Yasmine Helmy ’16 on Entrepreneurship Through Experiential Learning

Yasmine Helmy

One on one with the Hult Prize Egypt Country Director and Senior Growth Marketer at Instabug. 

Despite having just graduated in 2016, Yasmine Helmy already boasts a unique and diversified skill set that belies her young age. Her admirable work ethic and willingness to learn while pursuing her undergraduate studies at the American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Business have granted her a nuanced start to her professional life. She was recently promoted to the position of Senior Growth Marketer at Egypt’s most promising startup according to a 2016 Forbes ranking, Instabug, and named as the Egypt Country Director for international student competition, Hult Prize. The AUC School of Business sat down with Helmy to find out more about how her success story came to be and the impact that her education at the School has had on her. 

What made you decide to become a student at the AUC School of Business?

When I entered AUC, I wasn’t sure of what major I really wanted to enroll in – as is the case with so many people. I intended to major in political science and took a couple of courses to start my undergrad journey. I also stumbled upon extracurricular activities and joined a couple of clubs during my freshman year, which really opened my eyes. I realized that apart from focusing on my studies, I also needed to focus on myself by developing the soft skills that you do not get at class. From there, I found myself gradually starting to adopt the philosophy of learning by doing. 

By the next semester [at the start of my sophomore year], I knew that I wanted to switch to the School of Business. I started enjoying entrepreneurship, and after doing my research and asking around, I found the courses offered very interesting. I also really liked how the School aligns with present organizations [inside of AUC] as well as its efforts to provide students with an experiential experience, not just an academic one. 

As a sophomore, I started getting even more into student activities, which led to me dealing a lot more with the School because it was always interested in helping out. I really liked the support and the fact that we [students] were encouraged to do things outside of the classroom. For me, I did not want to just be a typical student; I always wanted to develop myself as a person to prepare for when I graduate. I would not have realized the importance of standing out as early as I did if not for the services of the School of Business. There are a lot of opportunities offered within the School, but it is up to you as a student to utilize them; I tried my best to capitalize on that. 

While I was leading the International Conference on Global Economy (ICGE) at AUC, one of our main goals was to involve students in societal global challenges. Luckily for us, a change in Hult Prize’s – the largest social entrepreneurship competition for students in the world, with a one-million-dollar prize to solve some of the globe’s most pressing issues– model made its committee appoint a campus director in every university to run local qualifiers, which allowed us [ICGE] to co-run the competition in AUC with the support of the School of Business. After running the competition qualifiers for two years in a row, AUC was selected as the best campus event worldwide, which was a huge milestone for all entities involved and a big win for the University.

What made the event stand out on such a global scale?

There are so many different factors that are taken into consideration. The criteria were very exhaustive to measure which event had the biggest impact in its local region. We really did well when it came to marketing, recruiting, logistics, media outreach, training the teams and creating collaborative partnerships. With the School’s support, the global Hult Prize Foundation noticed that Egypt was doing very well and had great potential – to the extent that this year, they appointed me as the Country Director of Egypt to kick-start the largest social enterprise competition in the country, and establish the organization as one of the main ecosystem players for social entrepreneurship in the region.

Do you consider yourself a trial-and-error type of person?

I have always believed in trying things and really learning from each new experience. That is why I joined various clubs, applied for internships in small companies, participated in many competitions and embarked on a student exchange to explore myself and try to figure out what I want to do in life.  I discovered that I am really drawn to technology and everything digital, and that I am very passionate about development and impact. I really feel lucky to be able to work on growing a world-class product like Instabug, and launch the biggest platform for social entrepreneurship in Egypt by enabling youth through the Hult Prize. 

How do you split up your schedule to ensure maximal efficiency in all of your different tasks? 

Well, I used to play sports when I was young. So since I was a kid, I learned to optimize my time very well. I do not play sports anymore, but other things now take up the time that I used to dedicate to them. Being an athlete really made me accustomed to having limited time to focus on other things, as it required dedication and commitment. This later led me to always think ahead about where I need to be and what I need to do. Of course, it gets really difficult at times and it becomes really hard to manage everything that I am doing; however, I feel I was lucky with my choice of courses and day-to-day schedules as well as continuously having the support of my professors, colleagues and bosses. 

Do you envision yourself being able to continue with such energy moving forward? 

To be honest, I hope so. I am very passionate about the things I am working on at the moment. The mix that I have has been ideal for me so far as I get to pursue my passion for both technology and development. A key factor that is enabling me to work in Instabug and run Hult Prize Egypt concurrently is that I am part of two amazing teams that really push me forward and help me grow each day. 

Are there any academic skills that you gained by going to the AUC School of Business that are still benefitting you at work now? 

Well, there were so many different things. For instance, I remember this specific class I took about digital marketing that, despite being an optional course, is still very crucial to the work I currently do at Instabug. I was fortunate enough to be taught by amazing professors who were very well connected in their different fields and were very diversified. In general, when I look back at my time in AUC, I feel very grateful for all the opportunities that were available to me. If you look at my cohort for example and compare their performance with similar graduating batches from different universities, you will always find that the School’s students are noticeably further ahead. Everything that we learned has helped in its own way and I cannot wait to see where each of our journeys will take us.