What would you do if you didn’t work in healthcare?

My interests are so varied that it’s hard to say. Youth mentorship has been so incredibly rewarding. I also enjoy creating experiences through party planning or interior decorating, so I would probably combine those interests to run a community center with a mentorship program, helping students make connections to leaders who can guide them along the way.

Can you give a shout-out to someone who helped you at a pivotal time in your career?

Veteran agency executive, Jeff Hoffman, has been my mentor for 15+ years. I was always trying to learn something new as an account executive, so he created a rotation program where I could work across disciplines, giving me a skill development advantage. Jeff helped me juggle career and motherhood by allowing remote and flexible work when that was not yet the norm. Jeff even left his office midday so I could pray. He initiated the tough conversations when I didn’t approach something the right way. Most importantly, he believed in me, which made me realize that I needed to believe in myself.

How has the pandemic reset the rules on your work-life balance?

The pandemic was an era of self-discovery and connection. While I was always careful to prioritize my time with my family, being home with them strengthened the understanding and relationships between us. I also used the normalization of flexible schedules to focus on my personal growth. Asking myself important questions — Who do you want to be? What drives you? What makes you happy? How do you recharge? — helped me prioritize what I was willing to take on. If something doesn’t serve my passions and purpose, I try to deprioritize it, or just say no. It’s something I’m still learning how to master.

Share a moment when you left your comfort zone; what did you learn?

Any time I take on a new role I feel uncomfortable, but that discomfort just means that I’m learning and growing. When I get too comfortable that means it’s time to make a change.

In starting The Rabab Foundation, I have experienced repeated failure. It’s a new sector, an uncharted territory for me. But I’m finally comfortable failing and trying again. I’m learning to adapt as I go and stay focused on my vision.

What are you doing to send the career ladder back down?

The sense of responsibility as a woman of color and mother of three young ladies is significant, so I try to dedicate a lot of time to mentorship and sponsorship. I run a youth mentorship program and am an advisor for Nerdy Girl Success. I speak at colleges about women in STEM, marketing, and leadership, and participate in peer mentorship groups such as Chief and WOCIP. But I would argue that my most impactful role is as a career sponsor for talented women within my organization. I say their names where it matters, help them recognize their strengths, coach them on finding their voice and personal brand, and identify growth opportunities.

What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

I should probably be embarrassed by how much my colleagues know about me. They know I’m an avid reader, watch Hallmark Christmas movies, love to sing, write parodies for fun, watch Turkish dramas in Spanish and many other random tidbits. But they might not know the depth of my fangirl status with Jane Austen. It’s been fed since high school by the paraphernalia gifted to me by my best friend, Nichole, over the years. I have Austen’s entire collection (including unfinished works) in gold leaf and a scarf made of select pages of her novels. There are journals, DVDs, bags and many, many books in my collection.

What is one thing you would tell young women starting their careers in healthcare marketing?

Get to know yourself. If you understand your strengths, you can lean into them. If you know what organizational culture allows you to thrive, you will look for it in your employer. If you know your areas for growth, you will choose the right next opportunity to keep building your skills. But knowing yourself takes time and effort. Continue to invest that time in learning about yourself; the return will be exponential.

Recount an experience with the healthcare system, positive or negative, that inspires you.

When I was home from college one weekend, my mother mentioned that she found a lump on

her breast but hadn’t told anyone. I immediately took her for a mammogram, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After 13 years of clinical trials, radiation, chemo, etc., she died at just 56 years old. I’ve always thought to myself that things could have been different if she had just said something, if I could have provided the knowledge she needed to advocate for her health. There are so many others like her. She is the reason health literacy is so important to me.

Favorite TV show/movie/song/book?

It’s probably no surprise that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book and movie or that I enjoy period dramas like Sanditon and Downton Abbey. But my favorite show is Gilmore Girls because of the nostalgia. I watched it as a teenager with my mother and then again with my teenage daughters. I love the pace and witty banter even though many of the pop culture references are lost on me.

To read a January 2024 article on Hussain’s appointment as rare disease lead at Havas Health & You, click here.