Spotlight on Hira Ali

Hira Ali is author of the renowned book: Her Way to the Top: A guide to smashing the glass ceiling which has received international awards and outstanding testimonials worldwide.

She is also an inspiring and well-recognised leadership expert and career coach who has impacted thousands of people from various industries and professions across the globe with her articles and interviews being featured in hundreds of media outlets including Forbes, Huff post, Entrepreneur, The Female Lead and many more. An Associate Certified Coach accredited by International Coach Federation and a professional member of the Association for Neuro Linguistic Programming, Hira is a recipient of the top 100 women Lift Effects awards and the prestigious highly commended women in media award sponsored by Microsoft.

Last year, Hira was featured as a role model in the book Girls Who Do You Want To Be alongside Arianna Huffington, Reshma Sujani, Claire Shipman, Sallie Krawcheck and other phenomenal world changers. She is very passionate about empowering women and ethnic minorities, closing the gender gap and is a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion at workplace. Hira is the Chief Executive Officer of Advancing Your Potential, Managing Director of International Women Empowerment Events, Co-Founder of Career Excel and Co-Founder of The Grey Area. She is based in UK where she lives with her husband and son. You can follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Insta or Facebook

How did you get started in your career?

I started my career in Pakistan as a junior HR manager at the age of 22 and was promoted to senior roles within a short span of time. My late father, who was associated with the HR profession, was also an important influence. While working in the Human Resources department, I began developing training programmes for employees, with a keen interest for women leadership programmes.  Six-and-a-half years into my career and a year after marriage, we moved from Pakistan to Dubai for a better job prospect. Despite being a busy new mum, I did not give up my career aspirations and continued to work on a part-time basis as a consultant, recruiter and trainer. I finally launched my very own training and HR consulting firm – ed Management Consulting. My passion for training and the desire to motivate, develop and positively influence the people around me realised its truest essence under this umbrella. I trained hundreds of working professionals from different nationalities, backgrounds and professions, particularly corporate career women.

When I moved to London nearly seven years later, I was conscious that my background would be a formidable challenge to complement the difficulty of starting my business anew. As an Asian Muslim immigrant woman in a foreign land I feared I may be exposed to many limitations and prejudices so I was hesitant. Yet, regardless of how I felt, I decided to pursue my goals in earnest. London was very open and kind and my career soared. Four years later, I am very grateful that I didn’t give in and by the grace of Allah in a short span of time I have been able to establish myself as a recognised leader especially in the diversity and inclusion space.

What is a highlight of your career?

I am extremely grateful for all my career accolades but I would say, my greatest feat is publishing a women leadership book which has received great reviews from global influencers such as former first lady Cherie Blair, Marshall Goldsmith, Valerie Young, Dr. Lois P Frankle, Ziauddin Yousafzai (Malala’s dad) and many more. The book made it to local and international newspapers and several international recommended reading lists, received a letter from the Mayor of London and won an award. I am also truly humbled that my interviews and my work has been published in hundreds of media outlets globally. Last year I was featured as a role model in a book published in New York for middle school girls.

How would you describe the type of work that you do each day? Why is it important?

My work mainly revolves around enabling career progression for women and ethnic minorities and help them in overcoming barriers that impede personal and professional growth. All the projects I regularly engage in are aligned with this passion. I am huge fan of surveys and research and extensively make use of these tools to substantiate my work. I am also very keen to close the gender gap especially in Pakistan. In the Global Gender Gap Index rankings by region, 2020, Pakistan ranks the lowest in the region. The gap remains cavernous in terms of economic participation and opportunities and I am very keen to work towards closing this gender gap and strengthening the economy. I believe this work is important because inclusive, collaborative cultures fuel innovation and consistently beat homogenous ones when it comes to revenue, profitability, and decision-making.

What has been the greatest hurdle for you to overcome in your career?

 I believe moving from country to country, starting my business all over again and building my leadership brand from ground zero has been quite challenging. When I first moved to London, I hardly knew anyone here and neither did I have any support network – building that network took a lot of time and patience. For a long time, I was only doing pro bono work and working very hard to establish my brand without much monetary compensation. I guess surviving those initial years have been quite challenging in every country where I have initiated business in – you need to be really self-motivated and keep going.  I would add that authenticity, resilience, networking, empathy & humility are skills that really helped me each time.

What is the best thing about your job?

 It’s wonderful to frequently receive uplifting messages from girls and women across the globe who I have never met but who have drawn inspiration from my work. It’s very fulfilling to see that my writing and speaking has positively impacted and motivated people in different parts of the world. The realisation that your work is making a difference is exhilarating.

 What are your plans for the future?

I aim to continue working hard to empower women and minorities in UK and in Pakistan. My greatest desire is to represent my country, faith and ethnicity in positive light. I was recently nominated as a positive role model in the category of faith, race and ethnicity and that made very excited and emotional. It’s important for me to give to give back to my community and people. Through my various projects, I hope to bring awareness to subjects which are currently being ignored or marginalised in our country. I want to highlight and address underlying root causes impacting women’s empowerment throughout Asia and the Middle East. Next year, we plan to have a conference in Pakistan covering these topics. In UK, I hope to continue supporting and facilitating women and ethnic minority leadership.

 How do you unwind?

 Last few years, work has been incredibly busy and I have had to make a conscious effort to hit the pause button. Spending time with the family watching a good movie or series with a nice meal really helps me unwind. I find listening to music very relaxing too.

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