Welcome to The Flight Crew Series, where we sit down with our team members around the world to get to know them better. We talk about the careers that led them to Navan, what their roles look like on a daily basis, why they believe in their teams, and even their favorite travel memory. Read more from the series here.
The Navan team is excited to today welcome Zahir Abdelouhab as the new VP of Sales in Southern Europe. Located in Paris, Zahir is thrilled to be building a new team of leaders who will help Navan thrive in the new markets.
As Zahir explains, his focus is hiring great people, developing their skills to ramp up quickly, and making Navan the No. 1 travel, expense, and credit card solution in Southern Europe.
Zahir has an engineering background, and attended one of the premier engineering schools in France before beginning a 15-year career in startups. He intentionally chose companies and roles where he could truly commit to the mission of each organization and contribute to the growth over a five- to six-year period.
Zahir worked in consulting before moving to tech, where he learned more about how U.S. software businesses work and what they need when entering Europe. He then joined MongoDB as one of the first employees in France six years ago, where he ran the business for four years before taking a global role to develop a new strategic business with cloud vendors. By the time he left, the team in France had grown to nearly 100 employees—many of whom he had personally hired and trained.
“My experience is in starting and building from scratch for businesses in France and elsewhere. For me, this is the most difficult, exciting, rewarding phase of a company. The potential in front of you is unlimited but at the same time, the risk behind you is huge,” explains Zahir. “It’s not just about selling a product but educating a market on a new vision while transforming some part of business through technology.”
Zahir has no doubts about the heights that Navan can reach in Southern Europe and beyond. Not only does he mention the giant market size (“Unlimited compared to what we usually see in software, he says”) but sees the business model as distinct from the norm. It presents an opportunity for him and his team to employ all the sales methodologies that they’ve learned throughout their careers.
Importantly, Zahir wasn’t bowed by the prospect of joining a travel company coming out of the pandemic, but rather saw it as an opportunity. “Crisis brings uncertainties, but it also brings lots of opportunities,” he explains.
A Culture Built on Meritocracy
Drawn in by the product and team, Zahir discovered a culture with similar values to his own. First, he saw all teams executing at a very high level, really owning their roles to deliver an incredible product.
The second value was a true spirit of meritocracy.
“There are many successful companies where we can earn money, but there are only a few places where we can learn, grow our career, and expect real meritocracy. And what I see in Navan sales culture is a true meritocracy,” explains Zahir.
“We are helping people to do their best and we are showing them how to do it. It's all about what’s your value and how you can support the high growth of the company by delivering high performance in a replicable way. I love this kind of culture.”
As Zahir mentioned, his first task is building a team of A-players to work alongside him as Navan expands in France, Italy, and Spain. Zahir explains how for the first few years of expanding in a new market, the team truly needs to work together, because the only metric that counts is the success of the country rather than the individual level. Hiring at this stage is as close to hiring for entrepreneurship as it gets.
“It’s very important for me to hire people who understand the spirit of entrepreneurs, of pioneers in the market. I’m looking for associates who will build the French business with me, who will be the leaders and the pillars of the business tomorrow,” he says.
What Zahir is most proud of when looking back on his career thus far is the opportunity to help people grow in their careers and reach heights they previously thought unimaginable. He brings that same passion for building and supporting his team members as they grow into leaders here.
Culture is an integral part of what makes Navan who we are and allows us to work together to innovate quickly for our customers and users. See what roles are available at Navan today and come join the journey.
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