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Thursday, 25 February 2021

My WFH Routine: Ahmed Shalaby, president & CEO of Tatweer Misr

Ahmed Shalaby, president & CEO of Tatweer Misr: Each week, my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Ahmed Shalaby (LinkedIn) president and CEO of Tatweer Misr for Real Estate Development.

My name is Ahmed Shalaby I’m the president and CEO of Tatweer Misr and a professor of architecture and urban development at Cairo University, Faculty of Engineering. I juggle two hats. Being a professor means I’m involved in new research and developments in the field which is really useful for our work at Tatweer Misr. As president of a fast-growing company, I'm also able to bring to my students valuable insights on real life experiences in the market.

At Cairo University we went to digital learning in March 2020, so we transitioned all our interactions online to Zoom and Blackboard. By September we were on a hybrid system with 50% in person learning. Distance learning is especially difficult for architecture students because we need to constantly conduct in person reviews for projects. We tried to balance between lectures and sketch comments but now we’re back to distance learning once again.

Tatweer Misr has a culture of entrepreneurship and adaptability. We were lucky to have in place an integrated platform that connected all our paperwork, purchase requests, human resources filings and admin approvals under one system. So it was easy to go WFH once the pandemic broke out. We started WFH in March 2020 and we gave our office employees the option of going 100% WFH as long as operations kept running smoothly. On sites and at sales offices, where on-ground presence is necessary, we took precautionary measures including monitoring workers’ and visitors’ temperatures, sanitizing the premises on an hourly basis and outfitting sites with doctors and ambulances.

Right now we’re kind of flexible. We encourage working from home and coming into the office only if necessary, but every department head has the discretion to determine their in person-WFH mix depending on the task at hand. We’re probably at 50% WFH at any given time but team meetings are still held on Zoom to avoid crowding in offices.

I think WFH is here to stay. We are leaving this experiment with new tools and techniques that will enable us to become better in the future. Our meetings with international partners will likely continue to take place on Zoom from now on. Although we miss personal communication, we’ve found it way more efficient to stick to online calls — it saves us time and expenses and we’re still getting all the same work done.

We saw productivity increase during the lockdown. Meetings through Zoom are generally more focused. This new mode of work is allowing for a better work-life balance and even greater productivity. If we managed to achieve our 2020 targets despite the year’s challenges, then everyone’s productivity has gone up.

Covid-19 has given us a chance to revisit our lifestyles. Keeping a healthy work-life balance is key to maintaining focus, and this is coming from a workaholic. We need to give time to our family and we need to have fun. But discipline and routine are also really important. Keeping a single special place for yourself can go a long way. It's also always important to stay connected and stay in communication with your team.

My life is generally consistent and structured. I wake up at 7:00 am to start my day with 30 or 40 minutes of stretching and treadmill exercises from home. That's when I read Enterprise and the day’s news. Then I get ready for breakfast with my wife and two daughters, Habeba and Maleka, at around 8:00 am — which is the most important part of my day. After breakfast I jump right into my daily meetings starting 9:30 am. I live about an hour away from the office so on days where I’m personally WFH that extra time is saved for my family. I’m usually on back to back meetings and phone calls until 5:00 or 6:00 pm.

As a people person I miss human interaction at the office. Maybe it comes from my background as a professor where I'm used to routinely interacting with large groups of people. But I try to not let that interfere with the decisions I make for the company where people’s health comes first.

The rest of the day is a balance between family, football and movies. I love helping the girls with school work in the evening, especially helping my 16-year-old daughter, Habeba, with her math homework and my six -year-old daughter, Maleka, with her school activities. Otherwise, I'm a big Ahly and Liverpool fan — any team with a red jersey really — so I try to catch games as often as I can to blow off some steam and disconnect from the day.

I love Braveheart. It's one of those movies I could watch everyday. It shows how important good leadership can be and how it can change people’s lives. As for TV shows, I like Friends. It's funny and cross generational. My daughters both really enjoy the show and we watch it together on Fridays.

I really enjoyed Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Rene Mauborgne, which was gifted to me by a good friend of mine back in 2008. The book is all about building an entrepreneurial mindset to address market challenges.

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