Meet Soulaima Gourani. She’s a multi-careerist based in California. I met Soulaima via the World Economic Forum.
She has worked in many roles, as you’ll discover. But what I most appreciate is how she’s a community builder. She hosts regular salons where she spotlights folks and their special projects. Her generous spirit is also revealed by her broad & expansive career.
Corporate Tech Career: Roles at HP, Microsoft, and Maersk, building foundational skills in the tech industry.
Solopreneur: Launched and managed a handful of startups, navigating entrepreneurial challenges.
Motivational Speaker & Author: Transitioned to full-time speaking and writing, inspiring audiences and readers.
Board Positions: Held 10 board career positions, enhanced by board certification training.
VC-Backed Tech Entrepreneur: Currently leading initiatives in Silicon Valley, synthesizing corporate, entrepreneurial, and leadership experiences.
On her motivations for having many careers
It’s not just about being smart in a fast-changing world. It’s about listening to what your heart wants and following where it leads (flow).
It’s about the joy of learning new things, and the safety net of not having all your eggs in one basket. I can’t be boxed into just one thing.
On how long she’s had these careers
Advice to aspiring multi-careerists
Jot down what you love doing, what you’re awesome at, and what might grab people’s attention or bring in customers.
Next up, figure out how to get these ideas off the ground. Think about how you’ll talk about them and get people interested (SOME, newsletters, LinkedIn etc).
Get creative with how you’ll make money from them, and set some goals: what you need to earn, what you’d like to earn, and your wow-I’ve-made-it earning goal.
Then, take a good look at what you’re good at, who you know, and what you need to do to kick off a portfolio career. It’s all about growing as a person.
On overcoming obstacles
Most people really admired those who focused on one career and became experts in it.
I’ve always been into doing a bunch of different things at the “same” time. It hasn’t been easy, though. Often, people saw me as unfocused or not serious.
But here’s the thing: being good at a lot of stuff isn’t just about juggling – it’s about connecting different ideas and skills in ways that others might not see.
I’ve had to push against the idea that being multi-dimensional means you’re all over the place. I’m working to show that having a wide range of interests and skills is actually a superpower in its own right.
On how multiple careers are beneficial
The skills I’ve picked up in one job often come in handy in another.
Like, the strategic thinking I’ve honed in the tech world is super useful when I’m wearing my entrepreneur hat.
The stuff I learned in the corporate tech world at places like HP and Microsoft gives me a real edge in understanding what startups are up against.
And the public speaking gigs?
They’ve made me a better communicator, which is a big plus in board meetings and in running a tech startup.
Plus, switching between different careers means I’m always looking at things from different angles.
On personal time
Share with your partner the reasons behind your pursuit of a portfolio career.
It’s vital to explain not only your motivations but also how your partner and your relationship can benefit from this strategy and growth.
It’s essential to reflect on whether the process of achieving your goals is affecting your ability to be a supportive and positive partner. Balancing personal growth with maintaining a (financially) healthy relationship is key.
It’s crucial to take control of the narrative and articulate a clear vision of joint benefits. This approach is vital in creating the support you need as you move forward.
On what she wishes she had learned earlier
Looking back, I realize the importance of effectively communicating my multifaceted career journey (titles) on platforms like LinkedIn.
For many years, my diverse pursuits might have appeared unfocused or non-serious to some.
I wish I had been more adept at articulating the reasons behind my varied career choices and the method to my approach.
It’s crucial to convey how each distinct role and experience has been a deliberate and strategic part of a larger professional tapestry, contributing to a broader set of skills and a more comprehensive perspective
On what to read
Portfolio Career Podcast by David Nebinski – Features conversations with those who have created portfolio careers, providing practical advice and inspiration.
Or my e-book ” re-ignite your career” (online via book boon)
On the stigma of having many careers
I frequently checked in with myself, ensuring that my actions aligned with my personal goals rather than getting caught up in competing or comparing myself with others.
I’ve always had my own playbook in life, not fitting into the typical mold. The idea of being confined to a single box never appealed to me.
My success wasn’t just theoretical – I’ve been fortunate to achieve both financial success, and perhaps more importantly, my work has had a significant and meaningful impact.
On what to share with others
It’s hard to pin down a single “title” that encompasses all I do, so I usually go with “startup person.”
This term broadly covers everything I’m involved in, from pioneering new ventures and exploring uncharted territories to driving innovation both inside and outside of companies.
On sublimating ego
Kill your ego! Often in discussions about strength, the importance of humility is overlooked, yet it emerges as a powerful virtue.
Approach every task as a learning journey, an opportunity to gain knowledge, practice patience, and express gratitude – yes, even in the seemingly mundane tasks.
Each experience, no matter how small, offers valuable lessons!
On what’s her story
My life story defies conventional paths to success. A school dropout in 7th grade and a survivor of a challenging childhood, later in foster care, I’ve navigated a journey marked by resilience.
Despite moving across four countries and facing numerous hardships, I’ve built a fulfilling life. Today, I celebrate 28 years of a successful marriage and the joy of raising two wonderful children.
In my professional realm, I’ve earned accolades for my business acumen, communication skills, and bravery in the tech industry.
My journey, against all odds, has not just been about overcoming obstacles but also about carving out a space where I could thrive, grow, learn and inspire.
Each award I’ve received is a testament to a journey that speaks to the power of resilience and the unyielding human spirit.
Day in the Life
6 am kids/get them up/ school
8 to 10 – meetings with investors
10am to 3pm – meetings with my team and customers
3p to 5pm – I write on my next book/ blogs etc.
6 to 9pm – family
9 to 10 pm – I study take online classes / learn new stuff
On where to find Soulaima
Kabir Sehgal is a Multi Grammy & Latin Grammy Award winner, as well as New York Times bestselling author.
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