In 2020, viral social media app TikTok saw exponential growth that was completely unprecedented. What the millions of users don’t know, however, is how much work goes on behind the scenes for an app and a company like TikTok. When we found out that one of the important people behind this amazing platform is Cherine Magora, TikTok’s Head of Strategic Partnership in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, we jumped at the idea of shining the spotlight on this inspiring woman. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey sat down with her to discuss all things TikTok and her international career.
While she is based in France now, Cherine Magora was living in Egypt 11 years ago. Having graduated with an undergraduate degree in languages from the Faculty of Alsun in Cairo, the expectation was that she would work in translation or in media. She later decided to go to France to get an MBA in sales. With her MBA in hand, her career officially kicked off when she joined Delnet, a Danish tech company in Egypt. “I found myself making a complete career switch from languages to tech. I loved it and was very happy with the change. I was 20 and I was travelling around the world, so that was very exciting for me,” she recalls.
After Delnet, Magora continued working in the tech world in Egypt, at Exceed Tech and Oracle Egypt until 2009, when she made the move to France after she got married. The move was quite difficult for her as she felt out of place in France and she was worried about having to restart her career. No one knew who she was there, and the credibility she had gained in Egypt didn’t matter in France. “I started from scratch, all over again. I had to rebrand myself and prove that, yes I am Egyptian, I speak three languages and I can make it in this country. But thank God, with hard work, there’s always rewards,” she explains.
It was difficult enough for an Egyptian to prove himself in France, and being an Egyptian woman made it all the more challenging. “French society isn’t any different from Egyptian society when it comes to misogyny and sexism. These were challenges I faced as a woman from the Middle East. But because I had connections in the region, they started to listen to me and hear me out in France,” she says confidently.
As she recalls it, “TikTok was a breath of fresh air. That’s such a beautiful chapter of my life.” She cannot get over how the TikTok company was so understanding about her family situation and helped her achieve the right balance between her work and the needs of her family. “Being a mother of a child with special needs is tough, especially if you’re a working mother. It’s all about adjusting your routine and program. While I have people who help me during the day, picking the kids up from school, apart from that, I’m 100 percent present for my children through and through,” she adds.
And truth be told, Magora has done incredible work this past year, especially at the El Gouna Film Festival, where she successfully concluded a memorandum between TikTok and Gemini Africa. “Gemini Africa, which is a part of Orascom Holding Group, is an investment company dedicated to the promotion and incubation of young entrepreneurs. The aim of this “Memorandum of Understanding” is to merge technological advancement with creative entrepreneurship in a bid to add a new dimension to the world of entertainment and filmmaking,” she explains.
Looking ahead, besides her ambitions to expand on her success at TikTok, Magora has important plans to use her experience to help other parents of children with special needs. “I want to start a group in Egypt to help raise awareness and mentor other women and men on how to deal with the sudden change in their grand life plan. I want to give them support and to teach them how to support their child and help him/her reach his full potential. I want to help them accept and embrace their journey, either through a book or a podcast!”