Amer Deeba is a sought-after executive in Silicon Valley. He came to the US as a student with a dream, a one-way ticket, and $800 to his name. A bright-eyed man in his twenties, most young adults can relate to his mindset. There were goals to be achieved, promotions to earn, and success was the all-important buzzword. Since then, Amer Deeba’s hard work has paid off, and he has come a long way. He worked as a software engineer before pivoting towards marketing, saw a company through to its public listing, and made a foreign country his home. Although establishing and reaching goals is key to achieving success, a lifestyle built entirely around success and achievement can take a toll on individuals, and can obscure the purpose behind this desire to be successful.
For Amer Deeba, it is more important now than ever to have clarity of purpose. To be mindful of the decisions he makes and assess how they impact others around him. His mindfulness has differentiated him from many of his contemporaries, earning him the title of “rare executive” from Forbes; however, he was not always like this.
Amer Deeba grew up in Marjeyoun, a small town in the South of Lebanon. Deeba was only eight when the civil war broke out. He remembers how he had escaped to Beirut in the trunk of a taxi when the fighting got too close to his home. He told Forbes, “As chaotic and crazy as it was to grow up in a war zone, it gave me a great perspective on life. My experience taught me it’s important to be decisive and to trust my judgment. It made me prioritize life-long learning and hard work. I have always been willing to stretch beyond my comfort zone to grow personally and professionally.”
The pursuit of knowledge helped Deeba achieve one professional milestone after another. He remembers how something in him had switched at 16. “I was obsessed with all of these superficial things, but as soon as I entered high school, something changed in me. I became focused on schooling. The main focus for me was to come to the States and become a very good computer engineer.” Deeba did exactly that. Later into his career, while working at Qualys, a cloud security company based in California, came another significant milestone. Deeba and his mentor, PhilippeCourtot, then the CEO of Qualys, successfully saw the company through to its initial public offering (IPO). It was a huge undertaking and Deebacalled his mother to tell her about his achievement. When he did, she asked him a simple question, “Who is this all for?” This question stuck with Deeba. All these years, the metric of his success had been external factors that were often monetary or status-oriented.
Though he wasn’t sure how to answer the question at the time, Amer Deeba soon met Rosemary Cremesti, a Google GTM executive also from Lebanon. After some time, the two tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony in their home country and recently welcomed a son.
Getting married to Cremesti and becoming a father has had a huge impact on Deeba’s perspective on life. “My wife gave me the best advice: To be more mindful. With her help and encouragement, I started practicing mindfulness and it’s been very beneficial.” Incorporating mindfulness into his daily routine has made him better in a multitude of ways. Deeba has been able to step back and appreciate things for how they are, not for how they can be. “Mindfulness lets you be in the present moment. It increases your emotional intelligence. It helps you understand your situations, make better decisions, and become calmer, less reactive, and more engaged.”
Amer Deeba’s practice of mindfulness has allowed him to take on bigger leadership roles. His measure of success is not external anymore. He now looks internally and is motivated by the desire to be a better leader, a better human. It is no longer about achieving a certain position but about making a positive impact in the lives of the individuals that surround him, his family, friends, his colleagues, and society as a whole. Looking back on whether he could do things differently, Deeba remarked, “I would have taught myself to enjoy the moment more. I’m always seeking new goals instead of taking a step back and enjoying them. I’m teaching myself now how to do that more.”
Deeba’s views on mindfulness are substantiated by science. In an article that was posted on Harvard Business Review, Bill George wrote, “The practice of mindful leadership gives you tools to measure and manage your life as you’re living it. It teaches you to pay attention to the present moment, recognizing your feelings and emotions and keeping them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful situations.”
Of the many mindfulness practices that are out there, meditation has proven to be the most introspective and useful one. Many medical studies have been conducted to better understand the advantages of meditation. They have found that it holds various health benefits, including, protection from arthritis, high blood pressure, infertility, stress. It also contributes to improved sensory processing, attention levels, and physically alters the brain’s parts that are responsible for emotional regulation, learning, and memory. All of these changes represent a big boost in a person’s cognitive skills which proves essential for leaders who are continuously under the pressure to perform.
During work, Deeba is continuously in overdrive. Being a champion for customers is not easy. “Prioritize customers and then everything that we need to support them that needs to get done. Agreements, contracts, processes, workflows, review sessions, changes to the product, especially as you’re building a new product in a new market. It’s very important to keep that relationship and perspective and try to understand what the customer is telling you.” All this requires clarity of mind, something that mindfulness greatly helps with.
Deeba understands how his experiences have shaped him up to be the person that he is today. Higher levels of self-awareness is just another benefit of mindfulness. “Having grown up surrounded by civil war, I naturally try to anticipate problems so that I can proactively and quickly address them. But too much of that attitude creates unnecessary anxiety, especially when concerns are unjustified.” He now understands that as a leader, his subordinates look up to him as a problem-solver. In moments of crisis, leaders need to project calmness and handle matters with poise. Mindfulness can help leaders achieve the level of calm that is needed to decide with clarity and purpose.
When asked whether he had any advice for future leaders, Deeba said, “Treat people with respect and with dignity and never ever be condescending to others. Especially if you achieve success. That’s where humility becomes so important. Always do it with humility, no matter what.”