PEOPLE: Shuey’s journey from couch-surfing to running an international agency

At just 35 years of age, Shuey Shujab is the CEO and Founder of award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency, Whitehat Agency. His road to success has not been an easy one however, starting with a childhood spent in abject poverty in India, where his parents regularly went without food so he and his siblings could eat.

His entrepreneurial skills were already apparent at this young age, with a 6-year-old Shuey known to go out collecting scrap metal from abandoned building sites in order to earn some extra cash to help the family.

After moving to Australia to attend university at 18, Shuey soon assimilated into the Australian way of life, enjoying the freedom that was suddenly at his fingertips. His drive and passion to achieve business success continued to grow. Disillusioned by an employer who was ripping off clients by engaging in underhanded business practices, known as ‘black hat’ tactics, and who left Shuey technically homeless and in financial ruin, he decided to launch his own digital marketing and web design agency with the goal to provide services that were above board and transparent, and to work with clients in a collaborative and mutually beneficial way.

Subsequently, Whitehat Agency was launched while Shuey was couch-surfing at a friend’s place, with not much more than a laptop and a mobile phone to his name. In the six years since launch, Shuey has grown Whitehat from a one-man-show to a hugely successful agency employing 16 staff in Australia, and Whitehat offices in Nepal, Singapore, L.A. and Amsterdam.

  • How have your own personal experiences throughout your life impacted your approach to work today?

Growing up in poverty in India had an enormous impact on me, and when I first came to Australia I couldn’t help but be amazed by all the opportunities here that I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed in India. So I approach everything from a place of gratitude. I appreciate how lucky I am to be here and I try to make the most of every single day, squeezing in as much as I can.

  • At one stage before founding Whitehat, you were technically homeless. To what do you credit the incredible journey you accomplished by turning from couch-surfing to CEO of your own company?

One word – resilience. I never gave up. I stayed positive even in those extremely dark times, because I knew one day it would change. I anchored myself in the certainty that my situation would change, and I kept working hard. And eventually it did.

  • Today, when do you find you need to be most resilient in the workplace and how do you tackle that?

I have to do that almost on a daily basis. I manage a global company, so every day I face some challenge or other. Of course right now we are all going through a hugely unsettling time due to the pandemic. However, because I have trained myself to deal with extreme pressure, dealing with the current COVID-19 situation isn’t too bad.

  • What’s your advice to other business leaders and entrepreneurs struggling with resilience at work?

I would say work on building your resilience when things are great and everything is going well. Like a muscle, work it and create behaviours and habits that help you become more resilient. So when things get bad, you can go into autopilot mode and can deal with things with a more level mindset, rather than frantically trying to solve things in a state of panic.

  • In your view, what are common misconceptions about resilience? How can the professional community overcome these?

Most people believe it’s something that comes naturally for everyone. But that is simply not true. Resilience is a skill that has to be developed and practiced. Everyone can build resilience if they work on it. One way to become more resilient it is to do something uncomfortable every day, like having a cold shower – this stresses your body and mind, which subsequently starts increasing your capacity to manage stressful situations.

About the expert

Shuey Shujab is the CEO and Founder of Whitehat Agency, an award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency based in Surry Hills, NSW.