Corporate Insights: Fadi Farra speaks about entrepreneurship and leading with compassion.

Many CEMS alumni have chosen to build their careers with CEMS Corporate Partners. In this interview series, we explore the diverse career paths CEMS alumni have embarked on at these companies. Today we meet Fadi Farra, Founder and Managing Partner at Whiteshield, who tells us about his path to entrepreneurship, yielding to the instinct for compassion and his purpose to build his company.
Fadi Farra Corporate Insights

There are two things that motivate us in life. One is fear. The other is compassion. So says Fadi Farra, Founder and Managing Partner of public policy and strategy advisory firm, Whiteshield. And it is compassion that has fueled the major step changes in Farra’s life and career.

An economist by training, Farra was Head of Unit at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris until 2020, when he came to a critical realisation. His work advising governments and organisations on economic and public policy issues involved challenge and rigour, yet remained detached from “reality on the ground,” he says. The disconnect between intention and tangible impact frustrated him. Specifically, a meeting with a client looking to make redundancies in their manufacturing plants yielded a “moment of truth.”

“I realised I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to channel my expertise and time into firing people,” says Farra. Sitting in that board meeting, I realised that what actually mattered more to me were people; that I cared more about doing the right thing by others. And that compassion was a far greater motivation than fear.”


Doing the right thing, yielding to the instinct for compassion, became a guiding principle; one that has seen Whiteshield take root as an idea and grow over the last decade into a multinational advisory, with offices in four continents and a slew of industry awards for excellence in consultancy and innovation. But it hasn’t been easy. Founding the business, recruiting the right talent, building a viable client roster, and maintaining the most rigorous standards in consultancy in changing times—navigating all the stresses and exigencies of entrepreneurship—have required tenacity and resilience.

Sticking to the path has meant “chasing the vision.” And chasing it resolutely.

“Entrepreneurship in any field means pushing the frontiers. And being an entrepreneur means simultaneously taking risks and dealing with the risk of losing it all,” says Farra. “To weather these challenges, you have to have a purpose that’s worth it. You need to know what’s driving you and stick to it. Purpose is what illuminates the path.”

Purpose remains the cornerstone of everything that Whiteshield does in support of governments from Europe to Eurasia, from the Middle East and Africa to the Americas. The firm’s more than 100 consultants and staff are grounded by a commitment to improve lives through continuous policy innovation. Helping the citizen is the driver, says Farra. So too is the willingness to go the extra mile, as and when necessary. If a minister is asking for support, he says, it behoves him and the entire team to give whatever it takes to provide that support. As such, Whiteshield is a working environment that welcomes and rewards people with a sense of purpose, he adds; those who care about people and share a commitment to do better by them. In return, staff can expect their needs and objectives to be understood, and prioritised.

“To me, leadership is about connecting with other human beings, and asking the right questions to understand what they are feeling and sensing,” says Farra.

“As a leader, you can either look at people as resources to optimise, or as individuals to develop. I believe the key to effective leadership is to truly see the person in front of you and think about how they can be happy and fulfilled at work. That’s how I see a true leader.”

Leading with humanity—helping others be the best that they can be—and leading with purpose: both are tenets that Farra believes align closely with the values of today’s workforce. They are also long-held principles that found early expression in his time as a CEMS student.

An MSc graduate of LSE and HEC, Farra discovered in CEMS a “unique community,” built across like-minded people with a “strong sense of shared humanity.”

“CEMS was and still is really unique. The CEMS experience posits a different logic—one that embraces community as international—and challenges you to build the skills, the languages and a position on the importance of humanity that will underpin your career.”


So strong is Farra’s enduring commitment to CEMS, in fact, that he has served on the CEMS Strategic Board and was President of the CEMS Alumni Association. He regularly contributes interviews and insights to the CEMS community.

Whiteshield is also a CEMS Corporate Partner and actively recruits graduates from CEMS schools. Around 20% of Whiteshield staff are CEMSies: purpose-driven professionals who share its founder’s vision and mission. Farra is keen to welcome more CEMS talent into the ranks—with an important caveat.

“Working with us will give you the helicopter view. You’ll get to work with management across the public sector of different regions and it’s a chance to have real impact—impact on the GDP of an entire country,” he says. “Of course, this is a very different concept to working for profit. But a key advantage is to have private sector knowledge and expertise—understanding of companies and industries—that can be harnessed for public good.”

As such, Farra recommends that CEMSies and other graduates build experience before getting in touch; that they consolidate knowledge in both private and public sector areas, whether in paid roles or internships. And for anyone at the start of a career and considering options in today’s uncertain and fast-changing world, he has words of encouragement and advice.

“Don’t specialise too much too soon. Take risks and don’t look back if you fail at something. Whether you want to be an entrepreneur or work within a private or public organisation, connect with other people, build broad networks, connect the dots,” he says.

“Above all, don’t be afraid; even if what you want to do might mean risking it all. Stick to your vision. I wake up every morning wondering what I will do to give something back each day. If you have a vision, if you have the commitment—if you have compassion—the challenges will come, but so too will the satisfaction.”


The CEMS Corporate Insights is a series of interviews that aims to highlight the diverse career paths CEMS senior alumni have embarked on at the CEMS Corporate Partners. Interviews focus on various aspects of life, including their work journey but also reflection on leadership, globalisation, finding the right path and their takeaways from their CEMS experience.

You can find previous interviews on or on the CEMS Career Center.