family and I moved to the States alone to go to college I had no financial backing to do so. I boarded the plane to come to the states from Beirut, Lebanon, with only a $1000 in my pocket. I had no set plans. No clear vision of the future and absolutely no idea, how I will survive and continue my education.
Melinda:             Wow.
Rania:                   There were a lot of struggles and obstacles that I had to navigate through. Since then at different stages from being a student, being a young woman, an immigrant, a self-starter and all the way into becoming an entrepreneur, all these difficulties were tremendous.
For me, my focus was on how can I move myself from where am I now into where I want to be. Where I wanted to be? I wanted to create a path for myself that is functional and successful that is aligned with my vision and my purpose that I found for myself. I was very clear on that. That was always my focus. My eye was always set on that future.
I was just pushing through all kinds of challenges and obstacles because I wanted to get to where I want to be. I still [inaudible 00:24:46] it because there’s so much I still want to do and I want to achieve but that’s, this particular type of determination, was definitely the secret really behind getting through a lot of setbacks and challenges.
[tweet_box design=”box_12_at” float=”none” author=”Rania Hoteit” pic_url=”http://wingspodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Wings-guest-Rania_Hoteit_CEO.0_copy.jpg”]I was just pushing through all kinds of challenges and obstacles because I wanted to get to where I want to be. #StartupLife #challenges #WingsPodcast @rania_hoteit [/tweet_box]
The two biggest challenges that I have to over come aside from separating with my family, were, definitely lacking the support and guidance, and also lacking the financial security. When I first came here I had to work excessively to sustain myself and my education. When I decided to become entrepreneur, I was still a student. I had little savings to nothing at all. I also had a deep desire to continue my education. Dropping out for me was not even an option. That added a different layer of challenge. I had to make a lot of sacrifices and adapt in order to make things work for me and to make it to the finish line regardless of how difficult everything was.
Along the way, and I’m sure you can relate to this and a lot of people can relate to this as well is, I had a lot of challenges facing prejudice, sexism, discrimination and many hateful encounters with people that were simply just putting me down or trying to bring me down, whether that is in college or at work and during the early stages of setting up and growing my business, I had to break through a lot of gender barriers as well, especially being in a double male dominated industries, both in tech and manufacturing.
All of this, I think, all of this really taught me a lot. I have to become a self-learner and to become fully self-reliant. When it comes to business I did not go to school to study business. I learned business when I was in school studying Engineering, Design and Architecture. It required me a tremendous effort and a lot of time to also build the knowledge and expertise at an expedited pace so I could move myself forward.
Again it was that determination, that curiosity, that persistence and the self reliance. It’s just …
Melinda:             Yeah, well …
Rania:                   It’s just a lot of factors that contributed to where I am now, of course.
Melinda:             Rania, I’m blown away by your story. To think, what you went through and how difficult it must have been and there’s no way any business school anywhere in the world could have taught you what you learned with your determination but also very curious mind. I mean to innovate anything you have to be curious, which you are, when you’re talking about your dedication to learning.
As a woman, in these industries, my goodness, how did you get around or over or through or just break through all the different walls that were in front of you?
Rania:                   I’ll tell you one thing that really helped me to go through because I’ve seen a lot of women, who, they did not have the willpower to stick all the way to the end even if they have started to study certain interesting fields like tech or manufacturing or if they have the opportunity to start a business, it’s very difficult to stay the course because there is a lot of gender politics. There is a lot of barriers that women have to get through.
One of the key factors that were very helpful to me is my own belief and my sense of equality with others. I had no doubt that I am equal and I could even perform much better than other people regardless of gender, because I don’t think competences have to do anything with gender at all.
For me it was more about focusing on me becoming better, learning as many skills as I can, understanding where my weaknesses are so I can develop those areas really fast. I was really focused on myself and on my vision and what I want to accomplish. I was just shutting down every single negative voice or instance or incidence or talk or conversation that was coming my way because I had to go through a lot of this. Having a very resilient nature and emotional maturity really helped me to stick the course.
Because when you are … When you enter to a client and you’re trying to onboard a new client and then they look at you and they say, “Oh, you’re the CEO of the company?” Then you say, “What did you expect?” Right? Or then when you go into a VC office and then you get called … I had this incident before where this VC would look at me without even saying hello and he would say, “What’s a sexy girl like you doing in San Francisco?”
Melinda:             Oh my goodness.
Rania:                   When you’re facing this kind of degenerate type of interactions with people where you feel that you cannot go down to that level and be stuck there because your focus is to move yourself up. For me having that mentality and having the awareness that I need to grow up and forward, I’m not going to let anything below my level affect me, no matter how negative that is.
Melinda:             This is interesting. This is really … This really gets into the territory of what is the mindset that is absolutely a necessity for a female tech entrepreneur really any female entrepreneur but particularly innovating in tech, what’s the mindset that you have to have? You mentioned not letting any of these negative experiences or comments or any of that affect you in any way but that must have been hard. How did you do that? How did you not let it get to you?
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]I had no doubt that I am equal and I could even perform much better than other people regardless of gender, because I don’t think competences have to do with gender at all. #FemininePower #genderEquality @rania_hoteit[/tweet_box]
Rania:                   It is. It is very hard because at the end of the day, we are emotional creatures and it is very difficult for you to ignore how you’re emotionally reacting to something when it’s being invasive, when it’s being toxic. It’s very difficult to do that. But, it’s not really about ignoring your negative reactions to these situations, it’s about keeping your mind set on the positive on where you want to go.
For me, it’s and, I think, that’s the mindset that would be very helpful, especially for a woman because we deal with a lot of circumstances and events and micro-aggressions that men don’t really understand because normally we get most of that from men and from women who are also not [inaudible 00:34:22] developed and aware of what equality looks like. You see also a lot of women discriminating against themselves or against other women without understanding that, that’s what they’re doing. You can be discouraged by both genders not just by men.
Given that we are exposed to a lot of micro-aggressions and a lot of stereotypes and a lot of labeling, imagine where we would be if we would let every single one of them get in the way and stop us from doing what we want to do. Imagine where we would be. We definitely would be way before 1930, by now. We would still be stuck somewhere way far back in history.
Definitely it requires that kind of … Again, it’s all about resilience, it’s about a strong mindset that’s always projecting towards where I want be. Where I want to be and what should I do to get there, rather than, being stuck in this particular situation or in this negative circumstance that’s not constructive to my own evolutionary process towards arriving to my end goals.
Melinda               So many women who are running emerging growth, scalable technology companies, struggle to get their fair share of venture capital. There are so many biases that we’re up against, I guess when we go into those meetings. In your experience, having raised money, having two exits to your name, successfully raising money, what kind of advice can you give women, when they walk into that meeting in Sand Hill Road or in New York or here where I am in Washington DC? How did you successfully raise money?
Rania:                   Let me tell you one thing first. I walked out of at least 15 or 20 meetings before I raised money. This incidence that I talked to you about was one of the most recent ones because that was when I first moved the company from LA to San Francisco and I was checking funding. That was the kind of attitude that I was getting from a lot of Silicon Valley based VC firms and encounters with men with that kind of mentality, attitude, unfortunately.
I think the process of going through this kind of adversity also helped me to build a lot of strength. At some point when I would turn and not say anything, next time I would come back and call thing off and call things out and cut the person off and tell them, “This is what you just did and it’s not acceptable. If you want to divert the conversation in a more constructive way, we can start over. I’ll give you another chance.”
In a way, you can respond by ignoring and moving away or you can respond by calling the person out on their bad behavior and giving them a chance to adjust so you could build a constructive business relationship with them. I think that’s one of the key differentiators between successfully moving into the next phase in a public relation or failing to move forward because when you cut communication, that’s it, you’re not negotiating anymore.
I think my advice would be to build as many negotiation opportunities as possible. In order to do that you have to be very alert in how the conversation is moving, what you’re hearing, what the person is saying, how their body language is, what kind of words they’re using, so you can respond very quickly. You have to be very agile conversationalist so you can divert the conversation in your favor if you want it to go there, because it’s very easy to quit. I’ve done that multiple times because I was so agitated or so furious and I was not at the level where I had a good mastery over my reaction in these kind of situations.
Melinda:             Yeah, there’s not only …
Rania:                   As I built those skills, it got so much better.
It’s really about continuing to work on your skills and on your emotional maturity and how you manage yourself and you manage stressful situations so you can always have the upper hand in directing these kinds of meetings in the most favorable way possible.
Even if the meeting doesn’t end up with raising money, at least you have left with a positive impact on who you’ve met with, you’ve left a good impression with the people that you saw and you might come back and have an opportunity with them at second time or at third time in the future.
Melinda:             Yeah. But, it’s … This is so interesting. This is not only your own skills and your own reaction. You talked about learning the mastery so you would still be in it and still have an opportunity to negotiate and how you got better at that over time. Also, this idea of agility and really listening to what’s going on in the meeting.
There’s code, I guess. When you’re a newcomer, it’s your first startup it’s very, very difficult if you don’t run in those circles already to actually understand between the lines what the VC is actually saying to you, especially if you’re all focused on your presentation and actually really understanding that.
Is there a way, or do you see that women are getting a little bit better at helping each other, kind of cluing each other into this language or how to navigate these meetings a little bit better? Because, I think we don’t have the same networks that a lot of the guys have where they all hang out together and do stuff together.
I don’t know. Do you see there is a way that we can help each other with all of this?
Rania:                   Definitely. There is a lot of effort by amazing women that are building networks to support other women as well. I’m one of these individuals who’s been very active in the social [inaudible 00:42:34] with women empowerment and working actively on bringing more gender equality to other organizations and building more equality driven teams as well. I mentor so many founders. I advice a lot of companies. For me it’s my opportunity to contribute to creating this kind of mindset changes by encouraging others and helping them and guiding them and to how they could become better with communication, how they can handle these situations better because I had to learn so much when I had no guidance at all. For me it’s also the reason why I’m passionate to help others to learn because nobody helped me for a very, very long time.
A lot of these experiences, like you mentioned, they throw you off. You’ll be in the middle of something, you have your lines framed around your presentation, your end goal. You’re there to do business. You mean business. You’re ready for a serious conversation and then somebody throws you off by an unsolicited type of comment or an inappropriate way of handling, describing you or labeling you or speaking to you. Those moments are very tough because the first response is, you freeze. You’re trying to understand what just happened.
Melinda:             I know. Right.
Rania:                   [crosstalk 00:44:10]. You’re like in that moment like, “What did this person just say?” Or,”What did just happen?”
Melinda:             Oh my goodness.
Rania:                   You just get trapped in that middle space before you can find a way to unstuck yourself and that’s a very tough thing to do and you have to train yourself to do that.
I can tell you one trick that I started to do about eight years ago when I was still in school, is I would create imaginary scenarios of that, like negative instances like this with other people with someone. I would just create scenarios. What are the possibilities of things going wrong or things being said and my interactions with other people?
I would literally think about it for an hour or two. I would brainstorm around what would be the best strategy to navigate this kind of conversation if this comes up or if this person says this, because I had to learn it because I would freeze. Those moments where I would freeze and I wouldn’t know how to defend myself or I wouldn’t know how to respond, expectantly, led me to a place where I’m like, “Okay, we need to do something about this. You have to learn something new.”
For me to push myself into that new level of resilience where I can take a better action and respond with more agility, I had to start training myself to anticipate, which is kind of unfortunate but we have to do that. It’s like preparing for an earthquake. How do you prepare for an earthquake, really?
It was more about reversing these scenarios and seeing how I can manage and teach myself new ways to handle certain things. Over time these became new habits and I became very fluent in these kind of instances because I was training myself vigorously on getting better with handling my interpersonal relationships with other people and how to handle conversation, and communication effectively, without losing my power.
Melinda:             Yeah. That’s really important because I think sometimes though and all that practice you were doing, it is wonderful. It’s a pity that you needed to spend so much time doing that but it’s also really wonderful that you’re spending time sharing that knowledge of what you went through with other women. Because, I think sometimes, men and women, we speak a different language. We speak differently. We approach things a little bit differently. I think a lot of stuff in these investor presentations, some of it just gets lost in translation. Sometimes it could be as simple as that.
What are three things say, you would tell a woman who is preparing say, for an investor pitch? How best to prepare for that? What are the top three things that would come to your mind?
Rania:                   Okay, let me give you just a bit of statistic here because I want to highlight to women the percentage or the possibility of rejection that happens. Statistics still show that male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to be VC funded than their female counterparts. As a result of the biases also, women are 37% more likely than men to be self-funded. I was one of these women for a very long time because, as I mentioned with early exposure to fund raising and building a business and all that, I just had so much coming at me that I was not prepared for.
I think one of the first things you have to be prepared for is rejection because biases are very deeply entrenched. That’s our reality. You have to have a realistic understanding of what we’re dealing with still at a societal level. There’s a huge percentage and a huge probability that you will either be rejected, you will be overlooked, you will be dismissed, you won’t be listened to because, not because you’re doing anything wrong or you don’t have a great idea or a great personality or an amazing presentation, but simply because you just are facing a moment of a gender bias. That’s simple. It’s there. You have to be prepared for that.
The second one is, be yourself. Don’t try to … I’ve had so many conversations around this with women who would say things like, “I try to avoid wearing a certain style or I would try to avoid letting my hair loose. I would try to look ugly in order to avoid being objectified.” All these things are self-discriminatory signs. When you are doing that and when you’re speaking this way, you are discriminating against your own self. You’re positioning yourself in a place of weakness rather than actually standing in your own feminine power and owning your authentic self as a woman.
I really want to encourage women to be comfortable with themselves, to present themselves in the way that is in alignment with themselves. Be honest and have integrity. For me that’s more important than anything else.
Don’t try to fit stereotypes and fit other peoples exceptions because somebody out there regardless of what you do, you can be covered head to toe, you can be wherever you want but, that somebody, if they have a certain mindset, a certain bias, they’re going to exercise it upon you. There is nothing you can do about that. Don’t try to change yourself to fit somebody else’s expectations that are already flawed. It has to be fixed on their end, not on yours. Don’t take the responsibility there. That’s very, very important.
Once you’re in that place, you’re in a place of power. When you are empowered within yourself you are able then to handle your presentation more properly. You’re able to be more ready for a debate and for also negotiating and … Not only negotiating for a deal but also getting people to be inspired and to believe in your vision and what you’re trying to build for yourself. That’s something you have to be empowered within yourself in order to be in a place of influence and an inspiration and persuasion to others.
Those are really the things that I would say women should really focus on if they are fund raising or they are just doing business in general or just being themself in life for God’s sake. It doesn’t have to always be about how do we cater to particular circumstances. Try to be you, whatever the circumstances are so you can handle yourself from a place of empowerment that’s coming from within and not that kind that’s on external circumstances and exceptions of you.
Melinda:             Beautifully said. We talk on this podcast a lot about what it takes to be in our authentic feminine power. What better of a segue really to talk about this and in terms of our leadership as women, how are we best at leveraging our authentic feminine power, our strength, our resilience as female leaders?
Rania:                   That’s a great question and there is a lot of controversy about what feminine power means and what masculine power means and all that. Unfortunately our society have embedded a lot of stereotypes and biases that shake not only the confidence and self esteem of women at the core but also alter the perception of men towards them and how they perceive themselves in order to find a way to connect with their own powers.
I think that women can be both fierce and feminine; they can be both beautiful and brilliant. Women can be both elegant and assertive. Women in leadership should be the norm and not the expectation. The question of authenticity that we touched earlier also becomes about the individual and what you perceive yourself as an authentic self, because that is where … That is for you to answer. Nobody can answer that for you, who you are and what your powers are. It’s for you to answer and reveal to the world without looking outside for comparison and validation, without trying to set any expectations. It’s such a powerful place to be from a place of authenticity and integrity. Whatever femininity is to you on an individual level, you should just be comfortable to express that.
All humans, both genders are a combination of both masculine and feminine energies regardless of being a male or female genders. But, women have the capacity to lead differently than men and it has nothing to do with a gender or biological difference that predispose women to lead different than men, but it’s about other types of differences that women can leverage and they can really put at the forefront of their character and their personalities and try to nurture that.
Some statistics also show that men and women also have different investment behaviors now that we discussed investment earlier as well. Men are generally more confident about investing while women are more goal oriented. You know what that means for a woman? That means that women also have the capacity as leaders to drive more results.
Melinda:             Yes.
Rania:                   More accurate results because of their more goal oriented mindset about investments, versus men that are more risk taking and less goal oriented in that sense. There is a lot of powerful advantages that women have in terms of feminine qualities that they can use for sure.
Melinda:             I think of just our empathy, our intuition. Not that men don’t have those things! I think they do and there is something that you said moments ago that I think is so interesting. I think within everybody men or women, we have masculine and feminine kind of archetypes within us. We’re all a mix. It’s just that in showing up and just being authentically ourselves irrespective of male, female leveraging the best of both archetypes, I think often the best leaders have the best of both.
I mean, they may have the archetypically directness of a man and the archetypically intuitive, empathy of a woman. When those two things are combined, it’s magic. It’s magic in a man as well as magic in a woman.
Rania:                   Definitely.
Melinda:             To me it’s just a very, like a highly evolved state.
Rania:                   Definitely.
Melinda:             When you walk through the refiner’s fire or the hero’s or shero’s journey as an entrepreneur, I think it does, if you’re in a more of a healed state, it does get you there over time. This is such an interesting thing that I love to talk about this on the podcast, this connection between personal growth and business growth. That, if you’re growing as a person you’re more likely, your business Is more likely, to be growing and vice versa. They reinforce each other.
What’s the connection in your mind between your own personal growth, some people would call it their spirituality or just this level of personal evolution, and the growth of your business?
Rania:                   You know the connection between the two is absolutely inseparable. The level of success that you can reach and the growth of your business will never surpass the level that you reach with your personal development and growth.
When we encounter individuals who are dissatisfied with the status of their career, or the business growth at the current state that they’re in, they often don’t realize that they are not vested in their personal development department to reach higher levels of growth. As a result they are incapable of reaching higher levels of success in their business as well.
It’s really crucial to realize that first so you can invest the time and effort into personal development because it [inaudible 00:58:51] mental component that helps entrepreneurs not only to stay on track and remain focused on their vision and sharpening their skills and keep enhancing their competencies, but it also helps them to drive results and reach the next level in their businesses and their lives as well.
It’s not about developing one skill or one area or two. It’s really a holistic approach that requires the individual’s commitment to developing all aspects of the self, whether that is intellectual, emotional, physical, or as you mentioned spiritual for some people.
I get asked about this question a lot when I’m working with other founders and advising and mentoring a lot of teams, “What do I really do? What do I really do in order to develop at a personal level?” I want to say to people who are listening to us and not sure what to do. Please take notes of what I’m about to say.
There are very well established ideas on effective personal development practices and strategies that most successful people use, including myself and everybody should use this. The six techniques are reading, reading is very important. That’s something I’ve been doing excessively since I was a kid and I learned so much on my own.
people tend to think about learning as their strength where you learn a little bit then you don’t have to learn anything anymore, then you can move on with your life, but the problem with that is that there is so much …The evolution is non-stop in the world, so your learning is also a non-stop process. You have to be consistent about continually improving yourself.
It’s important to put your hands on great psychology books, self-help books, business books, anything that can help you to learn about how you can improve who you are and understand who you are at the core is very important. In other words, you have to become more intellectually self-reliant and be ready to learn rather than being also dependent on others telling you what to do and what to think for yourself, which is, I think it’s detrimental.
Melinda:             That’s awesome. What’s, before you go on to number two, what book are you reading right now?
Rania:                   At the moment, [inaudible 01:01:31] for me because I have like four different books that I’m …
Melinda:             I have a whole bunch. I’m always reading about four books at the same as well, but I agree with you on the reading. You have to, it’s so important.
Rania:                   The book that I’m reading at the moment that I’ve been focused on finishing is called The Reciprocity Advantage. It’s by Bob Johansen and Karl Ronn. It’s about how do you create partnerships for innovation and growth. I highly recommend [crosstalk 01:02:01].
Melinda:             That’s going on my list.
Rania:                   That’s my book recommendation for today.
Melinda:             That’s awesome. Well, I have one. I’ve just finished reading Radical Acceptance, which was fascinating, by Tara Brach. Really interesting too for women wanting to be in their authentic feminine power and learning, really, how to value yourself and accept yourself, faults and all, because it’s really difficult to value anybody else or create value for anybody else, I.e., start a startup that creates value for people, if you don’t value yourself. That book was really awesome.
Okay, so that goes on my list, The Reciprocity Advantage. Number two, because you’ve got six here, so what’s number two?
Rania:                   The second technique that has been very helpful for me and I think everyone should use as well is journaling. It really helps to boost your personal growth because you can keep track of your ideas, of your thinking pattern and you can detect repetitive, destructive behaviors and negative thinking pattern, so you can begin to take a step towards shifting then into positives. I think that’s a really powerful technique.
The third one is the exercise. It’s really important because it boosts your cognitive function as well as your mental and emotional capacity so you can have the clarity you need on day-to-day basis. You can do whatever makes you feel comfortable, but that’s definitely a great technique that can help you in that area of development.
The fourth one, which often gets really misunderstood is the positive affirmation. Affirmations, I think, are really effective to help you maintain a level of optimism and keeping yourself at a place where you’re thinking positively about the goals that you want to achieve and what you want to be. That also guides you to take action steps that you need to get, to get there as well.
Number five is another really powerful technique that I personally use all the time as well is visualization. I think it is such a powerful tool because it can help you to bring your goals into the present and it can trick your brain into thinking that you’re already there. Simply by visualizing the ideal outcome that you want to achieve and envision for yourself, it really helps you to begin, to actively work on getting there because in your mind, you’re already seeing yourself taking the actions in this moment and it will ensure that your long term vision actually comes into reality.
The last one that I want to share is silence. Whether that is through meditation or any other method that can quiet your mind and help you to regain focus and emotional balance, I highly recommend it as well.
Those are actionable techniques that every individual and entrepreneur can start to apply in order to set the stones towards reaching higher levels of personal growth that, in return, will help them to reach higher level in their careers and their business growth as well.
Melinda:             That’s fantastic. I mean, I use all six of those. I don’t know where I would be without, yeah, any of them, really.
Rania:                   Really.
Melinda:             I think of my routines in the morning, something I started doing several years ago that really made all the difference for me was just getting up a little bit earlier, journaling, meditating, doing my yoga, but the visualization was and is remains so important because if you can see yourself doing something, if you can believe it, if you can see it, then it’s real, you can, in fact, do it. What wonderful, wonderful advice.
Rania:                   Definitely. Especially for people … I’m a creative thinker, I have a very vivid imagination. For me, it’s a really comfortable place to be in, it’s not an uncomfortable place, but I try to leverage as much as possible from taking it to the next level where it’s not just about reflective thinking, but it’s also about goal-setting and it’s about getting myself in that place of an action-oriented type of visualization that can help me to take an inspired action in real time as well and real life, not just in that visualization stage, but it builds that bridge, it builds that bridge if you take the actions towards that.
Melinda:             I love that when you said ‘inspired action’, because often when I’m meditating, I will actually set an intention or request inspired action, like actually put it out there, actually seeking inspiration. You never know where it hits, with things like intention. That’s an interesting one because sometimes people can set an intention that they want something, then the intention becomes a state of ‘want’, so that’s not so good.
It’s really important when stating an intention as if you already have it, like you already have, so “I am inspired today. I will be inspired today.”
Rania, as we wrap up the interview, I’m really interested in the concept of moonshots, because we hear a lot about folks like Elon Musk or Naveen Jain taking on these massive, big world problems and solving them with entrepreneurship, the innovation that comes from entrepreneurship. Yet, we don’t hear a lot of women taking moonshots. Is that because they’re not, we’re not, we’re holding ourselves back for some reason or we are or we’re trying, but we’re trying in silence? What’s your take on that?
Rania:                   I think both points that you just made, they’re both true in their own way. I don’t think that there aren’t women at all, there are women, but there are few.
The second factor is that a lot of women are not being highlighted for the work that they’re doing and most of the broadcasting and the propaganda is really built around highlighting more male figures and more men’s achievement. Not to say that there aren’t many women who are making these huge strands or big moonshots, but definitely, there is a lot of biases in terms of highlighting and accrediting women for their visions and for the type of work that they’re doing.
On the other hand, it’s also true that there are a lot of women who are hesitating in entering certain field such as in technology or in manufacturing or in STEM field in general. Statistics also show that there is a large imbalance still amongst leadership, amongst employees, even amongst students, there’s still a lot of imbalances and inequality in terms of the numbers of women that are coming into leadership, women that are pursuing education in technology and innovation fields and women who are actually getting jobs in companies.
All these imbalances are contributing to this distorted view on who is taking these big moonshots and who is not. Definitely, we’re seeing a lot of women coming out of the dark from history being highlighted just 50 years later after we have invented a technology or came up with a brilliant idea that had tremendous impacts on how the history of technology unfolded afterward.
There is a lack of accreditation, for sure, there’s a lot of ghosting to women, there are biases in terms of advancing and helping women to come into leadership and retain women into positions in male dominated industries, but also women need to take the responsibility to their own vision and their own dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt said once that, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Women have to begin to solidify that belief in themselves. They have to believe in the beauty of their dreams and believe that they are attainable, then the moon and the whole universe can be in their hands. They can become unstoppable.
It’s really up to each one of us as women to choose to become the next hero in her field, in her space of operations or expertise. Nothing can stop a woman who has a value to add to humanity, who has a sense of her own self-value, who has the strength to hold herself and others accountable. Nobody can stop a woman who has an ambition to reach higher levels of achievement.
Really, it’s become the question of willpower. “Am I willing to carve my own path? Am I determined enough to succeed? Am I willing to go in, just take charge and go in and lead with a business idea or lead with technology or innovation idea?” Just go. Go with that.
It’s not impossible. We just need more courage from women and more support from the global society to help integrate women better, so they can contribute more efficiently to the global economy and generation at a global scale.
Melinda:             Well, Rania, if you could see me right now, you’d see that I have a huge grin on my face. Women are more than capable of taking big moonshots, that’s why we’re all putting our wings on here on Wings of Inspired Business and soaring. I want to thank you so much for being my guest today.
Rania:                   Thank you so much for having me, Melinda. I really enjoyed this conversation with you. I hope that through this conversation, we were able to bring value to our listener and to your audience on the show. I hope we were able to deliver really empowering insights and advices that can direct them and help them shape their own ideas [crosstalk 01:15:39].
Melinda:             Rania, I have no doubt. You are very inspiring, and I would love to have you on again. Come join us again because the trajectory you’re on is inspiring and wonderful. How far you’ve come in the past decade, I can only imagine where you’re going to go in the next decade, so thank you again.
Rania:                   Thank you so much.

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