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18 September 2019 / news

Interview Ahmed Mahmoud

Ahmed Mahmoud is one of the three nominees for the ECHO Award in the Loyens & Loeff Law & Tax category.

What does this nomination mean to you?

I have to admit that, until this nomination, I was not familiar with ECHO and the Loyens & Loeff Law & Tax award. It was Maastricht University that asked me if I wanted to participate in the ECHO Awards, and I am still grateful for that.

For me, being nominated means that there is a lot of goodwill. In recent years a body of research has revealed that companies with a diverse workforce are able to achieve a higher turnover, increase the well-being of their employees, and have a higher retention rate.

So it’s about more than just a few buzz words on a company’s website to create a better image. Having different points of view, actually makes the business operations of a company more innovative and creative.

Therefore, for commercial law firms, promoting diversity has become a central point of attention, and the fact that this type of award exists, gives me the impression that companies have more or less realised this.

What role has your background played in your (school) career so far?

For the time being, I have experienced more benefits than disadvantages in my career. The fact that you grow up in two worlds gives you the advantage that you are much better able to put things into perspective. In addition, Arab culture is characterised by its collectivism.

Who were your role models or inspiring mentors? And why?

I admire people who excel in what they do and always want to be the best in their field. As a law student, I admire great lawyers such as De Pinto and Meijers. As a sports enthusiast, I admire sublime and outstanding athletes. What they all have in common, is that they identify with their work. It needs no further explanation that this commands respect from many people and is a desirable goal.

My father is my mentor. He taught me different life lessons and social skills. As a child, he took me everywhere he went and taught me to be responsible. He also often emphasized how many opportunities we have in the Netherlands and that we must make use of them wisely.

What can businesses improve when it comes to diversity?

I’ve noticed that many companies are willing to do better in terms of diversity. Often, this does not work out as planned though. I think one of the big problems is that many multicultural students can’t seem to find the way to large companies. I think a company can improve this a lot by actively looking for talent. Together with student associations, companies regularly organise office visits and in-house days, but they hardly ever work together with associations that are not affiliated with a university.

There are numerous multicultural organisations in the Netherlands for young people with a multicultural background. Often, these young people are also highly motivated students. By also cooperating with organisations that are not affiliated with a university, but whose members are for the most part students, a recruiter could reach a lot more multicultural students, hence increasing the diversity of a company’s workforce. I think that looking for talent outside the box would already be a big step forward.

What aspect of your background do you find valuable for the business world?

It is very unlikely that, in 2019, a company only operates nationally. Especially in an open economy like the Netherlands, companies often have an international clientele. It is a fact that negotiations and client communications often go wrong due to cultural differences. A Dutch negotiator will get to the point quickly, while a French negotiator likely prefers to talk about background issues first, finding such Dutch directness rude. And Germans, for example, are organised much more hierarchically than Dutch people.

I think that understanding another culture is, if only for that reason, a big advantage.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My ambitions are to develop myself as much as possible within my field. I want to grow in what I do and use any opportunity for improvement. Fortunately, many offices offer employees the opportunity to develop themselves.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Everything in its time, and don't rush yourself.