Blogging… Re-start!

Has it been at least a year & 5 months since my last post? Life got quite hectic for me.

Things have started to take off for me, as I’m finally settled into a routine day schedule. You may have guessed it – I’m finally employed in Qatar Airways. I know I struggled for quite a while looking for a job, and not even following the indoctrinated old fashion method of CV/resume by the word.

In the Middle east region, they are used to using both words for the same thing. Whereas CVs have a more academic focus area with publications and other scholarly accomplishments, resumes are geared towards more professional/corporate environments. You would use the former if you’re looking to apply to a college/university for a job.

Anyways, it seems that I’m back in my groove and looking to restart proper journal blogging. Let’s see what else props up for me to share…

Oh, I’ve been putting out quirky things on my Tumblr blog – do check it out.

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The Last Stretch – Aftermath

*sigh* You might think that being done with college is like being taken off the leash, but it’s just the beginning. Absence of assignments & weekly quizzes is a boon,  but so is the harsh reality of hidden real-time assessments by superiors.

It’s already been almost a month since Graduation 2011, followed by QF Senior Convocation 2011 where I received my ring. On top of that, I’ve gotten my UK visa to attend TEDGlobal this July in Scotland – that also on the day of graduation (Though I could only collect my passport the next day). You’re wondering what’s left?

Well, the harsh reality that the Middle East job market highly favors 5+ years of experience, regardless of industry experience. Scant to none opportunities for fresh graduates, and the possibility that my TEDx plans go down the drain. Even if there are fresh graduate positions, they are probably reserved for the locals. How do you expect to gain experience when we don’t even have the opportunity to learn from other experienced people and to prove ourselves by taking up challenges? The corporate mentality here has to change, but who knows how long it will take before it bears fruit.

I’ve already made a promise to come back here and unite both current students and alumni for this. Anyone who is still and was a part of Education City is still entitled to being part of anything that takes place. Once, they were students when people knew nothing about the place and they have also witnessed the rising prominence and growth of this endeavor by the State of Qatar. Now I’ve got until August to sort out my employment situation, else I need to cancel and head back on the next flight to India :(.

I thought that I’d keep the job search alive by taking on freelance work. Would add another level of flexibility if I felt the need of going independent down the road after getting sick of the office work. Gives you the chance to be your own manager, yet also allows you to meet with other people and find possible job leads. Indirectly, I’ve already gotten some and following up on them. Even though I’m counting down towards the last-resort action of leaving, I’m not giving up that easily. I hate to say it, but many think that a job is guaranteed here not realizing that an ongoing nationalization push would easily prioritize locals over expats.

Not much can be said now, but I’m keeping my efforts alive. Scotland is my other beacon of hope!

The Last Stretch – Chapter 6: Closure

This entry has been in the works for quite a long while – all I can say is that I’ve been planning and writing it since December. Sounds like a long time, but why the delay? Well, plenty of things popped up.

First, I’ve officially graduated from Carnegie Mellon Qatar and that classifies me as an ‘alumni’ though I have yet to receive my diploma. That’s going to happen on May 2. Now that I think about it, I’m not bothered with having spent a long time inside Qatar Foundation. I’ve been here since August 2005 and if you’re wondering how different things were at that time, here’s a rough breakdown:

  1. Weill Cornell was the only building on the greenspine
  2. Georgetown just set up shop, and had to share space with Texas A&M and the ABP inside the LAS building. Replace Texas A&M with CMUQ in 2007 and Georgetown’s increasing numbers, the problem worsened with a larger student body.
  3. No cameras were put inside the dorms, yet it was lively and quiet when needed.
  4. The large parking never existed, and was a rough and sandy patch of space that I used to tread upon when I walked between Cornell and the dorms (Once I lost my CMUQ ID in the dark, and had to retrace my steps back to find it).
  5. They had started work on the Ceremonial Court around May 2006, and Texas A&M broke ground for their dedicated campus.
  6. In my opinion, the best event that probably happened was the QF version of the TV reality show survivor (CMUQ did it and there’s an album of it).
  7. … and I could go on (You can head over to my Facebook and see the albums)

You can see that it’s been a long while. That doesn’t mean that I’ve been idling around since December. I’ve been job hunting since summer 2010, but it seems that the GCC is not a place for fresh graduates. No matter whatever leads I followed, it always ends up with the following clause:

<insert a number greater or equal to 3> years of experience in <add more specific details based on job description requirements>

What’s even worse is that some postings don’t even mention it and gives a false message to fresh graduates. Only after you’ve applied, you would hear back the above statement. That is bad strategy and effort from companies. If a position requires experience, THEN STATE IT CLEARLY in the job description. Don’t just say it after someone has applied, with the hopes that the candidate may have some hope of consideration. I’ve already been through this many times when I applied online.

Seriously, don’t these companies believe in fresh talent? It’s almost like this region is meant for 40+ people settled with families. Even internships aren’t even making the cut. What’s even worse is the nationalization policies being enforced. My situation is quite different, as I’m an international student and I need to have a job. My plans are on the line right now, and I’ve got CMUQ’s Professional Day to work on. From my experience, I’ve seen certain companies openly stating “Only Qataris”. These guys don’t know the meaning of subtlety, and they have to put it out there in the open in a blunt manner. Who are they trying to fool? What’s even worse is that some companies just come but they don’t even intend to recruit. Hate to say it, but the Middle East is not even ripe for fresh gradates. These companies will be the ones playing the blame game, and the rest would create the ‘brain-drain’ that has impacted countries like India and China. If these people want experience, they should be looking for people who have families with 2 children. They fail to realize that fresh graduates are young and energetic to help an organization’s growth. Even with the Qatar 2022

On top of this, I’ve also been selected to attend TEDGlobal 2011. I’m the first student fresh out of college selected for this privilege – not something easy to come by as they only have slots for maximum 750 to attend (That’s half the number of those who go to TED in Long Bach, CA, U.S.A). That would be the best place to meet with people that I can mingle with. Seeing that I’ve been hearing so much about Scotland, I’m just counting down to the day I set foot on that flight to Edinburgh.

This won’t be the last entry, as I will have one more to end this arc.

Middle East future-scape – Immediate Success (Part 2 – Cannibalized Influx)

Overview

My earlier entry started off with 4 things that I had talked about: Inflation, Influx of contractors, Quality of services, and Regional Tourism. As I mentioned that I would expand on one of them for another entry, this post is dedicated to the influx part from the previous one.

Immediate Success – Part 2 (Influx)

When I mentioned that contractors would be waiting to bid for the numerous tenders that would be released, I didn’t even touch upon the influx of other things that Qatar would have to sustain – visitors and job opportunities. As the country recently announced a total of 200 projects encompassing the range from education to residential and healthcare, it’s evident that the country may lack the workforce and the people to perform the job.

The main part of this topic that may have been overlooked is the increase in job opportunities in the country. Over the past years, Qatarization has aken higher precedence, with the government clamping on private companies who have failed to meet their quota. As long as they are employing Qataris, that’s what matters to the ministries – otherwise, it’s a QR 100,000 ($27,398) instant penalty. Now, this is a point of contention as the country also has another breakthrough project that seeks to develop the human capital of Qataris and non-Qataris – Education City.

Qatar Foundation‘s flagship project have already graduated numerous alumni from the different branch campuses, but some have still faced hardships of securing employment in the country. Most of the non-Qataris have taken out interest-free loans from Qatar Foundation to pursue their education goals. By working in the country in one of the approved places, their debt is written off every year. This is part of the Foundation’s goals to retain that pool of talent that can greatly contribute to the country. The last thing to happen is for it to leak out for someone else to benefit. If there are no job opportunities for these graduates to apply, they might as well pack up and leave.

Preparing for the World Cup is not only an honor, but also a challenge. You may not find the proper qualified people to perform the duties. They may not even know how to deal with an influx of tourists who would come from different parts of the globe. Language poses a barrier right there. From my experience, much of what happens here is attributed to Arabic. Unless you know the language, then nothing gets done. Some of them haven’t even seen the outside world and know what is good to do. Qatar still doesn’t have a vibrant youth culture and society like Dubai, but that is changing. However, the generation of our parents still hold to their positions and would be reluctant to change.

This is where Education City can fill this void. As the graduates are well prepared to meet the challenges of the corporate and professional, they have been groomed and prepared over 4 years. This is the opportunity that they deserve to not only give back to the country, but also put the Foundation’s human capital investments into action. There is no other opportunity than now for companies across Qatar to recruit the finest minds from Education City. This not only gives them immediate access to the talent that companies would be scouting for, but also saves them the hassle of any financial or immigration-related troubles that would arise.

Being a fresh graduate, many of the job postings I have seen necessitated having atleast 3 years of work experience. In addition, as part of the Qatarization strategy, some companies have kept fresh graduate positions for them. Unless something can be done to address this, the efforts put in by Qatar Foundation will only create a massive brain-drain that countries like India and China have experienced. It will be to the benefit of other organizations outside Qatar to tap the talent pool of Education City, as they reap the benefits of American educated youth but lower recruitment costs due to smaller geographical differences.

Tune in to my next post, as I delve deeper into the wider benefits for the Middle East.

Middle East future-scape – Immediate Success (Part 1)

Overview

Riding on the bandwagon of success from FIFA’s announcement of awarding Qatar the privilege of hosting the World Cup 2022, I thought of doing a series of blogposts that will discuss the repercussions and many aspects for the coming future leading up to 2022.

Immediate success – Part 1

December 2nd changed everything for the Middle East as the FIFA World Cup will be hosted in the Middle East for the first time in sporting history. Moreover, it also represents an opportunity to push for many changes across the entire region. Qatar may be small, but it will be the first country since the first World Cup in Uruguay 1930 to host it in such a small location. You’re thinking, ‘enough of all this that I know, what’s going to happen next?’

A LOT….QUITE A LOT over the next decade, but the effects may not kick in immediately. I thought of segmenting this into several parts relevant to the context, so that readers can easily digest it.

  1. Inflation
    This is the first thing that I anticipate.

    People predicted that with the privilege of hosting a high profile event comes at the cost of increased cost of living. Currently, many people find it hard enough to make ends meet, due to rising prices of basic food consumables like meat, poultry, and vegetables. The government has to take prompt and proactive action to control this, as it spiral out of control and even be an outlet of unfair advantage for retailers and distributors to capitalize on profiteering. That’s what I already see when many commodities are already expensive enough.Companies would have to raise incomes and benefits to align with price hikes, or you’d be seeing many packing their bags and flocking to the airport like a pack of wolves. However, rents are at a current all-time low due to the abundant over-supply of housing and residential units; I’m expecting them to stay that way for a couple of months. I don’t know if I can say much about gas prices here, but people should find a way of controlling their consumption. It will yield more money when sold to other countries, and reinvested into other things.

    It may even spill over to other GCC countries, as they seek to secure certain privileges in exchange for their support in the bid process.

  2. Influx of contractors
    Contractors and many other organizations were clinched to their seats hoping to bid for the numerous tenders that would come from what will now be called the Qatar 2022 Organization Committee. That probably explains the absence of new buildings and architectural marvels not being announced in the paper nor sprouting out of the Doha horizon.

    Word was also on the street that around 60% of Doha (separate areas combined together) would be leveled and rebuilt to suit international quality standards leading up-to the games. Who better to do that than the numerous contracting companies who will want to set up shop in Qatar? The government will have to prioritize it to local contractors who will have to do a good job on them, and bring in external ones for the bigger and prospective projects. Of course, there is also the possibilities of the bigger ones sub-contracting to the small-to-medium ones here in Qatar or the Middle East region.

    (I’ll expand on this more in my next part as it will revolve around visitors)

  3. Quality of Services
    Let’s face it…everyone who has traveled the world has seen just how good products and services can be when the government works for the people. They give you the attention as you payed for it with money. However, it’s kind of the opposite here in Qatar and the region, as they only seem to target rich people with the malls and even upscale places that the majority may not even afford. I may be wrong, but this has been my experience. They don’t even know the meaning of ‘customer service’, or even retaining them to encourage repeat shopping.

    From my experience, I’ve seen the pace in which things can get done here – from approving a bank loan to even doing repairs to a car. Many of them ‘brownnose’ those who have money, but compromise in being equal to everyone. People who work here need to wake up now and improve their work ethic rather than sit around lazily saying “InshaAllah” to any question (I’ve seen people misuse this in Qatar and nothing ever gets done – it’s the opposite when I used to live in Dubai).

    Wake up everyone, we need to start conditioning ourselves!

  4. Regional Tourism
    As Qatar did say that the win is also for the entire Middle East region, they also stand to benefit for the coming years.Tourists would be able to use Qatar as a focal springboard for visiting places around the region, and the budget carriers are in prime position to capitalize on this. While Qatar Airways would be busy flying in people to the country from their numerous destinations, Air Arabia and FlyDubai have become the most popular options for inter-GCC travel. I may be wrong to think that this may even spur Qatar to start a budget airline of their own.
    It might grow into animosity and misunderstanding, but Qatar shouldn’t forget that they went around the GCC to secure their support for the bid. It’s in their best interests to work towards unity, and ‘divide and conquer’ seems to be the best strategy. Qatar Airways can primarily focus on bringing in people from around the world with likely support of other airlines like Emirates and Etihad Airways. The budget carriers can focus on promoting tourism to the other GCC nations, and facilitate the regional influx to Qatar to watch the games. It’s a ‘win-win’ for everyone.

    My view shows that Oman and U.A.E could stand to benefit the most, for the following reasons:
    1) Oman’s eco-tourism would allow them to promote places like Salalah.
    2) The June period is a boon for Dubai as they host their annual Dubai Summer Surprises. This will easily rebound Dubai as a cosmopolitan and urban capital destination that it had achieved.
    3) Abu-Dhabi’s aggressive take on having things like the Formula 1 race track, the Ferrari Drome theme park, and the numerous museums and cultural initiatives they are undertaking

    I could list more, but these stood out the most.

——

To end Part 1, I’ll leave you with this:

Liquidity is going to be flowing around like Niagara Falls, and accounts will be balancing out in exponential scale across the GCC. The Qatar 2022 Organization Committee is going to be buying a lot of Panadols to handle the headaches and migraines that they’ll be suffering for the next few years to figure out the logistics and arrangements.

Look out for my next post…in the near future

    The Last Stretch – Chapter 5: Everything Goes Off-road

    I didn’t even have enough material to warrant an entry – otherwise I’d have bored you with things. I thought of letting time pass and collect whatever I can to put together on this one super entry. Now I realized that I shouldn’t have waited long as I may have forgotten some interesting tidbits.

    College

    November is already here and I’m only 6 weeks away from finishing off my arduous journey. It’s been a bumpy ride not graduating in 4 years, but who cares? At least I weathered the worst of the job market. Even during the semester, I’ve been trying to find possible opportunities starting from January as I’m already in a pickle with only 10 more months of being in Qatar.

    As part of the usual social life, I’ve been helping my good friend Kamal a lot of things for him – See The Other Side and sharpening up his comedic routine. He’s shouldering a lot with Carnegie Mellon’s name and representing Education City alongside another student. He’s gotten quite good in improvising new material as he gave an exclusive private sample to few students on a Thursday. Feedback allowed him to repurpose his deliver and even the punchline. He even had another chance to throw some humor, especially about Indians at Desi Night. You’ll have to wait for all these videos to come up as I’m holding them back for a few surprises. He even got to host TEDxDoha, and performed in front of an audience in a ballroom in the Sheraton that was packed to the brim (I wasn’t present to watch it). I found out the outcome that he ‘won’ but the other finalists also have the opportunity to go on the comedy tour. He’s already made a name for himself. How is Kamal going to work this out when we’re approaching the end of the semester?

    Speaking of Kamal with some B&B Syndicate work, we helped to promote his initiative that he’s doing with Vodafone – helping out an impoverished community in Doha. You can check that out the B&BSyndicate blog for details. However, I suggest you search YouTube with his name and you’ll come up with a video that I recorded of his performance – in just 20 days since posting it, it got 2000+ views. Guess Qatar has something to be proud of, as long as people don’t take offense – it’s nice to laugh at ourselves.

    Life

    Nice to see that college will come to an end for me. I’m so desperate to leave, even though alumni have said that they would love to come back. Who would want to study their whole lives, when you can learn better in the workplace? I know that the biggest nightmare for students here is the lack of opportunities here due to the nationalization policies. I just think that ‘they’ are digging their own grave, and they will be causing one hell of a brain drain that other countries will stand to benefit.

    I remember when I attended a conference by ictQatar that touched on the theme of ‘being open in the digital realm, Michael Nelson (speakers from Georgetown University – D.C, U.S.A) did openly state that the ‘United States has grown successfully by operating on the brain drain principle’. If the aim of Qatar Foundation is to retain as much talent at home, then they are definitely facing an uphill battle to fulfill it.

    As things get hectic, I’ll make sure to wrap up this series.

    The Last Stretch – Chapter 4: Fraught with perils

    Coming back to classes on a Tuesday while half the other colleges were still on break? Not a sight to behold. Then again, what more can I say?

    College

    My parents came back on Sunday – all sick and pass on some of it to me. Throat was tickling, but I couldn’t do much as I started classes on Tuesday. Talk about luck! Good thing the Dean directed that nothing big be due on the day we return, but I still had to finish off 2 reports due on Thursday. A short lived week and the onset of the weekend. Some are already having quizzes, and I haven’t had one…YET! Time will tell…

    The other day I wanted to have lunch but the line at Batteel was big. There was nothing worth eating at the LAS, so I decided to go to Texas A&M as they have another branch of Batteel there. Only I stopped short of the exit and turned around as I realized that they were closed as A&M were closed. Hunger pangs kicked in! *sigh* I share this moment with Dana and Nayaab (both Wildcats at Northwestern), and they called it ‘mean’. Not my fault that it’s reality!

    TEDxDoha

    Time has been ticking down as Ahmed Ahmed’s touring even is schedule to happen on Monday September 20 (That’s today as of this entry!). The B&B Syndicate and I have been doing our job spreading it, as Abdalla and Sultana coordinated things remotely courtesy of their break, while Omer and I did things on the ground. I managed to convince one of our resident student stand-up comedians to audition and perform, but he was a little intimidated, only for him to call me on a Saturday at 10AM to give a YES. I emailed the TEDxDoha people, seeing if it wasn’t too late…he’s scared to go up against Ahmed Ahmed, but it’ll be nice for him to throw laughs here and there.

    Just last night, I heard that we’re approaching our audience limit, and I’m eager to see laughter across all the faces. Now I’m looking forward to seeing comedy at its finest, as I’ll be seeing his face again on October 29. Since that has already made him the 2nd speaker, there will be more to come leading up to the final date, and tickets being snapped up. Keep checking the TEDxDoha fan page for more information or even follow @TEDDoha on Twitter.

    Off the note, the B&B has been a success on Facebook. We’ve clocked in 120+ fans across the Qatar Foundation community, and Twitter is building up. We’ve just made our official blog that we hope to use to inform and report on our work. You’ll have to wait for that news to come later.

    Till next time…