LeaderImpact Podcast

Ep. 49 - Rana Mustafa - Turning Challenge Into Opportunity

January 10, 2024 LeaderImpact Episode 49
LeaderImpact Podcast
Ep. 49 - Rana Mustafa - Turning Challenge Into Opportunity
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When life threw curveballs, our guest Dr. Rana Mustafa didn't just catch them—she crafted a new game. From the ruins of war-torn Syria to the thriving food innovation scene in Canada, Dr. Mustafa's journey is a masterclass in resilience and reinvention. She delves into how she transformed personal adversity into a catapult for success, refusing to let a dramatic shift in culture and profession dampen her spirit. Her refusal to dwell on lost academic recognition from her homeland and her focus on capitalizing on her strengths in an unfamiliar environment underscore the essence of true self-leadership. Her inspiring tale on our latest episode is a beacon for anyone navigating their own tumultuous seas of change.

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Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Leader Impact podcast. We are a community of leaders with a network in over 350 cities around the world dedicated to optimizing our personal, professional and spiritual lives to have impact. This show is where we have a chance to listen and engage with leaders who are living this out. We love talking with leaders, so if you have any questions, comments or suggestions to make this show even better, please let us know. Best way to stay connected in Canada is through our newsletter at LeaderImpactca or on social media at Leader Impact. If you're listening from outside of Canada, check out our website at LeaderImpactcom. I'm your host, lisa Peters, and our guest today is Dr Rana Mustafa. Dr Mustafa is a multifaceted professional who wears many hats. She's a food scientist, leadership coach and entrepreneur With a rich experience spanning over two decades. She has made significant contributions in academia, food innovation, project management and project commercialization. Her work has guided thousands of university students and scientists in their journey from research to market, leaving a profound impact in and beyond the academic world. Dr Rana's coaching methodology is rooted in empathy, intentional listening and positive intelligence. She empowers science professionals to build their professional brand, enhance their professional presence and develop their self-leadership skills. This enables them to emerge as the go-to experts in their respective fields. However, dr Mustafa's story extends beyond her professional achievements. As a survivor of war and breast cancer, she brings a unique perspective to her work. She extends her support to professionals grappling with life challenges, helping them cultivate resilient mindsets, reinvent themselves and turn adversity into opportunities. Welcome to the show, rana. How are you? I'm good, thank you Well. This podcast is kicking off a new year for us. Over the past few months, we've been talking about pivotal moments. I thought that when I read your bio and just talking about helping people cultivate resilient mindsets, reinventing themselves, I'm like we need to talk about pivotal moments. Over the next half hour. I would love to dive deep with you as a leadership coach and, as I mean, there's so much more in your bio. Are you ready? Will you join me? Of course, okay, people don't know you, rana. I just want you to you know. We're looking at a bit of your professional background and your whole story and how you got to where you are today, so I'm wondering if you can share a couple of snapshots that were pivotal turning points on your own journey.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I was a university professor in my home country, which is Syria, and I enjoyed and I loved my position as a university professor because I always believed that education is our way to go tool to change societies. Unfortunately, because of the war in Syria, I forced to leave my home and my life changed for ever. After my home was destroyed, after five years of the war, I was unable to carry on on my life with my kids and I was threatened by different parties. So I decided to move to Canada and my dream was to continue my career as a university professor. I came here as a researcher and I started working in food innovation and food product development. However, my dream as a faculty member and as a teacher for university students was always in my head and I wanted to follow on that dream. I went to the University of Saskatchewan, got certification for teaching university students, taught some courses, but the path to continue as a university professor or faculty member was impossible because of different criteria. They are asked us to do, so I changed to be to work in business development and I worked in different roles so far, but it was just in helping researchers do their research, and we can talk about it later how I changed my mindset to accept this new reality and excel on it and build my new career here, a successful career.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I can't imagine you have the education from Syria.

Speaker 1:

I had a PhD, a master's and a PhD from France, from France, not from Syria. Yes, so I had those. I lived six years in France, came back to Syria with my PhD as a university professor. I was a university professor for 10 years, teaching students at least 200, 250 students a year supervising students, projects, industry collaboration, etc. And in less than three months, everything stopped and collapsed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, when, where, how did that moment that you know it's gone, like you've come here and it's, would you say, it's not recognized? You're saying the criteria is different. How do you feel like?

Speaker 1:

yeah, yeah, I was very lucky that my credential were from France, okay, but I needed to do like certain process to get to recognize my Qualification recognized. But as a university professor, they only they look at different things, but the major criteria is how many papers we published. Well, well, in Syria we don't have enough resources and we don't have money to pay for Publications and research. So if you publish one paper a year, that's a great. If you compare me to any of my peers in Syria, I am by far like I am really Way like my achievements were totally different and way like bigger. But if you compare me to the same person in Canada, I don't. I am unable to compare myself to them. They publish more because of the materials, because of different Financial resources, different resources. So At first I felt it's unfair to compare people who are in different contexts and different situations. But I didn't want to dwell in it. I said to myself what can I do differently? And I will succeed, no matter what the role will be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that's that. That's a huge comment. I didn't want to dwell in it because you talk about resilience and you know we get caught, uh, in a pivot in. You know things happen to us good or bad, and and we get stuck. And you know, I really wanted to dive on that, on the getting out of, because there was so much. I mean you left your country for for a reason you came here. Your credentials, I mean it's different, so your, your professional journey is different. Um, you know, in your comment we talk about, or in your bio breast cancer, how are, how do you transition that that mindset of A pivotal moment isn't always positive. You know it's, it's something has happened, or, uh, it's it's a defining moment, good or bad. Where are you, this resilience?

Speaker 1:

I honestly I believe that we build it through life experience. We cannot just gain it in one Moment or one day or one single experience. Um, I remember the professor who uh accepted my who, gave me the job offer at the University of Saskatchewan. Here before coming from Syria I came with a work permit, so I was communicating with Like universities to find like fun for my research, to come with a work permit, etc. So this professor, dr Phyllis shant and I thank her so much, in fact she's at the College of Agriculture. She replied to me I will Look at your application and let you know in a few days my opinion or my feedback. So I was waiting and very nervous. So I wrote to her an email. I said I am sure you will find so many people who published more than me, who achieved more than me, but I did the maximum, what I could have done in my own capacity, and I would love that you Give me the chance To prove to you that I am capable, to prove to you that I am capable. She wrote back to me. She said absolutely, I look at your Uh LinkedIn, I looked at your Research gate and I am seeing consistent improvement and this is what matters Matter. That comment In that pivotal moment, in that transition time between coming from Syria, from that war zone, to Canada, was so helpful and powerful. Of course she gave me the job offer. I came to Canada and during that transition and building that resilient mindset, I met so many wonderful people who created those moments of you, call them significant moments. You can say, yes, you are in that pivotal moment, but there is some circumstances or people who come to your life and they say, maybe sentences, but those leave footprint forever and help you no further in your journey.

Speaker 2:

I think you made two great comments there, and one is about the people, the people who we surround ourselves with Absolutely, because if you are in a moment and you are surrounded by people that are just negative, negative, negative, versus finding someone, searching someone out, surrounding yourself with a group of people, a person who believes in you. And then the other comment, I think, was just about the many moments, because a defining moment is all those moments that are leading up to you know, there are so many moments that make the moment.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and in fact the same happened to me when I had breast cancer. So after this transition, after I got the great job I have, I felt that I built my life in Canada and I felt for the first time for years that my life turned to be okay and I couldn't enjoy it. Less than a year in that new position, new job that I loved, a new life that I loved I knew that I have breast cancer and as a professional woman, I felt life. Just everything collapsed around me. I spent my whole life to fight to get education in a culture was where women women are not supported. In my community, women are supported. My family supported me. It was not a common thing. So I spent my life studying and working hard and now I'm sick with they called me very aggressive cancer used to kill women a few years ago, so the whole world collapsed. Yeah, when I shared this with my close friends they say, they used to say to me Rana, you are strong, you went through so many challenges, you can do it. But guess what? At first, those words that people intended to support me with made me feel that I can't share anything with you anymore because you expect that I am strong so I can't share anything with you. I went through so many challenges. Is it my destiny? Is it my destiny to go from one challenge to another During the first few months? I can tell you that was not helpful for me, until I was reading a book, anatomy of Spirit, carolin Mess, and she was saying about look at the universal signal. And in all my life I was working like crazy. So I thought, yeah, this is the universal signal. The universe is sending me a signal to pause and see what is my life purpose exactly. What do I want to do if I live for even one year ahead of me? What can I do? So I said God, please help me stay at least five years so I see my son graduates from university and I promise to help as many people as I can. I promise to speak because I can, I'm comfortable speaking. I promise to inspire as many women as I can, and that was the promise and I committed to that.

Speaker 2:

So where are you now in your breast cancer journey? Is that an appropriate question?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I finished all treatments on May this year and I went back to work in August. Unfortunately, recently I lost also my job, but it's another moment in my life and I can talk about it. In fact, the multiple pivotal moments that I went through helped me to build that resilient mindset and create a new identity. With cancer, I created an identity to myself. I did training to be a certified coach and I called myself resilient and transition leadership coach. So when I lost my job and I felt it's unfair because they said to me it's not related to your performance, you are a great employee, we are restricting the team Didn't resonate with what I believe in and it hurt me so hard. But I said to myself and of course, I cried a lot, but I asked myself when is that Rana? Who is that person? Who is a resilient coach If you cannot coach yourself? So I started doing that for myself right away. I was very proactive, communicating with people, my friends, to give me recommendation on LinkedIn and I applied for jobs and I cried a lot. I allowed myself to cry when I needed and less than a week after applying for jobs, I got two invitation for two jobs interviews and to me it was an achievement, even though I don't get the job.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we were experiencing a little bit of a loss together and so we have talked about this and my biggest question was how do we transition out? You talk about the crying and I lost a municipal election and we talked about it together and I had that pity party with you I mean not with you, but I cried and I allowed myself to go, that what Like, what just happened. I felt that the doors had opened. This was going to be a moment. I felt God aligning people into my life with my campaign. Everything was lining up, and then you lose and I look up and well, and I had said to myself earlier, whatever the path is, I will accept. This is God's will, this is what God wants me to do, but then you lose. You're really angry and the crying, and you have to lose with grace or you know you can't go on and slam the person or slam the job, or slam the mother, or slam. You have to accept and go. What did I learn from that experience? And that's what I'm and I've talked about. That is just. I had to learn that that wasn't what I was supposed to learn. I wasn't supposed to win. Okay, I was supposed to learn something, or I was supposed to. Experience is maybe a better word, and that's really hard, rana.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely so. I can't, like I can, talk about my experience with new coaching tools that I discovered through my cancer treatment. So I was doing positive intelligence training and, for the first time ever, I discovered why I was so sad when I had cancer. It's not only because I'm like, in fact, to be honest, like dying, like it was for me, like what I am. I will be away from my kids, from my beloved one, from my mom, yes, but what else? The thing that hits me so hard that I felt I cannot stay at home doing nothing. I'm an achiever. Positive intelligence is a way of coaching, teaches us that we have patterns of negative self-talk from being from judge to avoid or to please, or to hyper achiever, hyper visual, vigilant, etc. So for me, everything happens in my life I noticed, in fact, the pattern is the hyper achiever. Anything threaten my ability to achieve. It triggers me. Sometimes it triggers me in a very bad way. I became so sad, so like I can be easily depressed. But knowing that this is what it triggers me helped me to ask myself why do I need to achieve all the time? What if, as you mentioned, it's just a learning experience and the other thing, in fact, that I really loved about this way of coaching is they talk about it. In every challenge there is an opportunity, and you can turn every challenge into an opportunity of knowledge, of an inspiration, so you can just okay. What can I learn from this? What did I learn? How many people I learned about their feedback about me, or about the world, or about the process. And if you go back in, like if you reverse engineering some events in your life, I know that I did apply for jobs or I did things that I wish it was successful and then, with time, when I reflect back, or I dated people that I wish they were the person who, like I, can't stay with for the whole life and then later on in life I discovered like, oh my God, thank God, that was not successful, so you built all these kinds of things. It's like a toolkit that you build it and when you have a new event in our life, like when every event in my life, I add new things, new tools to this kit and the grief griefing, like when I grief the time is less. The more I am mature, the more tools I have in my toolkit, I feel that that grief time is less, so I can accept and move on on my life.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so Lisa needs to sign up for positive intelligence training. Yeah, I found myself. I don't know where I fit in. I listened to Hyperachiever or Overachiever and I think, oh boy, because I have to go to the next thing and I needed to sit in. What happened? But that's really interesting. So, this positive intelligence, if someone like, where do you start? Do you start going back and do you start journaling? Do you start recognizing? I mean, obviously, meeting with you is a great step, but if somebody was listening going, how do I recognize? Or where do I start? I think that's the most overwhelming is starting.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So positive intelligence coaching training is, or program is was founded by Sherzad Shamim and he's a university Stanford University professor. He offers the positive intelligence or sub-auteur assessment for free for anyone. So you can go, go positive intelligence sub-auteur assessment and you can do the sub-auteur assessment and you know your sub-auteurs and what happens. They ask you questions so you can recognize the pattern. In the last few weeks you say, okay, I tend to avoid the problems, avoid conflict, or say yes all the time. So you answer questions and at the end you have the result and it's good to work with someone who is positive intelligence coach like myself, or you read the book. You can also read the book and it's really very helpful. I personally found the book very interesting and helpful. I use them the positive intelligent tools in my coaching, no matter what the problem is. Some people say, oh, I have time management problems, I have difficult conversation I cannot handle. In fact, in one of my job interviews they asked me how do you manage conflict? I said, well, when there is a conflict, I try first to identify my sub-auteurs. So is it because I felt that this person is, for example, not allowing me to achieve things and I'm a hyper-achiever, or this problem happened because I avoid all the time to talk to this person and understand their perspective. So I'm an avoider. So you check on yourself first and you understand what's going on in yourself and you ask questions to the other person to understand what's going on their life as well. So in fact, we can use it in so many ways and it helped me so much in my coaching practice and in coaching myself.

Speaker 2:

I think the one thing, my own advice, is, when we go online and we answer these questions, we have to answer the questions of where we are now, not what we want to be Absolutely Like. Sometimes I think, oh yeah, I don't wanna be an avoider, but I, or whatever it is, and I answer it to where I want to be, not what I am right now, because that's not gonna help me.

Speaker 1:

Well, coaching assessments, it's always about being honest with ourselves. So we need to improve, and this is the goal of the coaching. So if we are not honest with ourselves and identify our own reality, we cannot go where we want to be.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so I think I asked you. So you are still looking for the job, looking for the ultimate.

Speaker 1:

I am looking for a great opportunity waiting for me and this is what I am always thinking of. I'm optimistic, know that now I have that Like we live always with our family, and I know that since I came to Canada I built that support system. I have great friends around me. I share my knowledge with people. I have LinkedIn newsletter. I coach scientists and the newsletter called Leadership, love for Scientists. So I share my knowledge. I know that I built that personal brand for myself. So for the future, I just I do my best. This is what I do in life. I think of life as an exam. So you prepare for the exam. You think of the preparation, not the final mark. So if you prepare very well, the marks at the end will come naturally, but if you just think of what you are going to get as your score and stuff, you will be very stressed. I prepare and I leave everything in God's hands and I believe and I trust that I will be, yeah, supported.

Speaker 2:

Rana, you're awesome. I love listening to you, cause I think exactly the same way it's like, and I love that you put it to homework I that's a great way to define that. Yeah, I get that. Fortunately, in high school I didn't really do my homework. Now I do, though, anyway, so I have two final questions for you that we ask most of our leader impact guests, cause we are a leader impact dedicated to leaders having a lasting impact. So, as you continue to move through your own journey, as it is, have you considered what you want your faith legacy to be when you leave this world?

Speaker 1:

Absolutely and in fact it's one of my I can say guidance light throughout my life. So, as a female scientist from a minority from the Middle East, I want to show the world that we have talents, we have kindness, we can create positive impact, even though the world sometimes looks like crazy, especially around us with different wars, and I believe that we, with small positive impact that we create, we will. That will create ripple impact, Mm-hmm and ripple effect. So what I want to leave after I am gone from this life people remember me with kindness, remember my knowledge, the positive impact that I created in their life. I know that I had so many people who created the same in my life and I want to continue this journey and I try to even for my kids, to teach them that this is my values and we need to continue spreading peace and love and compassion and empathy as much as we can.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome and what brings you the greatest joy.

Speaker 1:

To be honest, Lisa, I love seeing people around me happy and have peace in mind, wherever they are Poor, rich, no matter what, no matter where they are, just have peace in mind and happy. And that brings me a lot of joy. And the second thing is, in fact, I love learning, I love helping others, I love my family, I love family values, I love kindness, seeing people like dancing happy, and I had that photo on my Facebook in Texas. The start of the war in Syria. Make music, not war.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, when I think of when you said people at peace and kindness. We judge people because we look at their lives and think, oh, that's so bad and they are so happy. You know if you go to it, if there's a developing country and if you've traveled and you see and they're happy. You know they take their children to work all day and they're strapped to them. How happy could a baby, a baby, be and a mom on mom is working it like. But we judge them. We think, oh, I put my kid in daycare. So that resonated with me on that piece because it means so much. It can mean different things for different people. Absolutely yeah, did that come all right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, in fact, and this is where I said wherever they are, Wherever they are. Make music, not war. When people talk about helping refugees by bringing them to another country, I always say please help people, stay where they are, happy where they are, because they love their own environment. No one likes to just be pulled away of their own environment and leave People, even they are poor, poor and like in fact, richness is all about our peace in mind. It's not about how much money we have, and it's a long conversation of what I'm going to say.

Speaker 2:

Well, Rana, I want to thank you for taking the last half hour to spend with us and talk a little deeper about pivotal moments. And, you know, just sharing your own stories and your own moments and again, how to transition out or how to recognize and move faster because that's the important part is good, or, you know, it's not always good. The defining moment isn't always what you think it should be. So I thank you. If anyone wants to reach out to or engage with you, what is the best way to do that?

Speaker 1:

I am present on LinkedIn and many social media, but I prefer LinkedIn. They can connect with me, text me. I am always happy to communicate with people. I connect with them.

Speaker 2:

All right, well, thank you, rana, for joining us. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for inviting me.

Speaker 2:

You're welcome, all right. Well, if you're part of Leader Impact, you can always discuss or share this podcast with your group. And if you are not yet part of Leader Impact and would like to find out more and grow your leadership, find our podcast page on our website at leaderimpactca and check out our free leadership assessment. You will also find on our webpage chapter one of Braden Douglas's book Becoming a Leader of Impact. You can also check out groups available in Canada at leaderimpactca or, if you're again, if you're listening from anywhere else in the world, check out leaderimpactcom or get in touch with us by email info at leaderimpactca and we will connect you. And if you like this podcast, please leave us a comment, give us a rating or review. This will help other global leaders find our podcast. Thank you for engaging with us and remember Impact starts with you.

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