Who is Dagmar Symes?
She is the General Manager at HILL ROBINSON Project Management.
What helped shape the woman you are today?
There are three core parts that best describe me: strength of character, being down to earth and kind, and my spirit for adventure.
I was blessed with a beautiful childhood, powered with continuous support from my parents who were my safety net in all phases of my life. I would describe them as my solid steppingstone into who I am today, having a sound foundation based on my upbringing and values.
Throughout my entire life I had to prove myself, might this have been in education, sports, or my professional career path.
Family and friends throughout the way have certainly added in their very own personal way to who I am today. It is fair to say everyone I have ever met and every single one I have yet to meet.
There were challenging times, too such as the early passing away of my mother after over a decade of sufferance which accompanied my high school years. And whilst still trying to digest the loss, it has brought into sharp focus what is important in life and where my priorities lie. Difficult times make you very humble and grateful. Until today gratefulness is one of my key guiding lights.
Not everything in my life went according to plan and the toughest times and failures were with hindsight the most valuable experiences. As such I might be able to say that all experiences joyful and challenging have deeply shaped me.
Considering how stressful and perilous your work environment can be, how do you manage stress and avoid burnout?
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to dynamically sustain your own energy in the challenging fast paced business environment nowadays.
Every day I engage myself for at least one hour of exercise. I have also learned to generate defining rituals and spacious moments purely to myself in order grasp the much-needed deep breaths to remain focused and calm in any situation.
You need to assess and recognize your personal energy and depleting behavior, and then take responsibility for change. Greater capacity makes it possible to get more done in less time at a higher engagement level and on a more sustainable note.
Going slow is sometimes the best way to move fast
If you had a chance to change anything in this world, what would you change and how?
I am a fierce advocate for education on all levels. Only through education can we grant a sustainable society considering diversity and inclusion by the acquisition of knowledge, values, skills, morals, and beliefs. Respect, empathy, and compassion are three corners of a solid system and are clearly fundamental to me to make a better world.
Education should be the main stimulus for governmental funds to administer adequate school education, particularly for those living in poverty to advance educational equity.
Can you talk about one woman who has greatly influenced your life?
Without a doubt, my mother has always been my inspiration.
Having been courageous enough to escape across the inner-German border, the Berlin Wall, impelled by political and social events, to live a free life under the opportunities of the West.
Having taken such a bold and fierce decision to shape her own life to the better whilst starting from literally scratch in a new country. She taught us the morality of life, to be grateful and to appreciate simple things in life. Values such as discipline, respect and perseverance were key pillars at home. She nurtured, guided and comforted us at all times.
Her embracing way and kindness paired with a huge portion of generosity was deeply engraved in our breeding and upbringing.
She was the enabler to create a vision board for my own future, being bold and daring in decision making.
Can you name one person in the field whom you highly regard and admire?
It would not be fair to single out one person in the field. Each and every one is contributing in one way or the other to the bigger picture. I have a sound appreciation and admiration for team members that always strive to do their best in the spirit of serving others. I have always valued anyone no matter their position or origin. Thus, I highly regard any individual who would strive to the best of their ability to further enhance the way forward in all aspects for the benefit of the greater good.
If you could introduce one piece of legislation to further gender balance, what would it be?
I find the usage of the word legislation somewhat contradictory to gender balance. None would enjoy an association with legal components regarding gender balance. I equally loathe the word “Women’s Quota” which to me, represents a form of positive discrimination.
I firmly believe in the need of remodeling cultures where exclusion and bias (implicit and explicit) exist, thus creating unseen barriers for female talent. Rather than focusing on gender specificity, the business community needs to redefine the leadership model versus classical stereotypes.
What was the most challenging moment in your entire career? What was the lesson learnt at that moment?
There is no specific moment to be singled out. I would rather say that my entire career was based on assuming responsibilities and assignments that would somewhat not be in my comfort zone.
I always took opportunities and made them fit for myself rather than the other way around. The ability to learn and to not being afraid of tapping into the unknown. The upside of daring and believing in what you can do, is so much greater than the downside of failure.
Challenging moments overall might have been those that contradicted my own values, especially with regards to business morals at the workplace. Implementing and managing organizational integrity and business morals, turned out to be the biggest challenge in the broader picture.
No matter how, your behavior defines you and thus, in other terms your behavior is a reflection of your personal brand and what people can expect from you personally and professionally.
Whilst flexibility and adaptability are essential commodities, defining your own limits as of when you stand up for your beliefs and walk away is key. A business without values is a business at risk.
Where do you see the future of Women in Hospitality & Tourism in the Arab region years from now?
The sky is the limit! There are countless advancing developments in the Arab world in the hospitality and tourism sector. Moreover, you can see the increasing number of female recruits in hospitality, who are turning out to be solid, passionate, and professional hoteliers.
KSA has defined a clear vision 2030, Oman is promoting their vision 2040 and other Arab countries, are creating their own visions, with countless opportunities and advocacy for women leaders in the field.
In the end, women can bring true and significant positive changes to the workplace, especially in leadership. Female qualities such as inspiring others, effective communication, high standards in work ethics and empathy are attributes which will by default enhance any work community.
How crucial is it that Executive Leaders separate their emotions and personal preferences from their duty?
Embracing emotions is essential for a better workplace which would support a non-biased and fair work environment, a key to any successful organization.
Positive emotions are co-related with better health and stress management, which would eventually lead to a decrease in employee turnover and an increase in job satisfaction and morale. Positive emotions enhance interpersonal relationships and creativity.
It must be highlighted that “being emotional” is often negatively associated with women, which is a misleading characteristic solely secluded to the female work force. This unjust stereotype has been associated with the female workforce for a huge strand of time.
Emotions and personal preferences should be considered valuable cross gender attributes as and when appropriately expressed.
How challenging it is for one to preserve their identity, integrity, and credibility in the world of Media?
In such a fast paced and superficial world where fake news mostly supersedes relevant information, media can be very manipulative and would often lead to misleading and
speculated data. People tend to seek information that correlates with their own views. Personally, I do not see a major challenge in the preservation of one’s identity, integrity and credibility within the field of media ensuring that you remain true and honest at all times to yourself and others. Be genuine and act with integrity.
What can more women inclusion bring to the table in the field of hospitality?
Creating a gender inclusive workplace means committing to a culture of support, safety and acceptance. A diverse and inclusive environment establishes a sense of belonging amongst employees. When employees feel more connected to their job, they tend to work harder and sharper, producing higher quality of deliverables. As a result, companies would see gains in the form of higher business results, innovation and decision-making.
Women bring different perspectives and attributes to the table. The more characteristic female traits such as empathy, humility, the nurturing and caring aptitude are most beneficial for a team. Especially as we enter the post pandemic phase in the hospitality and tourism sector. I firmly believe that women will organically pave their way through the ranks based on their natural attributes and will play a key role in the socio-economic development of the business environment.
What makes a good Leader, and where do you find your career fit best in which segment or types of consultancies?
A good leader in one described as wearing many hats! There are several leadership qualities that aspire to be important despite specific different styles of leadership.
To name a few I would rate being visionary, charismatic, influencing, credible, possessing integrity and courage and above all a good portion of optimism as highly valuable. Leadership is by default positive.
Great leaders help people reach their goals and potential and are not afraid to hire people that might be better than them. They take the pride in the accomplishments of those they support all along the way.
Given the diversified nature of my career path I would tend to believe that I could see myself in various consultancy fields, with a strong drive to help inspire, guide and lead the young leaders of tomorrow.
What advice would you give for anyone trying to reach high levels and a prominent position in the industry?
Believing in your capabilities along with hard work, a good portion of self-awareness, humility, and integrity on and off the court might it be physically, emotionally, or mentally are the key pillars to reaching out to one’s true horizon and grasping it with a firm grip. Failure and hardship go hand in hand with growth. One should always take initiative, identify opportunities, and never give up! Foresee your target, as success is not always about greatness, it is about consistency and chasing opportunities, daring and unconventional at times.
You have a special Heart for LEBANON…what’s that connection?
Lebanon is indeed very close to my heart and will always be my second home! I arrived in the country in a difficult moment of my personal life, as well as a dire time in the region with the war in Lebanon’s neighboring country. I have learned from the local community that despite the darkest hours, the joy of life must prevail. The joie de vivre of the locals despite all odds made me realize how important it is to live your life to the fullest. The generosity and openness of the Lebanese is truly unique and heartwarming. Always make the best out of what you have with resilience in the face of adversity. The family values engraved in every local, are a true arsenal which do not exist everywhere in the world. Despite the most challenging times that our Lebanon is going through, I firmly believe that change is around the corner and this magnificent country will rise again stronger and more beautiful than ever.