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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Second part of LeaderShape vision: TEDxEducationCity

Now that I have TEDxYouth@Doha under my belt as my first TEDx event post-TEDGlobal 2011, my efforts and attention have now shifted to the grand plan that was the primary reason for my efforts – TEDxEducationCity.

It’s been 3 years since TEDx was launched as an experiment to open up the TED platform to people around the world. Everyone would want to attend a TED Conference, but it’s a challenge moving atleast 700 people from place to place (Trust me on this, as I went to TEDGlobal). Now, I’m able to channel my 1st hand experience of having freshly organized a TEDx event towards this one taking place in April 2012.

This is something that I had envisioned differently when I went to LeaderShape, but I waited for the right opportunity to make this happen. It’s quite a useful fact to know that the very 1st TEDx event was a University event – TEDxUSC on March 29, 2009 (Read here for more). It was a pilot even that set the precedant for 1000s more TEDx events around the world. As of current numbers, there are over 3,000+ TEDx events and 13,000+ TEDxTalks; this number is set to further grow as it spreads around to many communities.

TED has learned a lot from 3 years of the TEDx platform being out in the open; using the concept of auditions by individual TEDx events and channeling it to a global search for TED2013: ‘The Young, The Wise. The Undiscovered’. I thought… why not take this further, especially for a University type event? Continue reading

First part of LeaderShape vision: TEDxYouth@Doha

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It’s been quite a while since I last posted something here. You could say that things got the better of me that I couldn’t even recollect and process all my thoughts into words.

Last time I left you open with my previous entry about how my LeaderShape vision now began to materialize into 2 separate and worthwhile TEDx events post-TEDGlobal 2011. What were they? TEDxYouth@Doha in November 19, 2011 and TEDxEducationCity in Q1 2012 (Check it here for a flashback).

I’ve been working with a team of 16 people including myself to pull-off the 1st TEDxYouthDay in Qatar as it joined more than 100+ other events around the globe to celebrate UN Universal Children’s Day. As it had to be held between November 19 – 21 to count as part of TEDxYouthDay, it was evident that 19th was the only option as it was a Saturday.

I had even taken part in a TED Conversation, and then I was quoted for my answers when they had put up a blog entry on their official TEDx blog (Check out the entry here). Just the significance of my contribution being featured further reinforced my commitment to making this event worthwhile for the youth.

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What was our biggest challenge?

How do we educate and inform the youth about TED and TEDx?

It seemed like insurmountable odds, and I predicted that more than 75% of them woul not even know about it. Compound this with trying to cover as many schools as possible, and that also under different education systems. Quite a feat to pull off, especially when I still recall the reasons on why I chose to make it happen; you could say that TED, the TEDx and TED team, and even people from Qatar were the source. Some were not open to such things as they haven’t kept pace with new educational breakthroughs, while others were keen on experimenting with it and dove in head first.

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Florent and Omer (pictured above, who are also LeaderShape graduates in Qatar) from Northwestern University supported me from the early days (which was from October 2010). Here’s another thing about these two: they also attended LeaderShape’s 25th anniversary celebration when they were studying abroad in Evanston, IL. They even jumped aboard for TEDxYouth@Doha since the very day I got my license approved. You won’t believe how long it took to get it. Any guesses? (Hint: it won’t be as long as you would normally think)

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Then began our efforts to build up our team to handle the potential influx of more than 300+ youth. We chose to set a benchmark for what should be done in Qatar; our event was bilingual with live translation, and we went out of our way to make our event fully accessible that would be all-inclusive. Nobody would be turned away if they had any disability, as we felt that everyone should have the opportunity of being part of a global conversation about the youth’s shared future. We even took it further to have it livestreamed for the world to see and enjoy. Continue reading

TEDxEducationCity and TEDxYouth@Doha

What you’re about to hear is something I had envisioned in a different perspective back in LeaderShape 2007 (first international campus session, and that was in Qatar) when I was still a Carnegie Mellon Qatar student. I know that it has taken this long for it to materialize as it went through much refinement, but I’m confident that these will be the first steps to making it happen. I’ve even had limited success on certain things, and I knew that I needed to push harder.   Rather than starting from scratch, it made sense to use some of the current groundwork and build upon it for others to utilize.

 

My fellow readers and those currently living in Qatar, I present to you…
TEDxEducationCity & TEDxYouth@Doha

 

I was granted the license for the former after June 25, before my journey to TEDGlobal 2011. The latter one came about after my return on July 24, when the seeds were planted early in Scotland and they just grew out of proportion when it became deeply rooted into my conscience. I wanted to wait until after Ramadan to unveil this, as that’s when people would be wanting to have their ears open with the bustling of work and classes. Onward to the details… Continue reading

TED brains (Bruno Giussani & Lara Stein) in Doha

*Before I begin, let me say that this is one entry you should take the time to read. The days that much of this unfolded almost looked like I watch TED Talks 48 hours back-to-back, yet I thirst for more.*
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(Bruno Guissani)

Bruno Giussani (Curator of TEDGlobal and Director of TED European Operations) and Lara Stein (Director of TEDx Licensing) were in Doha on an invitation by the Doha Film Institute. I received an invite to attend a nice social dinner with them for June 16, 2011. That got me rocking with excitement. I met Lara Stein in October 2010 during TEDxDoha, so this would be my second. As for Bruno Giussani, I learned a lot about what he’s been planning for the inaugural Edinburgh chapter of TEDGlobal 2011 and following after. I had a red Moleskine notebook that I had exclusively reserved for my TED adventures in Scotland and beyond, but I realized that this was the best way to help kick-off by having them autograph it with their words. I thought of infusing that book with some of the TED aura, and I guess I know that I’ll look to those words to remind me of many things. 
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(Lara Stein)

Bruno was the one who would just guide you to speak and interview other exciting people than himself. Just the conversation that flowed around almost made it seem that he prefers to bring forth those voices to the centrestage, while he helps to curate the entire show. He’s already planning for TEDGlobal 2012, and openly mentioned that he has 10+ speakers already confirmed. He even gave me the inside scoop that Malcolm Gladwell is coming back to TEDGlobal 2011. I thought I didn’t see his profile when they initially unveiled the speakers, but I noticed it when I returned home. After I saw his TED 2004 talk on spaghetti sauce, I’m wondering what other variations of spaghetti sauce will he dish out. 

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce.html

It was great meeting Lara Stein again after TEDxDoha. It was even great sharing some details and insights from TEDxCMUQatar, as I could recall as much from it. In addition, I shared details about my TEDx event and even told her that I’ve already submitted my application much early for her approval. Here’s hoping I get that ‘YES’ so that my plans take action when I return. 

I also had the privilege of meeting Ms. Ronda Carnegie (Head of TED Global Partnerships), who is the very person who started the TED projects at TEDActive 2011 (Have a brief read from my previous post http://yassermk86.posterous.com/anticipation-for-scotland-is-boiling if you want to know more about the projects). When I talked about the 3 projects that I thought would have the greatest scope here, Lara immediately pointed me to her for more details. Getting into a deeper conversation with Ronda, she helped to clear out many of the doubts I had regarding the projects. That sparked something for my TEDx event, and I mentioned it to her about what I wanted to achieve for the community here as I would want my event to be indirectly carried forward by these projects that would culminate towards the next TEDx event where we would showcase and share the results with people.
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 (L to R: Me, Bruno Guissani, and Bilal Randaree)

Talking with each one of them about TED and TEDx already ramped up the excitement for TEDGlobal. As a memento for their visit, I gave them TEDxCMUQatar badges. I’m not the only one who blogged about this, as my good friend Brian Wesolowski who works for ictQatar and also writes for Digital Qatar even put forth his perspective: http://www.digitalqatar.net/2011/06/20/ted-ideas-worth-spreading-in-doha/

The taste of TED didn’t stop right there… Continue reading

Next step

Recently, I’ve been noticing the amount of visibility that I’ve been getting with the way I’ve been using social media. Not only Facebook and Twitter, but also Foursquare and many more.

I thought it best that I’d use my experience and start a new blog that I proudly call ‘The Social Philanthropist’. Why? I believe that I can provide and open and free resource for young people to use when they entre the professional world. I believe that personal branding supplements the generations old practice of screening via resumes & CV. In the Middle East, though the job market is highly favoring the nationals and any possible full-time opportunities for fresh university graduates exclusively reserved for them, it’s best that prospective applicants learn to carve out their own niche in this competitive and globalized world. Don’t forget that there are unofficial quotas of nationals and expats that companies tend to fill. There would be favoritism for hiring anyone with citizenships out of the 33 visa waiver nations, but there is one harsh reality that they will not deny let alone publicly acknowledge – they need people from the Subcontinent and South-East Asia to help the company run.

Even when you have parents who have gone out of their way to give you a better education at a prestigious college but you’re still judged by the pasport you hold, do not let that be a deterrent to finding a job. I realized that there is a big wide gap for personal branding, and companies don’t even pay attention to it because they feel that their way will always be the right way. They don’t feel like investing the time to learn more about a prospective candidate through various other outlets. It’s an investment of corporate resources when you hire someone new, only to become more expensive when you see the real picture. In a world where social media is now made many things transparent, we can no longer restrict the flow of information. There is a difference between resumes and CV, but the Middle East uses them interchangeably. I want to quell much of this and help educate the youth masses in the GCC. Though the GCC has the money to pull of things, it will always be lagging behind other nations in every other societal aspect.

This blog will remain online for your perusal, but it may not be frequently updated as often as what I have planned for The Social Philanthropist (http://socialphilanthropist.wordpress.com). Make sure to check it out after Tuesday when I’ll be outing my introductory post.

Preparations begin

I know that it's been more than a month since I posted another entry. Quite a lot has happened over the past weeks, as I was running between moving to a new home and living in an Internet blackout for 10 days, along with Graduation 2011 and getting my UK visa. Sounds like a mouthful, so I'll break it down as much as possible while sticking to the TED-related things.

1) So I managed to get my invitation letter from TED, while also making sure that I had all the supporting documents to substantiate my 10 day visit to Scotland. I'm accustomed to going to embassies for visa applications, but this was the first time I went to a UK Visa Application Centre (They take your application and documents, along with the payment) and then they take it to the UK embassy. I was unsure about which application to use as I also wanted to take a scenic holiday while also attending TED. Apparently, conferences would count towards a sub-category of the Business Visa (One of my other friends who went to a conference in London in December 2010 told me his experience) but looking at the application made me realize that it would be useless – many of the fields are irrelevant to me and would just be blank. I'd just be wasting the border control officer's time rather than being straight to the point.

So I chose to use the General application with Tourist as my category. I managed to submit it on April 28 before they transition to the electronic format beginning on May 1 (Embassy was closed to celebrate the Royal Wedding that happened on Friday). On May 2, I got bombarded with 2 SMS between 8AM and 3PM ; one for application being processed and another saying that processed visa application is ready for collection. Now the UK embassy doesn't even give you the message that you were either granted or rejected a visa, but May 2 was also a very important day for me (details in a later point). It was the morning of the next day that I went to collect my passport, hoping that I would expect success. When I got my envelope, I didn't even feel a roll of paper (That's how the UK Embassy conveys rejections). Opening my passport, there lay my 6-month UK visa. That's one big hurdle down.

2) As I previously mentioned that May 2 was a very important date for me, that's because it was day of Graduation 2011 (My graduation!) as I could just taste the diploma almost within my grasp. You don't even know how many Twitter mentions I got when I checked after the ceremony. You could say that the occasion was tied to helping me secure my UK visa. This wasn't the end…

May 3 was the Qatar Foundation Senior Convocation 2011 (The combined bequeathing of rings and the moment to finally end our time as students at Education City). You could say that I was fortunate to be in the front as they put people in the Arabic alphabet on first name. Talk about luck!

4) Even graduating after so long, I've been trying to find a source of full-time employment that would keep me in the country to make my TEDx event a reality. I've already made a promise to myself, but if circumstances don't go in my favor, it would throw all my plans down the drain. In addition, I'm still obligated to the 4 people who have helped to fund my trip to TEDGlobal (3 of whom are LeaderShape grads). I can't turn them down, but what can I do when the job market here always favors 5+ years of experience and scope for fresh graduates is not even on par with that of the U.S?

5) On another TED note, all the TEDGlobal attendees must have received an email about the opportunity for them to speak at TED U. Seeing that TED2011 set the motion for education (Though it's been primarily focused on young kids in school), I jumped at the opportunity to expand it by incorporating my experience as a student in the Middle East studying at an official branch campus of a U.S college. I believe that much can be said about this bold experiment that Qatar has undertaken for the past 15 years that has borne fruit and success. Let's wait and see if opportunity knocks again, so that Ic an share a fresh perspective on how education is truly transcending to new heights as industry and academia find common ground to prepare future generations.

Now it's all about waiting for my eventual departure to Scotland, while also making sure that I set my future here in Qatar to make my TEDx event a reality. Let's see what else develops before July 8. Now I wonder when will TED announce their roster of 50 speakers?

Only another 58 more days to go till TEDGlobal begins (Less than 2 months already?)