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Executive Education

Entrepreneurship: New Business Ventures

The Benefits of Being Proactive

Pascale E. Nakhlé

Founder & CEO at PEN Consultancy

It starts with recognising one’s inherent strength and acknowledging that it is already present within oneself.

Pascale E. Nakhlé’s journey from the vibrant city of Beirut to the dynamic landscape of Dubai is an inspiring example of the power of stepping out of one's comfort zone and redefining one’s narrative.

As a licensed clinical psychologist who has been practicing since 2012, Pascale spent the early years of her career in Beirut, practicing and teaching at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). Despite her success in Beirut, Pascale felt a yearning for a new chapter, a desire to expand her horizons beyond the familiar. 

The economic and financial crisis in Lebanon compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak and the Port of Beirut explosion in 2020 were the main catalyst for her bold decisions. In the face of adversity, Pascale decided to embrace change and transform challenges into opportunities by moving to Dubai—a new city where she would need to start from scratch. 

Moving to a new country can seem daunting, but Pascale saw it as an opportunity to evolve personally and professionally. The decision to chart her own course was defined by her journey from Beirut to Dubai.

“Even with the economic crisis, it would have made more financial sense and is more convenient for me to stay in Lebanon. Recognising that I had reached a professional ceiling, I wanted to seek new horizons, push the boundaries and get myself out of my comfort zone, which I knew had fewer opportunities - nothing grows there!” she explains.

In Dubai, she was at a pivotal crossroads. Despite enticing offers from esteemed centres and hospitals, she courageously decided to start afresh and launch PEN Consultancy, a Dubai Health Authority (DHA) licensed telehealth facility. This endeavour demanded unwavering dedication, significant effort, and meticulous logistical and legal groundwork.

Navigating a new transition

Pascale's move was challenging as she lacked prior business experience. However, with the guidance of adept consultants and advisors, she enrolled in INSEAD’s Entrepreneurship: New Business Ventures Executive Education programme to augment her expertise, and gain insights into entrepreneurship and management. At the moment, she is also a candidate in the Certificate of Global Management programme. 

“INSEAD has helped equip me with the theory, knowledge, and skills for entrepreneurship, and also widened my horizons and have become the foundation of my professional journey. It has taught me things that I need to know, and to ensure that I am on the right path,” says Pascale. 

In particular, she found the course conducted by Dr Henning Piezunka, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at INSEAD, impactful due to his vibrant classroom presence and insightful knowledge sharing. According to Pascale, one important lesson was that he said:

Motivating personal growth comes from seeking discomfort.

This reminded her that growth only comes when you do something that feels hard, uncomfortable, and out of the ordinary. 

Dr Henning emphasises the importance of sharing ideas rather than being too private and secretive about your plans and ideas. He is a great believer that sharing a concept allows for feedback, inspiration and further growth of that idea or specific amendments to it. “My interaction with Dr. Henning at INSEAD emphasised the importance of sharing ideas openly. I learned that putting your thoughts out is crucial for development, growth and receiving valuable feedback,” says Pascale 

Armed with newfound business acumen, Pascale has since established her telehealth practice in Dubai, providing a safe space for individuals from diverse backgrounds to seek mental health support related to anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and relationship issues, as well as personal growth and development.

Life beyond work and money 

Pascale’s commitment and passion for her work have propelled her to great heights, however she creates a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle by prioritising various aspects of her life and being intentional with her time. 

“I prioritise time management, carefully balancing my clinic work, interviews, maintaining my social media presence and creating content, and most importantly spending time with my loved ones,” says Pascale. 

By moving away from the hustle culture and rat race mentality, Pascale embraces the idea of self-improvement and development. Her philosophy revolves around the idea that life is not solely about professional achievements and financial gains, it is also about living abundantly and fully. In creating a balanced lifestyle, Pascale enjoyed improved mental and emotional well-being, which positively impacted her productivity and relationships. 

Pascale’s transition to Dubai was not solely about business strategy, but about breaking barriers. She recognised the pivotal role of social media in connecting with and educating a wider global audience about the importance of mental health. 

She has actively engaged online through social media platforms and in-person workshops, spreading awareness about mental well-being and advocating for the importance of seeking professional help when needed. This approach proved instrumental in expanding her reach to patients worldwide. 

“Social media is a platform for me to use my voice, expertise, and education to speak about mental health. I also try to impact others through the interviews I do, where we discuss different topics related to relationships, mental health, mental health disorders in general, life stressors and difficulties, trauma and grief, womanhood, motherhood, and postpartum health,” she says.

Gender as an asset 

Her journey underscores the importance of embracing one's uniqueness. Pascale's gender, far from being a limitation, has become an asset in her clinical practice, especially in fostering trust and understanding with female patients. 

“I think being a female is positive as many may feel comfortable coming to a woman psychologist as they have this preconception that she is more connected to her emotional side. In a psychotherapy session, women may come with very intimate stories about their relationships, intimacy or sexuality or other delicate issues related to womanhood that they might feel more comfortable sharing with a woman,” says Pascale.

She adds, “Women patients tend to feel more comfortable and relate better as they perceive female psychologists as being more empathic and understanding, better at understanding cultural nuances associated with being a woman. This is especially in the Arab world where women feel safer building a sense of trust and safety with another female.” 

Other women have inspired Pascale, especially those who are not only powerful in their fields, but also make room for humaneness in their personal and professional roles, allowing others to see different parts of them with an “acceptable dose of vulnerability.” 

She is also inspired by leaders, who have an impact on their team members. “They help team members reach their goals, encourage them, keep them motivated, and foster a sense of integrity, strong work ethic and are professional. By doing so, their foster a belief in the vision and mission of the company or institution."

Looking ahead 

Even as Pascale has redefined her narrative with this journey from Beirut to Dubai, she emphasises the need for a critical shift to dismantle systemic barriers hindering women’s progress.

I personally envision fostering a culture where equal opportunities are available and inclusivity is the norm and not the exception. I aim to champion initiatives that empower women, both in my clinical practice and entrepreneurial endeavours.

Pascale’s goal is to contribute to the educational system, mentorship opportunities and advocacy efforts that promote gender inclusivity. Professionally, she aspires to create an environment that not only recognises and values the contribution of women, but actively supports women in their growth, their leadership and development. 

“I see that every day. I see it with the patients I work with, as they move from being completely vulnerable to empowerment and wanting to make a change,” she adds.

Her advice for other women looking to challenge existing narratives and make a positive impact in their respective fields?

For a woman to seek empowerment- “it starts with recognising one’s inherent strength and acknowledging that it is already present within oneself. It is not something external to be gained, but a part of growth and development,” she says. She warns that failure is part of that process, but the more aware one is, the less drastic it is. 

“Building competence and confidence is achieved through trying and failing, which builds confidence. Embrace growth opportunities, jump in and learn from experiences, seek expertise, expand your education and speak to experts. This approach is the only road to empowerment, success and leadership,” she says.