Nadine El Habbal

  • Degree Programme: LBS Sloan Masters
  • Global Nationality: Lebanese
  • Profile Job Pre-programme: Founder/Director, Further Edge

Nadine El Habbal’s move to London was far from expected. However, it was in this cosmopolitan city that the former Head of the Lebanese Insurance Control Commission began a new entrepreneurial journey, aided by the first-class faculty teachings and the vast network of connections offered by the LBS Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy.

My life was totally different before I landed in London. Back in Lebanon, I was in charge of the Insurance Control Commission, with oversight duties across the insurance industry. I worked my way up from my first job as an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to working for 17 years in the Commission. My work as a supervisor involved the design and preparation of macro-economic projects for the insurance sector, ranging from universal healthcare to natural disasters insurance, dealing with different stakeholders and the government. I was the first woman to have held such a position in Lebanon, and that was rather challenging. But what I learned was that you can always succeed if you keep on top of your topics and understand them thoroughly.

Leaving Lebanon when I did was never in my plans. The terrible explosion at the port of Beirut in 2020, considered a major event in modern history, rocked my house and my life altogether. I left my job, I left the country, and with this my social and family networks which were a major support to me. I decided on London because it’s cosmopolitan, full of culture, and a large financial centre with significant exposure to different industries. These factors were important to me because I wanted to launch a big-data predictive analytics platform to service data-intensive industries. In December 2020, I founded my own business Further Edge, and scaling this is my full-time future focus.

I knew that I needed to consolidate all my education and expertise to get my new business off the ground. When I read about the LBS Sloan programme, I knew it would be right for me; I already had an MBA so I thought I would move towards deeper waters. The Sloan Masters was the perfect match for my profile and objectives. I knew it would provide the best platform to foster my entrepreneurial skills and broaden my network. I immediately knew it was right for me.

The variety of learning opportunities available through the programme taught me so much. Learning from and working with LBS faculty, Herminia Ibarra, Jessica Spungin and Andrew Likierman, was a pleasure and a privilege. It gave me the opportunity and means to explore and understand myself better, and to consequently enhance my understanding of those who work with me. I learned concepts and techniques that I could immediately apply in a dynamic and fast-changing environment, particularly in relation to my business. The strategy modules really emphasised that strategy cannot be rigid, particularly in an era of consecutive upheavals. The leadership modules helped me to explore myself and learn more about my own psychology. I remember a particularly remarkable session that featured a guest speaker from Microsoft. I connected with him a lot: how he became the architect of change, knowing he needed to align the various actors of this change, rallying them behind the new vision of the company. He transformed himself, and then managed to coach his colleagues along the same path.

The Sloan Masters gave me access to more than I thought. The learning environment was electric; I learned a lot from the contributions of my various Sloan Fellows and LBS colleagues. My experience in the electives and namely the Global Immersion Elective (GIE) was simply amazing. During the GIE week, I was introduced to financial services regulators in the EU, and to the complexities underlying the formation of this union. The understanding of and the comparison between the EU and UK realities provides an insight that helps in all areas of any business. I feel indebted to LBS faculty Richard Portes and Anna Pavlova for their generous guidance and coaching throughout the week.

I’ve become immersed in British society through my time at LBS, and I feel so much more connected to the country. Landing here alone with three children, no relatives, and a handful of friends was seen by some as a crazy decision. I arrived during Covid and I had to settle my children at school, so there was a lot going on. But LBS gave me this feeling of being home. Beyond the global network of alumni LBS offers, I have also made dear friends from all over the world from the Sloan and other LBS programmes.

Studying the Sloan has meant exploring and discovering more about myself. I experienced the reality of cultural diversity and inclusion, and I also changed in myself. I became more interested in other people, and more inquisitive about people’s interests and backgrounds. I came from a culture where you weren’t allowed to get an A, you had to get an A+ – you needed to be a superstar in everything. I learned that sometimes failure can be another road to future success. You can be strong and weak at the same time, you can be knowledgeable and witty in some areas, while not knowing much about other areas. I learned the value of getting out of your comfort zone, and that - whether you succeed or fail - you’re always learning. I used to be strict about my children’s education and behaviour; now I want to let them explore further and be more autonomous. It’s been very positive for them to see me continue my education, and to keep up to date with the world’s developments. My children now have a greater ambition to achieve excellence in their education and career.

I want to implement everything I’ve learned to make my company a success. I want to expand, using our technology in other industries and markets. The looming perspectives of a global economic crisis is real, but it does not scare me. Cruising through it, while understanding its dynamics, is something that the Sloan Masters has prepared me for: the value of creativity and continued innovation is much needed in our days, and in times of crises. It can be a driver of opportunity and success.

I would encourage fathers and mothers to overcome the mental and social obstacles and take a positive committed decision to join the Sloan Masters. I believe that any person in quest of genuine and thorough development should consider joining the Sloan Masters. I would say, take on the challenge and everything else will have a different taste afterwards. The magic word for me has been exploration, going to the further edge.