Hikmet Abdella Abulmalik: Quiet Determination

“You cannot do it all in silos.”

Hikmet was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia around the Golla Maru area, she finished her high school in Stanford and continued her higher education in the University of Hull in the UK. She currently resides in Addis Ababa where she runs the family business, while at the same time, working on Corporate Social Responsibility at HST consulting as Director for Clients and Professional Services. Her work part-time is mainly focused on keeping herself up to date in her profession. Hikmet is widely known for her work in the Association for Certified and Chartered Accountants (ACCA) which she established, supporting the development of the accountancy profession in Ethiopia.

Her family business is a manufacturers’ representative that was established in 1969, the firm represents multiple foreign businesses that do business in Ethiopia. The firms are largely focused on the public sector including infrastructure such as water resources, electricity, roads etc. When her father passed away in 2007, the business was focused in the same area it had been for over four decades. When Hikmet took over, she made the decision to diversify. As the realization hit that the expanding middle-income families have very little options in the market for kitchenware. She used the showroom that was part of the company’s office space to import and sell branded high quality table top kitchenware under the brand name MIihome. Her business has diversified further into real-estate since.

“I did not need to do business planning to see that there was a need. I had a gut feeling that business is sometimes more than what you can put on paper.”

Hikmet spends most of her time working to manage people, which she considers her most important job on top of managing the challenges of running a business. She considers skilled employees to be an important asset to her business and managing constantly changing expectations her top priority. To Hikmet, understanding the context and the reality of the employees’ day to day lives, including the levels of poverty and family responsibilities is very important to running a successful business. She practices an open door policy for her employees and puts being accessible and listening at the top of her priority.

She finds that knowing and understanding the personal motivations of her team has benefited her as a leader and has supported the growth of her peoples’ skills. Reflecting on her growth in leadership as she moved from employment to managing her own business, she emphasizes the need to clearly articulate the rules that will support managing employees. She describes her passion for life as witnessing other people succeed in what they are doing. She wishes to impact those that cross her path and her legacy, she describes as helping people move to the next level of their lives. Hikmet values honesty above all else and values understanding and forgiveness.

Her philosophy is that charity starts at home. Giving back to the community, to her, starts with supporting those that are closest to her. Her work with HST is known as ‘Serving the Nation” and her work as country director of ACCA has stuck with her on the transformational impact of education.  She currently works to build lasting institutions and knowledge transfer as a Corporate Social Responsibility component of HST consulting. She sees herself as growing as a wise woman, involving in think tanks and working for organizations going forward.

“As a woman, it is difficult to be successful, that in itself, is an accomplishment for me.”

Getting and maintaining respect from the society, balancing her work and her family life is her greatest accomplishments. She considers the number of families that ask her to mentor their daughters as an indicator of her success. In her spare time, she spends time with her family and her three sons. The wisdom she wishes to share with the younger generation, she urges that young people balance their novel and traditional values. Take away good things from other cultures while balancing the rich Ethiopian culture, which is a skill on itself.

Being exposed to different cultures and maintaining her core identity as a Muslim Ethiopian woman from the Harare community has been both a challenge and an accomplishment. To be a woman in her community that is constantly in the spot light has been challenging. Most saw her as something to be suspicious of, dismissing her role, ‘she is a man, that one’. Now she sees it as a point of accomplishment that many in her community bring their daughters to be mentored by her.

“Is it possible to do it all? Yes, she says, but it is not easy. I am willing to share my experience.”  Hikmet is the epitome of quiet determination and of keen intelligence.

AWiB thanks this sagacious woman to sit for this interview and shares her philosophy in life; for willing to share so we learn.

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