Noor Sweid

When it comes to bagging a new job, getting ahead in your career or starting your own business, these ladies know the score. Our diverse group of high-flying female achievers let you in on the secrets of their success.

The Business Brain

Noor Sweid (main image) is a partner at venture capital firm Leap Ventures. Noor, who holds an MBA from Boston’s prestigious MIT, is the former strategic director of global interior contractors, Depa United Group. She also started the Middle East chapter of professional women’s network, 85Broads, and launched the ZenYoga chain of studios.

Be adaptable

My career path has been anything but traditional, and this has been as a result of pursuing opportunities that presented themselves, and being open-minded and flexible.

Give 100 per cent

We are always looking for people who are happy to do the work, not just talk about it. The best impression anybody can make is that they are happy to roll their sleeves up and get the job done!

Know what you’re supposed to know

“Going deep” into your field of expertise is by far the best way to gain the respect  of your colleagues and clients.

Know how to network

It’s important for women to network outside their organisation and field, as this is how they can create additional value for their companies and themselves. It also provides insights into different fields of work should they ever choose to pursue another career.

Have a role model

At each stage in my career (and personal life), there have been women who have inspired me to achieve more and to pursue new trajectories. We are so fortunate to have a generation of successful women before us who have led the way.

Noor’s top tips: 

1. Do your homework: Research and learn about your field so that you can ask intelligent questions and know what to expect.

2 Give something for nothing: In a new field or position, give your time and energy to prove you can do it, and ask for nothing in return. The onus is on you to illustrate your skills – show them you know how to do it


The Lawyer

Natalia Shustova

Natalia Shustova: This lawyer slash style queen says it’s never too late for a career change

Natalia Shustova is a corporate and real estate partner at a leading law firm in Dubai. She also knows her way around a power wardrobe, and her flamboyant style – documented on her website –  has earned her fashion icon status.

Limitless ambitions

“Goals got me to where I am now. I have an ‘I can do it’ attitude that rules my life. I also have incredible support from my family and friends… and I think I also have a fairy helping along  the way!”

Never stop learning

“Whether from clients in my legal or fashion work, I never stop learning. Each and every person I interact with teaches me new life skills.

Always say “yes”

“Say yes to any new opportunity, even if it is outside your routine or current area of expertise.”

It’s all about confidence

“I was a no name on the legal services market in Dubai when I started, and in just a few years I became a partner with a great portfolio of loyal clients. The same thing happened in my fashion career, which I established in one year. I love meeting people. My biggest cases and best fashion contracts have come through chatting to strangers.”

Natalia’s top tips:

1. Remember it’s never too late for a career change. Now in my late 30s I’m slowly switching into the fashion industry (which always was my passion) after being in the legal business for almost 15 years.

2. It’s OK to fail – but always get up and go again.

3. Aim high. Never settle for easy.


The Architect

Marie Laurent

Influential: Architect Marie Laurent is a fan of a to-do list

Marie Laurent is the founder of Marie Laurent Architecture Llc, and has worked at renowned practices in Switzerland in addition to gaining extensive experience in the Middle East. Career highlights include earning a spot on the list of the top 50 most influential designers in the Middle East.

Take it step by step

“I started with my first project as a freelancer and then built up a team who were talented and passionate enough to assist me. Having a strong team I trust enabled me to take on more jobs.”

Take pride in your work

“Happy clients are always rewarding. It’s a wonderful feeling when a client is pleased with the end result. Also, when contracting companies, praise a job well done.”

Put your best foot forward

“Presentation is always the first thing people will see and judge, and I believe that if this key component is done well, it will give you a step ahead in any career path you are on or choose to take.”

Marie’s Top Tips:

1.  Always be on time.

2. Take notes.

3.  Make a “to-do list” and keep this until the job is complete.

4.  Teamwork is hugely important, individuals have their specialties and it is vital to use each person’s skills.


The Parenting Entrepreneur

Big On Children

Mom-trepreneur: Mother of two Samar Nabulsi Abdul Majeed opened Big On Children to bridge the gap between kids in the east and west

Samar Nabulsi Abdul Majeed is a self-styled “mom-trepreneur”, a mother of two and the owner of Big On Children. Her business aims to bridge the gap between children from the east and west through innovative products previously unavailable in the Middle East.

Get the right experience

“Having a hospitality and marketing background helped me identify the need for a new business in the market. Raising two young children allowed me to tap into personalised products for children.”

Start small

“We started with just one exclusive brand, Sing Your Name, in our flagship store in The Dubai Mall. Our first international in-store concept was in New York at FAO Schwarz in 2013. From there we opened two more locations in Dubai in just two years.”

Work hard

“People ask me ‘how many hours do you work?’ and my answer is ‘I never stop working!’ I use every minute as an opportunity to grow the business and myself.”

Samar’s Top Tips:

1. Be patient and you’ll get what you deserve.

2. Knowledge is power. If you know what you’re up against and understand the dynamics of your business, life and family, then you hold the key to success in your own hands.

3. If you are not having fun doing what you’re doing then find something that inspires you. You only live once, so why not make it count?

The Academic

Tala Makhlouf

“Never settle”: Tala Makhlouf is a perfectionist when it comes to work

Tala Makhlouf has taught in the School of Business at the American University in Dubai since 2006, and helped set up the Office of Student Retention and Success, of which she is now the Director. She has international experience in the public and private sector with big names like World Bank Group and Saatchi and Saatchi.

Developing a career requires experience and networking

“From my sophomore year until I graduated I took on internships in reputable international organisations in order to build a solid resume that could help me move forward with my career.”

Be passionate

“You need to be passionate about what you’re doing. Draw experience from the opportunities that come your way in order to discover what you really love!”

It’s all about teamwork

“My daily work wouldn’t be possible without the support and cooperation of all the members of the AUD community.”

Tala’s Top Tips:

1. Your work represents you; never settle for less than perfect.

2. You will never know everything! Keep your mind open and hungry for knowledge, that’s the only way for you to grow.


The Events Guru

Danielle Nay

Stickler: Danielle Nay’s company comes up with the “creative glue” that makes a memorable event

Danielle Nay is the founder and managing director of the creative events supply company Transformers. She spotted a gap in the market while working as an events director and planning parties for the likes of Bob Geldof, Madonna and Ralph Lauren. She counts Cartier, Burj Al Arab and Harvey Nichols-Dubai among her clients.

Do the groundwork

“I’ve been an employee, a client and an entrepreneur, so I understand every stakeholder’s point of view, and I’ve made invaluable contacts along the way.”

Be a problem solver

“My company comes up with the creative glue – the share-worthy talking points that you see on Instagram the next morning. In practical terms, that means coming up with ideas between meetings, then scrambling to cost and deliver them – usually with 50 per cent less time than we would ideally like!”

Don’t forget the details

“It’s all about the detail, because an event is like a mosaic or a recipe in which every single ingredient matters. Whatever the role, I’m a stickler for written detail. A single typo or grammatical error can blow your chances of landing an interview for your dream job. I see so many job applications and CVs where the previous employer’s name is misspelt – or even mine!”

Danielle’s Top Tips:

1. Have a plan. Set goals and revise them from time to time.

2. Invest time in writing a great CV and optimising your LinkedIn profile.

3. Proper research pays dividends.

4. Applying for a job? Address the individual by name and explain why you and your skills would be an asset to their company in particular. It’s better to do 10 great applications than 100 generic, cut and paste ones.

5. Have courage and be kind, like Cinderella.