“No matter what the challenge, tackle it head on knowing you will learn from it”
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am Salma Al Hajjaj, General Manager, Gulf Bank.
Tell us about your education.
I graduated from Kuwait University with a BSC in mathematics. I also have a master’s in Organizational Management from University of Arizona.
Tell us about your career journey.
I began at Gulf Investment Corporation and ended up in HR, by coincidence. I worked in different areas of HR at GIC for fourteen years and then moved to Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. Seven years later I was asked to move to the mother company, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) to set up the Center for Leadership Development. While I was thoroughly enjoying my job at KPC, I couldn’t resist another challenge that came my way through a headhunter and I accepted my current job at Gulf Bank.
How do you manage your time? Describe your average day.
My average day starts at 6.30am and usually ends around 4pm. I’m home most afternoons unless I have an evening function for the bank which happens at least once or twice a month. With a full time job and family there’s not much time or energy for a social life.
What is your biggest strength?
Do you have any weaknesses?
My constant need for reassurance that I’m doing a good job.
Have you made any mistakes that have made you stronger?
I can’t really think of any…..
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced during your career?
Competing in a male dominated environment.
How do you stay motivated during challenging times?
Staying positive, putting things into perspective and seeing the big picture all help when facing a challenge. Worrying and stressing won’t help overcome the challenge so no matter what the challenge, tackle it head on knowing you will learn from it. Eventually, when you look back as bigger challenges come your way (and they will), it won’t seem like such a big deal.
What do you do to relax?
I play tennis twice a week and go for walks regularly.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
I can think of a number of proud moments but one of my favorites was speaking a few years ago at FIKR (the Arab Thought Foundation) in Lebanon on Leadership. HRH Prince Khaled Al Faisal was in the audience and he commended me on the presentation afterwards.
What is your biggest fear?
I fear for my children’s safety and wellbeing.
What is your favourite quote?
Be the change.
Name one item in life you can’t do without?
I’m not a material person so do not have much attachment to materialistic things.
What is the best advice you have ever taken?
Be yourself, everybody else is taken.
Share three books on your nightstand.
-The Power of Moments – Chip Heath and Dan Heath
-The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
-The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
In your opinion, what are the three keys to success?
What is next for you? What would you still like to achieve?
One day I’d like to coach and become a professional motivational speaker to the youth.
What advice would you give to young women starting out in their career?
I’ve always categorized a typical woman’s career into phases: (1) Starting off as a young graduate (2) Getting married (3) Having children (4) Middle/Senior management. Each phase has its challenges but (2) and (3) are where we see most women leave the work force for obvious reasons. My advice is to persevere through this period of your career and see it through. It may be a challenge, but always remember that it’s a phase that will pass and once through it, you will shine in your career and your kids will have a role model to look up to.
How does it feel to be a CP Woman of Substance?
A great honor and a sense of pride. I hope to live up to the title!
Your message for the team at CP magazine:
Keep up the good work and congratulations on coming this far in just eight years.