Setback to success: Skills to succeed with Naby Mariyam

by Aug 10, 2022

Have you just faced a rejection, and now you’re feeling unsure about your next steps? Or maybe you’re questioning whether you’ve got the skills to create a career from the ground up? This article is for you.

Welcome to part two of our discussion with CEO and Founder of Coverhero, Naby Mariyam. If you haven’t read part one, be sure to check it out here.

This time, we’re giving you the inside scoop on Naby’s advice around the skills you need to turn rejection into success, and the steps you can take to build a professional reputation – no matter what stage you’re at in your career journey.

Earlier in your career you were involved in a few startups that didn’t get off the ground, and had a few initial careers that you decided to change – what do you think were the more helpful skills that came into the forefront when dealing with those rejections? Or alternatively, what were the biggest life lessons that you got from those down periods in your career as you moved into entrepreneurship?

So many life lessons. Let’s talk about it in life lessons and skill sets.


One big thing is building confidence and pitching and public speaking. Even though I had years of academic experience and lecturing experience talking to an audience as the voice of authority in a lecture hall, it’s very different to going out to the general public and pitching an idea that belongs to you. And it’s a whole different ball game because I’m a confident speaker, I can talk about all these business topics – but they’re not my ideas, they’re from the literature.


So when it becomes personal, whenever somebody gives you feedback – in the very early days I would take it so personally and I would get so upset and so angry – so that was a big lesson, to not personalize the feedback… and building confidence and courage to speak in public about ideas. So that’s a good steppingstone.


The other part is building self-awareness through that journey. So it’s becoming the potential that I was destined to be throughout all of this, so it doesn’t matter what startup I’m doing or what failures I had or what success metrics are, it’s about how it has transformed me to the person that I am today.


And looking back, I didn’t know this was my path and that I would get here, it was always kind of like being curious about trying new things and failing and trying again, and not quitting, right? And this is the thing – in the downturn, or when things are not going well, a lot of us would give up and throw in the towel rather than taking a step back and looking at everything that’s happened objectively and saying ok where did I fail? Where did we go wrong, how did things not work out, what’s happening?


And then understanding the challenges of the world, like, systemic injustice and how those barriers exist and knowing that those barriers and really understanding what is inside my influences vs what is outside my influence and finding a path to navigate through it rather than getting angry or frustrated about systems that are so strong and established that I can’t break. In my very early days I would just hate the system and get mad at it, but now I’m more like, ok these are systems are quite robust I have to find a way through this jungle of systems that create society and industry, and that has been the biggest learning for me: don’t hate reality for what it is, try and change it, find ways and corners and crevices that you can move through and still achieve your goals.

Do you think, during that time, those instances of rejection or those down times help you develop any transferable skills that you’ve since used to find success in your career?

Yeah, so one good example is in 2018 I was kind of like super lost and I was building Coverhero and I was going through a really difficult time and I didn’t have influence, I didn’t have a network, I just had this idea and a company that is basically nothing. And I was like how do I go from here to becoming a voice that represents insurtech. Nobody knows me, I don’t have a voice, I don’t have anything, so it was like how do I build this? How do I position myself as a thought leader globally, and what do I do?


So during that time I was like ok, I don’t know what else to do right now but I’m going to create demand. How do I create demand? I started looking at all of these conferences all around the world and I started pitching myself to be a speaker on those panels, and I noticed how receptive people are, so that was one thing I did. And that was my journey of becoming a public speaker – that’s how it started.


Secondly, I was like ‘I don’t know people, I don’t know any investors, I don’t know talent, I don’t know people in the insurance industry, so how do I connect and open doors for myself?’ So then it was a journey of building my LinkedIn influencing network. So at the time I had 2000 connections and I didn’t use LinkedIn a lot, so I create a strategy of ‘Who do I want in my network, what does my business network look like?’ so then I created, ok ‘I want to connect with investors, future talent, media, event organizers.’ Then I created this vision for myself of what I want my business influence to look like.


Then I started investing into it every week, so I’d spend like 2 hours with a whole bunch of investors. Then the next week I was like ‘Ok I’m going to connect with journalists.’ So I started doing that then I started asking them if they’d have a coffee with me to talk about XYZ. So I’d do my homework, I’d look at their profile and I’d come up with an idea that I’d want to discuss in 30 minutes, a quick catch up in the city. And then I started really enjoying the conversations, people started making introductions, my LinkedIn started growing, my public speaking profile started growing, and it started to snowball.


It was super scary though, to even send a message on LinkedIn I can’t even remember how scared I was back then because I feared rejection, like ‘Why would they talk to me? Who am I?’ I didn’t give myself permission… but the surprising thing was that people love helping other people and I learned to put myself out there and now I’m still scared of rejection (I think there’s an element of this fear of like, ‘Oh I’m going to be rejected,’) but now I’m like they’re not rejecting me they’re rejecting the circumstance or maybe it’s not a good fit, or there’s a whole bunch of non-personal things that happen in the world and we tend to personalize it and make it about us which is not true.

One hundred percent! So hearing you talk about this really active, or pro-active in a lot of instances, way of going out there and manually building a network of professionals – do you think having that professional network is a vital thing for people to start doing nowadays?

I think putting yourself out there and putting your work out there is vital. And that will lead to your profile being built over time.


What you can do is you can start writing content about your work, you can start showcasing, you can start telling your story on LinkedIn, you can create a group of people that want to listen to what you’re sharing, right? And that would organically attract the people that are your vibe… Just share with the world what you’re doing, what you’re passionate about, and then you’ll find an audience and build an audience – whatever that audience looks like – organically.


And let’s say you’re 18 or 19 and you’re getting started and you have passion and ideas and you’ve done stuff – start blogging, start creating videos, start creating content and you will build… imagine if you wrote one blog, even if it’s like 500 words a week, you would have 52 blog posts in 12 months – that’s an incredible amount of work! And it’s there!


So it’s just a different way of thinking. Think of the journey of your career as micro achievements – weekly achievements. And then as you discover yourself and what you want, you will organically grow.


So there you have it! No matter where you’re at in your career journey, there’s always opportunities to start broadening your horizons and taking small steps towards achieving your goals. Whether it’s building a professional reputation, or just looking to where your passions are and seeing if there’s a gap that needs filling – with a little persistence you could make your career goals a reality.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash 

Naby Mariyam

Naby Mariyam

CEO and Founder of Coverhero

By Mia Casey

By Mia Casey

Communications Officer

Mia is a Sydney-based communications professional and content creator for UTS Careers. She helped create the UTS Careers Blog and managed it for five years from its conception in 2016.
Her freelance work focuses on communications development, brand strategy, and helping companies create a cohesive identity narrative tailored for each of their platforms.
She enjoys piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.