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A SPOTLIGHT ON FEMALE LEADERS AT QM, PT. 1

17 May 2020

Every year since 1977, the International Council of Museums has organized “International Museums Day” to celebrate the museum industry across the globe through the lens of specific themes. This year’s theme is “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”. The theme aims to celebrate the diversity of perspectives that make up the communities and personnel of museums, while highlighting the potential of museums to create meaningful experiences for people of all origins and backgrounds.

Join us in the first part of our series celebrating the people working at Qatar Museums (QM). From the Chairperson, Her Excellency Shaikha Al Mayassa, to directors and staff in various departments across the museums, QM is run by an amazing array of strong, dedicated and talented women who have helped transform Qatar’s cultural sector.

Get to know some of the remarkable female leaders who are making an impact at QM:

(Note: The answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

 

AISHA AL KHATER | DEPUTY CEO OF MUSEUM AFFAIRS 

 

1.         What do you do at QM?

My journey at QM started back in the day when I was the director of the Museum of Islamic Art. Now, as the Deputy CEO of Museum Affairs, I am in charge of overseeing all the operational museums, the different exhibitions, our general collections and the QM schedule. Alongside that, I am in charge of our audience groups such Marketing, Communications, Events, Publications, and the Digital Experience team. I aim to facilitate and manage efficient collaboration between these two internal clusters.

 

2.       What challenges have you navigated in order to reach the position you are in today?

I was a teacher and I came from a music education background, and so my first challenge was understanding museums. I was really thrown in the deep end when I joined the Museum of Islamic Art, where I shadowed the director and had to deal with contracts and curators and eventually step up when the director resigned. I had to figure out a lot by myself, and it was a challenging time because we had one year to open the museum to the public. Despite the challenges, this really helped me grow, and I had a fantastic team by my side to help me. Essentially, being thrown in the deep end, having the independence to make decisions and having a great team — that is what made me get to where I am today.

 

3.         What inspires you?

I love seeing people coming in and appreciating what we do. When I was at MIA, on a daily basis I would take a walk through the galleries, and I just loved seeing people’s faces and reactions to the objects as they engaged with our exhibits. I loved seeing the school children in particular having a really nice time at the museums, learning during the workshops or having a story read to them. Growing up in Doha we never had that opportunity. We had the National Museum initially, but the scope of the programs was definitely not the same, so I’m excited to see the impact of this on our youth today. Shaikha Al Mayassa and her vision are also very inspiring to me.

 

4.         How do you balance your work and home responsibilities?

It’s challenging. I have a 12 year old, a 4 year old and a 2 year old and there are different challenges with each one as the younger ones need a lot of attention and care, and my eldest is nearing his teenage years. But I thoroughly enjoy my time with my family and my children — they are my priority. So I really try to disconnect from work when I come home and spend time with them and ensure that there’s a schedule. If I don't follow a schedule, it can become stressful juggling both things, so having a system really helps me. I try to incorporate exercise in my daily schedule too because it releases any stress.

 

5.         What advice would you give to your younger self?

To take my time and enjoy the work I’m doing and to not think of it as stressful. I feel like the past couple of years have really flown by and they were very enjoyable times but I wish I was more present in the moment. I would also tell my younger self that it’s okay to disconnect emotionally sometimes and think more objectively and holistically about projects. I’m very passionate about what I do but sometimes passion can get personal and I’ve learned that there should be a balance between passion and effectiveness.

 

6.         How are you making an impact at QM?

My number one goal has been to improve internal communication and bring great minds together. We have a lot of talent at QM, so I have been working on bringing people together in order to develop even more inspiring projects. This links into my second goal as we aim to produce better programs for our local and international audiences — I hope to also inspire the younger generation and emphasize that it’s not impossible to reach places. If you work hard and persevere, you can climb the ladder and create an impact on people’s lives. 

 

RANDA TAKIEDDINE | DIRECTOR OF PUBLISHING

 

Randa Takieddine, Director of Publishing

1.         What do you do at QM?

I lead the department responsible for all of QM’s publications including: exhibition catalogues, collection books, artist monographs, museum and exhibition guides and children’s books. As a centralised department, we work with all the museums under QM, an incredibly interesting yet challenging scope!

 

2.       What challenges have you navigated in order to reach the position you are in today?

I have 17 years of experience working in multi-disciplinary creative fields. I started from very junior positions and with a lot of perseverance, grit and a thirst for learning and self-development, I progressed through my career path. Each step had its own challenges, which involved overcoming assumed limitations, transforming the way I perceived my capabilities, and having an openness to new possibilities and responsibilities.

 

3.         What inspires you?

Creativity and art! I am amazed by the ability of the human brain to continuously innovate and create. I am inspired by the fact that art is a field constantly pushing the boundaries of expression. At the same time, I am fascinated by books, these timeless objects that preserve knowledge and transfer it beyond borders. And I am privileged to be working in this environment, where I can employ my passion for paper, binding, and book production techniques to produce valuable publications on great artists and unique collections. I am also inspired by the ambitious vision of QM’s leadership, which brings great cultural opportunities to Qatar and the region.

 

4.         How do you balance your work and home responsibilities?

I have a great collaborative team and a very supportive and understanding partner. It gets challenging at some points, especially with pressing deadlines and in the advanced stages of the production process, and I admit that I do lose the balance sometimes.

 

5.         What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say embrace change. Despite the difficulty of venturing into something new, change always opens new horizons and perspectives. Every challenge is a learning opportunity and a stepping-stone to overcome our fears and break our self-constructed barriers. Every hard experience adds up in shaping a better version of ourselves.

 

6.         How are you making an impact at QM?

Since I come from a design background, I bring to QM a certain standard of aesthetics and a deep appreciation and understanding of the visual component. I have a strong attention to detail and a desire for things to be as good as they can possibly be. I believe that there is always room for improvement, and I think this comes from the creative process, an endless search for innovation and enhancement. This drive to always improve and produce the best results, I hope allows QM’s publications to stand out on the global art stage, supporting QM’s mission and contributing to Qatar’s national vision in developing a knowledge-based economy.

 

DR. JULIA GONNELLA | DIRECTOR OF MIA

 

Dr. Julia Gonella, Director of the Museum of Islamic Art

1.         What do you do at QM?

My job is the complete running and programming of the Museum of Islamic Art. I look after the staff and oversee learning and outreach, along with the operational side of things. My day-to-day involves managing the museum. It’s my goal to make MIA a great museum by working on the programs and figuring out how we can engage with our audience and have many people come and visit.

 

2.         What challenges have you navigated in order to reach the position you are in today?

There are all sorts of challenges in the operation of a museum — you may not have enough money to pursue the exhibition you want, people may lack the enthusiasm you have, and projects may fall through. But I think museums are special places, and those involved do it because they really love their work. And when you love your work, it’s easier to face the challenges that come your way.

 

3.         What inspires you?

I am personally very motivated by other people and by art. I love art because it inspires me to experiment with different projects, and it offers such unique stories to tell. Working with other people and having discussions also inspires me. Within museum programs, I am inspired by how exhibitions can be utilized to respond to certain ideas and current situations, making an impact on the audiences. I also love to see people’s reactions to exhibitions about their own culture and to see the impact their culture has had.

 

4.         How do you balance your work and home responsibilities?

It can be very challenging sometimes, but I have an exceptional husband who helps shoulder the responsibilities with me and a great daughter by my side too. I try my best to find a balance between work and home, and I try to carve out some time for myself as well through sports or by meeting other people. 

 

5.         What advice would you give to your younger self?

Be more self-confident. Growing up in Germany, the education had been very male oriented which would often make me feel very insecure in what I was doing. I learnt that confidence grows well with age though, and that you can gain confidence by doing something you’re passionate about and something you excel at. It was a step by step journey in gaining confidence for me, but I would tell myself to trust my abilities and to be more open and daring.

 

6.         How are you making an impact at QM?

Through the programs and exhibitions at MIA as MIA highlights history, culture, stories about the past and how the past has an influence on the future. We have plans to relaunch the MIA galleries, and I hope through these efforts, we can create an impact within this community, inviting people from all over and from different ages to be engaged with history and art and to be inspired.

 

Stay tuned for the second edition of this series, which will be posted on our blog tomorrow.

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