Voices@Athena - Mahmoud Hagras

Senior Product Manager
United Arab Emirates

Executive MBA- Business Analytics

I would like to talk about my work experience. I graduated from the faculty of Science at Cairo University in 2004. I waited for a couple of months to know my situation relating to joining the Egyptian armed forces as it is mandatory for all men to join the army after they complete their higher education. In those days I used to wear glasses, so I was exempted from the military services.
My journey began thereon. I joined my present company in early 2005. After I had been in the company for a  few months, they told me that there was a chance to go to the company branch in Sudan. I remember I was 22 years old and I was so excited to travel, my family initially was reluctant, but I persuaded them to accept as I would gain a great deal of experience from this trip.

Finally, they agreed, and I went to Sudan, I stayed at Khartoum, which is the capital of Sudan for 75 days. I can remember every single detail of this trip because it was my first trip ever outside my country.
After I returned to Cairo, my company announced that they needed senior sales representatives to work at their branch office in Saudi Arabia which was the headquarters in those days. Then I travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and there my second journey started.

I stayed in Saudi Arabia for almost 12 years, dealing with different people from different nationalities gaining solid experience. We were constantly interacting with many international companies, from the US, Europe & Asia, so every day at work added to my experience. Then I left Saudi Arabia last year and joined the corporate office of my company in the United Arab Emirates.
I traveled extensively during the past 12 years. I visited many countries like France, Hungary, Germany, Korea and the US in addition to the GCC & the Levant countries as it was part of my responsibilities. 

I have fond memories of each country I visited, but the most memorable one I can remember happened during my visit to Korea. I visited Korea with 2 doctors and it was January and freezing outside. One of the doctors suggested going for a picnic on the last day as it was a free day.  We took a taxi from the hotel for a river cruise in Seoul. But we made a major slip. We didn’t check the outside temperature before we left the hotel although it was part of our daily routine to check the temperature before venturing outside. When we arrived, we found the river frozen! That wasn’t so much of a problem. The real problem was we found ourselves standing in an open place without any protection shield and the temperature was -5 degrees. People living in Saudi Arabia are not really used to this kind of weather. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any transportation to take us to any other place. We stayed there for more than 30 minutes till a kind man saw us in this miserable condition, he called a taxi for us and the taxi arrived after 10 minutes. 
I remember that we stayed quiet in the taxi and nobody spoke until we reached the hotel. The situation was awful but now when we remember it, we laugh at it. 

Now I am working as a senior product manager in my company and I am responsible for 12 countries across the region. Like any other business, we faced troubles this year due to the COVID- 19 Pandemic. It was a terrible year and we were forced to do some downsizing in our organization. However, we can see light at the end of the tunnel, the discovered vaccines will help countries and companies to recover and hopefully, this will happen during the first two quarters of 2021.

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