Cara Nazari is the Managing Director of AmCham Dubai. She is a versatile leader with exceptional commitment to goal attainment. She has been continuing her journey in Dubai since 1992, and we were impressed to learn about her journey all through the years.
AmCham is also known as the American Business Council in Dubai & the Northern Emirates and was previously called ABC Dubai. It’s the first bilateral trade organization that started in the UAE. The organization focuses on managing programs and events in partnership with private and public stakeholders in the US, UAE, and others internationally to strengthen the bond between UAE and US.
Explain the background of you and the company in detail.
AmCham Dubai has been a pivotal component of the US and UAE trading relationship since it was founded in 1985! Year after year, we remain poised to support our members as they seek to strengthen the already robust trade position. I landed in the UAE in 1992 and have spent the last 30 years here in my adopted home.
I really enjoy the chance to help build bridges between our nations and work with American and UAE organizations to help deliver on the vision of the leadership here in the UAE. In the early years of AmCham Dubai, we acted as community builders. As the American community here has grown, complimentary organizations like American Moms have taken elements of this role by supporting the community. In contrast, AmCham Dubai has extended its business focus to the GCC region as many of our members have large teams in place here in the UAE.
What are your goals?
The goal of the American Chamber is to stand ready to support our members in the ways they need. This requires us to be a focused, strategic group to accomplish the best outcomes. We pride ourselves on the strength of our organizational leadership and the fact that as we lean into the goals of the UAE Government, our business members are aligned in this regard. American business leads in innovation and sustainability, and we are committed to engaging fully in support of COP 27 & COP 28 taking place here in the UAE.
What do you feel is the biggest strength of yourself/company right now?
I believe our biggest strength is our dedication and engaged members, and strong board of directors. There are many business groups competing, but we are a well-established group that represents the concerted American business from Dubai. Having the UAE’s visionary leadership coupled with our members’ strength, we are well positioned to achieve undetermined limits.
What was the path you/your company took to get to where you are today?
Humble beginnings. This is where we started out. A group of gentlemen saw an opportunity to strengthen business with a unified voice. Staying true to our stakeholders, delivering on the commitments to our members, LISTENING to what they need, and being agile enough to pivot when we need to have proven for us to be a successful road.
Why did you start (or want to be the head of) this company?
Well, I loved the idea of building bridges. Sharing my love of the UAE with my fellow US citizens gave me a feeling that the world my children were growing up in would be better than when they arrived. Today, people around the globe are connected, and one of the key drivers of this is trade. I embrace the sense that we are part of something bigger, and at AmCham Dubai, we are a member of the global network of US Chambers of Commerce supporting businesses situated anywhere.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenges I have had to overcome have also been the things that have taught me the most. At this point in my life, there have been challenges of significance for sure. I read a quote once that said when you can’t control the situation, control how you respond to the situation. I guess the biggest challenge I have had to overcome is learning to lead through challenges with a mixture of strength and finesse.
Give us one word that describes you the best.
Resilient. There have been many challenges in my world. The death of a parent when I was a child led me to understand early on that people need resilience. I didn’t know then what it was called, but I certainly began to understand how I could use this to move forward and overcome challenges. I believe that AmCham Dubai is resilient as well. The world has seen many challenges recently, yet AmCham Dubai is thriving! I guess it is the resilience that drew me to AmCham Dubai as well.
What makes you excited about Mondays?
I love my job and all that it entails, so coming together with the team and planning the workflows and deliverables for our membership is one of my favorite elements of a Monday! I truly believe collaboration creates the best outcomes, and Mondays are collaboration time at AmCham Dubai.
What do you value most about your culture and vision?
The thing I value most is our total focus on our key stakeholder, the member! We will do whatever we need to support their success as a member-driven organization. It is easy to stay true to our vision and culture as an organization when we focus on the members.
Tell us about a project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
In a prior role, I was tasked with developing programs around the region for some of my fellow Americans who were deployed regionally. I had a small budget, so thinking outside the box to create a win/win situation and deliver on my programming commitment was essential. I create innovative solutions, and when it comes to programming delivery options. This is a skill I still contribute today to AmCham Dubai, and I believe it is a true strength for me today.
What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
Our strategy is simple, keep focused on our members and their needs. We take this very seriously. If we plan something and don’t have the engagement of our members, we simply don’t repeat it. Fortunately, we know our membership well, and we have a great deal of conversation about what kind of support they need, so we can deliver it!
What are the key values which helped you to overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career? Tell us something about your memorable incident in your leadership.
I have had roadblocks in my career, real or imagined. When I moved to the UAE as a college student, I had not completed my degree, but my husband needed us to come here to support his family through his father’s illness. I assumed I would be able to finish my degree at some point, but I had babies, got busy, and never seemed to find the time.
During a two-year hiatus from my role with AmCham, I made a point of going back to school and completing my degree! I did it for me. At my career level, I had likely surpassed some of the knowledge with practical experience, but I gained a sense of self-fulfillment that I didn’t quit. I am so proud of the fact that I did it. My son and I graduated the same summer, and I have always felt I am a stronger leader for having decided to finish what I started those years before. It was a roadblock (at least in my mind), and I was able to remove it.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
AmCham Dubai was recently appointed the Vice Chair of AmCham MENA, and in two years, we will assume the Chairmanship from our colleagues in AmCham Egypt. I believe we have a strong opportunity to help move the needle on many regional issues our collective membership faces. This is an opportunity for our organization to grow even more.
Where is your leadership going? What benefits do your clients get from your company in this competitive world?
As an organization, we aim to deliver on several points: Firstly, we support peer-to-peer knowledge sharing enabling sharing of amazing ideas and best practices. Of course, we serve as a network-building platform as we link like-minded professionals and create unlimited opportunities. We act as the concerted voice of business to both the US government and the UAE, helping create the right environment for business to thrive.
What are your company’s services/solutions or products on par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services.
This year, AmCham Dubai is turning 37 years old! We have had all these years to develop and refine our role in the bilateral trade relationship, and we are committed to our members and to delivering on their needs throughout the year. We know the UAE (and are continually learning about the region overall), and we are a resource that businesses can maximize for their benefit and elevate the overall community for good.
Connect with Cara Nazari on LinkedIn.