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Amna Bani Hashem And Maz Hakim On Balancing Two Passion-Driven Careers


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Amna Bani Hashem, a professional horse rider and showjumper who is also a mechanical engineer, explains that improving her relationship with time has been key to her succeeding in the two career trajectories she has chosen for herself. “I had to develop discipline and respect for time,” Hashem says. “I’ve always had a lot of ambitions, so if I wanted to get them done, I had to make the time for each of them. In essence, we all have time to do everything we want, but it is a matter of how serious you are about it.”



Maz Hakim/Amna Bani Hashem

Maz Hakim, founder, Espand by Maz and Virgin Radior presenter (left), and Amna Bani Hashem, a professional horse rider and showjumper and a mechanical engineer

Apart from her job as an engineer at ENOC, a Dubai-based global oil and gas company, Hashem is also a graduate of the UAE’s Masar Godolphin program, a scholarship program by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, aimed at developing future Emirati leaders in horse racing. Hashem’s daily routine reveals her discipline and commitment. “Every day, I wake up at 4.00am to reach the stables at 5.00am, I ride for a few hours, and then head to my full-time engineering job in oil and gas,” she says. “I prefer to end the day at the gym, followed by a light meal at 9.00pm, and a restful sleep by 10.00pm. Of course, Islamic prayer times are a big part of my day, because they help with discipline, clarity of mind, keeping the focus on the main goal of life. That belief helps in overcoming hardships, because it is a reminder that nothing is forever.”

Amna Bani Hashem is a graduate from the UAE’s prestigious Masar Godolphin academic and experiential training program that operates under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Source: Amna Bani Hashem

Maz Hakim, a radio presenter for Virgin Radio Dubai and founder of Espand By Maz, a socially conscious and sustainable clothing brand promoting Afghan culture, also pursues two different career paths. She recalls being so passionate about becoming a radio presenter that she was open to learning how to do the job through unpaid work or internships. “I dreamed of becoming a presenter, so I studied at the Australian Film Television Radio School, but I also volunteered in the programming department of a radio station. I worked for free for an entire year before getting my first opportunity as a radio presenter in Canberra,” Hakim says. “Even today, I find working for the biggest radio station in the Middle East fast-paced and so exciting, but what most people don’t see is what it took to get here. Volunteering and working for free is important when you have a dream.”

Espand By Maz is a socially conscious and sustainable clothing brand promoting Afghan culture. Source: Maz Hakim

A daughter of Afghan immigrants to Australia, Hakim grew up listening about the plight of the people of her native country, which later resulted in her not only advocating for the nation’s cause, but also founding her own label, Espand By Maz, to promote its culture. “Once, I visited Afghanistan to film a television show for Eid, and I was so inspired by the beautiful textures and vibrant colors of the textiles and materials,” Hakim explains. “When I arrived back to Dubai, I started playing with different materials and wanted to create a fashion label that conspires to bring my two loves together– fashion and culture.”

Related: When Women Win: How The Middle East Is Showcasing Female Success Across Entrepreneurship And Tech

Maz Hakim, founder, Espand By Maz. Source: Maz Hakim

With espand being a Farsi word that means to ward away negative energy, the Espand By Maz brand was conceived during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. “Every Espand piece is unique, each jacket is different, and the materials are handsewn. Each part of Espand material is vintage and unique, and is repurposed into a jacket,” Hakim says. When asked if the enterprise has any external funds, she replies, “I do not have any investors for the business just yet. Espand is a self-sustaining and self-funded brand.” About juggling two careers, Hakim says that being fluid and flexible is key. “Sometimes, it can be overwhelming, but what I have learnt from radio that I have also applied to my fashion brand, is that it is important to be dynamic,” Hakim says. “As the founder of a startup, I’m required to work on so many different factors and aspects. Despite my love for fashion, founding a startup in fashion was so new, and I’ve been learning as I was building the business, and I’m still learning every day.”

Given her own experiences, Hakim advises other women wishing to pursue multiple passions to be open to reinventing themselves. “In radio, you need to constantly stay on top of everything that is happening locally and internationally, so you must keep reinventing yourself to stay interesting and relevant,” she says. “That is the same with fashion, it is important to work on your brand and your business every single day in order to stay relevant.”

Emirati show-jumper and mechanical engineer Amna Bani Hashem with her horse. Source: Amna Bani Hashem

Meanwhile, Hashem, as a woman who has built a career not in one but in two male-dominated fields, she wants to see other women to follow in her footsteps and challenge gender stereotypes in the region. “I laud female achievers who pave the way in male-dominated sports, or challenge the status quo and drive women towards achievements in male-dominated industries,” she declares.

‘TREP TALK: Tips for entrepreneurs from Espand By Maz founder Maz Hakim

1. Dream big “Limitations are all in our mind. Anything is possible, if you can dream it, you can do it. Create a vision board, and look at it daily- this will give you clarity, and remind you of what your goals are.”

2. Find your purpose “What is your greater purpose? Always look for what your dharma, your ikigai, is– why do you do what you do? What makes you feel alive? When you find your purpose, nothing can stop you.”

3. Don’t be scared of failureAdversity helps you grow. Get back up again, and keep pushing forward.”

4. Find a mentor “This doesn’t necessarily need to be just about your career. Becoming a grounded and well-rounded person is important in any industry. There’s nothing wrong with asking for guidance and advice from someone else, so do find a mentor.”

‘TREP TALK: Tips for entrepreneurs from Emirati showjumper Amna Bani Hashem

1. Believe in yourself and your vision “That is key for you to keep going when things get tough, and so never listen to the naysayers- they will always try to bring you to their level. Don’t let them.”

2. Never give up “Life will test you, but don’t take it personally. Brush off the dust, learn the lesson, and do better next time.”

3. Work hard, and manage your time well “Don’t waste time on people that drain your energy, you only have a certain capacity per day, so protect that. And work super hard on things that will bring you closer to your vision.”

4. Be kind and humble “When you grow and succeed, be sure to stay humble. Being arrogant will only cause you to self-destruct, and create many blind spots in your vision.”

Related: Doing It All: Running A Business, While Also Studying At Oxford



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