How I made it: Samuel Sidiqi, CEO, RAK Properties
For our latest inspiring stories series, 'How I made it', we're interviewing the cream of the crop across all facets of communications and marketing. This is where you'll learn about how the best in the industry got to where they are today and hopefully pick up some tips along the way to help your own career progress.
We sat down with Samuel Sidiqi, CEO of UAE-based RAK properties, where he is responsible for developing and executing the group’s strategy. Prior to joining the company, he spent six years as CEO of National Real Estate Company, where he managed a portfolio of real estate assets across the Middle East. Before this, he served 8 years at Agility Logistics working in M&A, strategy, and operations across a number of Agility's global locations after kicking off his career at Bain and Company in Boston.
We sat down with him and heard about early starts, the power of listening and why even though it is Steve Jobs who receives all the plaudits, Bill Gates is really where it’s at…
How do you start your day?
I try to get up early, at 6.00am or even 5.45am if I can. Then I go for a run or head out on my paddle board. I’m lucky enough to live in Mina Al Arab where we are right on the water so I can actually use this time to go and review a couple of my projects such as the Intercontinental Hotel or the Anantara Hotel that are both under construction. I can see if the guys are working, what they’re working on – it combines sniffing around with having a workout!
What personal attributes do you think have most helped you to succeed in your career?
If I could pick one, I’d say that I’m a good listener. First, if you listen you can hear a lot of good answers, you get to use a lot of minds other than your own. But more than that, if people feel you’ve listened to them it is much easier to get their buy-in to any final decisions. Sometimes people may need to blow off some steam, or may even say something difficult, but if you can listen to that sympathetically without over-reacting or judging then you can generate good will.
What keeps you sane on those crazy days?
Definitely my daughter. I get home and she always runs over, so happy to see me. After dinner she will grab her trusty solar lamp and we will walk to the ocean and look for crabs. She’s two and a half, so getting the chance to live next to nature and experience it together is a wonderful opportunity I wouldn’t have outside of Mina Al Arab. Its these little activities with my daughter that make her happy and clear my mind.
What career advice do you think can help people succeed?
I think that independent of the industry you may be working in, it’s important to stay curious and keep listening. If you don’t want to go stale – sitting in the same rut and grinding out things in the same old way – you have got to keep learning and adding new things to your job.
What three words would you use to describe yourself?
Listener. Steady. Team-player.
Who is your inspiration?
I’m inspired by Bill Gates. A lot of people like to talk about Steve Jobs; he has left everyone in awe by designing all these amazing things. But at the end of the day, he was sort of a selfish jerk, a tyrant. In contrast, Bill Gates has gone from business to philanthropy and brought people with him. To be able to make that transition, to go from your own tech project to really making a difference in the world, to me that is very inspiring.
What major challenges have you overcome in the course of your career?
A shift in industry. I began my post-MBA career in logistics. About seven years later, I moved into real estate – which was a real change. What I did was focus on building a team, and surrounding myself with experts who I could really listen to and learn from. That allowed me as a decision-maker to divorce myself from the day to day work, and just focus on making really good decisions. It also helped me develop as a manager; as a new person to the industry, I simply couldn’t do all the work. That was a good side benefit.
After six months of being in Ras Al Khaimah, what are your impressions?
It’s a great place to live. The team at RAK Properties are delivering amazing properties, building communities where you can walk everywhere, you have all the amenities, and you are surrounded by the ocean on one side and greenery on the other. If we can keep delivering that great product then even during this downturn we’re going to be doing great things.