We were privileged to have coffee with the famous Mahra Alyaqoobi, Emirati TV presenter and Training and Development Manager at Sky News Arabia. Mahra is a self-driven, self-confident woman who built her own success story! As much as Mahra loves her career as a TV presenter, her real passion lies in helping youth step foot into the exciting world of media.
Mahra is also starting her debut acting career in “قلبي معي”, (My Heart is with Me) an Arabic TV series which will be airing this Ramadan for the first time!
As women who work in the PR & Media industry, we were super interested in hearing about Mahra’s story and learning some insights into the ever growing media industry. Here’s what we discussed….
- What does a day in your life look like?
Every day is a new day, and a new challenge. I’m a huge morning person; every morning I wake up feeling positive and powerful. Without thinking of the future, I embrace each moment of everyday. That is really living to me.
- What inspired you to step into the world of media?
It was the industry itself that attracted me, including my passion for public speaking and being in front of the camera. I never saw being a presenter as a job because I loved it too much.
I also had a dream of becoming a consultant for youth who are looking to join the media industry. It’s rare to find people who are passionate about both the media and the youth, and I wanted to be that person. This dream started when I was a university student facing a number of challenges. I worked hard to persevere, but I always told myself that I would be the one to support and guide students who are struggling. And this is exactly what I’m doing now at Sky News Arabia.
- How do you feel about your new acting career?
It’s definitely exciting, but unexpected for me. When I was in university, I was President of the Theatre club. I was always given the tough roles to play, and I was heavily involved in script writing. But I never thought it would transpire into a career! It’s super exciting, and I can’t wait to see how the new show “قلبي معي” is going to be.
The show itself is interesting because it depicts the media industry and highlights the challenges faced between colleagues in the workplace, challenges that can happen in any industry, whether in the public or private sector.
- What challenges do you face in your career?
There are definitely lots of challenges, but I don’t focus on them. I focus on myself, on growing and learning new skills. Apart from being a TV Presenter, I’m a training manager in Sky News Arabia, in charge of organizing training sessions for students in collaboration with various universities and institutions. Simultaneously, I also organize internal training courses for our staff. So I’m basically a multitask-er, which comes with its own set of challenges but most importantly, gives me opportunities to learn something new everyday and grow to face new challenges in my path. I believe life doesn’t mean much without challenges.
- What are the qualities you believe women require to be successful in media?
Courage. Power. Resilience. I advise all women to remain focused on their goals, and to persevere against all obstacles and negativity in their path. Take feedback constructively – only if it is- and ignore any negative comments that are designed to bring you down. Also, an important motto for all people working in media – not just women- is “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. It’s all about tone and wording choice, to gain that diplomacy of communication.
- What do you think will be the biggest change we see in the UAE, in terms of the rise in social media?
Social media has greatly impacted the region, not only the UAE. Naturally, there are positives and negatives that come along with it. If used correctly, social media can be beneficial to us and our society. Part of my job is to educate people on how to use social media in a positive manner. My goal is to make sure social media reflects the media industry positively, and that people are using it to spread important information and do something good in society, rather than those people you see on social media who only want to get famous. There’s a lot of propaganda being spread on social media, and it’s important to be able to trust your sources and not get carried away.
Also your behavior on social media is important. I always consider the fact that I am not only representing myself on social media, but also representing the UAE. People will respect you if you show authenticity and respect in how you represent yourself.
- Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
Queen Rania. A truly inspirational public figure. I absolutely love the way she walks, talks, carries herself and dresses. She is the epitome of diplomacy and communication and I believe all women in the media can learn from her. She is always successful at getting the message across, which is crucial for a public figure. Not to mention, on a personal level she’s friendly and down to earth- and I would love to meet her in person one day.
- With your role in talent acquisition, what type of candidates grab your attention in your selection process?
I definitely look at our candidates’ personalities more than their skills, and I really study their behavior through the selection process. For instance, you can find qualities of courage and resilience in a student but no signs of respect for the instructor or for the rules, which shows there’s no willingness to learn or grow.
The first rule for me is to see if students are listening or engaged. With that potential, you can develop their skills and prepare them for the job. Without that willingness to learn, there will be no progress. Sometimes students have the potential, they just need someone to mentor them or guide them down the right path. But most importantly, they need to have the will to follow in that path.
Be sure to catch Mahra on the new TV series “قلبي معي” (My Heart is with Me) this Ramadan and to follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Mahra.AlYaqoobi!
Also big thanks to our photographer for this shoot – @seragtohami!
Sisi and Rara