From aspirations to be an astronaut to a high-flying hobby, the importance of being yourself and the challenges of juggling supply and demand, BQ caught up with Eman Al-Hillawi to talk about being the MD of her business consultancy, Entec Si.
What is it the company does?
Entec Si is a Birmingham-based consultancy specialising in supporting organisations through business, culture and IT change. With particular expertise in local government, not for profit, and aviation sectors, our focus is on empowering people, transforming processes and delivering successful business change through technology.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I am one of two directors in the company. So, I do everything from defining strategy and future plans for the business, securing new clients and supporting existing ones while growing the company through recruitment and development of our employees. This goes right from making teas and coffees and putting on away days, through to entertaining prospects - a lot of which involves consuming copious amounts of food and drink!
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start; how did you move on?
I started in research in Biochemistry at the University of Birmingham, where I worked full time as a research associate for a period of nine years, during which I managed to achieve a PhD (working out of hours and weekends) in heart muscle contraction.
Two years later, I decided that research was great, but rather slow-moving for my liking, so I changed careers in 1998 and became a business analyst in the IT industry working for ITNET.
After two years, I met Peter Marsden, who is my business partner at Entec Si and we haven’t looked back since. I turned my focus to programme and project delivery across multiple clients and sectors, eventually focussing on the development of Entec Si into what it is today.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Focus, energy, empathy, enthusiasm, the ability to empower your team and an affinity for working with people. Business is all about working well with people.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Succession planning and developing the next tier of leaders. Also, getting the balance right between demand and supply within the business in terms of clients and our resources to meet their needs. It’s a bit of a juggling act and more of an art than a science!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I have recently taken up learning to fly fixed-wing aircraft which finds me currently working towards obtaining my Private Pilots Licence (PPL). As a hobby, it gives me an amazing mental workout and I find the total concentration that it demands, along with the exhilaration of flying thousands of feet above ground, is great for clearing my head and making me look at problems and challenges from a different perspective; sometimes literally!
Back on solid ground, I also love running and yoga to keep fit and I usually go skiing once a year. Oh, and I adore my two cats, Tippi and Merlot.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Genuinely, I wanted to be an astronaut! Sadly, my capacity for maths and physics did not match my enthusiasm for wanting to go into outer space. I suppose flying goes some way towards achieving that original goal.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Tardiness and laziness. I try to lead by example and make sure that our team is fully aware of their roles and responsibilities. Having said that, everyone in Entec Si is extremely enthusiastic and always goes the extra mile. We’re very fortunate to have a great team of people driving the business forward and supporting our clients.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Have a vision and set goals early. It doesn’t matter that your journey may change those goals, aspire to learn from it. Don’t be afraid to try, change tactics, try again, and most importantly, don’t be afraid of failure. You learn ten times more from failing and trying again than you do from succeeding the first time.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Do what makes you happy, focus on what you’re good at and play to your strengths. Don’t try to be something you’re not; just be yourself.
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