Dedication to life goals and not giving up even when the outcome isn’t always feasible: I earned a scholarship to college through not giving up on my dream of an education and keeping my grades up as well as doing volunteer work at the campus.
As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Aicha Sharif.
Aicha Sharif is the Dean of Rocket Club, the award-winning, global entrepreneurship, coding and robotics academy for kids aged 7 to 14. Aicha’s passion for her works started as a child when she worked on her family’s farm in Morocco. She was the first female in her family to go to high school and eventually paid her way through college in England. She is Six Sigma and Hashin Kanri Certified and holds an MBA in Project Management and an MA in International Business from the London Business School. Aicha climbed the ranks quickly to become an executive at companies like Inhabitr and 3M. Aicha is very passionate about education, especially for girls and under-previliged children, she runs the SuperGirls Forum within Rocket Club and is an active volunteer with the Arman Roy Foundation. She enjoys building relationships and teams through inclusive and supportive cultural practices. When she’s not working, Aicha enjoys spending time with her two daughters (who are members of Rocket Club!), cooking, reading, and playing tennis.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path
My pleasure! I grew up in a small village in Morocco and had to fight for the right to go to school. I was the only girl in the village who actually finished elementary school. At the time, parents were pressured to keep the girls at home and marry them off young. Both my parents would work on the farm where myself and my nine siblings grew up for long hours and had no time to help any of us with our homework or guide our choices. When I graduated from elementary school, I had to move to another town to join a bigger school. Living with a new family at the age of 11 was no easy task, so I nearly dropped out of school the first year of middle school. My mom who has never had any formal schooling fought against that decision and helped me continue through high school.
These struggles provided me with a unique perspective about education and the importance of education and mentorship.
Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Well, I simply had to fight for every opportunity and create most of the opportunities that were pivotal for my success. As early as elementary school for me I had to excel, persevere and be the hardest working person in the room. I never strived to be the smartest because I prepared being around and with smarter people but I take a lot of pride in working hard. However, working hard alone is not enough, consistency is very important.
Making even small progress can make all the difference between a successful person and the next one. Early on in my career I joined 3M, an American multinational conglomerate corporation operating in the fields of industry, worker safety, US health care, and consumer goods, under their grad leadership program, where I earned the management’s trust by successfully completing a market research project which led to a new line of thermal imaging equipment launch in the UK that was deemed unfit for the European market. I earned the sales team trust through hard work and being a supportive team member which allowed me to meet their most influential clients. Having ideas is never enough, executing through building relationships and finding creative solutions is critical.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My biggest role model has always been my father, his story is so inspiring. He started working at the age of 6 years old and built a successful business from the ground up with no formal education or training. He worked hard, he problem-solved and he helped his community. He’d always tell us failure helps nobody, be kind, be happy and be successful.
I actually never thought about not continuing when things got harder and I think the reason for that is my curiosity and love for problem solving. I really enjoy the process of building and tinkering with ideas, especially the execution process. I’m naturally drawn to fast paced environments where I can work with other people to build something.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
Grit is the only way to achieve results, even if we label an outcome as a failure, it’s still important to our future success. When we fail at something, we are actually just finding out ways to not fail again and we start from experience the next time. I’ve heard someone say, we don’t have failures, we just have painful learnings. I personally enjoy the grind and being productive, I’m motivated by what I’m going to discover and learn.
Grit has helped me turn so many situations around and sometimes it’s just a matter of timing or finding a connection. I will ask more than once and I will try as many times as I possibly can using creative thinking and almost always the outcome is positive.
Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)
- Dedication to life goals and not giving up even when the outcome isn’t always feasible: I earned a scholarship to college through not giving up on my dream of an education and keeping my grades up as well as doing volunteer work at the campus.
- Have a purpose: I earned a top marketing spot in my first corporate job in a male dominated industry through consistently delivering results for my entire team.
- Have empathy: I converted my corporate sales team to a new CRM platform and system through working individually with each one and not giving up even when they made it almost impossible to deploy
- Don’t seek perfection: I completed my MBA after having my second daughter by taking evening and weekend classes. When it got overwhelming I remembered that perfection isn’t my goal but rather learning new skills and furthering my career
- Don’t take no for an answer (ask again): I raised series A and B funding with my previous CEO through securing long term contracts with national clients. The grift deployed to earn the client’s trust meant we just didn’t take no for an answer.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?
I have had many amazing mentors throughout my life! About a year ago, I met Alex Hodara, CEO of Rocket Club, an award-winning coding and entrepreneurship children’s academy. He has been an incredible mentor and role model. I was transitioning from my previous start up, I had a couple of roles lined up but unfortunately COVID hit and I lost those opportunities. I met Alex around the same time and with his help and guidance I was able to grow into my current role as the Dean of Rocket Club.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m always trying to pay it forward, I volunteer for the Arman Roy Foundation and mentor ex colleagues as well as most of my students at Rocket Club, specifically through the SuperGirls Forum, an interactive panel discussion where we inspire young girls in the program that they can do anything they set their mind to. I also sponsor a few families back in my home country, Morocco.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m currently working alongside the team at Rocket Club to build our programming, such as:
- SuperGirls Forum: I created an interactive panel discussion to inspire young girls in the program that they can do anything they set their mind to. This special program focuses on three areas: how to build confidence, sharpening your skillset and improving your networking skills.
- Rocket Club Live: A free, daily interactive educational game show and Q&A featuring some of today’s most successful entrepreneurs and talent including Marc Randolph (Netflix Co-Founder) Jason Feifer (Entrepreneur Magazine EIC), Hannah Kamran (Head of Strategic Partnerships at Omaze), Jeff Zucker (Founder of Saltshaker Holdings), Vin Vomero (Founder of Foxy Al), Chris Zarou (Founder of Visionary Records), Bobbi Brown (Founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics) and more
- Pairing STEM, Creativity & Entrepreneurship for Children: Rocket Club members combine their passions from knitting to calligraphy with entrepreneurship skills and a STEM education to create their own businesses.
What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I don’t think there is a one size fit all when it comes to leadership styles. I would say be authentic, empathetic and kind.Always listen more than talk and allow people to experiment and make mistakes completely unjudged.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Education to girls in rural and underserved areas around the world. My father always said women are half of society and they raise the other half so educating girls would have the most impact on poorer societies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be Kind, Be Happy, Be Successful. Kindest is the source of empathy, happiness gives us strength to keep going when life gets tougher and success enables us to help others.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Rocket Club Official Website: https://rocketclub.com/
Rocket Club Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rocketclub/?hl=en
My LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aicha-sharif/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.