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Making It and Giving Back: An Interview with Wissam Moukahal

LAU spoke with Forbes Middle East Top-100 Exec in the Arab World about his student years and success.

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“Had it not been for the support I received from both the university and my family, I would not have been able to earn my bachelor’s degree… and would not be where I am today.”

LAU Alumnus Wissam Moukahal (BA ’95) has reached great heights in his career. Four years after being named Executive Chairman, MENA, at financial powerhouse Macquarie Capital, Moukahal landed a spot on Forbes Middle East’s Top 100 Executives in The Arab World list. LAU spoke with him about his career, passions and charity work, and how LAU influenced him on his road to success.  

How did your time at LAU impact your career?

LAU has and will always play a significant role in my professional development. Perhaps one of the most important lessons I learned at LAU was to know the difference between working hard versus working smart. I learned that ethics and integrity should never take a back seat in any business dealings. I also learned to respect time, both mine and that of others, and to view any challenge as an opportunity to do something better.

What inspired you to create your organization, the Z. Moukahal Foundation?

Moukahal Foundation is rooted in a truly personal experience. I was very fortunate to have loving and supportive parents who spared no expense in providing my siblings and me with a very good education. However, early on in my time at LAU, my family passed through severe financial difficulties that threatened my ability to continue my studies. Fortunately, I was able to benefit from the financial aid program at LAU, working an average of 180 hours per semester at the guidance office. My uncle Sami, may his soul rest in peace, and subsequently his sons and daughters represented by my youngest cousin Jihad, stepped in to cover the rest of my tuition fees. Had it not been for the support I received from both the university and my family, I would not have been able to earn my bachelor’s degree. Simply put, I would not be where I am today.

Z. Moukahal Foundation is driven by the desire to give back to Lebanese youth and society on a larger scale by investing in the education of underprivileged individuals, thus providing them with the skills and support to better their chances of professional success.

What advice can you give to LAU students interested in finance?

My advice would be for students to seek the highest degree of education possible, because all success is rooted in a solid academic foundation. Equally important is the need to pay particular attention to extracurricular activities, for these help provide a competitive edge while building character in the process. Lastly, I advise LAU students to invest their summers in internships and find ways to be active members of their communities, for this would be time well spent.

What skills have you honed on the road to success?

I have often found, in a career that has spanned 22 years of serving clients, that the will to succeed can only bear fruit if leveled with patience. To this day, I am still learning how to be more patient by always making a conscious effort to take a step back and allow my endeavors the time needed to reach their full potential.

Have any of the hurdles you encountered made you at some point want to give up?

Our industry is not without its fair share of challenges, and many times in my career I have faced what seemed to be overwhelming obstacles. The key here is to convert distress into determination and use that as a driving force to achieve my objectives. Life is full of challenges at all levels, be they personal or professional. One must try to work around them and always benefit from lessons learned.

Was there somebody at LAU who inspired you to achieve what you’ve done so far?

If I were to nominate one person who impacted my professional development the most, it would have to be my classmate and close friend Mohamad Mourad, who also happens to be an LAU alumnus. Mohamad currently holds the position of director of YouTube product partnerships for emerging markets at Google, based out of San Francisco. He is a very dedicated and driven professional who never fails to impress and inspire me.

This interview has been condensed and edited. For the longer version, please check the Spring 2018 edition of LAU Mazagine and Alumni Bulletin. 

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