My Working Day – Eman Al-Hillawi – CEO of Entec Si

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Eman Al-Hillawi – CEO of Entec Si about her working day.

What time do you usually wake up?

I used to start my day at the very early hour of 5.30 am, but this has shifted since the start of the pandemic. Nowadays, I go to bed a bit later and get up a bit later too – between 6 and 7 am – but this varies depending on how busy I am and what my day has in store.

What do you typically have for breakfast?

On weekdays, I tend to go for something light and healthy, such as cereal with fruit and soya milk (as I have a dairy intolerance), or some toast. At the weekend, I love heading out for a long run first thing, so once I’m back I’ll tuck into a hearty brunch. My favourite is some kind of eggs – either scrambled or made into an omelette.

What’s the rest of your morning routine before you start work?

Three times a week, I’ll go for a 5K run before I sit down to start work – I find it gets me feeling energised and ready to face whatever challenges the day holds! I feel much more productive when I stay active, so on the other two days of the week, I try to fit in a 30-minute walk, whenever I get the chance.

First thing you do at the start of a workday?

After breakfast, I usually sit down with a coffee and spend up to an hour responding to any outstanding messages and emails. Once I’m on top of my inbox, I look at my diary and start to plan exactly what I need to achieve during the day, and when.

How do you prioritise your work?

I always try to look at my schedule one or two weeks ahead. This allows me to work backwards in terms of my goals for that period and decide what I need to prioritise. In my role, this can change quickly during the course of the week, so I’m constantly reviewing my diary and switching things around.

Generally, my priorities are split into three main areas: clients, people and the business. As a leader, I try to keep a good balance between all three, but this ebbs and flows depending on what’s happening at any given time. For example, during a big recruitment push, I’ll spend far more time focusing on the people element and during the delivery of a major project, more of my time will be spent doing hands-on client work.

Do you plan meetings, or are they a waste of time?

I wouldn’t plan a meeting that was a waste of time! Over the last year and a half, we’ve encouraged the team to do ‘walk and talk’ meetings as much as possible, whether that’s in person or over the phone. The pandemic has reminded us all about the importance of fresh air and exercise for people’s overall well-being.

Do you have a working lunch, or is it good to take a break?

I’m often guilty of taking a working lunch, but I do always try to get outdoors at some point during the day. With the rise of remote working, it’s become even more important to take time to step away from your desk and recharge your batteries.

When does your working day finish?

At Entec Si, we’re big believers in focusing on people’s outputs and productivity, rather than requiring them to stick to a rigid work schedule. For example, on some days, I might finish work at 10 or 11 pm after attending a networking event, but on others, I’ll finish working in the mid-afternoon to travel to one of my after-work activities.

Like most leaders, my working schedule has peaks and troughs, so it just depends on what I’ve got on that week.

How do you prepare for your next day’s work?

I spend the last part of my working day in planning mode, looking at any meetings I have scheduled in for the next day and what I need to deliver.

Recently, I’ve also set myself the task of spending at least 15-20 minutes at the end of each afternoon on personal development – whether that’s reading a book or listening to a podcast. At the moment, I’m reading ‘Who Not How’ by Dan Sullivan, which focuses on harnessing the power of teamwork to achieve your business goals.

What’s your favourite piece of technology?

It has to be my Apple Macbook; I love the sleek design and how easy it is to navigate. The fact that it interacts with my other Apple devices also makes life much easier.

How do you switch off?

As I’ve already mentioned, running is a big passion of mine and I’ve recently signed up for my first event in a while – the Hever Castle Half Marathon in September 2022. When the pandemic hit, I found myself putting in more and more miles, as it was great at helping me to process my thoughts and relieve stress.

I also do indoor climbing whenever I get the chance. As well as being brilliant for improving your flexibility and core strength, I love the problem-solving element of working out which hand or foothold to move to next.

Finally, getting my private pilot’s license is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Being up in the clouds gives me perspective and focus, as well as allowing me to appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

While it’s not strictly business-focused, following a friend’s advice to go on HRT has transformed my wellbeing and had a major positive impact on my performance in the workplace.

While I didn’t recognise that they were a result of the menopause at the time, symptoms such as night sweats, poor sleep and a ‘fuzzy head’ had crept up on me over the course of a few years. When you’re in a leadership position, it’s vital to be on top of your game, but this negative spiral had gradually eroded my confidence. Within a week of starting HRT treatment, I was starting to feel like my former self again.

Hormonal issues, especially for women going through the menopause, can have such a major impact on their personal and professional lives. I think it’s really important to break down taboos, let them know that they’re not the only one going through it and that there can be light at the end of the tunnel!