A Student of Life: Rola Dagher Shares Advice and Lessons Learned

June 7, 2022 | Hamilton, ON
Contributed by Rola Dagher, Global Channel Chief at Dell Technologies

Rola Dagher, Global Channel Chief at Dell Technologies is a DeGroote School of Business 2022 Honorary Doctorate recipient.

Rola Dagher, a leading figure in the Canadian technology sector, has made it her mission to empower those around her. Immigrating to Canada from war-torn Lebanon with an infant in the 1990s, Dagher first worked as a retail salesclerk before going on to become the president of Cisco Systems Canada and Dell Technologies’ Global Channel Chief – being one of only a few immigrant women to have attained such a position. She sees diversity as the foundation to building a high-performance workforce and is a vanguard of inclusive excellence. Dagher has been named a WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, the Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) Woman of the Year, and is a RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award winner.

 

What advice do you have for students that are graduating and just beginning their careers?

Number one is be yourself, because everyone else is taken.

Have an open mindset. My philosophy in life is all around ‘learned it, earned it, returned it’. When I say learned it, earned it, returned it, the meaning for me is I learned everything I know, I earned it the hard way because nothing was handed to me, and once you get to the top it’s time to return it and send the elevator back down to help people along the way.

 

Are there certain skills or attributes that you feel are important in a business leader?

Purpose, passion and impact are three important key ingredients for a leader to have today more than ever.

Business leaders today need to be empathetic. They need to be visible, and they need to listen to understand, not listen to speak or judge.

And for me leadership is not a title or a position, leadership is an action that you need to take. I look at leaders that use their title to build a platform to empower, to inspire, and to get out of people’s way to go out there and make an impact.

Your position as a leader is a platform to do good for others.

 

What do you feel is an important lesson that you’ve learned so far in your career?

The biggest lesson in my career so far is taking chances. You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take. I took every shot in life. I failed at some but those were my best experiences. And then the one that I learned after really hard lessons is: I am enough.

Showing up, stepping up, and speaking up, those three things have helped me. I just learned so much in life. Life has knocked me down a few times. It showed me things I never wanted to see. I experienced poverty, sadness, illness, failures. But one thing is for sure – I will always get up. Take care of yourself, because your health is your wealth.

Be hungry, be inspiring, and take care of your people. You start with people and lead with people. Just listen, learn and lead.

 

What do you feel has been your secret to success?

The secret to my success was determination, but also meeting the right people in my life that took chances on me. Having my amazing family, and just that power inside of you that keeps telling you, you can and you will do more, you can and you will make an impact. Mentors in real life that took their chances and people that believed in you.

Learning has been the fuel of my success. And not the traditional way of learning, the learning of going out there and knowing that you have no option in life and no one is going to hand you anything; I have been a student of life.

I read once Churchill said something that I absolutely love: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” The meaning of that quote lives with me every single day. And if your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more, to become more, than that is the person and the leader, and the most impactful accomplishment that you can do as a person.

 

Any last words to share?

As an immigrant I came to this country and didn’t speak a word of English. This is a big moment for me and my family, to every immigrant, to everyone that doesn’t believe in the power of hope and faith, and hard work and determination. I didn’t get here because someone handed it to me. When you become successful and you get to a position in life and you have a strong brand out there, people only look at your success.

People say: ‘she shattered the glass ceiling.’ But there were so many cuts and wounds and blood along the way that got you to where you are, and people don’t see that. And that to me is the biggest lesson is those cuts and those struggles.

Go out there, believe in yourself, believe in your ability to make a difference. And you know, we all have our own life journey and it’s your own story. You own the pen to your story. You write it, you edit it, and no one can make that change but you, so own that pen. Every day you have the power to make a difference by rewriting it and reshaping it to get to where you need to be.

Never forget you can leave something for people or leave something in people. What earned me the right to have this doctorate is a life of service and impact.

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