Alvin Thomas shares a coffee with architect and interior designer Donna Legissi who knows something about building a good work-life balance.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: my latest candidate for Coffee with Y is multi-talented and a very focused business manager. But surprisingly, that is not the focus of my interview, today; because something about the way she approaches life inspires me. And who knows, maybe she could do the same for you, too.
Her name is Donna Legissi, and she is the franchise supporter for Kare Design – an international furniture company based in Germany. While her job title lends a certain sense of seriousness to our chat, neither Donna nor I intend to talk shop.
Born and raised in the beautiful mountain-town of Rubik, in Albania, Donna grew up with lofty goals.
At the age of five, when her father asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, Donna said: “I want to become powerful enough to handle my own problems.”
She laughs about it today, but says: “Since then, he (her father) was really scared of me. He believes that if I said something of such intensity when I was five, then he cannot predict what I would do or say, today.
“It is very important for a woman to be independent today. Our world is evolving quickly, and we, as women, must play a much bigger role in the society than we ever did.
“Today, women are not just mothers or wives. We are businesswomen, managers, and hold much more important positions than we used to. But it’s all about what you want to become. No one is stopping you but you.”
This, she explains, is the very reason she took on architecture – both interior and exterior design – as her major for her undergraduate and master’s degrees.
“From a young age, I have been attracted to interior design; beautiful images, art and building structures. So, when I came to university, I decided to be an architect.
“Architecture is more into science and mathematics than interior design. And unfortunately, in Albania they don’t offer the latter.
“So, I challenged myself to do it. The course took five long years, and I did well. I held the highest average marks over all the years,” she says.
Sadly, however, the scope of job for an architect in Albania during that time was low. So, Donna did what she thought was best: look for a job outside her country.
Her grades and talent soon landed her a job with Kare Design, in Qatar (in 2011), where she undertook the role of interior designer and visual merchandiser.
After three years – and after a stiff competition with numerous other employees – she landed the position of franchise supporter, in Germany.
She asserts: “You see? If you do believe and do what you love, success will find you.”
Now in her fifth (business) trip to the Sultanate, Donna says that she is in love with Oman.
“I love Oman and I am very attracted to Islamic culture.
“But Omanis, and Oman as a country, is very different to that of many of its neighbours. In some ways Oman reminds me of life back home in Albania.
“Here, the people are very generous and down-to-earth. And I respect that. Here, you see Omanis working in all spheres of life – that’s not the case with many other countries.
“This shows that they are working for their economy and this is what makes their economy more structured than that of the others.
Donna then goes on to praise the role of Omani women in the society: “When you go out, you can see many women working. It’s progressive, and that, I believe, is setting the tone for a brighter future for Oman.
How does she know so much about Oman? Well, The Albanian calls herself a “curious traveller”.
“I try and stop by the local attractions and spend some time there,” she laughs.
But that’s not all. Donna is a self-proclaimed book worm who loves reading self-improvement books. She calls it “treatment for the mind”.
“Reading can’t do anyone any harm. I think it opens your mind to someone else’s view, thereby making you a touch wiser and more experienced.
“This can also be taken into a wider perspective: education. I believe that everyone must spend time learning in school and then university.
“I know university can be seen as a bit boring,” she says.
“Most of your friends are doing something else or you are going with the flow. But what you must keep in mind is that it is the most fundamental period of your life.
“University is not everything but it sets the tone for your future.
Finally, talking to youngsters in Oman, Donna tells: “Don’t let anyone tell you cannot do it. A dream is a dream, and it is up to you to make it big. As long as you love what you want to do, I am sure you can become successful.
“That’s the key to having a healthy work and life balance, too.”
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