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  • 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. 

  • 17 Mar 2022 7:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) remain the leading cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization, with an estimated 17.9 million people dying from CVDs in 2019. Of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke.

    Due to the gravity of CVDs and the silent risks that they pose on patients; scientists, biologists and tech founders all over the world are constantly seeking and developing new techniques, sensors and procedures to prevent CVD complications in high-risk patients. The global market is filled with innovative health-tech startups trying to offer early detection, better monitoring or lesser-invasive surgeries for patients with heart diseases. 

    In this article, we would like to shine the light on two health-tech startups - Bloomer Tech and Meacor - founded by two entrepreneurs of Lebanese Descent residing in North America. 

    Bloomer Tech: Accelerating Women’s Heart Health 

    Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a man’s disease, it is in fact the cause of death of 1 out of 5 women in the United States alone. Desiring to avoid a fate they know intimately by obtaining more inclusive data around how women present with heart diseases differently than their counterpart and help doctors detect early signs of silent or intermittent heart conditions, Aceil Halaby co-founded Bloomer Tech along with Alicia Chong and Monica Abarca. 

    After meeting at MIT, they decided to develop proprietary flexible circuits and sensors embedded inside a woman’s bra to continuously monitorECG, pulse rates, respiratory rates, and more across a woman’s lifespan, all without disrupting a woman's lifestyle. The end product - which was featured in Forbes’ 50 Women-led Startups That are Crushing Tech - is a bra that women may wear under a doctor’s supervision to generate data that will support quality health outcomes and targeted disease management. The goal is to accelerate the effort of inclusive data collection to advance how we care for unique lifestyles, genetic backgrounds and health goals using novel digital biomarkers. 

    “If we need more data to understand how sex, lifestyle and genetic differences impact disease prevention and prognosis then why not use something women wear every day?” said Aceil Halaby, co-founder and COO at Bloomer Tech. The three founders have already completed early feasibility tests at the MIT IMES CRC and are inviting collaborators who want to support this data collection effort. They are backed by prominent  physicians and cardiologists at MIT and other medical centers and are preparing to launch IRB studies this year.  

    In addition to a physiological monitor, the Bloomer Tech solution provides access to a platform that includes a mobile application and an data analytics service that can corroborate electronic patient recorded outcomes (ePRO) such as symptoms and use them to support research findings with study partners.. Bloomer Tech is actively raising a series A round to proliferate services built out during their seed round to support large-scale research efforts and deliver to early customers..

    The founders are currently focused on testing and validating their platform to launch their biomarkers engine. Following FDA clearance, they hope to commercialize their product to medical centers and doctors. 

    Meacor: the roadmap to a less invasive heart disease treatment 

    Heart failure is the number one cause of death in the world. A major contributing and serious condition are the mitral and tricuspid valve regurgitation that affect more than 2% of the general population. Given the growing population of elderly patients with multiple comorbidities, the risk for conventional surgery is elevated. Only a fraction of these patients undergo open-heart surgery. 

    Meacor has developed Cryocinch, a novel catheter-based anchoring device that replicates the open-heart standard of care for mitral and tricuspid valve repair without the need for open-heart surgery. Meacor’s device compensates for the motion of the heart valve by cryo-adhesion, leading to a simpler, shorter, and more robust procedure with better outcomes.

    Meacor was co-founded by Toufic Azar - PhD candidate at McGill University in Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Renzo Cecere – Cardiac Surgeon and Professor of surgery at the McGill University Health Center. The team is currently undergoing preclinical trials in live porcine models and is fundraising their series A to transition from the proof-of-concept phase to the development phase. This phase would require 2 to 3 more years to reach design freeze with another 1 to 2 years to reach first-in-human trials. Being a Class III medical device with a lengthy regulatory process, FDA approval is anticipated in 2027-2028. 

  • 25 Feb 2022 3:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is the sixth 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. 

    Aspiring to study and build novel circuitry and hardware that can advance the state of human-centered applications and healthcare systems, and as a proponent of diversity in STEM, Aya Mouallem is truly an inspiring young woman who has big plans to contribute to educational and tech policy reforms in the Middle East. She graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer and Communications Engineering and is currently pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering at Stanford School of Engineering. 

    While acquiring electrical engineering research experiences with the Khuri-Yakub group at Stanford, the Kanj group at AUB, and the Kurdahi group at UC Irvine, Mouallem co-founded All Girls Code, an award-winning initiative that encourages young girls in Lebanon to pursue STEM. She has completed fellowships with Johnson & Johnson and Women Deliver and was awarded the Diana Award and the Baassiri Exceptional Volunteer of the Year Award. 

    On top of it all, Mouallem was named one of ten women changing the landscape of leadership worldwide by The New York Times. Her advocacy efforts have also been featured by Forbes, Cosmopolitan Middle East, and UN Women in the Arab States. 

    In this Q&A, we talked to this young bright woman about her plans for the Women in Tech community, her challenges, and future vision. Read it below. 

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

    Given that I’m the youngest WiT committee member, I have not had a lot of career experience so far. However, I’ve been fortunate to work on several research projects during my undergraduate studies and those projects motivated me to go to graduate school to learn how to conduct meaningful and impactful research.

    2- What is a unique experience or specific event that led to where you are today? 

    I am extremely grateful to be part of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program at Stanford University, which is a selective, experiential learning leadership program. It helps shape the skills that I will need to serve my community in Lebanon more effectively. However, I almost did not apply because I was overwhelmed with grad school applications and senior year projects, but thanks to my incredible mentor's support and encouragement, Gerard Touma, I ended up applying. I'm now focused on expanding mentorship programs for young girls to ensure that they don't miss out on any opportunities either!

    3- What are you looking to achieve or excited about as a Women in Tech steering committee member?

    I am so excited about the WiT steering committee because I know how important LebNet’s role is in helping shape and improve access to tech opportunities for individuals of Lebanese descent. Ever since we launched All Girls Code around 4 years ago, we’ve been super lucky to have welcomed more than 500 girls to our programs. That is why I would love to focus, as a WiT steering committee member, on expanding access to STEM programs for young girls with LebNet’s support!

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

    One of the earliest challenges I encountered was the absence of mentorship when I was picking my college major. None of my family members or relatives had studied engineering, so I found the transition at the beginning from school to university to be harder than expected. I was fortunate, though, later, to reach out to and be mentored by incredible individuals, from faculty members to startup founders, and that’s why bridging this gap in mentorship for younger students is very important to me.

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

    I will hopefully be conducting research in parallel to volunteering with several Lebanon-based initiatives focusing on diversity and inclusion, among which is All Girls Code, an award-winning initiative that I co-founded around 4 years ago in Lebanon.

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

    I think it’s very important to dedicate some time during my day for non-work tasks, whether it’s going on walks with my friends, working out, or just catching up with my family back home. I always try to dedicate time to take care of my mental and physical well-being.

  • 28 Jan 2022 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is the fifth 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. 

    Nancy Zakhour built a name for herself by leading by example and taking on challenging roles throughout her career, most recently at Occidental, an international energy company with assets in the U.S., Middle East, Africa and Latin America. In her role, Nancy works as a well design lead, managing a team of subject matter experts overlooking drilling, completion and production engineering design and optimization in the Permian Basin. 

    Zakhour also chairs the completion engineering sub-committee of the Department of Energy-funded joint industry program Hydraulic Fracturing Test Site II (HFTS-II). Prior to her current role at Occidental, she was a completion engineering adviser leading multidisciplinary and cross-functional projects focused on developing breakthrough solutions by leveraging geoscience, engineering, data analytics and data management.

    Zakhour is a recipient of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Regional Completions Optimization and Technology Award and Hart’s Energy 40 under 40 Award. She has served as a panelist, speaker and presenter at various leadership and DIB workshops, including technical SPE conferences with over a dozen publications. She is the North American Regional Lead for Jobs For Lebanon, a volunteer and member of SPE, baMa, HAN and LebNet. Zakhour earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the American University of Beirut, an MBA from Rice University and is a certified project management professional.

    She is currently leading the fundraising program for LebNet’s Women in Tech community. We’re honored to have her part of the team! 

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

    Road less travelled. What I enjoy the most about my current role is the ability to think outside the box and bring ideation and innovation to challenges ranging from the simplest to the most complex within the energy realm. I love working in a fast-paced and thought-provoking environment that enables and encourages game changers.

    2- What is a unique experience or specific event that led to where you are today? 

    Working internationally, across North America, and in field-based roles throughout my career has given me the opportunity of meeting with and learning from phenomenal colleagues, mentors, supervisors, and friends. They have all deepened my appreciation of culture and of the Energy industry, along with its rooted impact on our world and daily activities. Being able to connect with professionals from all around the globe is a blessing on a professional and personal level that I have grown to appreciate and cherish every day.

    3- What are you looking to achieve or excited about as a Women in Tech steering committee member?

    Connecting with and supporting Women in Tech, along with encouraging women to be more supportive of one another especially in industries that tend to be male-dominated. This platform and the support it provides has the potential to have a profound impact on the careers of many women.

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

    One of the more prominent challenges of working in the Energy industry is its cyclical nature which pushes its workforce to retrain, rebrand, and repurpose itself. The continuous need to adjust and adapt to new standards naturally makes one more resilient and capable of seamlessly dealing with uncertainty and unpredictability. I find myself repositioning with every cycle to focus on influential avenues that can best move the needle for my organization and industry as a whole.

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

    Playing an effective and inspiring role within the energy transition space by supporting and enabling emerging green technologies.  

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

    The key to a healthy work/life balance is enjoying and loving one’s work. While this is easier said than done, being able to find purpose and meaning in the role and task at hand makes a substantial difference in one’s ability to maintain a healthy balance. I strongly believe that enjoying your role is a fundamental part of ensuring that you have enough energy to excel in both your work and your personal life.

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LebNet, a non-profit organization, serves as a multi-faceted platform for Lebanese professionals residing in the US and Canada, entrepreneurs, investors, business partners in a broad technology eco-system, and acts as a bridge to their counterparts in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East


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