Women on Top: Asmahan Zein

Be humble, watch, learn and ask

Asmahan Zein comes with a long experience in logistics and transportation. Before founding Crypta in 2013 – a company which provides secure documents storage and management solutions, Asma went from being an Airline Executive to managing the Grand Hotel in Abidjan, to being one of the founding team members of Aramex Lebanon back in 1988. During her 27 years at Aramex, Asma became the Country Manager for Lebanon, did reengineering projects for UK and France stations and became the West Africa manager, where she opened five locations. 

Today, Asma is the President of the Lebanese League for Women in Business – LLWB, Chair of the Lebanese Women Angel Fund – LWAF, and the Vice Chair of Ruwwad Altanmiya in Tripoli. She is a member of the Lebanese Steering Committee of the United Nations Global Compact – UNGCL, a member of Alfanar Lebanon Advisory Board, Board member of Rural Entrepreneurs, and member of the advisory board of the Nature Conservation Center at AUB. She was previously Vice President of Injaz Lebanon for more than 5 years and Vice Chair of Amideast Advisory Board (Lebanon). She was the first female President of Freight Forwarders Syndicate.

All through her career, Asma was, and still is, a fierce and dedicated advocate for women, youth and students on all levels, as she is committed to initiate a positive impact on people’s lives.

The Interview

How did you start your career?

My career started when I was eighteen years old. It consists of different phases: first as a simple executive secretary and administrative assistant with different airlines and computer and research services, second, I went to the Ivory Coast where I managed a hotel there for five years, and then I landed at Aramex, where with a team of colleagues we started it in Lebanon beginning of 1988. My work with Aramex lasted for 27 years. Now, I am a partner at Filovault/Crypta sal. I have also been the President of LLWB since 2015 and our work focuses on supporting women in business and women entrepreneurs.  

What was the main drive that pushed you towards choosing the industry you are in?

Both the hotel in the Ivory Coast and Aramex were family businesses. That is how I ended working in both.

What was your biggest fear moving up the ladder? How did you overcome it?

My biggest fear was that I had no experience in either business. Before joining the hotel in Abidjan, I had to go through an intense training in hotel management in Jordan. I had to attend to all hotel details, I had to learn the French language, plus I had to face the new culture, build the trust and respect. 

When we started Aramex Lebanon, again, I spent a whole year learning the operational details, routings, attending to customer service, working on contingency plans to protect the team during the years of tough civil war, making sure that there was no disruption to the operation by always using and wisely the safe exits. I was with the team and couriers at all times, going through the finances, getting the right and needed equipment , investing in technology, working on the team trainings and building on their knowledge. My experience with Aramex was unique, it taught me the value of humanity, the value of governance, transparency and most of all the teamwork.

To cover how I overcame all the hassles and problems of being a hotel director, or Aramex country manager and then other executive positions, will need pages and a one-to-one meeting!

What do you look for when recruiting an employee?

I love passionate people, clear and focused. They know what they are talking about. Strong beliefs, flexible, good listeners, with clear future plans. That’s the winning combination.

How many employees do you currently have? How do you describe your management style?

I used to manage around 300 employees while with Aramex, now, at LLWB, I manage ten. As for our new company, I have dedicated the management role to my partners and the team.

How do you describe yourself in 3 words?

Funny, transparent, passionate.

What’s your favorite part of your work, and why?

Since now I am only doing community service in addition to supporting startups,  I LOVE what I am doing.

If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?

Be humble, watch, learn and ask

How do you balance the different aspects of your life? (well-being, family, social and professional)

After decades of hard work, I am still wondering how I manage it all ! First, I work on my wellbeing with daily exercise and since years, second, my family are priority whenever they are in Lebanon (at least I try), and socially, I am very busy, and I love people. So, I try not to miss any event 😊. Professionally, I won’t answer you need to ask my colleagues about this.

Women on Top Series

Berytech has partnered with the Lebanese League for Women in Business – LLWB, to create ‘Women on Top’ to highlight women entrepreneurs and executives in a series of motivational interviews about their stories, overcoming their own challenges and their entrepreneurial endeavors. Read more. The series is also highlighting successful women in sports and business.

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