“Helmy Abouleish used to call me Safiya Zaghloul as I remind him of the Egyptian female activist”, tells Sanaa Shehata. “I do not really see many similar features, but it is a huge compliment.” Maybe SEKEM’s CEO does not mean her outer similarities but rather thinks of the strong dedication to her job. Sanaa Shehata works in SEKEM for more than 16 years. At the moment she is the Quality Assurance Deputy Manager for Admin Affairs at Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development (HU) – a sophisticated and diverse task. She has a serious expression which might indicate to her long path of resilience, perseverance, and development. At the same time, her charming colorful green eyes tell of a heart full of goodness and of her aspirations to the SEKEM vision and a better future.
Discipline brings development
“Taking strategic responsibilities for the University’s academic structure and promoting its accreditation state is my strongest concern,” says the Quality Assurance expert. “In this context, we are working in compliance with the National Authority for QA and Accreditation of Education.” Sanaa’s position requires having a professional knowledge of higher education regulations and guidelines. After 10 years of experience in different departments at SEKEM, she got promoted to be the Deputy Manager at the Quality Assurance Department. A noticeable performance that she never expected.
“Some days are life-turning points that carry challenges and opportunities for the future at the same time.”
Almost 16 years ago, Sanaa’s sister encouraged her to apply at SEKEM although she was just newly graduated from the Business Administration department of Ain-Shams University in Cairo. “I met Ibrahim Abouleish already at the reception hall of SEKEM’s Head Office and I did not know who he is when he friendly welcomed me”, Sanaa recounts. “Some days are life-turning points that bring challenges and opportunities for the future at the same time,” she knows today. “And I consider the day I first met Ibrahim Abouleish as one of those days.” After a short conversation, the SEKEM Founder advised her to start working at the reception desk, although she did not even have received her graduation certificate yet. “I was surprised by the questions he asked me and that he hired me as a receptionist. Today, I know that it was the best that could happen.”
Learning from others is the key to success
At the reception, Sanaa Shehata started to learn a lot about how to communicate with people professionally and about SEKEM Community. Later on, she joined the Public Relations department, worked as an assistant to the Chief Financial Officer, and also joined the HR department for one year. During that time, Sanaa also started to work closely with Ibrahim and Helmy Abouleish. In 2007, Sanaa’s discipline brought her then the opportunity to work as the secretary of the CEO. “As CEO, Helmy Abouleish has many duties to fulfill which needs him to be a great multi-tasker. I learned a lot during that time”, Sanaa tells.
As all SEKEM members, Sanaa also attended several career development courses among them English learning sessions, which brought her many advantages. Already before Heliopolis University was inaugurated in 2012, the ambitious SEKEM member then started to get involved to education topics and worked on the establishment of the new university. For three years now, Sanaa is dedicated to the Quality Assurance of Heliopolis University – with great devotion and sincerity. Maybe this is the reason why Helmy Abouleish calls her “Safiya” from time to time. The brave Egyptian activist who stood for women’s rights in the beginning of the 20th century was also titled as “the Mother of the Egyptians” for her sense of belonging and devotion to Egypt. Perhaps Sanaa Shehata will become “the mother of Heliopolis University” one day . . .
Certainly, Sana is looking back at her 16-year journey at SEKEM with gratitude: “SEKEM gave me a lot. My individual development was inspired by SEKEM and I am convinced that it will bring a remarkable impact in the Egyptian community as well. But in the meantime, we have still a lot to do.”
Christine Arlt/Noha Hussein