Baton Rouge's talent development manager who lead training and community outreach for IBM statewide, and has been the local face of the company since 2013 has left her position to start her own consulting firm.
Dima Ghawi's new firm Dima Ghawi LLC will have three main areas of focus, she says: leadership development, motivational speaking and women empowerment, a personal mission that's been very close to her heart.
"I'm very passionate about this and I know that this is a huge area for Louisiana," Ghawi said. "For us to grow as a state we need to focus on empowerment for our women and get them into leadership roles."
In recent months, Ghawi has created a women-only leadership group which delivers monthly online speakers to a global audience and focuses on helping women of all backgrounds to realize their full gifts and potential.
She says she will use her more than 18 years of global corporate experience, 11 of which she spent with IBM, and experiences living abroad to shape her message.
"Because I worked and lived in so many different countries around the world, I noticed some women don't face a lot of issues the average woman has. I've also worked with women in third-world countries who are unable to express their opinions," Ghawi added.
Multiple economic development officials have noted Louisiana's dire need for leadership development in recent years. Ghawi hopes to be part of the solution by leading workshops around the state doing much of what she's done at IBM to develop talent.
Ghawi says she's wanted to start her own business for the past four years, however couldn't find the courage until delivering her "smash" of a speech at the 2014 TEDxLSU where she told her life story and her goal to break barriers, or as she now refers to her feat into entrepreneurship, "breaking vases."
During the speech, Ghawi challenged the audience, asking "What limitations are you dealing with? What's keeping you from living your dream?"
Ghawi, a native of Jordan, shared last year how she grew up in a culture with tight restraints on women. She also likened herself and young girls to a glass vase that, if cracked, shows all mistakes and insecurities.
During her speech, Ghawi said she lived her life according to the strict cultural restraints but, as a young bride at age 25, "I realized I had a choice: I could live satisfying everyone around me or not. I chose me." So she got a divorce from a controlling husband and, set out to discover herself.
A graduate school professor started her on the path to leadership with a simple suggestion: run for student body president. She won, and vowed not to let insecurities limit her again "We allow these limitations to inhibit us, not knowing we could have broken them all along," she said during her speech. "So I smashed the vase."
Now, Ghawi relives that TEDxLSU speech. "It was a turning point in my life. It opened my eyes to the opportunity," Ghawi said. After her TEDxLSU speech, she said multiple people, companies and groups reached out to her and asked her to speak to crowds, consult with employees and lead workshops.
So she decided to take the leap.
"Just like I broke the vase on stage, I broke another vase in my real life. I'm taking another risk to be on my own, even though it's terrifying, new adventure," Ghawi said.
IBM has replaced Ghawi with Beth O'Quinn, a 29-year veteran of the company. She said she will focus primarily on training new hires. Her most recent position was client technical professional in the IBM analytics division.
O'Quinn said IBM is on target to meet its goal of 800 employees by 2017, however declined to share how many employees the company has hired locally to date.