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  • 25 May 2023 10:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    George Skaff is the Sr. VP of WW Marketing at Daon, leading a global team focused on delivering impactful programs to F1000 companies for seamless cross-channel onboarding and authentication. He previously served as the GM of the Digital Line of Business at Nuance Communications and held the role of VP of Worldwide Marketing at Nuance. With over 30 years of experience in B2B SaaS, George has also held senior marketing positions at SGI, DigitalPersona, Wyse, and NEC Computers. 

    From 2012 to 2018, George played a pivotal role on the LebNet board, contributing his expertise to the design of the LebNet website and spearheading the organization's marketing campaigns.

    Tell us about your first roles and how they shaped you and your journey as a marketing expert

    After graduating from AUB with B.E.E. in Computer Science and an MBA, I emigrated to the USA in search of the right opportunity and I landed my first job at Logitech. Throughout my tenure there, I moved through various roles starting from product support, transitioning to product marketing and eventually assuming the position of head of marketing. Following my time at Logitech, I ventured into the startup realm. 12 years later, I then joined NEC Computers. My passion for marketing was nurtured during my early days at Logitech when I was involved with the creation and introduction of innovative products. I took an active role in bridging the gap between product features and consumer needs. I quickly realized that addressing customer needs is fundamental to a company’s success.

    When it comes to product marketing, what are the key tactics for launching and growing a successful product?

    When launching a successful product, there is one and only one rule to keep in mind: Does your product genuinely address customers’ needs, fill a market gap, or serve as a leading indicator? Understanding the market needs is essential for companies to position themselves for a successful product launch. This knowledge will drive the development of comprehensive marketing strategies and tactics such as creating impactful website landing pages, designing compelling promotional material, executing targeted email campaigns, and more.  

    What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

    At this point of my career, I enjoy mentoring my staff and sharing my business expertise, enriched by real-life experiences. Having been in high tech marketing for startups and larger companies for over 35 years, I have succeeded and failed many times along the way. I have learned more from my failures than from my successes. Ultimately, if I can help someone avoid the pitfalls and failures, it makes my day. 

    What part of your job challenges you the most?

    I find ignorance to be my worst enemy and biggest challenge. And I am not talking about someone being ignorant on purpose, but rather not taking the time to research the topic, understand the real issues, ask the right questions, and draw the logical conclusions. I always encourage people to ask before they act. 

    What is your biggest accomplishment till now?

    On a personal level, I have been married for almost 40 years and, along with my wife, have raised two wonderful daughters who now have great careers of their own and make me proud every day. It’s amazing how fulfilling it is to watch your own children grow and prosper in their own world. 

    On a professional level, I am proud to say that I am living the American dream. I emigrated to the US for a better life, and my background and ethnicity have helped me work hard towards achieving my goals. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to start from scratch and be where I am today. 

    As someone who has been involved with LebNet, what role do you see yourself playing in the future of this organization? 

    As LebNet continues to expand, we, the senior members, have made the decision to step back and empower the younger generation to chart the course, devise effective strategies, and develop plans for LebNet’s growth. It is their fresh perspectives and innovative approaches that will enable us to engage more individuals in fulfilling LebNet’s mission of networking, nurturing, and connecting Lebanese-American professionals in the Bay Area community and beyond. While we take on a support role, we remain available to offer assistance and support to the new leadership team as needed.

    Where would you like LebNet to be in the future?

    It would be beneficial for LebNet to become the voice of the Lebanese-American professionals and establish ties with business communities across North America. By doing so, we can effectively promote the value and expertise, thereby enhancing awareness and recognition of our community as a whole. This forward-thinking approach will contribute to the overall growth and prominence of our community on a broader scale.

  • 03 May 2023 3:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Fadwa Mohanna, CEO and Founder of One37, is spearheading the company's emergence as a leading provider of decentralized identity solutions. One37 empowers individuals and organizations to securely store, manage, and verify digital identities and credentials using Distributed Ledger Technology and AI technology.

    Having experienced the challenges of proving one’s identity during her extensive travels, Fadwa founded One37 to provide a seamless identity verification experience. “One37 Digital Identity Wallet” serves as a secure repository for personal credentials, on your phone, that can be easily accessed and shared with service providers such as banks, telecom companies, and airlines for identity verification purposes. Users maintain complete control and ownership of their data, while enjoying the convenience of streamlined identity verification.

    Fadwa is a highly experienced professional in information technology and services. She graduated with a BE in Communications and Computer Engineering from the American University of Beirut in 1991 and later pursued her MBA in Management at ESA Business School. Fadwa has held leadership positions at prominent companies like Orascom Telecom, Nokia Siemens Network, and Nakheel. She was involved in launching large-scale telecom operations in various countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates.  In 2015, she founded Micity. Fadwa's passion for entrepreneurship stems from her desire to solve significant problems, make a deep impact, and improve people's lives. She is an active member of the Women's Entrepreneurs Community and focuses on topics such as AI & DLT.

    Furthermore, Fadwa is a member of the LebNet Toronto steering committee and recently received the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award for the Ones to Watch Award, recognizing entrepreneurs who have launched impactful businesses in under three years. Most recently, she has been named a finalist for the 2023 Top 25 Canadian Immigrant, with voting open until June 9th.  To show your support, please visit this link

  • 04 Apr 2023 9:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In honor of International Women’s Day 2023, LebNet celebrated throughout the month of March the many inspiring women tech leaders who have made it a point in their career to support and empower other women. We’re proud to have many great examples as part of our LebNet team.

    To recap our March activity on social media, we have listed below the month’s main highlights. 

    LebNet WiT’s Fellows: 

    In honor of IWD 2023, LebNet Women in Tech (WiT) Community is celebrating this year’s 25 WiT fellows. The WiT fellowship program, led by Aya Mouallem (WiT outreach lead), equips the next generation of Lebanese women technologists, studying at AUB, LAU, and the Lebanese University with the skills needed to succeed in tech careers post-university. Join us in celebrating these women and women all over the world as we work together for a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

    Quotes from LebNet women leaders

    In honor of Women’s History Month, join us in celebrating these amazing Women Leaders who support other women. 

    Thank you Aya Mouallem for driving all aspects of the LebNet Fellowship program aimed at empowering women in tech with great life tools!  You are an inspiration and a true leader!  LebNet is proud of your accomplishments!

    Thank you Karine Sarkissian for being a leader in the Founder’s world and a great Co-lead to our LebNet Women in Tech community. LebNet is grateful for your passion, leadership and support! 

    Thank you Ayah Bdeir: an entrepreneur, engineer, social activist and inventor of littleBits. Ayah spent 10 years of her career growing her company littleBits and is now driving to make the tech world more equitable and diverse in addition to helping other founders succeed. 

    Thank you Layal Rouhana for being a LebNet board member and for leading the LebNet Women in Tech community and its mentorship program. We are so grateful for your passion and efforts to empower tech women to reach their full potential! 

  • 12 Jan 2023 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Growing up, Katia Tamer always had the entrepreneurial bug. At the age of 17, she was going around interviewing entrepreneurs and VCs to come up with a thesis on the key success factors of startups. She then interned at several startups before joining the Marketing team at Google. In 2021, Katia launched her own venture, Chaya, to address the lack of accessibility when it comes to basic nutrition information. Her goal was to make holistic wellness accessible to all through on-demand nutrition coaching. 

    1- If you had a rewind button, what would you change about your journey?

    Looking back, I would have loved to have more moments of pause and reflection. I would have told my past self to remember to enjoy the journey, not just think about the destination. There were so many great moments along the way, and we have to remember to pause more and soak those in! 

    2- Can you name three milestones on your wishlist? 

    As I graduate from my MBA in June, I’m excited for the opportunity to bring my marketing and entrepreneurship skill sets to a team that is growing rapidly. In my time as CEO of Chaya, I loved the different elements that were required on the job, and I hope to leverage those skill sets to have a global impact in the long-term. My personal milestone is to travel to as many countries as possible with family and friends.It is truly a gift to get to experience new cultures. 

    3- What’s the best lesson you learned?

    It’s all about people. At the end of the day, I believe the one thing that truly matters is people and building genuine connections. 

    4- Who is your role model?

    My parents have always been my role model. I feel grateful to have grown up as a first generation American, as I got to see my parents surpass expectations on what they’ve achieved in an entirely new country. Growing up and seeing their work ethic, the strong value they place in prioritizing family and friends, their generosity, and their steadfast commitment to their Lebanese roots, I’ve always strived to emulate them. 

    5- How did surrounding yourself with a good support system help you advance in your career?

    I’ve been lucky to get to work for teams where leadership entrusted me with stretch opportunities. In my first role at Google, I was essentially the Marketer you had to go to in order to publish a campaign on globally. Leadership entrusted me with running the equivalent of several Super Bowl ads every day. I then had another manager give me the opportunity to lead International Women’s Day globally for Google. It was thanks to the leadership around me that was invested in growing talent that I could build out such a robust skillset.

    6- What is one habit you worked hard on breaking to improve your life or career?

    Gaining confidence in my voice - throughout my career, I was lucky to have managers that made sure I was in the room and had a voice. It’s thanks to them that I now have built confidence in using my own voice. I try to ensure now that I create this space for peers and others on my team as well. 

    7- What characteristics do you look for in people you choose to work with?

    Honesty, humility, empathy, and a get-it-done mentality. Low-ego is also very critical. We need to be able to be in the trenches together as a team when push comes to shove. As a team, nobody should be above doing some of the grunt work, if it means helping each other succeed. 

    8- What skills did you work so hard on acquiring? 

    I’m always working on my skills in active listening, empathy, and relationship building.Another skill I’ve worked extremely hard on throughout my career has been the art of storytelling. This is an often overlooked skill, but the need is huge, whether you are selling a product, your talent, or your ideas, the best way to do this is via storytelling. 

    9- What made you jump from the corporate to the entrepreneurial world?

    While I always had a personal itch of starting my own company, it was when COVID-19 hit and I found my own anxiety worsening that I started to develop a passion for changing the state of wellness. I grew frustrated by the disjointed and impersonal wellness ecosystem and wanted a solution that provided a more holistic approach to my health. I met my co-founder a few months later, and together we set out to solve this broken narrative surrounding wellness. 

    10- What lessons did you learn after launching and closing your startup? 

    I learned 4 important lessons from being an entrepreneur. 

    1. Community is key: You need to build community to succeed as founder. I began by finding another co-founder, who was as passionate at solving the problem at hand as I was. We were then lucky to find a community of entrepreneurs within different incubator programs. 

    2. Talk to people: We spent over 100 hours interviewing people to better understand the problem at hand. We were married to the problem, not the solution, and adapted based on what people told us they needed. 

    3. Just do it: The key to achieving milestones as a startup is to go for progress, not perfection. It’s important to keep testing and being scrappy, and finding those first test users who will give you the feedback you need to hear.  

    4. Better to try and fail, than fail to try: If I could go back and start Chaya again, I would do so in a heartbeat - I was lucky that I found a problem I am deeply passionate about, and that I gave myself permission to go and try to start something. This certainly won’t be the last time you see me taking a stab at starting something from the ground up. 

  • 28 Nov 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is the ninth part of a series titled ‘Up Close and Personal’ covering the career path of several steering committee members of LebNet communities, spread across the US and Canada.

    In this part, we give you a closer look at Omar Kahil, Senior Product Manager at Amazon and steering committee leader for the Pacific Northwest community.

    Omar graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor of Engineering in Civil Engineering before he pursued his MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management and his Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT School of Engineering. He worked as a Senior Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton then moved to Amazon. Omar’s fresh perspective on business and dynamism are a welcoming addition to LebNet’s team and we look forward to all his bright ideas.  

    - How would you describe your career path and what do you enjoy most about your current job? 
    My path has been exploratory with a goal of maximizing optionality regardless of the troubles that come with it. Jumping from engineering to management consulting then operations research and now product, I am fascinated with building intuitive solutions to any type of problem. The world is filled with opportunities, and I am funneling what I can sustainably tackle. Next on the list, delving deep into Machine Learning and woodworking.

    - What are you looking to achieve or excited about as a Pacific Northwest steering committee member? 
    There is a big Lebanese community in the Pacific Northwest. Having some of the top tech companies in the world headquartered here means the majority of Lebanese residents are in the tech space. The challenge with the area being so big or the weather being so gloomy, is that the community is a bit dispersed. My goal is to bring it closer and make it a tight knit community.

    - What is a unique experience or specific event that led to where you are today?
    My parents’ focus on the importance of education and humility. My parents struggled to get access to education because of the need to prioritize providing for their respective families. This made them instill the values of learning and development as my siblings and I grew up. No ceiling is high enough and no opportunity is out of reach. That’s the intention that I start my day with. I count my blessings, lead my life with curiosity, and keep pushing to improve myself and the people and communities around me.

    - Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
    1- Keep maximizing optionality in my personal interests but zone in on building consumer facing tech products.
    2- Double down on leading a principled driven professional and personal life.
    3- Fail fast and learn
    4- Find more ways to support the Lebanese in Lebanon.
    5- Get in touch more often with the people I love,
    6- Complete my first triathlon.

  • 26 Oct 2022 10:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A self-made entrepreneur, Marianne Zakhour started her journey as an immigrant. Her determination to independently succeed in a new unknown environment pushed her to maximize her opportunities throughout her career and continue to push herself to new heights.

    She is now the co-founder of Orderbot, an order management platform that helps modernize commerce for online ordering and fulfillment. Throughout the years, Orderbot has helped hundreds of clients sell their products online and is proud to have a diversified team from several countries and backgrounds working in one office and sharing the same values and goals. 

    In her early twenties, Marianne started her career at CGI, where she worked as a financial and business analyst. “I was working with executives, a portfolio of millions of dollars, doing financial analysis every month and talking about increasing revenue and lowering cost. I learned so much from my very corporate environment. After that great experience I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial” explained Marianne during an interview with LebNet. 

    It started with food and a bit of tech 

    Being the food lover that she is, Marianne combined her passion for food and tech and moved to San Francisco to work for Boudin Bakery, where she was tasked to increase sales, grow the business, and automate processes. They wanted every technology and process to be “Best of Breed” in order to succeed with exponential growth. 

    Her entrepreneurship journey was ignited when she hired a Vancouver based company to develop a custom catering and e-commerce software for some of Boudin’s businesses. She realized how empowering it would be to use such software to help a wider range of businesses grow and sell products. Two years later, she moved to Vancouver and partnered with that same software company owner and they started their venture toward Orderbot: the SAAS software provider.

    “I feel so blessed to be in this industry. One can continuously innovate to make consumers’ and companies’ lives easier. With a bit of creativity, it’s not very hard to thrive in this business, but it’s a matter of planning and always reassuring the people you’re working for, whether they are investors or customers,” she said. 

    Although Marianne finds joy in helping other businesses, as a founder she is constantly focusing on staying ahead of the curve. “You’re always thinking about the next thing. In software, it’s always about being ahead of the market needs. It’s a combination of product and finances,” she added. Being in a different role than earlier in her career, she strives to look at the bigger picture rather than being “in the weeds,” as she describes it, so she can maintain her focus on growing the business. 

    In her younger days as a founder and a professional, Marianne was determined and a multi-tasker at heart. “I got excited very fast. I can multitask and do so much in so little time. It takes a lot of crazy passion to start a business but it takes a lot of well thought out strategy to grow it. Passion and strategy are not always on the same side of the game –  it is important to take a deep breaths and find the right time, funding and team to execute.” 

    One of her recent hires, Omar, was someone she met through the LebNet network.  Omar’s exceptional skills and hard work ethic resulted in his hiring and move to Canada from Lebanon to become one of Orderbot’s lead developers. In addition, Marianne has hired 8 more developers from Lebanon to cover the night shift and secure her business’s 24/7 operation. 

    Growing by helping other businesses has always been Marianne’s dream and this makes her a thought leader in her industry. But what makes her a true inspiring figure is her dedication to instilling trust and joy in the people around her and helping them create better lives for themselves. Marianne is a passionate and proud Lebanese leader in tech living in Vancouver who is now on the LebNet board and is excited about spreading LebNet’s mission and growing its impact!

  • 18 Aug 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Wissam Yafi is the founder of TIDWIT, a US-based tech company expanding the reach of global organizations with a cutting-edge ecosystem platform. TIDWIT serves several large companies including Microsoft, IBM, Accenture, Dell, HPE, and Vodafone. Prior to TIDWIT, Wissam founded INTeNT, a knowledge management and e-commerce computer software and services company, which he then sold while continuing to serve as an advisor and on its board. He graduated from Harvard Kennedy School in 2002, where he did his Master of Public Administration, Development Economics and International Development, specializing in ICT. 

    1- If you had a rewind button, what would you change about your journey?

    I would consider working for a larger tech company at the outset of my career, preferably a Microsoft or a Cisco. Professionally, when you’re an entrepreneur, and I have been one my entire life, you’re learning on your own dime from day one. When you work for larger companies, you learn on their dime, and you get to see how business is conducted. Young entrepreneurs should accept this as part of the learning process. Unless you have an endowment that you can rely on, you have to start from scratch and your startup capital raising options become more limited, forcing you to give up more equity. If you had more savings and experience from a first job, that would allow you to embark on your entrepreneurial journey with more time and less stress. 

    2- What are the top three goals you’re looking to achieve at your company now?

    Deliver the best platform products for our customers through unmatched innovation, become the global leader in ecosystem enablement, and serve my shareholders and employees. 

    3- What’s the biggest challenge you faced while starting your first then your second company? 

    The biggest challenge of my first startup was to hire great people, which the company could barely afford. When you’re starting from scratch you need to convince people to join. Fortunately, people are attracted to passion and vision. So, you quickly realize that a key part of your role as an entrepreneur and leader is to influence them with honesty and conviction. The biggest challenge of my second startup was to convince global tech companies to adopt a unique technology that no one else had. For that, I learned that you must have patience, persistence, and resilience because you will get a lot of rejections. But if you have the proper team and product, the market will eventually emerge, and you could create a lot of value.  

    4- What leadership advice do you have for the younger generation of founders?

    Love what you do and always learn. Be patient, thrifty and resilient. Have fun and create memories along the way. In one of the earliest deals we signed, we were a team of 16 people trying to sell our product against IBM, to a bank that received all their technology from IBM. We were very passionate but some on the team were skeptical of our chances. However, after all the hard work, we ended up winning the deal and many years later IBM became our customer. Another advice would be for students to work in the summer, any kind of a job. I worked in a shoe store when I was 17 years old. I learned things there that still affect me today. One lesson I learned was to never be arrogant with the customer, and to never come back to the customer without a box of shoes (solution) in your hand, and to offer the best customer service you can. Ultimately, that’s what drives revenue. 

    5- How did surrounding yourself with a good support system help you advance in your career? 

    Teachers and mentors are key, so are partners and associates. Choose them well because without a team you won’t get far. If you’re an entrepreneur, every mistake you make goes out of your own purse. Wouldn't it be great to pick up the phone and call someone for advice to avoid unnecessary mistakes? Customers are also excellent teachers because they will always guide you to what the market expects. 

    6- What is one habit you worked hard on breaking to improve your life or career?

    A leader’s ability to listen is as, if not more, important than their ability to speak. No one has all the answers. Those who filter the signal from the noise will do much better. The second required ability is to ask the right questions. I’m still working at both! 

    7- What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self? 

    Associate yourself with colleagues, people who care for what you are doing and would like to help you; and do not be swayed by those who don’t.

    8- What constitutes a good team in your opinion? 

    Mutual respect, complementary experience, differing viewpoints, and trust. No matter how smart an entrepreneur is, they cannot know everything and must rely on their team. Surrounding oneself with a qualified team that shares a common passion is not only the smarter approach, but also makes work more enjoyable in good times, and more tolerable in difficult ones.

    9- What is the most exciting part about your job?

    Working closely with the dev teams inventing new technology, introducing it to the market, and serving it to customers.

    10- Can you describe your proudest achievement?

    As an immigrant to the US, whose tech journey started literally at the bottom rung of the ladder, I consider helping make TIDWIT an ecosystem thought leader one of my tech career’s crowning achievements. Empowering technology giants like Microsoft and IBM, two founding icons in our industry, to use our unique technology is a testament to years of hard work. I must say, I am also very proud of being I believe the first Lebanese American to write a science fiction book about my homeland. Among other things, Fina aims to show what future technology means for a place like Lebanon. And last but certainly not least as it pertains to my homeland, I am proud to have been involved in an initiative to digitize Lebanon’s educational curriculum and being invited to TedX Beirut to share experiences.

  • 28 Jul 2022 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is the eighth part of a series titled ‘Up Close and Personal’ covering the career path of several steering committee members of LebNet communities, spread across the US and Canada.

    In this part, we feature Walid Khoury, Founder and CEO at Marc Media, member of the LebNet board and leader of the LebNet New York community. Khoury describes himself as a strategic leader and technology innovator; transforming and growing businesses from the ground up.

    He has founded three startups and took on several professional and leadership roles, including his work as a Chief Information Security Officer at YAI, where he joined a new Executive Team to lead a $300 million initiative that specializes in innovative medical and long-term services for people with disabilities. His most recent startup, Marc Media, is a marketing tech that uses IoT technology embedded in print to integrate the most compelling features of digital advertising, such as personalization, interactivity and measurement, into every direct mail campaign.

    How would you describe your career path and what do you enjoy most about your current job?

    My career path has been a series of building blocks. I’ve had a tech career focused on hardware, software, cloud and every component in between. Over time, these experiences formed blocks that I have been able to draw from in each role throughout my career. During my high school years, I started as an IT consultant. I became intimate with hardware and understood its ins and outs. I continued down the technology path and understood its impact to the consumer base, the enterprises, startups, and emerging businesses.

    How did you evolve as an entrepreneur?

    Being an entrepreneur is to continue learning about business. It is useful to be very good at your craft but you also need to learn how to market a technology or find a market for it and tailor it to fit passively with the needs of the ecosystem. It was a fortunate path, I had former leadership roles that helped guide me. The first one was Corporate Director at Serta Mattress which grew into a large business, and it was the first role that introduced me to enterprise technologies. Taking those incredible experiences and being able to step out and start companies was amazing to me. I was able to go back and forth and continue to leverage my knowledge of technology in every way and better understand over time how every business works.

    Did you plan on exiting the three companies you founded?

    I started my first company in college that I ran for many years. I then transitioned out of it into a senior advisor role. There was no official exit for my first three startups. Some people enter with exit in mind. I always try to have it in mind but I was never able to apply it to the extent that it overruled my passion. With Marc Media, I have an opportunity to connect a print channel to IoT, taking digital experiences outside of our personal devices. Our mission is a very exciting one and I’m dedicated to growing it.

    Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

    I certainly see myself continuing to innovate in tech and make it more integrated, passive, and assistive in our lives.

    How do you maintain a good work/life balance?

    You have to be willing to realize that there is a line and be willing to work to the edge of that line. Time management is certainly the most difficult thing. There are phases where I need to be ‘in the mine’, working and making small little progress, not knowing what time of the day it is. But those are sprints. I don’t want to live and work like that, but there are tremendous benefits of being able to accomplish those sprints, work up until that edge and when you come out of it, it’s super important to appreciate everything in the moment. I try to spend time with my kids, prioritize seeing friends and family, and make sure I hit the gym every morning.

    What are you looking to achieve or excited about as a New York steering committee member and a LebNet board member?

    I’ve been a long-time member of LebNet. It is passion and mission driven. We do things very well as Lebanese, we’ve always been leaders in healthcare and engineering. We really strive for excellence and experience-driven achievements. So having a whole community of that is great! I’m incredibly excited to meet everybody in New York. There is an opportunity to form a global closeness to our community, and I am excited to see what other people are focused on. We need to focus first and foremost on the basics, see who’s out there. I want to know everybody in New York. At this stage, getting to know everybody in the community puts on the table what everybody has to offer. In the last two networking events in New York, we’ve seen a lot of people from different backgrounds and interests form friendships and connections. Our job is to stay organically connected to that, so we can serve each other. Each community ecosystem really serves itself and grows within itself in its capabilities and strength. That’s where we can start to expand and see how we can empower the LebNet programs and bring the services to the members.

  • 28 Jun 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Self-described as an ‘accidental immigrant’, Omayma Al-Awar left Lebanon with her parents in the mid-seventies to flee the war. From living in the Gulf to the United States, she maintained a sense that she was only temporarily living abroad.

    “Life gives us a series of circumstances. It was never intentional that I would end up in the US, until I started my PhD,” said Omayma in an interview with LebNet. A career in biological research and molecular biology in genetics does not offer many job opportunities in Lebanon so “life sort of made the decision for me,” she added. Omayma discovered her passion for biology in high school and while doing her undergraduate degree, she continued delving deeper into the field and fell in love with research. 

    From Science Research to Sales: Embracing the Unknown

    Omayma finished her Masters in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Michigan in 1991 and her PhD in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996. Her plan was to become an academic researcher but she soon discovered her interest in other scientific careers. While transitioning to postdoctoral studies, Omayma came across a job opportunity with the biotech company, MJ Research, which was interested in bringing on board a salesperson with a scientific background. 

    “I started out in an in-house sales role that I never trained for or thought that I'd be interested in. I started understanding how businesses are structured and how they are driven and from there I became interested in the commercial side of biotech innovation, and how it intersects with and enables scientific discovery. ” From then on, Omayma started moving into leadership roles: In 2003, she was a Regional Sales Manager at MJ Research and, in 2005, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Edge BioSystems. In 2011, she moved to Illumina, a pioneering genome sequencing company, where she currently fills the role of Regional Sales Director. 

    Forever a Science Geek

    Despite transitioning into sales leadership roles, Omayma is still a self-described ‘science geek at heart’. Through her work, she and her team are often engaged in conversations with innovative leaders in academia, industry and healthcare, and she is grateful to be making an impact in genomics. “I am very lucky to be helping push the envelope in terms of understanding genomics or enabling researchers and physicians to uncover and treat the underlying genetic causes of disease. It’s very gratifying.” Her goal is to continue to grow in her career, take on more challenging  responsibilities, and continue to focus on the development of the next generation of leaders. In the future, she wishes to work on a project that can give back to Lebanon and enables it to “reap the benefits of the current advances in genomics.” 

    When asked for career advice, Omayma recommends embracing the uncertainties and seizing opportunities that come along, as she has done with hers. “Stay calm, even as the path you laid out for yourself in your early career is not working out. The path you are going to be on can be so much better. Leave some space to allow for the beauty of the unknown.”

  • 13 Jun 2022 9:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is the seventh part of a series titled ‘Up Close and Personal’ covering the career path of several steering committee members of LebNet communities, spread across the US and Canada. 

    In this part, we feature Shadi Dayeh, a Professor at the University of California, San Diego and a recipient of several awards including the NSF Early in Career Award in 2014, the Jacobs School of Engineering Teacher of the Year Award in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2015, the ISCS Young Scientist Award in 2018, the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award in 2019, and the LebNet Bireme Technologist of the Year Award in 2021. 

    Dayeh received his B.S. in Physics and Electronics from the Lebanese University in Beirut, Lebanon in 2001, M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2003, and PhD in Electrical Engineering from UC San Diego in 2008. He did postdoctoral studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then joined the faculty of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego in November 2012, where he directs the Integrated Electronics and Bio-interfaces Laboratory.

    During his Ph.D., Dayeh received a best paper award at every conference series and technical society where he presented his graduate work on InAs nanowires. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, he was appointed as a Director’s Fellow in 2008, and was promoted to a Distinguished Oppenheimer Fellow in 2010 where he co-led and mentored with Tom Picraux a group of dozen postdocs whose work resulted in a scientific renaissance in the Ge/Si nanowire material system and its applications. At Los Alamos, Dayeh received the Distinguished Postdoctoral Performance Award and Achievement Awards for every year he was at the lab.

    1- How would you describe your career path and what do you enjoy most about your current job?

    I was fortunate to experience many opportunities and challenges while meeting individuals throughout my journey that shaped in part who I became and what I currently do for my job. Like many of my generation in Lebanon, early on, I found joy in sciences and an opportunity to grow beyond my circumstances. My path was somewhat unconventional. While my undergraduate study was in Physics, my graduate degrees were in electrical engineering, and my postdoctoral studies were in nano-materials and nanotechnology. For the last few years, I have been doing research and development on biomedical devices. Throughout, I committed to train myself as deep and as focused as possible without losing perspective of the bigger picture; this armed me with the background to make career jumps into new domains. As my work continues to mature with gained experiences, I feel that my contributions in my field are becoming more meaningful. I would like to think that I am still exploring what I can learn, exploring what I can do and trying to mentor the next generation when possible. This exploration of new possibilities and mentoring are the most rewarding parts of my current job as a Professor. 

    2- What were some of the challenges you encountered in your career and how were you able to overcome them?

    Switching domains comes with periods of uncertainties. It took me sometime to have someone to take me on as a graduate student during my PhD studies. During this time, I focused on what I could control- diligently studying and doing my best in any job opportunity that came my way until the right one arose. Eventually, I found a graduate advisor and finished my PhD with 20 published articles, 14 of them were first authored with multiple best paper awards. 

    Upon taking my faculty position and starting work in neural interface technologies as a relative newcomer to the field, and over the course of many years, I sent in many grant applications that were not funded. My group maintained a solid work ethic throughout this period and kept refining our ideas and maintained our resolve to succeed. A polished version of one particular application got accepted in its seventh submission; this was a $12M grant. I learned that there is always a lesson when things do not go our way and on such occasions I quickly shift my focus to find out that lesson. I also learned that if something is worthwhile pursuing, then the circumstances will adjust as long as we continue to stay flexible and continue our work within the available resources. 

    3- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

    My hope, within the next five years, is to conduct two clinical trials: one for a wireless epilepsy monitoring system and another for brain and spine mapping to assist neurosurgical procedures and to disseminate the technology for broader use and access. Through a startup I cofounded with my clinical colleagues, I am also working with partners on initiatives for facilitating the regulated manufacturing of implantable medical devices. 

    4- How do you maintain a good work/life balance?

    It appears to me that this type of balance is dynamic and goes by seasons very much like a balanced calendar year. I believe in recurring cycles where one can be fully devoted to work and then fully engrossed in life activities and interactions, though one must, to a certain extent, alternate these on the timescale of a single day. Time allocation and focus can lead to a healthy overall outcome and I continue to pursue strategies to create this balance.

     5- What are you looking to achieve or excited about as a San Diego steering committee member?

    The San Diego Lebnet community is one of the most active and one of the most welcoming to new members. Talent is abundant and the willingness to serve the community and participate in events is outstanding. My goals are to have a healthy comeback for community events, to increase the engagement of the community to serve its needs, and to expand the reach and impact of LebNet to involve and support the younger generation of community members. 

    6- Can you share a unique experience or a specific event that led to where you are today? 

    One of my Professors, who was very strict with me in the early years of my PhD, at some point observed my relentless attempts to succeed and gave me an opportunity to become a teaching assistant (TA) for his class, offering what seemed at the time like a life-support in the middle of my PhD studies. This gave me another chance to continue my PhD and I always wanted to be someone like him who can help well-deserving students have a chance at their dreams. This professor eventually became my informal mentor and championed my hire a few years later at UCSD. I strive to impact others in the way that he impacted my life and career. 

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