2018 Best EMBAs: Omar Rhiman, London Business School

Omar Rhiman

London Business School

Engineer, linguist and business leader fueled by life-long learning.”  

Age: 45

Hometown: I’m not sure anymore- A French-American expat living in Dubai, this “rolling stone” has also called New York City, Atlanta, Houston, Baton Rouge, London, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf and Paris home at some phase in life.

Family Members: Most of my family is in Europe, Caribbean, US or Nigeria. Currently, I live with my cat – Mangool.

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a polyglot, but a horrible speller – simultaneously rendering me fluent and illiterate in 7 languages.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BS in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech

Where are you currently working? Middle East Regional Director at Honeywell – UOP

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: As a current student at London Business School (LBS), I have tried to find both formal and informal platforms to support peers and be an advocate for the school and will continue to do so as an alumni. Formally, I am part of the LBS “Peer-to-Peer Programme 2017” as a Senior Mentor and the LBS Dubai Student Association as Corporate Sponsorship Officer. Informally, I have reached out to students in incoming batches to provide individual tutoring on core courses, and participated in events to educate the local community about LBS’s degree programmes, admissions criteria, and executive education.

For community work I am passionate about two groups which I founded: Jordanian Orphan Relief Agency (JORA), which was originally started to provide aid to orphans in Amman, but evolved in a way I never anticipated. JORA has provided relief to children of leprous parents in Nicaragua, to those devastated by earthquakes in Iran and Turkey, to children of abused single mothers in Algeria and to orphaned children of French law enforcement (Oeuvre des Orphelins de la Prefecture de Police & Oeuvre des Pupilles Orphelins et Fonds D’Entraide des Sapeurs Pompier de France (ODP)).

Ramadan Toute L’Année (RTA) – informal and still a work in progress- but also spiraling into something beyond my expectations. Originally, RTA started informally as a Dubai-based francophone network for the reliable distribution of food to those in need during the entire month of Ramadan.  It involved a mini ‘hub and spoke’ model where we paired up with a local restaurant, volunteers with SUV or flatbed trucks, and nearby mosques which served as the site for food distribution. As the local restaurants were guaranteed a steady stream of revenue, we could negotiate discounts in form of additional meals to feed more people. Volunteers paired up, and got to expand their social networks at a time that was convenient for them. The entire process took 25-30 minutes and could feed up to 300 people per run. In the end, it grew beyond the French-speaking community, beyond Dubai and beyond just the month of Ramadan.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? RTA definitely surprised me the most and I am proud to have seeded the idea, but the credit goes to those in the Dubai community who continue to make it a success. My original concept was that having the donors play an active role in charity would ignite a passion for giving which would promulgate in the community. This passion for giving back was almost infectious and spread beyond informal messaging within the francophone community to English, Arabic and Urdu speakers alike. It also become year-round – not just during Ramadan (although that is when we have the heaviest in participation). I was delighted to learn by mere chance, that the most active members carried the practice with them to different parts of the UAE.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Throughout my career, many members of my team have been recognized by their employers for their achievements. I am more proud of this than any of my own professional achievements, as I view it as a sign of being a successful leader: to have the ability to either help people develop themselves to reach their potential, or be smart enough to stand aside and let them shine on their own.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? London Business School is an incredible incubator for thought leadership. To fully avail of such a privilege, one must immerse oneself in the LBS world, lean forward with curiosity and be attuned to the continuous bombardment of ideas from both direct and indirect sources. Therefore, talk of a ‘favorite professor’ is somewhat specious because one often hears the echoes of genius with hopes of encountering academic staff whom one has never met. For example, Professor Julian Birkinshaw is a leading thinker on innovation and entrepreneurship – topics with such relevant importance that they are central to all leading, and nascent, economies around the world. Adjunct Professor Linda Yueh is another example of a powerful leading figure of whom one becomes aware during the course of one’s time on campus. Her latest book, The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today – is an object lesson which pedestals economics as a cynosure to contemporary society and politics, and at the same time a tour de force of some of the greatest minds of the past 200 years.

If I had to make a choice among those in whose lecture halls I sat, I’d have to put two names in the hat and draw one: Professor Andrew Scott (Understanding International Macroeconomy) and Dr. Ben Hardy (Developing Effective Managers and Organisations). Their enthusiasm and fervor for their respective subject matters and sense of wit kept even the most starry-eyed daydreamer engaged for the entire lecture. They have both mastered the management of constructive engagement in our class and were humble enough in their demeanor to create the perfect learning atmosphere. Needless to say, I learned a ton and found a practical appreciation for both subjects, which is something I lacked prior to either of the courses.

Overall, the faculty at London Business School represent the world’s leading minds in business and are renowned educators – there’s a very wide range of muses to choose from which resists the notion that there might be only one person or one experience that embodies the London Business School experience.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Again, there were many but if I had to pick one, my favorite course to date, was “The Future of Work” by Professor Lynda Gratton. The foundation of the course was the award-winning book: The 100-Year Life written by Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton. I am not terribly fond of clichés, but it was a transformative course. I think much of the success of The 100-Year Life was its timely arrival – beyond the fact that it was brilliantly written by two experts in the polarized disciplines of psychology and economics.

The biggest business insight I gained was how to think abstractly about the challenges of the future and my role within that context. As engineers, we often look towards historical data or trends to develop a future plan based on extrapolation. But what if the future is not contingent on the past? This is increasingly becoming the case in life and in business as new technologies evolve rapidly, disruption becomes the norm, and the fabric of our society changes. This line of thinking has forced me to look for clues to these answers in unlikely places, to consider the criticality of collaborative networks and the importance of intangible assets over those of the tangible. I could go on, but I don’t want to spoil the book (or elective) for anyone. However I promise anyone who takes the course will find it thought provoking and of personal relevance.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program?I researched dozens of EMBA/MBA programs. LBS stood out from the rest because it is a truly international program comprised of high-caliber global citizens; the lecturers are unparalleled; and the alumni network is the envy of the industry. I was fortunate enough to have had access to LBS alumni whose encouragement was instrumental in my decision. In addition, alumni from other MBA programs provided candid feedback which steered me towards LBS. The personal experiences of alumni weighed heavily with me and is one of the reasons why I never miss an opportunity to reach out to potential candidates as an ambassador for the programme.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The professors: their lectures are second to none.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In this particular incident, two core courses were coming to an end and one was starting. Though rigorous, this was expected and I had already developed a well-laid out approach on studying for exams, writing papers, and preparing for the new subject. Unbeknownst to me, a work-related emergency was brewing in Japan, and independently, my superiors had plans of their own for mandatory management meeting in Switzerland. I physically was expected to be in 3 places at once. I vividly remember feeling the panic mounting within like a kettle about to over boil.

I quickly reassessed my priorities, weighed the options, and tried a bit of negotiation with my superiors. The issue in Japan was critical and if attention was delayed, I saw it impacting not just these courses but future ones as well – it had to be addressed first. I booked a direct flight to Japan from Dubai and used the 12 hours to do the background research, preparatory work and paper outline. Once in Japan, I focused on the job at hand – but the clock was ticking on the MBA assignment. As deadlines for submitting the assignments drew nearer, I routed the return from Narita through Bangkok – allowing me 6 hours to write and submit just in time. One down one more to go! Although most flights have temperamental “wifi on-board” now, I wasn’t willing to risk it. I quickly changed gears and prepped for the in-class exam on the 12 hour flight to Zurich.

Although the mandatory meeting was for three days, I negotiated just being present for the first day and delivering my contribution that afternoon. Having already established regular dialogue with my superiors on my MBA journey, they were accommodating of my request. The return flight was direct to Dubai – another precious six hours of uninterrupted prepping for the new course. Upon landing, I went immediately to the LBS study hall with luggage in tow for an all-nighter and straight into the exam. After the exam – no relief in sight – we started our new course an hour later. After that last session, I reached home at 8:00pm and collapsed from exhaustion for 11 hours straight.

Though not what I had originally planned – and by no means a recommended strategy for handling coursework – a bit of prioritization, adaptability and resilience went a long way.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t have any regrets in business school, except perhaps not deciding to be a full-time MBA student so I could have immersed myself into the experience further.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is another name-in-the-hat question. I most admire Hind bin Khirbash and Maha Al-Mansouri. Both Emiratis juggle their roles as mothers, wives, leaders, classmates and still make time to give back to the community and LBS. Hind was the presenter and part of the LBS team that won the 2018 World Government Summit’s Global University Challenge. Fiercely intelligent, she gravitates towards heavy course loads despite her existing commitments and still remains one of the most poised individuals you will ever meet.  Maha was our class Career Representative and an officer in the Student Association. Everything Maha does is driven by her values and ardor. For the benefit of self-growth, she fearlessly plunges headfirst into the most rigorous electives, and rises to the top each time.

It is with complete and genuine sincerity when I say that I am humbled in their presence and my experience at LBS is that much richer for having known them both.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I started getting too comfortable in my role.”  

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…struggling to climb a very narrow corporate ladder to an unknown destination-because that’s what everyone else was doing.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To realize and put into practice that my true profession is working towards bettering my own person – being my best self so that no matter the task-it is done to my optimum potential.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As an inspirational leader who was fair, effective and above all-humane.

Favorite book:  Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig – I could go on, there are too many to just pick one.

Favorite movie or television show: Cinema Paradiso directed by Giuseppe Tornatore although I was quite moved by a 2013 documentary: Sepideh: Reaching for the Stars directed by: Berit Madsen

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Embark on an entrepreneurial journey that exercises the skills and network that LBS has bestowed upon me.
  2. Learn to play the cello. It is widely believed that linguists are musically inclined – definitely not true in my case.

What made Omar such an invaluable member of the Class os 2018?

“Omar Rhiman has over 20 years of experience in oil and gas and is currently the Director at Honeywell UOP Middle East having worked in several locations around the world with Honeywell including France and United States. He is also an active ambassador of the EMBA Dubai programme and speaks 5 languages and is a current member of the Student Association.”

Arnold Longboy
Executive Director, Leadership Programmes

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBA GRADS OF 2018