Mum of two, TV presenter and successful entrepreneur Aziza Salman talks flunking college and following your dreams.
When Aziza Salman realised she was spending so much time at work she had no time to spend her earnings, she promptly quit and decided to change her path.
She explains: “I was working for a large credit card company in IT and was leaving the office one night at 11pm, after an IT crisis, when I realised I hadn’t seen my kids for two days.
“I thought to myself, ‘Is this the way life is supposed to be?’ I had enough money but no time to spend it and enjoy it. I realised then that something was wrong and the very next day, I resigned.
“My boss tried to talk me out of it but I asked myself, ‘Would I be happy here even if I was the CEO?’ and the answer was no, because there would always still be directions to follow and people to tell you what to do. You’re
not doing what you think, what you’re passionate about.”
Originally planning to be a doctor, Aziza’s family steered her towards IT and finance, believing that was the way of the future. She signed up for a computer science course but says: “My GPA was zero! I didn’t go to the classes, it just seemed so boring.” Next up came biology where “they talked about plastics, nothing to do with humans; again, I had no interest” and another one bit the dust!
Eventually Aziza graduated with honours in business information systems, allowing her to put her IT and people skills to good use at the same time.
But though she went on to work for several large international organisations, the office environment was not for her – eventually leading to that cathartic late-night experience and the dramatic resignation which left her feeling “liberated”.
She continues: “I starting reading about entrepreneurship and went on a course run by UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) aimed at helping people to become entrepreneurs. It was inspiring to see people ready to fly and, with the support of my husband and family, I decided to set up my photographic studio ‘Paparazzi’.”
A measure of the woman’s sheer guts is that she launched the studio with no formal photographic training, knowing simply that she loved being in front of the camera but was often unimpressed with the professional shots that had been taken of her.
That lack of knowledge led to a unique quality in her pictures. She explains: “I was used to taking pictures of natural things but I didn’t know how to take studio pictures. I went out and bought lights and flashes but, to be honest, I didn’t know how to use them, so, for the first year, I just used ambient light which gave my pictures a very soft effect.
“It became what my pictures were known for and not using a flash meant my subjects were not intimidated. If people don’t see the flash going off, they don’t know when you’re clicking, which allows you to get much more relaxed, informal shots.”
To develop her own skills she started giving photographic workshops – armed only with five books she’d bought from Amazon!
Explaining the audacious move, she quotes the words of Stephen Covey, best-selling author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “If you want to learn something, learn it as if you’re going to teach it.”
It clearly paid off and, since starting her studio in 2008, Aziza has exhibited in Paris and Monte Carlo, covered the Danish queen’s visit to Bahrain and filmed refugees in Lebanon for Al Jazeera TV.
“My camera has taken me to places I would never have got to go otherwise,” says Aziza.
In 2011 she was approached by Bahrain TV to present her own show Aziza Ti (which loosely translates as Aziza My Dear) which meant starting again at the beginning, learning to work in front of a live camera.
She says: “I call it the dancing camera, it’s a totally different experience. It’s moving and capturing your personality. I was so afraid that I might not do well so I went on a course for television presenters in London.
“I must admit that I wasn’t all that satisfied with my first experience of programme-making so I decided to add a new activity to my commercial registration and produce my own show.”
Concentrating on fashion and beauty, she used a psychologist to explain trends such as why Goths or bikers dress as they do. The show also offers styling tips and participants then have a professional photoshoot.
The show aired late last year and is currently being rerun on Bahrain TV while Aziza is off on yet another challenge.
She explains: “Being in front of the camera is addictive, it keeps you fit and pushes you to keep upping your game. I wanted to do something where this would be sustainable, so I approached Bahrain TV and asked about doing the news. I was amazed when they agreed and I’m currently in training.
“I hope in the future to do small documentaries, to go to places others don’t want to go. It’s all about taking the camera and telling the story.“My long-term ambition is to have my own TV station but I also want to study media and political science – I’m always still seeking something new. “Being an entrepreneur might not be for everyone, it’s hard work and can be very challenging, but I do believe following your passion makes life so much more interesting.”