Starting out at the tender age of 16 as a presenter with Qatar TV and a DJ on Qatar Radio while also completing her studies, Dr Nashwa Al Ruwaini’s broadcast experience shows that talent knows no age. She has come a long way since then, and now helms Abu Dhabi-based consulting company Pyramedia Group as CEO and board member.
She learned the management aspect of the media business at MBC London as Director of Business Development, and then decided to take the entrepreneurial route. In 1998, she launched Pyramedia, which has expanded to include diversified business portfolios over the years, working across media production and consulting, advertising and publicity, health and beauty, food and beverage, jewellery and media buying.
Recalling her first foray into the media industry, Ruwaini says: “It was a magical moment when I talked to the camera for the first time, as if I was talking to a dear friend. Looking back on that day, I am in awe of everything that happened and how my career has evolved, and how I now mentor young TV presenters who are beginning their career like I once did.”
Pyramedia has pioneered many TV programmes. Ruwaini shares some highlights: “We have developed concepts and formats that were never heard of in the region, and we were the first to implement new technology while creating our programmes. For example, we were the first to introduce lipstick cameras or to use holograms or augmented reality on set, or to have formats that matched international broadcasting standards. We continue to come up with new programme ideas that have never been done before.”
We have started the year with casting jobs for Hollywood through PYRASTARS, and we were the media arm of the biggest cultural festival in the world, Al Janadria in Saudi Arabia
The group has produced a variety of formats in several genres – TV morning shows and evening shows, cultural programmes like The Millions Poet and The Prince of Poets, and game shows like The Buzzer. The group recently launched a new talent show called Al Zaman Al Jameel for Abu Dhabi Media Company, which focuses on singing popular songs from recent years.
Sharing exclusive insight into new programming efforts with BroadcastPro ME, Ruwaini says: “Our latest show is open to all ages and offers to sift through a talented pool of people who can sing old songs. We are also working on social media and creating YouTube video shows for our clients. In media, our focus is on developing new formats, creating new alliances and integrating technology into our new productions. We have started the year with casting jobs for Hollywood through PYRASTARS, our casting agency for Arab talent looking for roles in international films, and we were the media arm of the biggest cultural festival in the world, Al Janadria in Saudi Arabia. I am very optimistic for 2019, and I am looking forward to a productive year.”
Things look upbeat for Ruwaini, who has big plans for the future, but it hasn’t been an easy road. “My journey was difficult, and I witnessed really difficult times and fought several battles. I had my fair share of ups and downs. I had to work triple as hard as a woman to prove my worth, but eventually I was recognised for my work, not my gender.”
Stressing the need for companies to create a favourable environment for working women, Ruwaini believes that a lot depends on an organisation – some are diligent about respecting women’s work-life balance, while others don’t have any idea about the concept. At Pyramedia Group, mothers are offered the flexibility to attend children’s events and can bring their children to work if needed.
Ruwaini believes it takes a woman to empathise with other women – and that a bright future awaits women in broadcast media.
“I definitely believe that things are looking up for women in the broadcast industry in the MENA region, and that women leaders are better received today. I think what brought about this shift in attitude was the gradual change from a male-dominated industry to one where both genders are equally represented. More importantly, our generation of women who worked in the industry years ago set the base to allow future women to be hired, to succeed in the industry and to lead in it. It took a lot of work, heartache and perseverance to reach where we are. The women of today are blessed, and we have played a role in paving the way for them. Although there’s more to be done.”
It took a lot of work, heartache and perseverance to reach where we are. Women of today are blessed, and we paved the way for them
Ruwaini is mesmerised by the pace of change in broadcast and inspired by the evolutionary challenges the industry faces. “I am excited about the overlap between broadcast and social media, and how social media is taking the lead in broadcast. I believe that Netflix and similar entities will play a larger role in the region. The power of tailored programming will be augmented, as well as apps-based programming. I am enjoying being part of this rapid change and contributing to it. If we don’t, we don’t have a chance at survival. Therefore, at Pyramedia Group we are evolving with time and keeping up with the changes that are taking over the world of media.”
Arab women in the broadcast industry are working their way up. While some may buckle under the pressure, Ruwaini sees a great future ahead for those who persevere.
“I don’t believe there is a glass ceiling – the sky’s the limit. I understand that sometimes things may not turn out your way and you may blame it on the glass ceiling, but it’s actually pretty deceptive. I say this from how my career evolved over the years and by how much I have achieved throughout my career, which affirms to me that I can achieve most of the things I dream of and no one can stop me.”
Ruwaini’s outlook for the broadcast industry in 2019 is that more women will join the media industry. Her advice to them is: “Our generation has already set the platform for other women to thrive. I would tell all women: work hard, do your best and know that you can easily succeed. Don’t be afraid of challenges, because you will always learn something from them; dream big and don’t be afraid to try new things.
“I would also advise them to keep up with market trends and to always try to be a pioneer in what they do. Most importantly, I would tell them you can be a woman in the dynamic broadcast industry and have a family at the same time, so you don’t need to feel that you have to sacrifice one for the other.”