My Morning Routine: Marwa Abbas, general manager and technology leader, IBM Egypt
Marwa Abbas, general manager and technology leader, IBM Egypt: Each week, My Morning 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 Marwa Abbas (LinkedIn), the general manager of IBM.
My name is Marwa Abbas, and I’m the new general manager of IBM Egypt. I usually introduce myself very differently depending on whether I’m talking to colleagues or peers or to someone random outside of the realm of work. If it’s a professional context, I would always just give a simple “I’m Marwa Abbas from IBM.” I wouldn’t really go beyond that, and I find that many women provide simpler answers to that question, as opposed to men. Generally, in a professional context, it’s not even Marwa speaking — it’s the company; I become the voice of the company.
I wake up around 6am, and I pray. I sit with myself for a good hour, just to meditate and pray. This was always the case, whether it was when my kids went to school or now that they’re all grown up. My grandfather always used to say that God gives out blessings early in the day — I always remember that, so wake up early and work early.
Over the past two years, I began to do some stretching in the morning. I don’t do much sports so I try to incorporate this kind of movement into my day. I do this no matter what. Even if I have to leave my house at 7am, then I wake up at 5am, and devote at least two to three hours to my morning routine. Oh, and I never forget to call my mom [laughs]. That’s essential.
Then I get my coffee and plan my day — both on the personal side and on the professional side. Sometimes, I get requests early in the morning and people tell me to take a look at things but before I do any of that, I always have to plan my day first, then I kick off to work.
The calls start coming in right away. The moment I get into my car, that’s when the workday begins and I start getting back-to-back calls. Then from calls, I go to meetings, then back to calls, and so on and so forth. On a day-to-day basis, I get sucked into a lot of different logistical things.
The only way I can focus is by writing. I use a pen and paper, write down a to-do list, and that alone gives me a lot of satisfaction and a push to get things done.
Every week or weekend, I have to pause and look back on my week and ask, “Did I miss out on anything?” Usually, you won’t be able to see the strategic big picture in the day-to-day. Time flies by and you get sucked into different things, which is why you need to always stop and reassess.
During the week, I rarely have time to do any activities like connect with friends, although I do prioritize this type of connection both with friends and family. But every month or two, my husband and I always try to vacation together for a weekend, whether in Alexandria or Gouna, with friends or family. This really makes a difference for me, and helps me step out of my routine.
But I think there’s room for improvement for me when it comes to work-life balance. I think it’s mainly because I’m starting a new position, but normally, I have always been able to maintain a work-life balance to a great extent. I would attend my kids’ school activities, show up to parent meetings, go to sports days — and work while I’m doing all of it.
At the end of the day, I turn on the TV, and watch a super random old film. I even go for movies I’ve seen a mn times, but I focus and watch as though it’s the first. I’m never in the mood to watch something new, because I don’t want to concentrate. I just want to watch without really thinking about what I’m watching.
My go-to series for those days is Raafat El Haggan [laughs]. I’m really into shows and movies that are historical and about Egypt. Ayam El Sadat is another favorite of mine, and movies like Asal Eswid. You’ll notice that the common factor between all of those is a focus on Egypt.
On the personal side, I want to take care of my and my family’s health and well-being. On the professional side, I would hope to succeed to have an impact for Egypt with IBM and to continue building on its successes and accelerate this progress towards digital transformation. That’s the aspiration that I have for my team, and I think we have the assets, capabilities and skills to do this.