March Spotlight: Mina Wasfi -Talent Development Professional: Talabat UAE

  1. Why have you decided to be our monthly Spotlight?

My objective of this spotlight is to share how talent management, learning, and development is evolving in one of the leading tech companies in MENA, talabat.I have read many spotlights and noticed that many spotlighters have covered the fundamentals in a thorough and an insightful way (and I want to thank them for doing so!). So, if you started reading this spotlight with  expectations to see words like, “competencies”, “needs analysis assessment”, “profiling”, “data”, “active learning”, “C-level”, “talent pool” etc, then I am happy to let you know that you are about to see things from a different perspective. 

2. What is the journey leading up to where you are today?

I’ve been in Dubai for the past two years, having lived the previous 31 years in my hometown, Cairo, Egypt.  Does this give you an impression that I haven’t really seen the world? Well, I actually have!

I started off gaining 4 years experience as a Sales & Business Development professional; participating inthe successful launch of 3 different e-commerce start-ups in Egypt. Later on and at the age of 27, after a successful year as the Sales & Marketing Section Head in a human development company, I decided to follow  my passion of giving back to the people in need. So, I switched my career to join an American NGO operating    in the Middle East, when ISIS was in the might of its power. My main role was building partnerships with other regional and global NGOs, and helping the unfortunate people in areas affected by the war, win their lives back. I spent a little over two years supporting the displaced families in Upper Egypt, Sinai, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Nigeria. 

Then, when the war was almost over, I decided to switch my career again to follow my new passion: Learning & Development. I had a vision -that still drives me until now- of transforming professionals and supporting         them to reach their full potential. I joined talabat in November 2017 as a Trainer, and am currently the Regional Talent Development Manager. For the past 3 years, I’ve had the opportunity to research, design,   develop, and evaluate the impact of leadership development and different soft and technical skills training modules. I’ve had the pleasure of doing so, in addition to delivering more than 700 hours of training, in 8  different countries in MENA; including UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, KSA, Bahrain, Jordan, and Egypt.

I did not allow my professional adventures to keep me from exploring other aspects of life. So, throughout this journey, I’ve become a Certified Training Director from Langevin/Toronto, an MBA graduate from   Victoria University/Switzerland, a Certified NLP Master Practitioner from Achology/Scotland, a Certified Performance & Development Coach from ICF, among other studies. 

Meanwhile, driven by a passion to explore the world, I’ve spent a full week living in a hut with The Ewe tribe in  Ghana; learning how to play their famous drum music in exchange for teaching them how to use an electric     oven to bake bread. I’ve beaten Kilimanjaro in 7 days, and flown to Nepal to support the people rebuild their home after the earthquake in 2015. I’ve also met my beautiful girlfriend, Marta, and I hardly need to mention that -along the way- I’ve met some incredibly inspiring people!

3. What are the main challenges facing Learning & Development in the coming 5 years?

I remember an interview with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, when he said, “2,000 years ago, the world   was full of challenges and opportunities. Now, the world is full of challenges and opportunities. 2,000 years .  In the future, the world will still be full of challenges and opportunities. Overcoming a challenge lies mainly in our ability to see the opportunities.” 

Allow me to apply Jack Ma’s learning and approach the answer to the question by sharing what I believe are  the main opportunities in the coming 5 years.

  1. Doing more with less: 

If you perceive the new-normal and the remote working evolution as a challenge, you will probably start worrying about “remote learning limitations” or “dynamic and demanding professional environment”, or “the    learners are not willing to give us the time to hold 2-full-day virtual training programs”. However, I believe the real question is: “How can we use all the spare time that technology is allowing us to have?”. 

Technology is awesome, and it empowers us to work in smarter and more efficient ways! Realizing the change happening in the professional world, and adapting our L&D practices to cope with it, is the opportunity we need to capture. If we succeed in doing so, we will start adapting more agile ways of working; which, consequently, enables us to widen the scope and impact of our internal teams. 

At talabat, we have capitalized on the opportunity of remote working to revolutionize the way we approach our learning tools. We are big believers in Bloom’s Taxonomy; which states that learning is composed of 6 main phases. So, instead of holding full-day training programs and trying to walk our learners through all of them, we depend on e-learning technologies and self-learning tools to support employees to complete the first 4 learning phases. Thus, we can use the time we have with them to focus on the last two -and most effective- phases only.

Given that we still enjoy the same amount of financial and human resources, we are now able to provide more to our stakeholders with on-the-job training programs,  coaching & mentoring, and provide a tailored learning kit for every possible soft and technical skill.

b.  Innovation: 

Building on the previous, it’s astonishing how we can always come up with new ideas to engage the learners, without the need for more time or resources. I have met many L&D professionals who would still “go-by-the-book”, struggling to abide by the classic frameworks and business-as-usual norms. Since the world is changing its business practices, we are being elevated to widen our perspectives, and challenge the status quo. For example, instead of passive virtual learning sessions (for which one hour of virtual learning requires 45 hours of preparation – as per the study conducted by ATD in January, 2021), we’ve decided to reduce this time to only 3 hours. How? By replacing the ‘one hour virtual session’ with a live discussion on a topic with an SME (being a top-management member, an individual contributor, or an external guest). This new concept helped decrease the time needed for planning, designing, and developing the required learning material to the minimum (contact me if you want to know more on how we do it; it’s been going very well with us since May 2020!)

We are still working on figuring out how to drive and maintain our culture and engagement levels for 9 different offices, given the remote-working situation, and we’re determined to find not only one solution for it, but many!

  1. Maximizing the impact: 

I find it safe to assume that you’ve come to realize the same fact that I have; formal learning activities help you to only achieve 10% of the required growth impact (based on the 70/20/10 model for development). With the rising technology literacy, addressing the 20 and  the 70 is now more feasible than ever before! As mentioned previously, taking advantage of the new strategies and tools empowered us to avail more time to design and manage coaching, mentoring, and on the job training. Our people can now easily communicate with other sister companies across the globe to share best practices, participate in cross-functional projects, and partner-up with SMEs outside of the organization.

  1. New Normal: 

With many Middle Eastern countries like UAE, KSA and Kuwait adjusting their domestic laws to encourage more professionals from around the globe to relocate to the Middle East, and with the world transitioning towards permanent virtual practices, exchanging knowledge and experiences has never been more convenient. We are now more familiar with tools that get us all together to share knowledge and experiences; allowing more platforms for professionals to address and provide solutions for topics like equality, diversity, and inclusion.

4. What would you recommend Talent, Learning, and Development professionals START, STOP, and CONTINUE doing?

  1. Start getting creative:

Being creative with colors and shapes is important. However, I mean to address the wider definition of creativity. I believe L&D professionals need to start being bold and address the roots of the issues, even if (better say especially if!) the business doesn’t really “like” it. Defining the real problem needs data, and solving it needs determination and hard work. I highly encourage all my fellow L&D professionals to approach their strategies and practices in this manner. In other words, standing on scientific frameworks is a base, and adjusting the tactics will get you to the top of the pyramid.

  1. Stop taking ownership of people’s growth: 

I believe we’ve moved on from the age of “mandatory training”! I see clearly that our role is more of empowering the people to work on their growth; by providing them with a diversity of development tools and growth opportunities, rather than pushing them to change the way they do things. It is more obvious now than ever that not growing = falling behind. Our stakeholders are already aware of this fact. I believe our main role in the present and near future is mainly to set people up for learning, and empower them to lead their own growth. Whether they commit to learning journeys or not should be up to them.

3. Stay objective:

A rule of thumb: feedback is key to growth, and the same rule applies to our teams’ growth. We need to keep listening intently to the stakeholders needs, understand the business acumen, and manage our processes in an agile and adaptive manner. This way, we ensure the best experience for our business partners, learners, and internal operations. 

At talabat, we’ve learned to “shorten the feedback loop”; asking for feedback on each phase before moving on to the next. This way, we avoid spending too much time revamping after receiving the pilot or soft launch’s feedback.On the other hand, and on the talent management side, valuing superficial knowledge -as William Poundstone chooses to call it in his book ‘Head in the Cloud’- is becoming a game changer for career growth in different fields. Being certified and finishing post graduate studies is no match for real experience and innovative, profitable, pragmatic solutions. In other words, being ‘educated’ does not necessarily mean ‘experienced’.

5. What message would you want to share with our L&D community?

Well, thank you for staying till now! 

 I landed my spotlight on ‘feedback’. Nothing I will appreciate more than you coming to me with feedback! I am grateful to be part of a rich community, and looking forward to inspiring and getting inspired! 

Mina Wasfi

Talent Development Professional


Whatsapp: +971 553 387 065

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