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Q&A with Zeib Khwaja

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Zeib Khwaja, Vice President @ JPMorgan Chase & Co.

How would you describe your career path?

Diverse! I’ve worked for the largest bank in the world, the largest bank in MENA and also in a start-up! Some career choices were planned to the dot while some were totally random. Working in different continents developed my mindset and gave me exposure. The role of mentors and sponsors cannot be spoken about enough! What charges me up is that there’s much more to do, learn and achieve.

What was your most challenging experience and how has it changed your mindset?

Three stand out to me!

I was leading a team where the majority of the members were much more experienced than me. I had to overcome my limiting belief that I need to be older or more experienced than the people I manage. My manager at the time coached me on how my calibre and skills were more important than just a numeric element. It taught me a great deal about managing people, expectations, motivations, personalities and conflicts.

I moved to the UK for the first time (where I barely knew anyone) in the middle of the pandemic. It taught me how to settle in an unfamiliar environment, to become resilient and increased my confidence of navigating the unknown.

Working for a start-up in my early career days helped me understand how to be resourceful, to work without standard processes and tools and to figure out the journey on the go. It gave me a big picture of the end-to-end operations of the company, provided me a seat at the operating committee, taught me how to get my hands dirty and to build relationships to influence change.

When you face unusual or uncertain circumstances, what is your approach

My first thought is ‘I’ll get past this’. By nature, I am a very hopeful individual. Sometimes I’m even hoping against hope (It works!). This mindset helps me stay calm while I work out solutions. I believe that unusual or uncertain circumstances usually have a short validity – when you spend more time in that zone, they stop appearing unusual or uncertain to you. I rely heavily on my network, my mentors and professional relationships to collect data, seek help and clarify doubts. Nobody can know everything about everything, there will always be uncertainty. My COO once gave me feedback on being comfortable in the grey! I think it's important for everyone to understand what works for them and apply those techniques. I’m quite a visual person so I tend

to literally draw out my uncertain situations and outcomes on paper and analyse where I need to focus, how much I know or don’t know and which options seem better.

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader/ manager

Be yourself through your unique skills, capabilities, dreams; and even your accent, skin tone and hair colour. Ask without guilt, fear of shame for what you deserve and what you want. Most aspirations don’t come through not because you didn’t deserve it but because you didn’t ask. Sometimes we think and rightly expect that we will get that promotion, that job or role because we’re working hard and everyone ‘knows’ it. Remember that everyone is on their own journey and sometimes you need to stop them and tell them you’re here and you’re ready.

Get yourself mentors and role models who can give you feedback and help you learn from your mistakes. Find people who genuinely want to see you grow and care about you.

It’s important to keep upgrading yourself through constant learning. It's never enough and never a wrong time.

Most importantly – Realise the power you have to lift other people around you as you grow in your careers! Give back!

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