Perhaps best known for being the first Arab woman to reach the North Pole in April 2010 (yes mamas you read that right), Elham’s ambition shines through in the youth leadership development scheme 30Below that she founded and now runs and in the raising of her 2 children; Faris aged 2 and Salama aged 2 months. Oh – and did we mention that she also has a full time job in investment and asset management? Completely awe inspiring!
Full Name: Elham Qasimi
Occupation: Investment and Asset Management
Children: Faris, 2 years old; Salama 2 months old
How long have you lived in Dubai? I’m a citizen, so most of my life!
1) Tell us about your business and why you started it.
30Below was born from the wish that we find a way to embed the lessons of our natural environment into youth development. It’s something our predecessors had and it’s what fostered great leaders. Having skied in the North Pole, I realised how obviously missing such experiences were as part of the average UAE child’s experiences and also how little we are doing to deliberately create leaders during their most formative years. Apart from this, I also have a full time job.
2) What do you feel have been your biggest achievements both in your personal life and career so far?
The obvious answer would be skiing to the North Pole; the journey shaped me personally and professionally. However on a more personal level, becoming a mother I think trumps any achievement and puts you on the fast track to personal development.
3) As a child what did you dream of being when you ‘grew up’?
Being quite spirited I could see myself doing a number of things actually. The most constant dream though would have to be a doctor.
4) If you had three wishes, what would they be?
To live on a beautiful farm retreat and live off the land, to freeze time with my pregnancies and babies, to have the time and stamina to keep exploring the world and, in turn, myself
5) What does being a Sassy Mama mean to you?
6) What’s a typical day in your life like?
Hmm, I’m on maternity leave now and have a newborn so a typical day right now is just going with the flow and letting the chaos be! But once I am back to work, it would be up early to sneak cuddles in with the babies before work, in the office by 7:45, home by around 5:30 to spend quality time with the babies straightaway; including gardening together, swimming or a long walk in the wagon. After that, it would be bath and bed time before collapsing on the couch for a few minutes, dinner, then returning calls/finishing up loose ends of work if need be etc. I would then be in bed by 10pm before it all starts again!
7) What’s your guilty pleasure?
Watching any TV show at the end of the day that requires zero brain activity and is funny. On good days, it’s reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, on the worst of days it’s Duck Dynasty
8) What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in your personal life and career?
Be extremely sensitive to others, but not so sensitive to what others say/do to you. It makes me carefree, at least when I manage to stick to it!
9) What do you most enjoy doing as a family in Dubai?
Going out to the stables along the way to Al Qudra. The owners are so open and welcoming especially with the children bonding with the horses
10) What is the ‘best-kept’ secret in Dubai, something fellow mamas should know about?
Friday lunches at a local household. They beat restaurant brunches any day. Get yourself invited to one and take the kids along its such a warm loving child friendly environment
11) Which three words best describe your personality?
Spirited, persistent, loving.
12) What advice would you have for a new mama?
Get organised before the baby arrives. Everything is so much smoother to handle when you have a plan. No successful project is started without a plan and having a baby is definitely more complex than most projects at work!
13) What advice would you give to a mama who wants to go back to work or start her own business but is worried about juggling family and career?
First and foremost, if you believe you can do it, you will because everything will work itself out. Second, that people will not necessarily make it easy for you, so you have to be the master of your own solutions. The juggling of your priorities should be something down to you, rather than the people around you. Finally, my final piece of advice would be to accept that some things have to be deprioritised/dropped to make space for the things that matter most. In life, you can’t have all four burners on at full steam at the same time – sometimes you have to switch one off. That doesn’t mean you can’t switch it back on again at some point in the future though!
15) Describe your style.
Classic and comfortable.
16) If there was a movie produced about your life, who would you choose to play you and why?
Probably Cate Blanchett. She can be both incredibly strong and vulnerable at the same time
17) Tell us something funny that your kids have said or done.
There are a few! Faris thinks big trucks ‘sneeze’ when they break/decompress. When he walks backwards, he says ‘beep beep beeep’ as though he is a reversing truck. There was another time where he was trying to figure out what my medela pump was, and he eventually concluded it was a vacuum.