Profession: Leadership keynote speaker & executive coach, Dima Ghawi LLC
Hometown: Born in Turkey, raised in Jordan, and a proud Louisianan for the past 6 years
Years with company: 4
The person Dima Ghawi was raised to be in Jordan is very different from the woman she is today.
Raised to be subservient, Ghawi was inspired to take control of her life after moving to the United States with her husband, with whom her marriage was arranged by their families. She left him in 2000—a controversial decision within her family that led to a bounty being placed on her head—and began carving her own path in life.
“I was raised was to be silent, to have no identity, to continue to follow, to obey, and throughout my journey, I discovered my voice,” Ghawi says. “I discovered who I’m supposed to be, and not to follow the old stories and the programming that was imposed on me and instead make my own decisions and kind of life that I want.”
She first shared her story with the world during a 2014 TEDx event hosted at LSU. The reaction from men and women around the world was so powerful that she resigned from her high-profile position as an IBM talent development manager, dedicating herself to sharing the story and empowering others through her journey.
“Something in my heart kept telling me I should quit and do this full-time, but I was terrified,” Ghawi says. “It took a year and a half from the TEDx talk to get the courage to resign. My last day at IBM was July 17 and my 40th birthday was July 18. It was my gift from myself to quit my job and the entire corporate world in order to start my company.”
It took a year for Ghawi to build her brand and lay out the foundation for her new business venture, working as a speaker and leadership coach. She also offers workshops and is developing an online training curriculum. The ventures are intrinsically linked through Ghawi’s passion for empowering people and helping them develop professionally.
Now with the reins of fate in her own hands, the stark reality that she would no longer receive a regular salary each month drove Ghawi to work harder than ever before to understand the value of what she’s offering and evolve to meet the needs of her clients—as well as diversify herself from other keynote speakers and leadership coaches.
Even with her growing repertoire of keynote speeches, her initial TEDxLSU talk, which has since evolved, is among her most requested to deliver. She’s also released a memoir, “Breaking Vases,” based off the speech and her childhood, which was published last year.
The Baton Rouge woman has no intention on slowing down, however. An audiobook version of “Breaking Vases” is set to be released this spring and she’s working on having the award-winning memoir picked up as a movie. She also plans to write two more books—one on transforming into effective and authentic leaders and another about the journey of healing.
“People need this message around the world,” Ghawi says. “Every time I deliver the talk, I still doubt if I should stand and talk about something so personal. But when I stand and look into their eyes—when I see people’s facial expressions of how much they are connecting with the message—that’s what gives me energy to keep doing more and more.”
2004: Graduates with a Master of Business Administration from the University of San Diego
2004: Begins working with IBM in global leadership roles, gaining international experience, executive mentorship, and leadership training that’s employed today in her training and coaching business
2008: Begins a yearlong international assignment in Tokyo, working on managing operations and enhancing communication between the Japanese and U.S. executive teams
2014: Presents at TEDxLSU, sharing for the first time her leadership transformation journey that became the foundation for her work
2015: Resigns from IBM, after 20 years in the corporate world, to jumpstart leadership speaking and executive coaching business
2018: Releases her memoir, “Breaking Vases,” about leadership transformation journey, receiving multiple awards, including the 2018 Writer’s Digest Grand Prize award for self-published books, a Nautilus Book Award and a National Indie Excellence Award
Relaxing when stressed
I love spending time with close friends and having profound, meaningful conversations while sipping on a good glass of wine. When the weather is nice, hiking around the LSU lakes and by the levee downtown. On the weekends, nothing relaxes me more than calling my mom in San Diego and talking on the phone with her for a long time.
Moving to the U.S. from the Middle East when I was 20 years old, and coming from a very traditional community, I initially faced major identity and culture shock, leaving me lost and lonely. I remember observing my new community of Americans, trying to understand the similarities and differences between my culture and this new one while also paying attention to how people spoke and interacted with others. The more I listened and learned, the more I grew comfortable. Finishing my education also helped me connect even more deeply with the American culture. I eventually fell in love with it! The freedom and ability to cultivate my identity gave me a sense of limitless possibilities.
Advice for young women
Face your fears and keep daring to take action. Remind yourself that you have the power to create your own destiny. Don’t listen to anyone that puts you down or undermines your dreams. Always look for champions to mentor you, ask for help, and also help others. Listen to your intuition, it is your guide for your life’s journey. Most importantly, celebrate each and every accomplishment, even the small, tiny ones!