(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Heba Elkalyoubi, an Egyptian Entrepreneur based in Cairo. Heba is the Founder of HK-Architecture, an online studio providing design services for busy homeowners and professionals on tight budgets.

What makes you do what you do? 
I absolutely enjoy creating unique experiences for the customer. I love making design services more accessible and budget-friendly. I believe design can change the way people live and occupy their space.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
Since my graduation, I tried to take on a variety of roles to have a varied experience and get a feel of the industry from different perspectives. I tried not to stay too long in one position, and had a constant check of the skills that needed to be developed. I had a precise career plan and was actively shaping my professional experience to reach my goal.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I always wanted to challenge the idea that you needed to have a poor family life in order to succeed in our field. I wanted to prove that work could be done remotely without compromising its quality, and that you do not need to fit into a rigid 9 to 5 schedule to make a beautiful design. I see being an architect as one of the best careers for a woman who wants to have a good income without compromising the quality of her lifestyle. Everywhere I worked I had this inflexibility of time, office presence, and I thought it was about time to change that. Till now I have only cooperated with architects and designers who have been working remotely and we have delivered amazing results together. So it does really work!

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
In my final year of study, I did an internship in an architectural consultancy firm, and my mentor became my future boss for many years. I noticed that his lifestyle did not change after becoming the CEO of his own company. On the contrary, his work rhythm, dedication and commitment has remained the same. That was a live example of success of someone who only relied on his talent and hard work to rise in our industry.

How did you make a match and how did you end up being mentored by him? 
I was hired by my internship mentor and acquired many skills while working under his supervision.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
I look for signs of passion in the talent that I like to groom and develop. I believe people give their best when they are in their best condition, either physically, financially or intellectually. I try to make sure they are always making the kind of work they love to do, besides developing their skills and advancing their career.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why? 
I am vocal about diversity because this is the only way we can draw a complete picture. I have always been in diverse environments, whether in school or at work and I believe being in such environments opens up your mind to new horizons.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
To be a great leader in the construction industry one needs to be a great team player because the most important assets of our job are communication and interdisciplinary.

Advice for others?
Before you listen to anyone, be sure to listen to yourself first. You will find many  people around you trying to shape you into their image of you – for good reasons. Your intuition knows what is best for you, your heart, mind, body soul.


If you’d like to get in touch with Heba Elkalyoubi, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/hebakalyoubi/

This article was co-written with Mariem Khemir.
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariem-khemir-36b52a85/

Mariem Khemir is a woman advocate, with an excellent educational background in Technology. She has working experience in Munich, Tokyo, Bangkok, and Tunis in various sectors including engineering, consulting, and tech start-ups.
Always eager to explore and push boundaries in tech, she has worked in different areas of technology, including the web, energy supply systems and electric drives.