H@H: Ep 41 – Maram Alikaj joins host, Aravind Mamidanna, on this week’s episode of Here@Haas. Maram talks about her schooling in Syria, her life as a Management consultant, how she made the transition to Tech, careers in social impact and much more.
On Social Impact: “Social impact is not an industry. it’s actually a lens and that lens can be applied to many different industries in any different way.”
“I think that’s another kind of misconception of what social impact is – a lot of people think that it automatically means nonprofit.”
On Shift from Consultant to Program Manager: “Program manager means different things at different companies. The way that I saw it, there were a lot of similarities between the skill sets that I had as a consultant [and the skill sets of a Program Manager]. “
On Giving good feedback: “Feedback style and how to adapt your management technique to give meaningful feedback in a way that’s going to actually inspire people to act on that feedback versus telling them what to do, which is less effective.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Aravind: Welcome to another episode of here@haas. I am your host, Aravind Mamidanna. And today, we’re joined by Maram Alikaj, an evening and weekend student in the class of 2021, program manager at Square, and an all-around amazing person. How are you doing?
[00:00:19] Maram: I’m great. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:21] Aravind: Yeah, thank you so much for coming. So, to kick us off, why don’t you tell us about your background and some of your personal life, and how you came to Haas?
[00:00:30] Maram: Yeah, sure. I would love to. I am currently in the class of 2021. So, a third-year at Haas. As you mentioned, currently working at Square and program manager there, but working specifically with new product strategy. And I’ve been there for about a year.
[00:00:47] And that’s kind of been my transition into tech. Previously before that, my career was really in management consulting, and spent about eight years in that field, just working through that. Primarily, we focused on financial institutions as my clients. And really, I decided to come to Haas to pivot out of consulting and try something new.
[00:01:14] I think essentially, I built up a lot of really great skillsets within consulting. We built up a tool kit, established foundational skills, which I recommend to everybody, but ultimately, I found myself hungry to see my recommendations and all of my effort kind of come to fruition, which really prompted my desire to kind of step into the industry and see how that’s happening. And having had a client base composed of primarily financial institutions, I figured that FinTech would be a really great place for me to start that transition.
[00:01:48] Aravind: No, there are so many things that I wanted, as you were talking, but why don’t you tell us, why did you come to Haas? What prompted that decision?
[00:01:57] Maram: Yeah, the primary motivation was to get into the social impact. Berkeley and the community and the curriculum and then the staff, the amazing staff that we have, are really focused on social impact. And that’s kind of the main motivation. And I guess, to backtrack into why that became something that was important to me, it really goes back to my high school years.
[00:02:23] I was born and raised in the US but my parents are both from Aleppo, Syria. And at the end of my senior year in high school, they decided that they wanted to move back. So, that was quite a transition for me. I had gone in to visit for many summers for vacations and whatnot but moving, I knew it would be a little bit different. But ultimately, I was okay with it.
[00:02:49] I went to an international school, it was English speaking, was able to kind of pursue the international baccalaureate diploma, which was great. But really those two years were, I referred to them as the best years of my life. I made some of the best friends that I have now, still in touch with them after graduation and all that.
[00:03:08] As I spent those two years, it really made me appreciate the beauty of the country, but it also raised a lot of questions in my mind about just the way the country operates from an economic perspective. It’s a very cash-based economy. There are limited credit and lending options. Not everyone had a bank account.
[00:03:26] There were a lot of hurdles that you would have to go through to even open one. So, that kind of raised questions in my mind about financial inclusion. And then beyond that, even more thinking about just like women’s participation in the workforce and things like that. So, just a lot of questions rolling around in my head, just as a high schooler, didn’t really know what to do with all of those observations.
[00:03:48] But all I knew is that I wanted to come back at a later date and potentially tackle some of those financial development areas. So, I came back after graduating to the US. Went to Virginia Tech to study finance and accounting. Then shortly thereafter went to a mid-sized management consulting firm where my clients were legal counsel for banks that were getting sued for misrepresenting the collateral quality for their MBS during the financial crisis.
[00:04:19] Sounded interesting but you know, at the same time, when we think about the timeline here, it was 2011 and the war in Syria was really escalating. It became quite depressing. And it really got me thinking about what is it that I’m doing, that I’m contributing? You know, how can I use my skill sets to help? I was looking at Doctors Without Borders.
[00:04:42] Like they were able to transfer their skill sets in a way that was able to provide impact and to help people. And I kind of like looked at what I was doing and I just felt like I was on the wrong side of this lawsuit. I was helping the plaintiffs circumnavigate blame. But that was kind of the seed that helped me start to think about what I want to do. How can I use finance for good?
[00:05:04] So, yeah, I mean, that was kind of the beginning of it. I ultimately decided to leave that company to join a big four firm just to further build out my consulting tool kit. It was great. I had a wonderful experience helping financial institutions work through their strategic objectives and coming up with recommendations on how to get there.
[00:05:27] And if we were lucky, sometimes you got asked to execute on the work. It wasn’t always the case. But continuing to build on that experience, I still felt like something was lacking. Ultimately, I was focused on my client’s bottom line. I just didn’t feel the connection to the impact. And that’s really what sparked me to apply to Haas.
[00:05:48] I knew that I wanted to have some sort of social impact-focused on finance, whatever that even really means. And they, I think when I joined, I started to realize that social impact is not an industry. It’s actually a lens. And that lens can be applied to many different industries in different ways.
[00:06:10] Some companies will say that they’re offering some sort of impact and maybe it’s true if you squint a little bit, but it essentially comes in all shapes and sizes. And so, then I kind of started to go through this exploration process of, okay, what does social impact for finance mean? Is it impact investing?
[00:06:30] Is it like financial inclusion? Is it economic empowerment? And what all these things mean? In my mind, I was just kind of lost in a fury of buzzwords. And so, when I came to Haas, I didn’t necessarily think or know that I wanted to go into tech. Part of me felt like it was inevitable just given our proximity to Silicon Valley, but I guess to kind of test out my social impact hypothesis, I looked to my current company now Square, which, you know, really is all about the mission of economic empowerment, helping small micro and small sellers, you know, accept payments and build out businesses and now helping the underbanked with the use of cash app and really connecting this ecosystem. And it was in the world of FinTech. So, for me, it kind of checked off all the boxes and I just figured, Hey, let me just try it out. See where we are. Right.
[00:07:30] Aravind: That’s awesome. And I can totally see the impact that it would have had. Going back a little, especially going to Syria at such an impressionable age, the kind of impact that it would have on someone. Was it hard for you to adjust to the culture there?
[00:07:48] Maram: I think I actually did a really good job of getting acclimated. I would go and visit over the summers. So, I’d been there multiple times and my parents made a point of speaking to me in Arabic as a child when I was growing up, which I’m very, very thankful for because I don’t see very much of that today. And more so going in having the language there was really helpful.
[00:08:12] And then again, with the school being English speaking and having a rigorous IB curriculum, that was essential. So, from that perspective, it was fine. I think obviously like I missed my friends. This is a time where everyone was applying to colleges and talking about prom and football games and all these fun things that high schoolers do.
[00:08:33] We still had some of that at our school. It was a little different though. Our matches would be against like other international schools from different countries cause we could drive there. So that was cool. It introduced more of a global view, a global perspective. I was able to participate in a model UN conference in Qatar, which was really interesting.
[00:08:52] And so those are the kinds of opportunities that I knew I wouldn’t have gotten just at my regular high school in the US so I’m still very thankful. Thankful that I was able to get the best of both worlds.
[00:09:03] Aravind: It sounds amazing. It seems like you adjusted really well to the change, especially because of how you were raised as a kid. And maybe this is coming from a place of ignorance but I honestly don’t know a lot of people from Syria. And then because of how much it’s been in the news recently and all the things that we have heard, one thing that I was curious about was what do people in the US or people from other countries, not understand about the culture of Syria?
[00:09:34] Maram: That’s a good question. I think most people just automatically assume that it’s completely underdeveloped and there’s no sophistication and it’s just more ravaged by terrorists and whatever that you see in the news. And I don’t know that that was the case before the war.
[00:09:52] I think as a child when I would tell people that, you know, my family’s from Syria, they would say Syria? What is that? Like they had never heard of it. And now everyone has heard of it, but unfortunately, for horrible reasons. So, I would say that the biggest thing that stuck out to me was really the hospitality of everybody and the oneness.
[00:10:15] A lot of the issues that we see and we think, you know, people are very polarized and that was never the case when I was there. I mean, I had Muslim friends and Christian friends and people that I didn’t even know what their religion was and that’s because no one really asked or no one really cared.
[00:10:31] And, and the only difference between the two of us was that you know, one set of people would go to church on Sunday and the other side would go to the mosque on Friday. And that was really the only difference in terms of how we went about our days and things like that. So, that was never really an issue that I ever saw.
[00:10:48] And it was just shocking to me to see that the country is split up on that basis. But yeah, just the sheer hospitality of everyone, the family orientation of a rev run there, just the pride that people have in their work, no matter how simple it is, is truly, truly honorable and something that all remember.
[00:11:09] And the food is amazing. It’s amazing. Actually, Syrian food is regarded as the top cuisine in the middle East contested with Lebanese food, but it’s very close. They’re quite similar.
[00:11:25] Aravind: So, that’s amazing. Do you still go back regularly?
[00:11:29] Maram: Unfortunately, I haven’t. So, when I graduated in 2007 and I didn’t go after that because I was in college and, you know, I’d have internships or summer classes, but I was really excited to go back in 2011 when I finished undergrad.
[00:11:45] But by then the country kind of, was spiraling to war since then. It just hasn’t really been a safe time to go. It’s really unfortunate, really sad, but I’m hoping over the next few years, maybe that’ll change.
[00:11:59] Aravind: I hope so. Hopefully, that changes not only for you but for everyone. And I know. I personally, and a lot of my friends, we love traveling and we’d love to let go visit if not for anything, just for the food, because I’ve had so much of our day there. Yeah. That’s awesome. So, jumping from Syria and coming all the way to Haas, can you tell us some of your favorite experiences that in your time here so far.
[00:12:25] Maram: Yeah. Now that we’re kind of in this COVID era and we’re just like all online, it really made me appreciate just all the time that I actually had together with my classmates. Just little things like seeing each other during dinner breaks between classes were something that I feel like I really took for granted.
[00:12:43] And it’s something that I really, really enjoyed just catching up with everybody, understanding, you know, Hey, how did that trip go? Or like, how’s your career search going? And being able to help folks with interview prep and stuff like that. So, I really miss those conversations. And I think that’s kind of something that stuck out for me.
[00:13:02] I got the pleasure to work on a couple of case competitions which has been really awesome. I kind of wish I’ve done more of those. I feel like after starting a new job and kind of progressing like more than halfway through the program, it’s just gotten to be a lot to be able to do all of it. But when I first started, I was very overzealous but really happy with the opportunities that I had there.
[00:13:26] It was also VP of social impact for the FinTech club. So, I really enjoyed doing that and bringing speakers and putting together panels for people to come in and listen to, and just like to learn more about financial inclusion and social impact in the FinTech space. That was something that was really great, even going all the way back to we innovate.
[00:13:47] I think that was kind of a really awesome experience. Sorry, not we innovate reliance. Yeah. Our very first experience with everyone. And that’s kind of when I felt like I had this special connection with my gold cohort and honestly, they’re the people that I still talk to the most and they’re all really, really great people. And we’ve all really stayed in touch.
[00:14:11] Aravind: With each other. Yeah. I mean, if he launches a leak, one of the best experiences of my life as well, and it almost broke my heart to hear that incoming students in the class like this year that we launched is going to be online. And as I felt really bad for them, but I spoke to a few of them and they seem to have liked it.
[00:14:30] So happy about that. Yeah. Social impact is an area that seems to be very near and dear to your heart. And earlier, when we were talking in your explaining about social impact, you seem to have such a nuanced view of it. A lot of people are interested in social impact. What advice would you have for them when they come to Haas and how should they approach delving deeper into social impact?
[00:14:55] Maram: So, I would actually reiterate what I was told by another student when I first joined, which really changed the perspective that I had in terms of what social impact was. And again, social impact is a lens and not an industry. And I think I came into Haas, I was like, I’m going to work in social impact.
[00:15:15] Like, I just didn’t even know what that even meant. Like what does that mean from a career perspective? Like, what is the day-to-day, what industry is that? And I think just like spending time to reflect on what industry is really important to you. What do you care about from a social impact perspective?
[00:15:34] Do you care about the environment? Do you care about the economy? Do you care about people’s current needs? Like, what is the gap? What is the problem that you think requires solving and approach it from that perspective? And then the second piece to it is even when I did that and I knew I wanted to be in the financial industry, whatever that is, right, but within that, there’s like a whole different array of skill sets and jobs that you can have there. So, really reflecting on what are you good at? Like functionally, do you want to be a manager? Do you want to dive deep into numbers? Do you want to work in a nonprofit space? Do you want to be in consulting?
[00:16:19] You can actually do consulting for social impact. So, it’s, I think, really getting a sense of what industry and what it is that you want to do day to day. And then the social impact piece will come and make sure that you’re building the right skill sets that are transferable enough, even if you end up not working in social impact in a way, but like, just try not to pigeon hole yourself into something that you think is kind of this like unicorn idea.
[00:16:49] Aravind: Maybe this is a naive question. What else still ask it? When you put on your social impact lens, how do you balance that with your business lens like make money and show profits and make sure that your shareholders or stakeholders are being serviced and satisfied?
[00:17:12] Maram: I think that’s another kind of misconception of what social impact is. A lot of people think that it automatically means non-profit. If you’re doing something good for society, there’s no way you can make money doing it. And that’s simply not true. You can certainly go into a nonprofit space and be fully devoted to that, but there’s still a way where you can make money. And that’s actually something that I struggle with Square right now. Obviously, we’re very mission-driven, all about economic empowerment and we are a public company and we make money. And a lot of times I’ve had discussions even just like pricing for new products. Looking at the model, it’s like, wait, why are we charging that much? We can just charge a little bit lower and pass on the savings to our sellers.
[00:18:03] We don’t need to pocket the extra amount. And then in other cases, it’s like, okay, well, if we take a longer-term view like this, you know, this cost is associated with our integration with a particular vendor who may charge increased prices in the long-term. We need to build that runway. So, there’s those two, like kind of back and forth conversations that happen.
[00:18:25] And there is also an element of forgiveness. So, we have certain sellers that are not necessarily super experienced or they have a business idea they want to try it out. They ended up failing and then they kind of get a bunch of chargebacks that come through and given Square’s position in the marketplace, we’re held liable. But typically we should be recuperating that loss from those customers.
[00:18:51] And there are a lot of conversations with like, should we do that? Or should we not? Is that right? Is that the Square way or is it not? And, those are very fair questions. Like, you know, how much impact do you want to provide? So, it’s a very delicate balance. You can choose to take the more aggressive business-oriented approach where you cut costs and make money in a certain way in the name of social impact.
[00:19:19] But if you start to lose users, and there’s like a lot of churn due to accessibility of the product, then you’re kind of eroding that brand. So, it’s just a delicate balance. It’s probably not the most lucrative industry to be in because if you want to have a genuine focus on impact, then it’s going to come at the cost of a little bit of money, but I wouldn’t say that it’s, you know, radical and you’re not going to make any money at all. It’s just another trade-off.
[00:19:54] Aravind: Yeah. It’s such a fine balancing act. That was my understanding. And you further eliminated on it that both for on an individual level and on the company level. No matter how mission-driven you are, it is always a balancing act between making money and having the maximum impact. And coming to your career and your career pivot, did you pivot from consulting into tech while you were at Haas? And if so, can you explain how that process was and what were the roles that you looked at and how did you end up choosing something like program management at a tech company?
[00:20:30] Maram: Yeah, certainly. So yes, I did pivot while at Haas and it was about halfway through. So, wrapping up my third semester, the third of six, and I was looking for a few months. I didn’t know specifically what role I wanted or what company that was. I think I had started leaning into the tech space a little bit. There was just something nagging me to try it out. And I had a lot of friends in the space so I figured why not. In terms of the role itself, the program manager means different things at different companies.
[00:21:09] And the way that I saw it. There were a lot of similarities between the skill sets that I had as a consultant and what was kind of being advertised for this particular role. And so, the way I was thinking about it is it’s easier to pivot into space when you’re leveraging a lot of the skill sets that you have already.
[00:21:30] And kind of the rest of that knowledge and industry knowledge will kind of come with time and with experience. And that was kind of my approach. So, I was looking for strategy and operations roles. This one is considered a program manager role. I was also looking at just general strategy roles at other FinTech’s.
[00:21:51] And this kind of spoke to me because it’s a hybrid of product management and program management. It’s actually pretty unique because it gives me a lot of visibility into the product development process across the whole company. So, I’m able to kind of get my hands dirty with different types of products, with different seller segments, and influence the development of that strategy for my org and bring it back and think about how we can prepare and get ready for it.
[00:22:19] And when I reflect on that, really it to me is essentially an internal consulting role. So, I felt like making a switch from external consulting to internal consulting at a FinTech that has a social impact orientation just really made a lot of sense for me. So that’s kind of like the rationale behind the why. The process was not easy.
[00:22:43] You know, as you can imagine, working full time at a very demanding job that was requiring travel in some cases and going to Haas while we were still in person with the commute and all of that. And making the time to prepare for interviews was a lot. But I leveraged a lot of the CMG resources. I had my resume go through review a few times with a career coach.
[00:23:06] I attended the workshops. Tell me about yourself workshops, how to string together, compelling narratives about your background, and how to tackle challenging interview questions. So, a lot of that was helpful and yeah, it was just a matter of kind of putting us down, and not all of the opportunities I pursued worked out.
[00:23:24] Some of them just, I realized that they didn’t really align with what I was looking for or I just felt like I was dropping in a level two, which is a little challenging cause I was leaving consulting at the manager level. So, just kind of navigating all of those things. I think where I landed made the most sense at the time.
[00:23:44] Aravind: I’m in my third semester at Haas. And as you were saying earlier, I was super excited when I joined and I signed up for everything and I said yes to everything. And then I have my fleet. I’m like, okay, it’s time to focus on my long-term goals. So, I really have a lot of respect for people like you who have done it and who have like, really seem to have made the most out of your Haas experience. I know that there are a lot of people and a lot of our listeners are aspiring consultants. I’m really curious, what is the one thing about consulting that you miss? And one thing that you don’t miss?
[00:24:23] Maram: Ooh, so I will secretly tell you this, but it won’t be a secret cause I know this will be aired. I think I have consulting Stockholm syndrome.
[00:24:35] I think after being in it for eight years, it was easy to kind of just hate on it and wanting to do something different. And I think when I did, I started to realize a lot of the value and what I was doing before. But that doesn’t change. Like still my reasons for wanting to switch. Like I imagine in the beginning, I think consulting is great.
[00:24:56] I think it builds a lot of foundational skill sets. It really helps you sharpen your toolkit and think about how to become a business leader. I really loved being able to go to different clients and just like peek under the hood and see how everything worked there. It gave me a lot of appreciation for how my own company function after realizing everything that needed fixing over there.
[00:25:21] I think being able to kind of jump from project to project is really helpful as well. And then just like the team camaraderie that you have from your project team and everyone that you work with and the relationships that you build. I mean, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people on the road, in hotels, at the client’s site.
[00:25:39] And you really gotta like the people that you work with. Luckily for me, I can say that I think I liked most of the people that I worked with, so that was really good. For the people that want to do it, I think just go for it, get it out of your system. You’ll see what it’s really about. After a couple of years, maybe you can decide whether you want to continue or not.
[00:26:02] I think ultimately for me because I had reached the manager position, after that it really becomes the role that becomes focused on sales. And how can you acquire new clients? How can you sell them more work? How many more proposals can you get out the door? And, so the role really changes, right?
[00:26:21] It’s less about execution. It’s less about strategic thinking. It’s less about all of that because then you have like the rest of your staff to do that. And you’re really just there guiding them. And that’s kind of where my interests lie. Like I wanted to do the strategic thinking. I wanted to come up with those plans there and was less interested in the sales side.
[00:26:40] So that was kind of my reason for leaving. And I think after a while, spending time with the client, coming up with recommendations, and giving them the final deliverable is great, but after a while, it’s like, all right, what happens next? Did they do it? Did they not do it? And then sometimes they give you a callback and say, okay, actually help us out further with us.
[00:27:03] But yeah, so, so for me, I just really wanted to see my work come to fruition. So, if you’ve had experience doing that already, and you just want to get experience with consulting, I think that’s totally fine. But I don’t think it’s a bad move. If that’s something that you really want to do, then totally go for it.
[00:27:25] Aravind: Great advice. And I guess, implementation and wanting to see how it went is such a natural aspect. I can imagine how someone would miss it.
[00:27:35] Maram: I would say, especially for me now, when the company that I work for has a product that’s visible in the marketplace today. And now when I go to a seller that uses Square like I have this sense of pride. Or I see them using the QR code, I’m like, Oh, I helped you that. Oh, you’re accepting gift cards. Like I helped launch that. It’s really different when you’re able to actually appreciate the kind of the outcome and know that you helped to contribute to bringing that.
[00:28:06] Aravind: Yeah, that’s so true. And you must run into Square products at so many different places in your everyday life and the sense of joy and pride it must give you, I can only imagine. So, one thing that I wanted to ask you, and maybe this is for my own personal reasons, is if you had to go back in time a couple of years and start a task again, what is something that you would do differently?
[00:28:35] Maram: I’m not quite sure. So, I think I have multiple hypotheses that I’m testing and the two main ones were really kind of social impact in the FinTech space.
[00:28:46] And then the second one was around something more traditional finance and my undergrad background was in finance, but I never really got to apply a lot of finance into the work that I did. Just the type of consulting that I did. So, a part of me is kind of always wanted to test that out and figure out, you know, what else could I do?
[00:29:13] Just looking at kind of investment banking. I think that would have been a little bit too extreme for me just having gotten their consulting already. Like I just feel like I’ve already paid my dues when it comes to sacrificing your life for your career. So, I guess the kind of the other space that I was dabbling in is potentially like MNA or corporate development.
[00:29:37] And so I am currently in the MNA class now, and this is like my second to last semester. And I’m starting to feel like that might actually be the direction that I ultimately want to go in. And I fear that I’m making this realization a little bit too late, just in terms of other skillsets or networking opportunities that I could have been focused on while at Haas.
[00:30:04] So maybe going back in time, if I could take more advantage of the events that we had on campus, get associated with that or doing a little bit more networking or building up like additional skill sets that are related to that type of job is probably where I would’ve spent a little bit more time.
[00:30:21] So, that’s kind of one area. I think the other piece is probably just like even more networking. We all try to do the best that we can, but attending even more events on campus and just like talking to more people outside of my cohort would have been good as well. I think just being part of the weekday cohort for gold. I got a lot of overlap with blue, but it was the weekend folks that I didn’t, I felt like it was just like a whole half of the class that I didn’t really get to talk to as much. And now that we’re in electives, it’s a lot more common for us to commingle and even with the full-time kids. But now that we’re all online, it’s a little bit more difficult. And I feel like I should have made more of an effort to attend bigger events and stuff like that.
[00:31:08] Aravind: Got it. And it’s always, especially for EWs, it’s so hard to attend all the networking events that do happen and you do have to pick and choose, and there’s always a feeling of missing out. So yeah, I can totally imagine. Just to add my 2 cents to it is to me, the silver lining of COVID has been that I’ve been able to attend a lot more events than I would have been able to. So, I just went to a tech primary event at 1:00 PM today in the middle of the workday. And I was like, I’m so glad I was able to do that because I really enjoyed it.
[00:31:41] Maram: And that’s actually been like one of the top requests. EWs to have these types of sessions recorded so that we can go back to them and be able to participate or attend. So, you’re absolutely right. It’s definitely a silver lining. Yeah. But there’s something a little different about being there in person and being able to catch the person afterward and share like a quick back and forth with them and stuff like that and making that type of personal connection. But in the grand scheme of things, yeah, you can attend more events.
[00:32:12] Aravind: Yeah. So true. So, switching gears a little bit, I wanted to take some time before we close to ask you some lightning round questions to have some fun. And my first question to you would be, what is your one favorite class at Haas or your favorite classes at Haas and why?
[00:32:33] Maram: So, I really enjoyed turnarounds. It was a super intense class. It was jam-packed in one week, but I had the most amazing team today. And we still all talk about that class and how great the team was. We complimented each other in terms of skill sets and all that. And because it was a summer class, we were able to spend all our time on campus and it almost felt like the way it would be a full-time kid and just like not having to worry about work and truly devoting a hundred percent of your time to school in this class. And Goodson was really awesome professor. I liked his approach a lot in terms of the preparation and the types of cases and the concepts that we learned. And yeah, that was really the most memorable for me.
[00:33:26] Aravind: Yeah. Heard such great things about both classes and I’m excited to take them myself. Hopefully, I’d be able to get into them. So, what are some of your favorite books or podcasts if you listen to them?
[00:33:39] Maram: Yeah. So, my go-to podcast is the New York Times Daily. I just really liked the way that podcast is really conducted. And I feel like there’s a lot of thoughtfulness put into kind of the interview process there. I typically start off my day with NPR first, just to get a pulse check of what’s going on, and then kind of listen to The Journal to just get the business side of things.
[00:34:05] I was getting into a really good routine at the beginning of the year, like listening to these podcasts on my way to work. Cause I was able to walk to work. And then, you know, by the time I would get there, it was done, had my daily dose of news, and that routine has gone away, but like I still try to maintain it while working from home still.
Aravind: Got it!
[00:34:23] In terms of books, I’m currently reading A Radical Candor by Kim Scott. It just started so I haven’t gotten very far into it, but it’s really about how to improve your feedback style and how to adapt your management technique to give meaningful feedback in a way that’s going to actually inspire people to act on that feedback versus telling them what to do, which is less effective.
[00:34:53] Aravind: That’s great. Giving good feedback is such a rare skill. You rarely find it. And it’s so powerful. And when I’m on the receiving end of some good feedback, it has always been super helpful to my life. So, I’ll definitely check that book out. Moving on, what would you pick for your last meal, and why?
[00:35:09] Maram: Ooh. Probably something sweet, dessert, big dessert person. I can have dessert for every meal, even though I don’t let myself, but maybe gelato, the Sasha gelato.
[00:35:24] Aravind: That sounds awesome. Okay. So, if we get lucky and do end up going to Syria, what does like the one thing that we should definitely eat?
[00:35:33] Maram: Oh, I don’t know if I can boil it down to one thing, but there is a dish that is distinctly Aleppian. So, coming from the city of Aleppo where I’m originally from, and it’s this cherry kebab and I have made it a few times for friends and they’ve gone crazy over it. It’s basically minced lamb meatballs with kind of cooked in the sweet and sour cherry sauce. With the actual cherry chunks served over a bed of like pita bread and garnished with parsley and toasted pine nuts. It’s really amazing. And it’s very distinctly Aleppian. So, I would definitely recommend eating that. But you could have great plebes or Cuba or really anything, anything would taste good.
[00:36:25] Aravind: My mouth is watering just listening to it. So, if you can have dinner with any person who would that be and why?
[00:36:34] Maram: I really look up to Amal Clooney, and I think she’s kind of one of the more inspiring female career women out there.
[00:36:43] And I love her devotion to human rights and really kind of applying the law for good, which is kind of along the lines of kind of my theme. So would love to kind of talk to her and get her perspective on the world and how it relates back to the Middle East and just understand what it’s like to be married to George Clooney and how they balanced those two completely different lives.
[00:37:11] Aravind: Well, what a great answer. It’ll be such a good balance between having a meaningful conversation with someone and also like have it be super entertaining because of who she is with at dinner. I wish I could be like a fly on the wall for them. And one last final lightning round question is, can you teach us a word in Arabic?
[00:37:33] Maram: Any word in Arabic? Shukran is thank you. Thank you for having me, for listening, for sharing my story with Haas, and shukran for your time.
[00:37:48] Aravind: What a great way to end. Shukran, thank you so much for taking the time today to talk to us. It was really awesome having you. Thank you so much.
[00:37:54] Thank you for listening to another episode of here@haas. If you like the show, please leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast platform. And until next time, take care, have fun, and go bears.