Celebrating a decade of professional growth: 7 lessons learned

Khalil Tarhouni
7 min readFeb 26, 2023

When I turned 20, my father told me: “From now on, the years will pass faster, you’ll see” and I didn’t see nothing. Time flies, we all know. But I never thought that 10 years of professional experience will happen in this speed.

I’m very proud and happy of what I accomplished in this symbolic milestone. I’m sharing with you in this post how it was and some of the lessons I learned along the way. Let’s go!

10 years, 3 main stations

My career started with a very hard yet bold decision to quit university and stop my master’s degree after succeeding the first year. The decision was based on multiple factors. First, I have to acknowledge that I made the wrong choice by choosing a master’s degree in research in finance where we were spending most of our time reading 40-page papers about 1929 crisis and summarizing them. I felt that I was stagnating — learning nothing practical. In parallel with my studies, I was very active in the civil society and the work I’ve done on the ground was so addictive that I couldn’t get rid of it.

The second reason was financial. I wanted to start making money. My financial situation was a bit stressful. My parents couldn’t afford to give me a lot of pocket money and to be honest, I always struggled with personal finance. Long story short, I did a lot of paid internships until one day, a friend of mine recommended me for a part time job with an American NGO specialized in entrepreneurship and education. I worked for 6 months as what we call today, a Community Manager. It was a great experience to post on multiple social media channels — back in the days — news, updates and cover events in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. And from this very first experience I knew that I wanted to have a career in entrepreneurship support.

My first full-time job was with a company that 2 friends of mine started in 2011. I was involved with them since day 1 of the endeavor before joining them as first employee in October 2012. We decided that my title will be Project Coordinator and I was doing almost everything: help in organizing end-to-end corporate events (from the theme and agenda to logistics and invitations management, marketing and communication), admin & finance…etc.

For almost 5 years, the journey took us to places and projects that we’ve never thought we’ll successfully manage. We did some pivots and kept capitalizing on the expertise we were building. We went from a simple event management small company to a projects management small consulting agency. We designed business model and business plan trainings and competitions. We run entrepreneurship programs. We built the first directory of startups and support organization “Entrepreneurs of Tunisia”. During this experience I had the chance to deliver trainings to 3000+ people. We won the first prize at Doha Forum with a research-based spin-off program, Univenture.

During this experience, I had the freedom to work on other projects in parallel as consultant. I had the opportunity to be part of the external evaluation team of the biggest entrepreneurship competition in Tunisia, Souk Al-tanmia (African Development Bank). I discovered the wonderful world of M&E (monitoring and evaluation) and I did a road trip of 1000km to visit 40 beneficiaries (entrepreneurs).

As first employee and kind of co-founder, I had 10% of the dividend and I was supposed to have the same percentage in the capital. Which we didn’t finalize.

The ideal form of work feels like play, but still accomplishes something useful and valuable. Joyful for you. Helpful to others.” While this is what I was really feeling every day. The experience was not ideal obviously. We were fresh graduates and lacked experience. We made a lot of mistakes from which we learned a lot. We had a lot of fights. We worked for one year in a coffee shop.

Unfortunately, this experience didn’t end well as I left two weeks before the last date and without notifying the team. My endless fights with one of the co-founders, who didn’t want to accept the idea that I’m leaving, pushed to this decision. Years of friendship were gone. This is sad but business took it over friendship.

My second station was Endeavor Tunisia. This was a turning point in my professional life. I joined, again, as a first employee in May 2017. Endeavor was like multiple MBAs in one experience. Endeavor was very unique. I went from Associate to Manager in almost 3 years. I organized and I attended +200 mentoring sessions with world-class mentors from companies I’ve never thought that one day I will be in a call with their VPs and Management.

I will be always grateful to Endeavor as it reshaped my way of thinking, strengthened my skills and expanded my comfort zone to horizons I ignored I was capable to reach. I gained a lot from every interaction I had, and this led to the inflection point I reached in my career. Having worked with high-impact entrepreneurs was an infinite chance. Huge thanks as well to the +100 Tunisian entrepreneurs I’ve met, who made this experience full of hope and inspiration. They gave me a valid reason to wake up every morning with the same energy level. Cherry on the cake, Endeavor took me to Cape Town, New-York, Dubai to name a few. Fun stroy, my manager hired 3 people when I announced that I was leaving.

I don’t know if it was luck or something else, but I think I left Endeavor in the right moment. I wasn’t sure about my next steps. It was either to continue in the entrepreneurship support ecosystem in Tunisia (hard to work for another organization but Endeavor), or going abroad with Endeavor. I also thought about a career in VC. At the end of the day, I landed at Timsoft.

A good friend of mine, Recruitment Expert, gave me a piece of advice. “You must have a job description”. I ended up by joining Timsoft without a clear JD. It was atypic from the start. At Timsoft, I started a blank page. Everything was new to me. Digital transformation, IT consulting, ERPs, IT project management and the list goes on and on. My initial role was Projects Director, supposed to oversee the activities of Business Units and support managers in their business role.

Two weeks after I embarked in this journey, Covid-19 kicked, and this was the best opportunity to unleash my full potential and contribute in the transformation we’ve gone through.

An important detail to mention: the Founder asked me to support a little bit the marketing team. What was supposed to be a 3-month mission became my second hat. I was the CMO of the group and experienced the beauty and the challenges of building things from scratch. Literally everything. It is difficult to summarize 3 years of B2B marketing activities in one or two sentences.

Besides the fact that it was the best decision I’ve ever made (on the professional level), it was also a challenging experience that taught me a lot and made the person/version who I am today.

Lessons learned

The last ten years have been full of challenges, learning opportunities, and personal growth. Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1Take risks: Quitting university and choosing to work for a startup was one of the biggest risks I took, but it paid off in ways I never expected. Being willing to take risks and try new things can lead to great opportunities and personal growth.

2Follow your passion: Working in entrepreneurship and education made me realize that entrepreneurship was my passion, and I have followed it ever since. When you are passionate about your work, it doesn’t feel like work.

3Embrace learning: Every job I had presented new challenges and opportunities to learn. I realized that learning never stops, and you have to be willing to embrace new knowledge and skills.

4Build relationships: Relationships are the key to success in any field. Building strong relationships with mentors, colleagues, and clients is essential to achieve your goals and grow your network.

5Take ownership: Taking ownership of your work and being responsible for the results is essential for success. When you take ownership, you become more committed to your work, and it shows in the quality of your output.

6Persistence pays off: There were times when I felt like giving up, but I learned that persistence pays off. Never give up on your goals and keep pushing forward, even when faced with setbacks.

7Leave on a positive note: It’s essential to leave a job on a positive note, no matter the circumstances. Burning bridges can harm your reputation and limit future opportunities.

The past ten years have been a rollercoaster ride of experiences, challenges, and personal growth. I will keep repeating it: I’m thankful and grateful to every person I’ve met. I’m excited to see where the next ten years will take me and what new experiences and opportunities they will bring.

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