Interview with Abou Aboughazala
I believe that my proven communication skills, upbeat attitude, intercultural background, diverse work experience in several different industries and ability to learn and succeed under tight deadlines are the key experiences that give me a unique edge in todays market.
You seem to be quite involved in social activism as well. When did you realize that was something you were interested in as a person, and how has it influenced what you do professionally?
I'm not quite sure when I became interested in social activism, to be honest. I was born and raised in Egypt in Cairo. And of course, Egypt being a developing country familiar with social inequalities that the current economic system has created. So I was sort of close to that agenda just through life experience but it was more cultivated when I came to Berlin and really noticed there are a lot of different alternatives to doing things such as social business models or profit but also generating impact along the way. And this kind of attracted me towards exploring this further and through that, I discovered that the people and the society have a role to play in creating a better future for us all. And this is where my activism was initiated. I'm very pro-community centred events that sort of focus on transforming everyday activities into a social impact whether it is by conscious consumption or whether it's through supporting local initiatives or buying products that implement a social business model. And I think that there's a very important role for all of us to play in this transition regarding how it influences what I do professionally. I mean I work in a socially impactful business and I think it is a rewarding place to be and so my choices regarding my employment or my career professional choices are very influenced by that sort of reward and the desire to come home feeling good about what I do.
You're based in Berlin—what has it been like navigating the city's startup scene?
I never really worked in a startup environment before, before moving to Berlin and I didn't have the intention of ending up in the in the startup scene so to speak. But I guess Berlin is a place to be for such a thing. I mean similar to Silicon Valley and all these other startup hotspots. I think it's easily facilitated there's a there's a good infrastructure for you to sort of navigate and get around and with all the coworking spaces, and all these young entrepreneurs coming together to share ideas and to share their lessons learned. It's been a good ride so far and I'm enjoying it a lot. I definitely think it's a much more relaxed space to be than a conventional corporate job or other conventional ways of doing work or employment opportunities. I don't want to say it's tough navigating the city startup scene because I don't have so much experience in trying to do so. The first time I applied for a startup was when I applied for it, for the job opening at The Beam. And I was hired and so I don't have any other experiences or struggles attempting to navigate the scene or attempting to discover it. But through my work and my employment with The Beam I'm definitely more in touch and more engaged with or with a lot of other startups. And I've been attending more Meetups and promoting more events and events that are centred around the community, and around social activism, around social businesses. And yeah I think it's great. And I don't think anyone should have a problem navigating that scene. There are a lot of tools at people's disposal that you can use. So yeah.
You were also a Sustainability Manager at GetYourWings in 2017. What lessons did you learn there, and how would you advise companies who wish to be more sustainable?
When I was hired by Get Your Wings the position sustainability management was based on an exploration of a new potential business venture from the company. But unfortunately we shifted our focus to education. And so I didn't get a chance to sort of cultivate any experiences within sustainability and sustainability management for companies. But my advice would be that if there are any large organizations that wish to become more sustainable for them to invest in creating a sustainable corporate culture within the organization and adopt more green policies, like double-sided printing, simple things that make a difference. And for startups and smaller organizations, I would say awareness, awareness is key because if you conveyed this knowledge to your employees then you empower them to become more sustainable and adopt more sustainable lifestyles. And since you are small as a company, each individual impact in doing so would have a ripple effect. And I think this is a very effective way to sort of promote and start your journey towards becoming more sustainable.
What are your short- and long-term career goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?
This is a tough question because I don't necessarily have specific short or long-term career goals. I think my goals at the moment are very related to the project that I'm managing. And I think in the short term and mainly focused on getting the name out there and spreading this message and creating a global movement out of this initiative and sort of presenting the world an alternative way to leverage art and leverage it as a tool to change towards a more sustainable tomorrow. On the long term, I hope that we are present in more cities around the world. We're going to be in New York soon. And from there I think this will be a platform that pushes us to other other areas of the globe and make other locations more accessible. Where do I see myself in five years? Well, five years ago I wouldn't have seen myself here working on a creative project. So it's tough to answer this question. But for me generally speaking my goals are very emotionally driven and I seek comfort and satisfaction from what I do and this is not necessarily tied by a specific job or a position as long as I'm able to work in a way that is comfortable for me and with a company that's not taking too much from my time and ideally doing so for a socially beneficial organization. This is where I am right now and this is where I plan to continue to be. I don't have I don't know how long for. But as long as I can be here this is my plan.
Hey Abou, can you start out by introducing yourself, as well as your work with the The Solar Panel Art Series powered by The Beam?
Hi guys. So my name is Abou and I work for The Beam magazine which is a tri-annual publication covering energy transitions toward zero carbon economies and climate-related topics. I moved to Berlin three years ago to do my master's degree in sustainability management. And from there I sort of stumbled on the beam and ended up managing this creative project for them called the Solar Panel Art Series. And what do we do with the solar panel art series is that we distribute repurposed solar panels to international artists around the world and we invite them to use those panels as their medium to create art out of them which we then exhibit in Berlin and soon in New York and we sell them through online benefit auctions with Paddel8 and with the money we donate half of the proceeds to Little Sun foundation which is the foundation that helps supply school children in Rwanda living without access to energy with clean and reliable light.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of being a General Project Manager with The Solar Panel Art Series?
I've had two different job experiences as a general manager, both in completely different industries. So the first one was at a company that designs fire fighting systems and fire detection systems. And the second being my current job as the general manager of the solar panel art series and although they are both in very different sectors I think the challenges are similar. And I feel there are two main challenges as a manager any job and that the first being communication, I think communication is key to a lot of misunderstandings that happen in the workplace or with partners or with other people. And the second being hiring the right team for the job. If you have the right team it's really like a smooth sail. And so those would be the challenges which I think is common for any management position or any management in general and the rewards I would say is that it's a steep learning curve. You got to learn a lot because you're engaged with all the different people that are doing different things and so you're exposed to too many facets of the business that otherwise you wouldn't be exposed to. And so this kind of develops your knowledge and develops your understanding and your speaking skills, your communication skills. So I think it's a very rewarding job to be honest. And that was also the reason that I came to Berlin to pursue my degree in management, at my masters degree in management I just like it and I like engaging with people and I like exploring different sides of the business.