Sumaya Al-Nasser is Saudi Arabia's best-known female executive, life and career coach. Based out of her consultation centre in Los Angeles, but frequently working in the Middle East, the 35-year-old has assisted 200,000 clients around the world and delivered 12,000 hours of coaching. She presents her 'New Beginnings' seminar in Arabic at Dubai's Sofitel Downtown hotel on January 13, with an English version launching soon. Certified by the World Federation of Trainers from America and the International Coaching Federation, Sumaya reveals more about her career inspiration and challenges, including overcoming Congenital Hip Dysplasia - an affliction in which the ball and socket joints fail to form properly - from childhood in Riyadh.
QWhat influenced you to become a life and executive coach?
AMy struggle in life started in childhood. I went through many challenges that made me aware, granting me the ability to restructure my being. Instead of playing with toys as a child I spent most of my childhood getting in and out of surgery rooms. I didn't know what a playground looked like. My journey challenged me to develop the determination to find joy: even in a surgery room. I found it then, and still find joy. I am on a pathway to help others find their joy.
How much of your coaching and consultation is driven by personal experience?
Weaknesses and struggles have similarities whether they’re marital, financial or health struggles, relationship or self-development struggles. They are all similar - and I know how to cope with struggles and deal with problems. By the end of the day the cause is the same; the illusion of despair and helplessness. That’s why I can help people. Because I have managed to find the root of the cause of the problem, no problem is a problem for me.
Is your profession usually strictly dominated by males in Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab world?
Males in our society - and indeed worldwide - get far more support and acceptance than women. However, in the last couple of years women have claimed their position in this field, and many others, by hard work and creativity. I'm not the only one (Saudi female) in the field; I'm the best known one. From feedback I get from tens of thousands of followers all over the Middle East, it seems like I have been having a great influence (on Saudi women aspiring to become life coaches). I have worked hard on myself to release and reform myself from the perception of cultural boundaries.
Was it a difficult journey to be accepted as a life coach in your country?
As with everything new, it gets rejected as it represents change. Being a catalyst for change is a hardship. I started coaching in 2002 as a young woman. That was not an easy road. Luckily, I managed to convince people of my abilities, insights, and accomplishments - now I'm one of the most respected professionals. My main focus is the Middle East region. However, I wish to reach every soul.
What prompted you to launch your centre in LA where the coaching industry was already thriving?
Arabs travel the world. They make up significant populations in most countries. Our history contributes to contemporary Eastern and Western societies, so the USA is a natural platform for my business and audience. I offer consultations directly in Los Angeles and we have a large number of UAE clients who receive the courses online or visit us in LA.
What types of people do you coach - mainly business leaders or all walks of life?
Everyone who is open and willing to achieve change in their lives; mainly females, but we do have a good following from males - around 35 per cent. Most of my clients are from the Arabian Gulf states. We only get one chance at life, and we have to make it count. In our fast-paced lives, we often forget to cater to our emotional and mental wellbeing. We tend to ignore how important it is to nurture our emotional and mental states in order achieve the best quality lives and reach our goals, in both our personal and professional lives.
What do you bring to the profession that is different to what a male life coach delivers?
Considering the life condition of women in the Middle East is different to that of men, that gives her different challenges and I have lived though these challenges. That’s how I feel I am different from a male life coach.
What can people in Dubai expect from your seminar?
The seminar focuses on the ways of attracting success. They will come to understand the feelings and choices of successful people. We will be launching English versions in the near future.
How can this event help business people?
Any business gain or loss begins from within before becoming a reality. Many business people lose or win after going through a divorce or a family loss. This shows the direct impact of feelings and ideas on the business status. As for the main incentives for business, they are internal rather than external. Many people in the business world attend sessions in order to know the best prospects in business, understand the recurrent messages, take the appropriate decisions for the future and arrange their work values and priorities.