‘As long as you have given your best, don’t beat yourself up’: five minutes with… Qatar’s Khawar Iqbal

By on 05/06/2022 | Updated on 05/06/2022

Iqbal, who was director of the digital society department at Qatar’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology until last year and is now a consultant to the Ministry, tells GGF about overcoming challenges in her personal life to carve out a successful career, dune bashing, and snapping up opportunities to work abroad

What have you achieved in your career that you’re most proud of?

The fact that I took chances, welcomed and embraced change, and never looked back.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome in your career?

It’s more about challenges in life. I emigrated to the UK at the age of eight, not speaking the language, had my schooling in England, and lost my father when I was 14. I faced racism and bullying at school, yet went on to do A-levels and go to university against all cultural norms. During my 30s I was a working mum as well as studying in the evenings for four years, culminating in two post graduate diplomas in law to add to my degree in computer science.

Later I lost my husband and became a single parent. None of that hindered my desire to achieve success. I am not sure what I was driven by – it was never money or a particular title, but a certain event or perk of the job. In my last job it was a desire to meet certain people – I was invited to a gala dinner hosted by Sheikah Moza and the guest of honour was Michelle Obama.

What more do you want to achieve before you retire?

I want to give back to the community and that means charitable work.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your working life?

Don’t take things personally. When you are facing challenging times and things are not going well, or things go wrong, as long as you have given your best, don’t beat yourself up.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the civil service?

The more challenging work you take on, the more rewarding it is.

Which country’s government or civil service are you most inspired by and why?

I worked for the Qatar government for 12 years, and they were the most rewarding years of my working life. It’s an ambitious country and has some amazing leaders, many of whom are inspiring women. I saw a lot of change and growth during my time there, and I am honoured to have been part of it.  

Can you name one lesson or idea from abroad that’s helped you and your colleagues?

It’s not an idea or a project but a piece of advice: if you have the opportunity to work abroad, take it. And when you get there, be open minded, be flexible and embrace new cultures. Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone in all aspects of life, not just work. 

What attributes do you most value in people?

Respect, but you must give respect to gain it – a particular attribute for leaders I must say. 

What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?

I love dune bashing in the desert in my pickup truck, and tango dancing in the evening. 

What is your most treasured possession?

A photo of my dad. He gave me the platform from which I was able to carve out a successful career for myself. Thanks Dad.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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