Meet the Boss: Mohamed Dabbour, head of Africa, Millicom

Mohamed Dabbour

1. What part of your job keeps you awake at night?

There are two parts of my job that keep me awake at night.

The first is staying ahead of the curve. In the telecommunications and technology industries, staying relevant is a necessity. Our markets are very competitive and at Millicom we are always striving to lead in innovation, services and technology. Every decision that we make is centred on building sustainable businesses which remain relevant for our customers, employees and shareholders.

The second is we work in complex regulatory and political situations, and navigating these can often be a worry. I regularly think about the well-being of my staff and ensuring the protection of our assets.

2. Name three traits required to survive in this role.

The first essential trait is passion. I am a firm believer that no one can succeed in this role without passion. It is more than just a job; you have to love what you do, love the markets in which you operate and value the people with whom you work.

The second trait is determination. You face obstacles on a daily basis and you need to be ready and willing to find ambitious solutions to these challenges.

And last, but not least, being realistic and resourceful is fundamental to succeeding in this role. You need to be able to understand, quickly and efficiently, what is at stake and what must be done to solve the problem and move forward.

3. What is the biggest misconception about your job?

A lot of people assume that CEOs have all the answers and that they have already learned everything that there is to learn about their job and their industry. This is a huge misconception. We don’t always have the answer at our fingertips. Nonetheless, our job is to be able to find the answer. Sometimes we face obstacles we have never approached before, but a good CEO will always have the motivation and enthusiasm to tackle them and lead the team to the right solution.

4. Who has had the greatest impact on your career? And why?

The person who has had the greatest, lasting impact on my career is my late father. Very early, he taught me that nothing in life comes without hard work and perseverance. This has been an invaluable lesson throughout my career.

I have also been fortunate throughout my career to have met many inspiring people who believed in me and guided me in the right direction.

Of course, I would never have been able to go that far in my career with the strong support of my wife. She has always been very supportive of my career decisions and motivated me to go further.

5. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I was once told: “Regrets are useless. If you make a mistake, find a way to make it right and move on.” This advice has helped me through many challenging moments throughout my career. You cannot go through your professional life without making the occasional mistake. The key is making these mistakes an opportunity to learn, grow and improve. Mistakes are lessons waiting to be learned.

6. The top reason for your professional success?

There has definitely been a lot of dedication, hard work and commitment involved. However, this alone is never enough to be successful.

Individual professional success is only possible with a supportive and hard-working team around you. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by the most brilliant and motivated of colleagues and they have been instrumental in not only my success but Millicom’s more broadly.

7. How do you relax?

I enjoy spending quality time with my family. My job involves a lot of travelling around the world so I really value the time I have with my two daughters and my son. We enjoy visiting museums, historical sites or time spent away from the buzz of London.

8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?

My work day usually begins before I even arrive at my desk. I normally begin my day by reviewing my emails before I leave for the office. This means I can arrive prepared and aware of the day I have ahead of me. I usually travel a lot for work, but whenever I am in London I enjoy taking my children to their school in the morning and normally arrive at the office around 9am.

9. Your favourite job interview question?

My favourite question to ask during job interviews is: “What is your definition of success?” The reason I like this question is because everyone has a different and unique interpretation of what success means to them. You can learn a lot about a candidate’s values and perspectives through how they define success.

10. The biggest perk of your job?

I realised very early how Millicom’s work is improving people’s lives and playing a fundamental role in supporting the social and economic development of our markets. I am very fortunate that Millicom’s purpose and values are aligned to my own. I therefore feel tremendous pride in being part of a company that drives such impactful social change and this is one of the biggest perks of my job.

I am also aware of how much work is left to be done in this respect but this is also a perk as it gives me the motivation to work even harder every day.

Mohamed Dabbour is the executive vice president and head of Africa for Millicom, an international telecommunications and media company.