Al Nameera Meghjani, a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School, on staying strong on ethics and providing equal and easy healthcare access to all.
I was born in Hyderabad, India in a very typical middle class Indian joint family. In 2000, we were in £250,000 of debt and borrowing money for essentials. I never had stability growing up. My family has lived in at least 15 homes, and have moved around from India to the UK, back to India and then to Canada due to financial reasons. Moving across the world has made me more culturally aware and sensitive. I have learnt the importance of pluralism and how embracing diversity can be beneficial for society.
When I was growing up, people always expected that I would give in to societal expectations of staying at home and leaning to be a good housewife. However, I was blessed to have a family that supported my ambitions and educational aspirations. While my friends' mothers were teaching them how to cook every Indian dish that exists, my mother forbid me from entering the kitchen apart from learning the basics I needed for my survival. She rebelled against everything she was told and made a consistent effort to make sure that I was independent and able to work on my educational goals.
I have always been taught the value of education and was always encouraged by my parents to pursue a master’s degree. During my undergrad, I was lucky to be able to fund my education by using a combination of loans, scholarships, part-time work, and co-op/internship placements. However, when it came to my master’s it didn’t feel right putting such a big financial burden on them. I then came across the Laidlaw Foundation and the Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Fund, which help people like me pursue further education while being part of a larger network with a mission to empower women in the business world. Deep down I knew, this was a community I wanted to join.
What is the biggest life challenge you overcame, and what did you learn from it?
Life is truly a rollercoaster. My life had reached a new low in 2016 – emotionally and financially. My maternal grandmother, who has consistently been my support system through my ups and downs was critically ill and passed away. Financially, we had hit rock bottom and could not afford my tuition fees anymore. Although I was a merit student, my school could not offer my family the financial help that we needed. Before I could really process anything that had happened, we moved to Toronto, Canada in the hopes for a better life. I was in a new country, knew no-one and had to start from scratch – again.
At the age of 16, having to process so much change in such a short span of time was a real challenge.
When I reflect on everything that I have gone through I now understand the value of hope. Having hope changes your perspective and gives you the courage the deal with everything life throws at you. The thought of a better tomorrow can make your today so much better.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
My Father gave me the advice to stay strong on my ethics and never compromise. He always told me to never let go of my ethics because in the long run, I may need to take 10 extra steps to reach my goals, but at the end of the day I will be able to be at peace with myself knowing I have not done anything or anyone wrong. Taking short-cuts will always hinder my success in the long run.
My parents have also always taught me to be humble and not proud. I should always be grateful for everything that I have and not take anything for granted since everyone who got the opportunity may be deserving, but not everyone deserving gets the opportunity.
`1What is the worst piece of advice you have been given?
"You are still very young; have some more practical goals in life."
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too young to dream big.
Top 3 tips that will help someone become a better leader
- Know your legacy. You should always know what your mission is, what motivates you and how you define success in accomplishing that mission. People will always remember you by the impact you have had.
- Be pluralistic and value diversity. You can always learn from anyone and everyone because we are all unique in our own ways. Once you know how to turn diversity from a weakness into a strength, you gain access to so much knowledge and many ideas that will help you grow.
- Never compromise on your ethics. As a leader you lead by setting an example of ethical leadership for those around you. If you stay strong on your ethics, you can show others that you don’t need to compromise on your ethics to be successful
Which leaders in the world inspire you the most and why?
Aga Khan IV: Thanks to the Aga Khan Development Network and Age Khan Foundation, Aga Khan IV has been able to impact so many lives. Through the many agencies, he can provide better education, healthcare, quality of life etc for everyone regardless of location, race, gender, religion etc. He has always placed a strong emphasis on volunteerism and giving back to the community – financially or through your time and knowledge.
Even at the age of 84, he is working to make the world a better place and I find that very inspirational.
One quote of his that has stuck with me for many years is:
“The question is, not only what have I achieved, the question is what have I helped others to achieve?” - Aga Khan IV
I hope to continue to reflect on this quote for many years as I evolve my goals and ambitions for life.
What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?
Being a Laidlaw Scholar means that I am part of a community of strong women who are at the forefront of change in society. We need to bridge the gender gap that exists in the business world. We can change the way the world views business by setting examples of women leadership.
For me, being a Laidlaw Scholar also means setting an example for every young girl in our community who might at some point have questioned whether she can really achieve her goals. It’s only when she sees someone like herself achieving these goals, will she have the courage and confidence be aim for them herself.
Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.
I hope to create a future where we are employing digital capabilities as efficiently in healthcare as we do in the commercial world so that we can increase the access of healthcare.
Each healthcare practitioner in the care system (Doctors, nurses, genetic counselors etc.) plays a unique role in providing patients with the right treatment. However, when it comes to the software they use, everyone is given the same software in the name of “standardization” which brings automation and not efficiency. We need technology that fits the needs of our healthcare system so that practitioners can see more patients and patents across the world who need their expertise.
I hope that someday, no patent is waiting to be seen because some paperwork has not been done. We may not be able to create a disease-free world, but we can create a world that provides equal and easy access to healthcare.
📺 Currently binging: New Girl
🎵 My quarantine anthem: Firework - Katy Perry
📚 My top book recommendation: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: I recently finished a painting. It’s feels good to take time out of my busy life to do things I enjoy.
❤️ A cause I care about: Where you get your education and the teachers that mentor you make a big difference. One of the best things that my parents have done for me is to enroll me into the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad. The school has given me my values of pluralism, equity, ethical leadership and inspiration to make the world better by using my education. I was mentored by amazing teachers that always believed in me and pushed me to be the best version of myself. I feel very lucky to be part of London Business School, a community that teaches me the same values and equips me with the right knowledge and skills to make the impact I want to see in the world.
Connect with Nameera on LinkedIn.
Nameera is a Laidlaw Scholar at London Business School. The Laidlaw Women's Business Education Scholarship aims to help build a pipeline of future women leaders through access to best-in-class education, resources and global networks by providing full and half scholarships to women who would not otherwise be in a position to reap the benefits of attending an outstanding school.
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