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

Advertisements

First part of LeaderShape vision: TEDxYouth@Doha

Img_3765

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.

Img_4415

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.

Flomer1

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)

Img_3801Img_4379

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

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.

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.