Bassil Akra | Finding your path in unexpected places

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Bassil Akra | Finding your path in unexpected places

🤔 Introduction

This was truly a special episode as it was the last one we would have in 2021. There is no better way to usher in the close of an interesting year than having an interesting man with an interesting career path on the show. 

Who is he? Drumroll…Dr. Bassil Akra, the CEO and founder of Akra Team and a veteran in the quality control and regulatory affairs industry. 

His journey through the industry is one that we can learn a lot from including the importance of decisiveness and remaining focused on individual goals despite naysayers.

🏡 Straying away from the family business

Bassil comes from a long line of family members in the vehicle industry. From imports and exports to trade in spare parts, it seemed that his destiny was already determined for him when he was born. After all, what other career path would he end up taking if his grandfather, father, and multiple uncles went down the same road?

With such expectations at the back of his mind, it was surprising to many that Bassil really didn’t have a hard time straying from this familiar path. He knew from an early age that he wanted to become a doctor, a cardiovascular surgeon to be exact. And nothing, not even the fear of disappointing his family, was going to hold him back.

Fortunately for him, Bassil had a very supportive family that accepted his decision and trusted him to chart his own path.

🙏 Lessons from the father

Despite his firmness in choosing a career path separate from most of his family, Bassil Akra worked quite closely with his father and uncles in their many different vehicle-related businesses.

He sacrificed his time over his summer breaks to not only earn a little extra cash to have youthful fun but also to learn from the great business minds in his family. And boy did he learn.

Here are a few of the lessons that Bassil shared from his father.

1. A conscious is invaluable

“Anything I do in life, I keep my humanity.”- Bassil Akra

Perhaps the most important lesson that Bassil learnt from his father was to support and serve his clients whole-heartedly and ethically. Even if that means suffering some discomfort or inconvenience in your business.

2. It is crucial to be decisive in life

While rushing into decisions is not always a great idea, taking too long to make a choice could actually end up hurting your individual or business bottom line.

This lesson would come in very handy in Bassil’s regulatory affairs and quality control career where being snappy and sure about your decisions is a requirement for survival in the industry.

3. You won’t always be able to mitigate the risk to zero

Another very valuable lesson that Bassil learnt working for his family’s businesses in his youth is that it is impossible to mitigate the risk of a decision to zero. What is important is being sure that the rewards justify the choice and that you are willing and ready to bear any consequences.

🫀 Matters of the heart

Since the car and spare parts imports and exports business was not a fit for Bassil, he gave his long-time dream of being a cardiovascular surgeon a go. He was always passionate about the heart as an organ as well as all a limitless well of opportunity in terms of biomedical innovation.

It therefore came as no surprise when his career trajectory seamlessly transitioned into a masters and PhD in Biomedical Engineering.

His passion for research and innovative designs in the cardiovascular niche soon landed him a role as Head of the Research Group Tissue Engineering – Department of Cardiac Surgery at the Klinikum der Universität München in Germany.

💬 Life-changing decisions and lessons learnt

Making and sticking to life decisions is a life skill that was instilled into Bassil from his younger days working with his dad. This came in handy as he made 2 of the most important decisions in his life that have since led him to where he is today.

1. Joining the regulatory affairs and quality control industry

The very first decision was early in his career as a post-graduate student. He decided, more or less on a whim, to take a class in regulatory affairs and quality control. Although he initially found the classes boring and the lectures poorly delivered, he stuck it out and eventually got to the really good parts.

It was when his classes evolved into sessions on clinical research and device design that he knew that he had found his calling in the regulatory affairs industry.

2. Leaving his comfort zone in the industry

Once Bassil made his decision to give quality control a try, what followed was an avalanche of success. He was a perfect fit for the career and was actually head-hunted while he was still in his postgraduate level. After some careful consideration and hesitation, Bassil decided to take the job and the rest is history.

His career is littered with numerous highs but none is perhaps as impressive as his run at TÜV SÜD Product Service GmbH which is one of the biggest notify bodies in the industry on a global level.

Over the course of 9 years Bassil rose through the ranks to the level of Vice President of Global or Strategic Business Development at the company. This is when he decided to quit and go out on his own.

☝️ The learning curve

Bassil’s decision to leave while at the peak of his career at one of the best notify firms in the world came as a big shock to many. However, he felt that he needed a platform that offered him more flexibility in terms of his ability to help device manufacturers get much-needed innovations onto the market as quickly and safely as possible.

He was tired of being a no-man and always having to turn away often confused manufacturers who just needed a little guidance to get things right.

With his firm AKRA TEAM, Bassil is getting to do exactly what he always wanted to do and helping many manufacturers navigate the endless red tape in the biomedical regulatory control world.

However, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. The biggest lesson he has learned so far is that as you start off your business, you sort of have to become a jack of all trades. You come from working with a large team to being your own assistant, HR specialist, publicist, salesperson, and so much more.

This has helped him understand just how much work goes into making businesses run while making him more appreciative of the efforts by his team members.

😔 Career low points

Bassil’s career hasn’t been all peaks and triumphs. What he remembers as his biggest low point was when he trusted a team to the wrong individual and didn’t realize it until it was too late. He ended up with a dissatisfied, frustrated, and under-productive team that was unable to meet very important goals and deadlines.

🔥 Most importantly, what kind of legacy does he want to leave?

Bassil hopes to do his part to help make the regulatory affairs and quality control industry easier to navigate for the sake of the manufacturers and their customers who need the products desperately. He hopes to achieve this by teaching people how to strike a balance between satisfying personal goals and doing things the safe and ethical way.

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