Worried your CV doesn’t tick enough boxes? Our interview with Houda Chraibi, mthree talent team executive in Montreal – ex-nurse and ex-army – will give you hope.
From nursing to the military to mthree’s talent team in Montreal: an interview with Houda Chraibi about breaking the mould.
Have you ever hesitated to apply for a job because you’re worried that other candidates have more experience than you? You’re not alone.
We hear this every day from the graduates we speak to, and we’re always happy to give them the good news. OK, it’s true that existing knowledge is valuable. Sometimes it’s needed. But not always. In fact, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
When everyone in a team has the same professional or educational background, there’s a risk that the team will lack “diversity of thought”, one of the secret ingredients for finding new solutions to old problems. That’s why organizations need people in the mix who bring a totally different perspective to those who followed the traditional path.
Many of the graduates we train at the mthree Academy have little to no experience related to the role they’re going for. Did that stop them from doing great things for our clients? Not a chance!
And we’ve seen this in action ourselves at mthree HQ too. Many of the people in our teams had CVs that broke the mould.
Today we’re catching up with Houda, one of our talent executives based in Montreal in Canada, to learn more about her own unconventional career – and why graduates often have more options than they realize.
Hi Houda, thanks for chatting with us! Could you tell us about your career path before you came to mthree?
“Well, it’s been a journey... When I was younger I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I followed in my mother’s footsteps. She was a nurse. I always admired her empathy. I did a technical degree and became a nurse too.
After a while I discovered that I liked the social side of nursing, not just taking blood! So I did another degree in human science. After that I wanted to improve my English (I’m a French speaker normally) so I also took a course in entrepreneurship.
That’s when I heard about the experience of a family friend who worked in the military. I thought it sounded really interesting. At first I assumed I wouldn’t be able to do it as a woman, but then I found out that the Canadian military was looking to become more inclusive. I wanted to do something really challenging in my life, so I applied to Ottawa and got accepted.”
What was it like, working in the military?
"Well let’s just be honest, it was hard! Some people cried, fell into coma, or wanted to give up. It took a lot of mental and physical resilience. For example, I was practicing during Ramadan, not eating, working out, pushing 200lbs. But I did it, and I fell in love with it.
After I completed my basic military qualification, I was a reservist in the infantry. Later on I became an admin clerk for the army.
Eventually I found my way to mthree. I carried on working part-time with the army, but recently I decided to dedicate more of my time to my job in the talent team. These days I’m considered a veteran.”
On paper, your previous jobs all seem very different. Is there a common thread?
“Yes, for sure. I love helping other people. It’s what I love about mthree, it’s what I loved about nursing, it’s what I loved about being in the military. I was just a small little woman in the army, but I was strong psychologically, and that meant I could reassure people who needed it. The same goes for working with people who are unwell, or working with grads who are feeling unsure about the next chapter of life.
People tend to have different patterns of skill sets, different patterns of interests. There’s usually a theme if you look close enough. That’s how we in the talent team identify graduates who have the potential to be amazing in certain roles, such as production support at an investment bank, even though their degree might not sound directly relevant.
Can you share a story from your work at mthree that gets across the point of “diversity of thought”?
“Not long ago I spoke to a candidate who was autistic. I didn’t know he was autistic at the time. He struggled in some ways, but I saw something special in him. Once he was at the mthree Academy, the instructors said he was the best candidate they’ve ever seen. Nevertheless he got rejected for a role because our client felt he didn’t show a lot of interest, which is understandable. I gave him the feedback and also some tips to help in future. He wrote to me afterwards to explain that he has autism, and that one of his symptoms is that he struggles to show his enthusiasm, even though he feels it in his heart. I knew I had to do something. With his permission I went to the client and updated them about his situation. They reconsidered his application, and a different team took him on. Out of 14 interviews that week, they said he was the best candidate!
Diversity is magic. It’s the spice. A variety of backgrounds brings richness to every industry – like fixing technical bugs in innovative ways. That’s why I try to see diversity in more spectrums than the usual few, including personality types.”
Do you have any advice for a graduate who’s feeling nervous about starting their first entry-level role?
“I would say, remember that communication at work has more than one purpose. The idea of meeting your new colleagues can seem overwhelming but it helps to try to really connect with people and get to know them personally.
For instance, in my team at mthree, we have quite a few video meetings. Not just for planning work but also about life outside of work. Emotional intelligence means building relationships with other people, to understand them better and to help them understand you.
Remember, nobody’s perfect, everyone makes mistakes. We’re all human!”
Are you looking to turn your degree into a career? We’re here to help. Our graduate programs take place throughout the year. Find out more about mthree Alumni