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 7: Final leg

To think that being in college for so long that one would easily forget the harsh reality of being part of the workforce. To the majority, it may seem intimidating and scared that people will now have to breakout of the usual routine of assignments, quizzes and presentations within the academia confines.

College isn’t solely about learning the things that will help you in life. It’s true that some, if not all the knowledge, will prove useful in your career. That doesn’t mean that college is a waste. Those years are the time when one can blossom and self-groom themselves to be the global citizen for the coming years. It mostly teaches you ‘how to learn’ when you’re contributing to society. This happens concurrently to when you’re supporting your own living and those who depend on you, and seeking to aspire your long-term goals. All of this will lead to another generation that will be groomed and nurtured by your support and tutelage.

My filming for the Qatar Foundation Senior Convocation 2011 video was done long ago – sad thing was that the girls far outnumbered the guys :P. At least I got the chance to be filmed, along with being the only person daring enough to be in the centre of the plastic photo mural-like wall that has our photos and the corresponding messages behind each one. You could say that I was the willing one to do that much labor. Hopefully, the film crew got that part; I was the one climbing the ladder reaching the top, and telling my classmates to put the boxes at the required places.

May 2nd is when I’ll be bequeathed with the official honor and diploma of culminating my time at Carnegie Mellon Qatar. I know that the real world would be a shock, but I’ve been looking forward to this day. I know that quite a lot is in store for me, especially that I have the opportunity of being the first student selected to attend TEDGlobal – that also from Qatar and even the wider Middle East region. I applied as a student, so I guess I could get away with the title :D. It’s atleast 2 months away, and I’m already eager to travel to Edinburgh to bask in the so-called ‘intellectual spa’. Which reminds me that I need to schedule my appointment with the UK Visa Centre here…

Now the only thing on my head is the to find a starting point for employment, so that I can build my career. Let’s not forget my plans that will unfold when I return to Doha on July 18 (Assuming that I’ve already secured fulltime employment before my departure). That’s quite a big gamble, knowing whether or not I’m coming back. All I know is that I want to come back, and I have my reasons. I’m not in for the money, but I want to help set an example of setting things right. It’s time that we show and educate the baby-boomers about the potential of the millenials/Gen Y group. We don’t have to stick to the old ways, if that just fuels the ego for power. Biggest breakthroughs have unfolded in the past decade, and we are ready to capitalize on it for the future.

This is my second to last entry as part of this series. Watch for the finale entry as graduation approaches.

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.

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…

The Last Stretch – Chapter 3: Kinetic

Where should I begin? The fact that Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern and Georgetown only got a total of 5 days (including the weekend) for the Eid, while our other half of compatriots Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth and Weill Cornell (Pre-med students) got 9 days for the Eid break. Talk about division, and QF brands itself as Education city University – supposedly taking the already established inter-university collaboration on cross-registration and other things.

College & Life

Hmm…last 3 days of classes for Ramadan! I got selected to sit in on the private lunch with the FIFA Inspection team – exclusive to Carnegie Mellon Qatar. You read it right here, and I’m hoping to tweet the interesting tidbits (of course, also respecting the sensitive nature and privacy of whatever may be discussed. I’ll be using my best judgement for this!).

I’m still alone at home, and I counted down the days till my parents return. More than 2 months and all I could do at home was the household chores – the place turned into a hospital, as I couldn’t find a speck of dust anywhere. Talk about cleanliness! When they arrived, I swore that I’ll have home food continuous for one whole week (even if I have to starve).

I had the chance of dining at Gordon Ramsey’s MAZE at The Pearl….FOR FREE! You’ll have to wait for the review as I helped to critique the food.

TEDxDoha

Following on the announcement of Reem Acra as the first speaker, things escalated to greater proportions when the second one hit the web. You guessed it! none other than stand-up comedian Ahmed Ahmed – one of the founders of the Axis of Evil Comedy tour with Maz Jobrani (He spoke at TEDGlobal 2010 and you can watch the short talk here). Ticket slots opened up and when they closed, people were hounding members of the B&B Syndicate on how to get a seat. What they didn’t even know that he is also coming to Qatar Foundation exclusive for an Open Mic night with other potential stand-up comedians. A competition ont he floor, with the winner joining Ahmed Ahmed on his next tour.

Well, the Doha Film Institute is running a competition for potentials to perform and win a chance to be the opening act for Ahmed Ahmed’s tour. Head over to their website for more details!

Tune in next time…

The Last Stretch – Chapter 2: Continuance of…

It’s only the 2nd week, but I’d say a lot has transpired.

College

Where should I begin? Probably the most hectic thing that every happened. It took two weeks for other students and myself to coordinate and organize a fundraising charity iftar for the Pakistan flood victims. Projector and screens, and then the caterers coming in to setup. Let me tell you this….we probably advertised it too much that we ended up with people hounding us for tickets to the iftar. I guess the B&B Syndicate did a great job in getting the word out. What puzzles me is how did we even cope with it. Anyone who came to ask for a ticket, I said, “Come to the day of the event”. People from companies like KPMG even called me to reserve tickets, but Abdalla got the most calls. Don’t even get me started ont eh emails I got, as I queued up at-least 50 when I sent out an email – all this in one hour on a Sunday.

The day arrives…Poor Abdalla, he had all of them and I had to send that large riot-like mob of people to him as all of them scrambled to get one ticket even though the amount of food to be served was far less than the tickets being sold. At least we did inform people that they can still support us by donating. I even had a video made with source material from CNN.com, and that sent chills, shivers, and hopefully tears into the people who saw it (Watch it right here). I’m sure that you’ll see the plight of millions made homeless. By the end of the event, a momentous applause celebrated the achievement that we had set out –  a staggering QR 74,000 ($20,000) was the total tally of money raised by donations and iftar ticket sales. Keep in mind that this was all done by students. Qatar Charity will be taking care of the distribution.

Chris Anderson's Posterous blog

What happened after that really shook my head. I saw a post by TED curator Chris Anderson, where he decided to dedicate his Posterous blog for two weeks to support the Pakistani flood victims. Even though he said that you can share what you’re doing about the relief efforts, I thought it would be worth the try to see if they would take the story of an student-organized fund raiser.

What I got out of it was quite a shock – just look to the picture. WOWWWW! I immediately scrambled to write up a short story, from our initial work leading upto the penultimate culmination of or work, and the amount we raised – $20,000 to help those in need.

Luckily, I wrote it up and sent it the very next day. Here’s hoping that they put it up :).

Just seeing that reply sent a big shock into my head, and it proved to be an honor for us to share our story of how we made a difference. It kind of goes along the lines of what TED does, “Ideas Worth Spreading” but we spread our charitable giving

Just go to his blog and see what else unfolds.

I almost forgot to say that we’re in the last stretch of Ramadan already. I think this year it flew by fast and I didn’t even notice it. I’m counting down the days till my parents return, as I cooked before classes began (mother’s cooking is always filling). In addition, one of my good friends Wishwesh (works at KPMG but he wasn’t one of those who came for the iftar – he’s pure vegetarian!) moved into the building right across the. Atleast I no longer have to drive to his previous place to pick him up. We can spend time together downstairs nearby.

TEDxDoha

In 2 days, 150 tickets have been snapped up – 50 on the first release on Thursday 26th August, and then on Monday 30th August. Talk about the hype and the interest. Seems like we’re going to be hosting the best TEDx event across the Middle East. Still, each TEDx is special in its own way. I’ve been inundated with requests for tickets, but I just divert them to the website and then Twitter and Facebook. Get them while they are hot, as they are publicized. Already, the Facebook fan page has reach 375 people and Twitter is doing a great job keeping it up.

It’s also part of TED and TEDx that the audience is curated, so that it sparks discussion and insight from the attendees. I’m sure those who grabbed the first 2 batches of seats are devotees and hardcore TED followers. We’re only around 2 months away from the actual event, and I’m sure it’s going to be bigger and “larger than life”.

I almost forgot….we also announced our first speaker – acclaimed and renowned fashion designer Reem Acra. She has dressed up celebs like Angelina Jolie and Beyonce, all from her New York store. Head over to the fan page to learn more about her (there’s even a video for your enjoyment). If you want more, all I can say is that you’ll have to stay tuned for more speakers to be announced – all on Twitter and Facebook.

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That’s it for now. See you next time!