Saboohi Famili, CEO & Principal, Epping Forest College

I was born in Iran, lived, studied and worked there till I was 28 and became a refugee in UK in 1999 after an uprising in Iran and whilst I was visiting my parents. Witnessing the inequalities forced by an unfair regime and my sense of fairness has meant that I will stand up for what I believe is right and this has meant that I have been at loggerheads with the Islamic government which does not value debate and dialogue and is more interested in forcing a pre-fabricated ideology.

I am determined and have the fortitude to challenge preconceived ideas and see opportunities in challenges. I am keen to contribute positively to the world and see myself as a citizen of the world.

Most of my working life in UK I have worked Education at a senior level and also regularly as a coach and mentor to aspiring senior leaders and executives.

Previously I have run my own successful business, worked internationally and I choose my career moves based on the impact it will have and the personal and professional challenge it presents me.

I don’t shy away from hard work and the more challenging a brief the more excited and determined I become to make a difference.

You can say I am MAD (making a difference!).

I am an Electronic Engineer and have a keen analytical mind and a flair for innovation and creativity leading to finding solutions and designing workable plans. My keen interest in education is because I see huge potential in how education can change the world and specifically the education of women that I class as the pinnacle of reform in the world.

Being a CEO has meant I have been able to ask better questions and empower others to think wider. As a result I have also learned more about myself. It has been a genuine pleasure to be able to lead and enable innovation and creativity within a framework of trust, respect and no blame.

What is the best advice you received in your career?

Have a vision of where you want to go but don’t hold your plans too tightly. Life is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. We live in a world that changes constantly so having key values and principles that defines one’s behaviour is key.

I have come to realise that it matters that you “don’t know that you don’t know”, and those without preconceptions and the certainty of knowledge are often the best teachers. So the best advice I have had, and that I live by daily, is to be open minded and embrace the journey.

What excites you about your journey in life?

I am most excited to learn be in a space with people, to observe, listen, share and collaborate. I find human interaction and the experience of valuing different points of views priceless. People who are eager to learn, share ideas, and push one another to see the world and topics in new ways excite me immensely.

I’m also one of those die-hard “let’s do something that seems impossible to most” junkies… I commit to endurance cycling, high altitude climbing and long distance walking regularly. Anything that pushes me physically or mentally and requires me to be in the moment in order to succeed excites me.

What do you think is the most challenging part of being a leader?

I think it is the ability to not take too much on, stay focused, and be intentional with how you balance and prioritise. Accepting limits is not something that comes easily to me personally and I think as a leader you need to take stock and be realistic whilst you remain ambitious and won’t lower your vision. That can be very challenging.

How do you take the learning from your career so you can influence positive change?

I find my coaching work and mentoring others very rewarding and one of the best ways to influence positive change not only through my own career but helping others to do the same.

Supporting others to realise their potential and being able to look at other’s challenges and issues with them provides me with a huge opportunity to influence improvement and innovation to improve our communities. I’d love to help businesses build their leadership, culture and strategy they need to be the best.

In one word, how would your best friend describe you, and how would you colleagues describe you?  

Best friend: Adventurous
Colleagues: Determined

Lastly, what’s your favourite hashtag?

#BelieveInKindness. In a world that you can be anything, choose to be kind. I genuinely believe in the power of kindness, acceptance, respect and positive regard. It is something that is instilled in me from my childhood and is part of my DNA.

Saboohi Famili, CEO & Principal, Epping Forest College

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