“I went from telecoms to Pilates”
Asma Hilal Lootah left her career in telecommunications engineering to pursue her passion for Pilates by opening her own wellness centre in Dubai
“When I look back on everything that’s happened over the past few years, I think I must have been crazy to risk my steady job for a passion project, but I’m so glad I did.
“I’d been working in telecommunications for five years in the engineering department. It was dull but it was stable so I countered it by being very active in my spare time. I’d always been interested in sports and exercise and had tried everything from scuba diving to climbing – I even scaled Mount Fuji. Over the years, I also became a devoted Pilates fan and the more I felt like I was stuck in a rut at work, the more my enthusiasm for it grew. I just felt so happy while doing it and discovering it was a major turning point in my life.
“In 2004 I was at the peak of what I like to call my ‘self-discovery phase’ and knew I needed to leave my boring job. I didn’t want to just resign and do nothing, however, as my family would be disappointed, so at first I decided to switch to the marketing department to build a bit more creativity into my role. Over the next 12 months, I had time to really think about what I wanted to achieve. I knew I wanted to start my own venture and give something back to the community – I just didn’t know exactly how I was going to go about this. Then, my favourite Pilates studio closed down, which sparked the idea in my mind to open my own venue.
“Once I’d settled on the idea, I resigned immediately. I started searching for premises and found a 1,680 sq ft studio in Dubai Healthcare City to operate from. Setting up the business was a steep learning curve and, although my father is wealthy, I had no handouts, which people often assume was the case, being Emirati. I’m divorced and decided to sell my wedding jewellery to raise some capital and I also relied heavily on personal recommendations and word of mouth when it came to seeking advice on everything from finances to getting the proper paperwork in place.
“As the business grew, I took over a 10,000 sq ft family villa in Jumeirah, although, as it was old and worn, I made the dramatic decision to demolish and rebuild it so it would perfectly fit the business’s needs. We opened in 2014 and rebranded as The Hundred Wellness Center, named after a particularly challenging yet rewarding Pilates move.
“As well as having a Pilates studio, the centre has a cold-pressed juice bar, homeopathic clinic and weight-loss centre, physiotherapy and scoliosis classes, speciality coffee bar and a functional training room where we offer high-intensity interval training classes.
“I feel so much more fulfilled, even though I have to make scary business decisions every day. There are a lot of people who feel lost when it comes to their career and while it’s harder to go it alone, it’s ultimately very rewarding. I’ve learnt so much from my experience and the business has now won numerous awards, although the biggest reward of all is seeing my proud father come in for his twice-weekly Pilates sessions and homeopathy consultation.”
Visit www.thehundred.ae to find out more.
“Forget the fear”
Life coach Sophia Fromell of Ithaca Life shares her top tips on making a successful career switch
What factors typically drive us to switching up careers?
“As we grow older and become more mature, we can realise that what we do is not fulfilling enough and we start looking for a change. Burnout is a very common reason for career change, as well as a shift in personal circumstances such as getting married or starting a family, which can bring different dynamics into your life and change your priorities. Many people follow a career path either out of economic necessity or to please a family member, but eventually discover it’s not fulfilling any longer.”
How can we overcome the fear of leaving an established career to venture into something completely different?
“Psychological research has proven that when we are in a negative state of mind, such as being unhappy in our current career, we are highly likely to tolerate a great deal of discomfort before we acknowledge the need for change. To overcome this fear, you need to be very clear on what you want to do, why you need the change and what the benefits would be for you by making the move. Once you know this and are determined to go after it, then fear will only slow you down temporarily. It’s the determination and the faith that you are doing the right thing that will keep you focused.”
When does a passion have the potential to develop into a fully fledged career?
“Think back to your childhood and identify what it is that you used to love when you were young as most passions arise in our childhood but are put aside later in life when routine and financial pressure arise. Ask yourself how you would like to spend your days if money and time were not an issue. Consider what your career expectations are, how much you want to earn and where you see yourself in five and 10 years from now. You can achieve everything you want with the right combination of commitment and determination, but if you are not fully committed you are likely to give up early on when the first challenges arise.”
What questions should we ask ourselves before deciding to make the jump?
“Pinpoint why you are making the change. It needs to be for all the right reasons and not due to any pressure by family, friends or your social environment. Finding exactly what to do is the issue most people struggle with, as many of us don’t really know! To work through this, you need to take a step back and look at your life from a different perspective and identify what’s holding you back. A career coach can help with this.”
How can we prepare, both practically and emotionally, to make the swap?
“It is all about knowing yourself and planning accordingly. If you understand how you’re likely to react in different circumstances, you can plan and prepare for a number of different challenges that may arise. Ultimately, what makes the difference between success and failure is how we deal with challenges. Instead of letting them define you, learn from your mistakes and move swiftly on.”
Visit www.ithca-life.com to find out more.