Rania Hoteit is the CEO of ID4A Technologies. named "Best Entrepreneurial Company in America" by Entrepreneur magazine under her leadership. She is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, sought after expert judge on global startup competitions, international public speaker, advisor, author and social impact leader in gender equality, women empowerment, education and industry innovation with multiple recognitions from the White House, and other prestigious awards. Rania was recognized amongst the 55 global leaders to speak at the United Nations Global People's Summit during the UN General Assembly where she discussed the global production and manufacturing pipeline and how automation, Ai and Robotics can reduce global exploitation of labor. She's been featured in many publications including HuffPost, Forbes, Entrepreneur. She was recently recognized alongside Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai and other significant leaders 'who have successfully built outstanding brands' by Parazim. Rania was one of the only 50 women leaders and authors from around the globe who were featured in "50 Inspiring Voices of Migrant Women: From Struggle to Success", a new book that was launched at the UK Houses of Parliament where she also received an award "For outstanding achievement in her career and her contribution as a migrant woman in the USA.”
How did you get to where you are today?
Where I am today is not a result of a series of coincidences nor is it by following a path to where it may lead. There have been many pivotal moments, major decisions, sacrifices, risks and massive actions that I took, both personally and professionally on my journey to reaching my goals and building my success. While everyone else around me was busy trying to fit in or model after someone else, I was determined to create the world I want to live in with my own ideas, visions for the future, and my own rules to follow. I follow nobody. I do not go where a path may lead. My sense of identity, leadership skills, ambitious character, visionary mindset, and fighting spirit to overcome obstacles have always helped me to blaze my own path and leave trails behind for others to follow and an example to be inspired by. But at the heart of it is a strong belief in myself, absolute commitment and a genuine desire for success. Because without that desire, I couldn’t have gotten anywhere with anything. There are no limits to push me down, and the only direction I’m going is up, that’s my self-affirmation everyday. I put all my focus on strategizing and executing my plans, developing my skills, creating value and positive impact, leveraging my strong instinct for spotting opportunities, working day in and day out without losing enthusiasm during downfalls, investing in the right people, and only nurturing relationships that are supportive and constructive at all levels whether in life or in business.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
There were many obstacles along the way at different stages of life, from early childhood, to being a student, a young woman, an immigrant, a self-starter and entrepreneur in a new country. I grew up in an extremely unusual context and difficult circumstances. Then at the age of 18, I moved to the United States alone to go to college. Aside from the challenges of separation with my family, the toughest obstacle was the lack of support and financial security. I excessively worked multiple jobs to sustain myself and my education. While attending college full-time, in my second year, I decided to become an entrepreneur with little savings to nothing to start with, which brought with it a whole new set of challenges. However, dropping out was no way of an option. I had a deep desire to achieve higher education for myself and to fulfill my career ambitions for the future. There was no other way make it to the finish line but to adapt and make the necessary sacrifices in order to forge my path in spite of all obvious limitations. Throughout these phases, I became fully self-reliant and I invested an enormous effort and time to acquire business knowledge and expertise at an expedited pace on my own aside from fulfilling the requirements of my extremely demanding degrees. Eventually, I founded and existed 2 companies successfully prior to founding ID4A Technologies. During the early stages of growing my business, I had to break through many gender barriers, specially being in both male dominated industries, technology and manufacturing. But at the core of overcoming all obstacles was my resilience, commitment to my vision and determination to succeed. There were no shortcuts but hard work, consistency and persistence. I had to push through to claim success for myself.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
If you want to become successful you have to stay consistently focused, self-motivated and enthusiastic despite any challenges, setbacks or obstacles that show up in your way. Otherwise, you won’t be able to push through it all and move towards achieving your goals. Being an entrepreneur as well as innovation and social impact leader, I am always exploring new creative ideas, thinking about my business, looking for new opportunities to increase my market share, to add value, and to amplify the positive impact that I can contribute to the world. I personally have high levels of energy, I am future-oriented, optimistic, laser-focused and very self-motivated by nature, and I definitely achieved an advanced level of mastery of my resilience and self-management, along with the mastery of leading others and helping them to develop across different areas so they can also achieve success in their lives and their careers. But that doesn’t mean that the work is ever complete. Staying focused and motivated requires conscious effort, discipline to continued learning, and commitment to positive change and progress. Which is nearly impossible to do when you are unclear on what your purpose in life is. The key is to develop a deep understanding of who you are, what you are passionate about, what your mission is, how you can add value with your skills and contribute with your vision to the world. When you are clear on your own purpose, you take the reigns and set goals that are based on what you truly want, and not based on what you think you should do or what other people are thinking and doing. Also to stay motivated, it is important to visualize end results, break down goals, organize your thoughts, seek motivating topics and uplifting information, surround yourself with positive and stimulating thinkers, let go of fears, get comfortable with uncertainty, focus on the quality and consistency of your actions, and most importantly keep your mind on the big picture and constantly remind yourself why you chose your path to begin with.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
The best pieces of advice I received were from my mom when I was around 14 or 15 years old. She believed that for women to have true freedom and equality, they must have full autonomy and financial independence despite being in a marriage or having supportive families. She was a fiercely independent woman herself who built a successful career as a lawyer while raising 4 children, and she contributed tremendously to the stability of our family specially at times of financial hardships and struggles. She made one particular statement that I will never forget: “There is nothing more empowering for a woman than a degree in her hand, a career under her belt, and money in her pocket that she earns from her own hard work.” I can’t agree more. When women remain uneducated and career-less, they are more likely to become dependent or fully reliant on others, they give their power away and allow themselves to be controlled. And it’s for all these reasons, I am also passionate about empowering girls and women and advancing them into leadership and entrepreneurship. It all begins with good education that allows them to make informed decisions about their lives and to build successful careers that preserve their independence and autonomy at all levels intellectually, emotionally and economically.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
Starting a new venture isn’t for the faint of heart. It is the riskiest, most demanding and challenging thing at every level that you will ever do. The journey is going to be full of mistakes, challenges, and setbacks. However, it can be the most fulfilling experience that opens new possibilities for success and propels you into incredible heights of growth both professionally and personally if you put in the hard work. Make sure that you are fully ready to take this ride because it will require you to have a clear vision, absolute commitment, complete focus, and unshakable willpower and drive, along with your ability to adapt, learn and implement quickly. Becoming successful requires you to become proficient at many things and to be comfortable with uncertainties, otherwise you can't grow or round out the skills necessary to excel. It is common to start a business out of passion and expertise about a service or product, but this in and of itself doesn’t make you a good business person. I recommend to be very introspective with yourself first and spend time to realistically answer critical questions to assess your skills, mental and emotional readiness, as well as to identify the potential of the business that you want to start, and determine the actions that you need to take to get it moving. Ask yourself questions such as: am I willing to take risks, am I willing to invest the time and get to work 24/7, can I stay in the race and meet challenges head on, am I willing to hustle for opportunities, do I know what I don’t know, what skills do I have and what areas can I develop, why do I want to go into this particular venture, where am I going to set it up, what will my company do, what will I sell, how will I monetize, how am I going to market, what are my short vs long term goals, how am I going to grow my business, how am going to fund it, etc…
In the early stages, be prepared to divide your time only 25% to planning and 75% to doing. Many new entrepreneurs spend so much time planning that they never really learn how their business is going to run. There is no work-life separation when you work for yourself, it’s work-life integration and you’ll learn to balance with time and practice. Making confident, effective decisions is the most valuable skill you can learn when starting a new business as it relates to stockholders, boards, employees, vendors, customers, the media, and the public to ensure the success of your venture. It is unfortunately not a skill that they teach in school. It comes with practice and you have to develop it yourself. Be ready to do the work and focus on building your reputation and networks. Business is dependent on your ability to build constructive relationships, instill trust and inspire cooperation with others. Your reputation is one of your biggest assets and your real business card.
How do we get more women leaders?
Women in leadership should be the expectation and not the exception. However, getting more women leaders requires the dissolution of many internal and external barriers that hinder women from advancing in their careers and moving into leadership roles, whether that is within the companies they work for, or when initiating their own ventures and leading their own companies. Some internal factors that women need to resolve within themselves that I identified from my experience in advising many aspiring entrepreneurs, early stage founders, even employees and students in STEM is that: 1. most women are often unprepared to answer fundamental existential questions such as why they are doing what they do, what are their priorities, what do they want to achieve, and how much they want to accomplish in their careers and in life. As a result, they fail to effectively communicate what they want and to persuasively negotiate in order to get it, and 2. they often have lower expectations because they lack the confidence in their competencies as well as the determination to reach higher levels of success. It is common that they systematically achieve less not because they are women, but because they have lower expectations that drive their behavior to settle for less. Becoming a leader requires vision, ambition, drive, confidence, decisiveness, determination and persistence amongst many other fundamental qualities that one must possess and develop in order to become a great leader. Therefore, if women want to become leaders, first they must develop a deep understanding of their own value based on realistic assessment of their competencies aspirations, and purpose in order to identify what behaviors they need to change, mindsets that they need to adjust and and what skills they need to learn so they can fully align with their purpose, follow their aspirations, and become more competent for leadership.
On the other hand, economic data still prove major disparities: the number of women earning degrees hasn’t increased given that a large proportion of women are choosing not to go into male-dominated areas such as STEM, hiring women hasn’t increased either, and the number of women in leadership are not at parity in any industry. Talented, driven and intelligent women deserve opportunities to lead and companies need their leadership in order to thrive. Therefore, companies must take the responsibility of creating an entire organization structure and culture to support women’s advancement in leadership within the organization and ensure that they have the best chances to do so. Statistics also still show disparities when it comes to supporting and investing in women-led businesses. Male entrepreneurs are 86% more likely to be VC funded than their female counterparts.We can’t truly level the playing field on investment without closing the gender gap and leveling equality between genders. Men also need to. There are very few women investors on the scene to back other women as well. All these diversity challenges reveal a profound need for more enlightened men allies who can have an impact on pushing the case for gender equity and can set a new example for other men to follow, and build a new level of trust by investing in women and who can actively engage to change the culture to advance women from the classroom to the boardroom. Until we seriously commit to gender equality and consciously address gender biases and barriers, it will be extremely challenging to integrate women fairly and efficiently within the global economy specially when it comes to getting more women into roles of leadership.