Mona is a Senior IP manager in our Dubai office, with more than 20 years’ experience in Trade Mark prosecution and management in the Middle East and North Africa.
Not so long ago bodybuilding and strength training were pretty much a male preserve: you would rarely see a woman in the weights area of a gym. That has changed dramatically - even if some still find the change a bit difficult to accept. Mona had been a regular at the gym for several years when she began to introduce weights into her routine. That was in 2012 - and at that point she was motivated essentially by aesthetic considerations: despite all the hard work she was doing in the gym, her body wasn’t changing at all. Now, after years of regular practice and several competition successes, her time at the gym lifting weights is no longer motived by aesthetic considerations, or merely a physical pursuit: it has become a very important part of her life.
When she began in 2012, she had no idea that it would be so rewarding or so life changing. It was just something she wanted to do, to see how far she could push her body. Typically, she set out to do it with dedication and enthusiasm, and three years later, she entered her first international bodybuilding competition, which that year was held in the UK. Despite her relative inexperience, she came third in her category. The competition had pushed her out of her comfort zone in every way and she was inspired to go further. She told her trainer she wanted to do more and with his help she continued her training programme with increased concentration, intensity and focus.
In bodybuilding competitions there are four levels. By 2016, Mona had jumped three and was ready to compete at the top level in the Arnold Classic, an annual event that had been established by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1989 and was now one of the most important international bodybuilding competitions. She competed at the 2016 Arnold Classic Africa and was placed fifth in the top level - no small achievement for someone who was still a relative newcomer to the game, a mother of two, and working full-time in a position that demanded full concentration and commitment. Her schedule was tough: she would be in the gym by 5.00 in the morning, and the office by 8.00, but in both places she was doing well. After the Arnold Classic Africa competition, however, she sat down to think about the future and, in particular, whether she wanted to continue competing. There were many factors to consider, but two of the most important were health and cost. She concluded that the health benefits would be the same whether she competed or not, but the cost of competing, which included the cost of supplements, coaching, competition fees, and travel, was considerable – and all for just five minutes on stage. She decided to have a complete break and for three months stopped training altogether.
By early 2017, she had decided not to continue competing, at least for the moment, but she was back in the gym training with the same intensity and focus as when she had been competing. At this point, she had been working with a coach for seven years and felt she had learned everything she needed to know to be able to train on her own. While most people depend on external factors for motivation and discipline, Mona has the capacity and the strength to be entirely self-reliant. It is impressive - and certainly something that developed as a result of her passion for bodybuilding. The benefits of strength training have extended way beyond the physical: she describes it as a form of meditation, a way of keeping her mind at peace, achieving a kind of equanimity, and feeling strong and healthy, inside and out, all year round. All these factors motivate her to continue – and they have a direct impact on all aspects of her life, both personal and professional. When people ask her how she finds the time, her answer is immediate: “You can find time for whatever you want to do – it’s a matter of priority”.
While Mona’s inner strength and self-reliance have no doubt been developed by her dedicated work in the gym, the seed was planted while she was still a child. When she was just eight years old, her father died at the age of 42, leaving her mother with six young children and limited resources. It was a difficult situation, but Mona’s mother managed brilliantly, ensuring that all the children had a solid and stable foundation and that they were all well educated. From the very beginning, Mona felt a sense of responsibility, wanting to help her mother as much as possible. She was, and still is, inspired by her mother’s strength and character, and full of admiration and gratitude for what she was doing, and what she still does, for the family. She means it when she says: “I owe everything to you Mama”.
Mona started working with Rouse as a receptionist in 2000 – it was her first job after graduation. At university she had studied Languages & Translation and had ambitions to be an interpreter, but she decided to accept Rouse’s offer. Six months later she was asked to assist with the establishment of the Trade Marks Group, and from there she has developed to her current position. She is often asked why she has stayed with the one firm for so long – it’s a question that surprises her because in all her time at Rouse she has been evolving, always doing something different. Her bodybuilding experience is the same: in both there is something new to learn or confront every day, and in both, there is the satisfaction of seeing maximum input being rewarded with continuous development and achievement. Apart from that, Rouse really feels like family – it has become her second home. She feels she has been given an unanticipated level of support and trust, and that she has always had a voice within the firm - even as a junior staff member. Many organisations like to say that ‘people matter’ – at Rouse they really do.