Search & Replace S03E17: Mustafa Ammar

What happens when the career you’ve trained for takes an unexpected turn? Mustafa Ammar’s career took an unconventional odyssey from pharmacist to diplomat with dreams of cultural connection. His journey is a testament to the power of determination and self-discovery, revealing how he triumphed against all odds to secure a prestigious position at the United Nations. Tune in to Search and Replace to unravel the myths surrounding career changes, learn how to recognize signs it’s time to switch gears and discover how Mustafa’s insights can guide you on your own path of transformation. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode.  

[00:00:10] Joe Taylor, Jr.: What if the career you spent years of your life training for inspires you to switch careers? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace. 

Mustafa Ammar made a pretty common career move; identifying something he was passionate about, then getting the education necessary to qualify for a good paying job adjacent to that passion. As he tells us the underlying passion may have stayed the same, but the excitement for his new job faded pretty fast. 

[00:00:48] Mustafa Ammar: I started my career as a pharmacist and that was out of passion for chemistry. Once I graduated, I decided that this is not for me. Pharmacy is not for me for long. And I decided if I want to change, I have to change now. I took a couple of years trying to prepare myself to be a diplomat. I was so sure this is for me. And why? Because I was linking it to my ideal lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle of traveling, you know, getting in touch with other cultures, representing my culture in a good way, learning other languages, keep exchanging knowledge with other people. So I thought, wow, this is my dream lifestyle. 

Also, I connected it to a life purpose where, okay, why not? I can serve my culture. I represent it in a good way. So that’s a good thing. Why not?  

[00:01:33] Joe Taylor, Jr.: And as he kept asking himself, why not? Mustafa says he nearly talked himself out of switching into his new chosen career.  

[00:01:42] Mustafa Ammar: The good thing I did is that I spent some time on understanding myself. I didn’t decide to commit myself to that dream unless I was a hundred percent sure that this is for me. So I spent some time on reflection.  

I believe in something like when you are in the highest level of your spiritual status, you can decide with a more clear vision. So I waited for that time. I’m Muslim, so we fast Ramadan. And I believe in Ramadan I am in my highest level in terms of this spirituality. So I decided to wait until that moment where, like, by the end of the month, reflect and reflect and reflect. You know, listen to messages, to signs coming to tell you who you are on the right path.  

[00:02:23] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Now, it really didn’t help matters much that Mustafa chose a profession that’s extremely challenging. Most of the organizations that track job statistics don’t even cover the diplomatic core because there are so few job openings every year. So Mustafa got some interesting feedback about his decision.  

[00:02:43] Mustafa Ammar: You come to a time where almost 99.9% of people already are questioning what you are doing. People are looking at me saying, you are wasting your time. We’ll never be able to do it.  

I made sure that I’m on the right track and I thought I don’t have anything to lose. I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. It’s just a dream. If I never tried, I would always wonder how it would be my life if I just at least tried. 

And I think this is the key. It’s a sequence of going through difficulties, trying and error, trying and error, and failing as well.  

It happened long time ago, but I still recall that feeling because. You cannot ignore three years and half of suffering and working to save money and invest in courses. It’s a huge curriculum of you don’t know what you will be asked, so you have to prepare in everything and it’s a long process. And I decided to leave my job. I decided to leave everything, and I said to give this full time. And I said, because I am much closer to my dream than any time ever. What I ask in my prayers, I ask when I am in the final interview, I ask to get the feeling whether I’m in or not. 

And I remember once I finished, I went back home and I told my family, I’m in. And of course, the moment they announced that I got the official letter by the foreign minister, my appointment was a big, big day.  

It’s not only about being in such reputable place or having that job, but also it’s about conquering all those challenges.  

[00:04:07] Joe Taylor, Jr.: And that’s how Mustafa launched his second career as a diplomat. Eventually working in China, in Malawi, and even at the United Nations. With that experience on his resume, Mustafa evolved his career again. This time working as a business development specialist at a global investment bank, which is why he’s thinking so much about what it takes to get the courage to change careers. Because it’s a skill he’s mastered that many people find very difficult to follow through on. 

[00:04:36] Mustafa Ammar: I lived several career lives. Now I’m reincarnating again in my tech startup world. So, I’m building my own tech startup. Hopefully designing that online platform would help as many people as I could.  

I also wrote in my recent book, Time to Move On, where I speak to all those people who want to change but are afraid of change. We talk about all those career myths that people believe in and trying to bust one by one.  

I call one of the myths the supreme specialist, where people believe that the only way to succeed in life and career is to stay in one specialization, spend all life in. While I’m proving that there is another way. Another one is, like, work on your strength. You know, it’s really silly to work on your weakness. I’m proving to you it doesn’t matter whether you work on your weakness or strength, but if you have passion for whatever weakness you have, it’ll turn strength in a very short timeframe.  

[00:05:27] Joe Taylor, Jr.: Today, as the founder of a coaching firm that works with professionals in the process of switching careers, Mustafa’s more attuned than ever to the kinds of signs that help his clients realize it’s time for a change of pace.  

[00:05:40] Mustafa Ammar: You can feel your burnout, maybe your lack of passion. You are not productive enough, you’re not fulfilled enough in your career. There are many, many manifestations and symptoms. Once you start seeing one or two of these, I think it’s time to move on. 

But you don’t have to leave right away. You don’t have to just jump in the ocean because it’s so risky. So what I ask everybody to do is keep your job. Okay. But build a plan. So keep your job for six months, one year, a year and a half, whatever. But then build a plan. Spend some time with yourself. Starts writing your thoughts, journaling is so crucial. And then slowly, slowly you’ll evolve. When you figure out a passion, read about it. Go out and buy two or three bestselling books about that passion. Learn a bit about it and see yourself whether you are enjoying it more or not. And as long as you have a plan, you are in control over your career. 

[00:06:33] Joe Taylor, Jr.: That’s Mustafa Ammar, founder of the Passion MBA. We’ve got links to Mustafa’s work in our show notes and on our website at

Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith and Podcast Taxi executive producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex ReFire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr.  

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.  

Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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