Believe it or not, volunteer work changed my life. The first time I volunteered I was 11 years old! Yes that young. In fact I’m glad my school (ISC) had something called Student Life Organization (SLO) which engages students in their school life to run this student led organization that acts something like a Student Affairs in a typical school.
Starting at that young age helped me overcome some personal weak points, from shyness to knowing how to interact and deal with people and responsibilities. Yet the seed it planted in me…didn’t stop there, it grew multiple folds to flourish in my university life and beyond.
From the first year of university, I just had that drive to give back to community, to serve, to grow, to meet people and so I ended up joining student societies and clubs at my university (AUB) as well as cofounding an NGO called Aie Serve among my involvement with many others that I am still involved in till this day whether as founder or Board Member or Advisor or simply as a member.
So here are some of the things I believe volunteer work gave me:
- Opened my mind to new ways of thinking about life.
- Gave me a purpose beyond my own self and my day to day life.
- Got me to meet the most inspiring people I would have never dreamed of knowing.
- Made me more friends that I could have possibly done in 50 years.
- Gave me life changing experiences and challenges that made me mature way faster than many of my colleagues and friends that were not involved in volunteer work.
- Made me feel proud about the achievements I was able to accomplish with the teams I worked with to make Lebanon a better place to live in. From improving the life of underserved children to giving back to nature through tree planting and beach cleanups to mentoring youth to training and sharing knowledge with aspiring young leaders to many many maaany more.
- Gave me opportunities to learn how to manage projects, lead teams, do strategic planning, explore my training skills, brainstorm for ideas that will make the world a better place…just to mention a few.
- Lead me to having a career in consultancy and training that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t do all the volunteer work I did, simply because a typical university life and a 8-5 job wouldn’t have given me half as much opportunities to learn, grow and meet new people.
So my recommendation to you, no matter how old you are or what your social/economic/academic/marital status is, if you’re not engaged in some volunteer work already, then get to it! You can never do too much volunteer work, the more the merrier, and trust me it just gets better with time, just make sure you join the organizations or causes that you feel passionate about or at least interested in, the rest will follow!
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I’m glad to share with you the below interview/article written about me and published in Project Management Institute (PMI’s) International Development Community of Practice. Link to the official article on PMI’s website for PMI Members is here.
Enjoy the below and let me know what you think,
As a management consultant and trainer at CMCS Lebanon I assist corporations and NGOs in Strategic Planning, Process Improvement, Human Capital Management, Project & Program Management and Leadership.
I’m especially interested in the fields of Youth Empowerment, Diversity & Acceptance, Leadership, NGO & SME Management, Social Entrepreneurship, Coaching & Consultancy, and Training Techniques.
I’ve participated, organized, trained and was a guest speaker in numerous conferences, camps, workshops, conventions and seminars under Aie Serve, PMI, UNDP, UNESCO, Rotary, Youth Economic Forum, AUB Alumni Council, Arab Economic Form, LAU Peace & Justice Institute among others.
What Does International Development Mean to You?
With our growing interconnected world, global diversity is becoming a key topic on discussion panels as people from all walks of life are becoming interconnected with each other, do business together, volunteer for similar causes, even though they might be thousands of miles away.
Thus respecting differences and accepting the other has become a crucial factor of successful projects, programs and organizations at large, worldwide.
What Are You Most Passionate About?
I’m very passionate about professional volunteering, this has been reflected through the NGOs and clubs I have founded and others that I’m engaged in at the Board level.
Who Is Your Hero & Why?
My biggest hero so far has been my father who was able to balance a very busy life as a doctor with his passion for serving the community and promoting active citizenship along with taking care of his family and private life.
What Is One Strategy for Inclusion that You Can Share?
One of my best strategies is believing in the potential of individuals and focusing on respecting the differences, accepting the other and loving them for their humanity. Every person has a lot of potential to give, it’s just a matter of taking your time to understand them and see things from their perspective, know what they are good at and put it to work. When working in teams, it proves to be the best tool to really utilize the full potential of the team, as you don’t point fingers at them or have a prejudgment that they are incapable, but rather start from the preposition that they have the potential and you’re just there to uncover it.
What Exciting Projects, Programs or Portfolios Are Your Working On?
I’m currently working on 4 very exciting programs in the volunteer youth NGO I’m leading called Aie Serve (www.AieServe.org - http://www.Facebook.com/AieServe). The programs are:
- Aie Power – Platform for Youth to Transfer Project Ideas into Reality
- Aie Consult – Incubator & Consultancy Program for Youth Led NGOs
- Aie Skills – Training Program to Empower Youth with Soft, Life and Managerial skills
- Aie Clubs – Network of Youth Lead Clubs in Universities and Local Areas that do Community Development, Service and Awareness Activities
What Is Your Favorite Book & Author?
I have 3 favorite books:
- Who Moved My Cheese
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
What Have You Done to Change the World? What Will Your Legacy Be?
One of my proudest achievements is Aie Serve, I cannot say enough about it. I co-founded the organization 6 years ago with a group of friends from all walks of life, different countries, different majors, different ethnicity and different interests but with a shared vision: Serving The Community. From there it grew from a group of friends, to a team and an organization.
The true value of Aie Serve is not just what it does, but the fact that it is run completely by volunteers and the way it is managed internally. The core values of the organization drive it, and drive its programs and way of work. Those core values are simple, yet powerful as they make the way to move forward simple and straight forward.
Our values are: Respect, Acceptance & Love.
Respecting others’ point of views and beliefs no matter what, accepting differences and considering them the seeds of diversity and finally, loving others for who they are, and not for their background, ethnicity, beliefs, colour or economic status.
If You Weren’t In Project Management, What Would You Be Doing?
If I wasn’t in project management I would be in the field of talent or human capital management. I believe working with, developing, empowering, and supporting people is absolutely crucial for everything we do in this world. Human potential is infinite, thus those who know how to tap into it, grow it and sustain it, will lead success.
To make a long story short, the answer is: No! Absolutely not!
Here’s a more elaborate answer on why its not only about academics. This topic has recently surfaced to my attention as many have asked me about my university life and what are the keys to success at university.
Now as a matter of fact, and to make things simple, I can break down university life into 4 elements:
- Academics: This includes the major you choose, the courses you take, the papers and projects you do, the grades you take…etc. Trust me, this is coming from someone who scored a 99/100 in his first university course and graduated with a GPA of 76/100 after 3 years of study, not because I’m dumb, but rather because I knew that there are other valuable things to focus on.
- Work Experience: Not everyone has the luxury of having work opportunities in the university like work-study programs or what not. Yet opportunities don’t stop there, a university student can virtually work a gazillion different things from being a waiter/waitress in a nearby restaurant/café to private tutoring for younger students or schools students, to ushering in some events, to joining some company as an intern having any kind of part time job, whether related to their field of study or not. Obviously having the opportunity to work on campus and/or in the field of study is an excellent choice, yet if that is not present, then you don’t have to limit yourself to that…just get into the working mindset and learn how to earn your own money, as early as possible. Again, trust me on the immense impact of earning your own cash, this is coming from someone who worked a multitude of things in university from ushering for events to working in the IT department at university to private tutoring to having an internship, and some were even in parallel!
- Community Involvement/Extra-curricular Activities: This includes clubs, societies, NGOs, political parties, movements, sports teams, music band or any kind of engagement with the community that gets you to invest in your own hobbies, skills, knowledge and self in general. Again and again, this is coming from someone who started his own NGO with some friends from 1st year of university and was involved in all sorts of clubs, societies, committees and groups all throughout university and beyond.
- Networking & Connections: Yes this is a crucial element as much as any of the above 3 points. The truth about life is that the more people you know on the personal level, the more connections you have, the higher are probabilities of getting to new career opportunities, academic opportunities and social opportunities. You might even end up meeting the love of your life through one of your connections. In every step along the way, I made sure I connect with people, truly connect with them and not just have them as acquaintances or someone I once met, but rather making friends, building trust, sharing worries and good times.
Each one of those 4 elements gives you an added value to your knowledge, to your life, to who you are, to the career options you’ll have, and to the people you know. To truly benefit from university life, you got to make use of all what the university life can offer you, whether on or off campus. Again I stress on the fact that perhaps not all universities have extra curricular activities or at least not the ones you want, not all of them will give you work/career choices, but then again the university is not an island, it exists within an ecosystem which you can reach out to and benefit from what it can offer.
For me, this has been one of the key success factors in my life, knowing that there is more university life than just academics. So to all those entering universities, to all the university students out there… don’t just focus on your academic element of university, it wont be enough for this ever changing and challenging world!
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I’d like to invite you to a workshop that I’m organizing and delivering as part of my work with CMCS Lebanon. Details below.
- Consultant & Trainer – Professional Services at CMCS Lebanon
- Ambassador for Peace at Universal Peace Federation
- Co-Founder & President at Alumni UNESCO Club
- Global Shaper at World Economic Forum
- Co-Founder & President at Aie Serve
- NGO’s Board Members & Founders
- NGO Consultants
- Program & Project Managers/ Coordinator/ Assistants
- General/ Grant Coordinators
- Team/ Committee/ Task-force Leaders
- Understand the difference between NGO projects and private sector projects.
- Understand and identify how to use standard tools and techniques of project management in NGOs.
- Understand the relationship between the Knowledge Areas in the PMBOK (PMI) in relation to NGO’s terminology and way of work.
- Understand how to develop a project idea into a full project management plan.
- A practical hands-on workshop designed in alignment with the international standard of project management along with the best practices in Project Management in NGOs.
- Covers key topics and issues that everyone can build on to enhance the way they transform project ideas into fully functioning plans.
- Includes numerous discussions, reflection sections and exercises.
- Is approved by AUB and certified by PMI thus PMP/CAPM holder can claim PDUs for it.
$ 550 US (including CMCS Customized Course Manual, a Process Chart, AUB-CEC & CMCS Certificates of Attendance, 15 PDUs, and Snacks & Refreshments). VAT included.
For More Information and Registration:
OFC: (+961) 1 345111
Mobile: (+961) 71 69000
FAX: (+961) 1 346111
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Guest Writer: Lessons Learned from Politics by Radhia Benalia
As per my previous announcement this month, I will start hosting guest writers on my blog to share some experiences, knowledge and perspective that are worth shedding light on.
In this context, my first guest writer is Mrs. Radhia Benalia, the Deputy General Manager of CMCS Lebanon, a 2009 candidate for the BC Liberals for the constituency in Canada, an avid public speaker and translator with strong knowledge in project management. Her article is shedding light on her political experience when she ran for office in Canada in 2009. To get to know her better check: LinkedIn || Blog || Pinterest || Twitter
Enjoy the read!
Lessons Learned from Politics
In 2009, I was nominated as the candidate for the BC Liberals for the constituency of Surrey-Whalley in beautiful British Columbia. A unique experience. The election campaign happened “fast and furious” as I was nominated a few weeks only before elections. Fact is: I have done, seen, and lived the unanticipated, and these are the lessons learned I wanted to share:
If you ever think of going into politics, I’ll say you better keep pristine records. The other camp will cheerfully cut you to pieces and feed you to the dogs if they have anything on you. Even speeding tickets. Don’t break the law; don’t even lie about your résumé. You know what they can do with that!
Practice public speaking. Tirelessly. I was fortunate enough to have been teaching public speaking for a few years, and I surely had the chance to practice, and for a “rookie”, I did pretty well in debates and speeches, so I’m more than grateful for what I had learnt prior to my entrance into politics.
Hire a campaign manager that has the guts to tell you off and criticize you. Mine did repeatedly. He made me work 3 shifts and got me to talk about things I never thought I would a hundred miles an hour. Besides, he took care of me, chased me around every day of the campaign with a pack of vitamins, and made sure I ate well. My campaign manager was more important than I was for the campaign, and I couldn’t have done it without him.
Lose weight or wear those braces before you are nominated. What I mean to say is if anything makes you extremely uncomfortable about your looks, then remedy to that before you see yourself on camera and become devastated. You’ll see a lot of yourself everywhere. Every day.
Choose a campaign photo you’re comfortable with. You’ll be seeing the photo on billboards, posters, and even on TV; take the time to choose. Three years later, I still am glad I wasn’t forced into making a quick choice.
Oh, and about comfort, make sure you have a few pairs of very comfortable shoes. Trust me: The investment is worthy.
If you don’t have enough good people around you, don’t do it.
I was extremely lucky. My team was wonderful. Everyone worked so hard, and they were known for being one of the most supportive campaign teams ever. I couldn’t have done it without them either.
You‘ll be criticized over and over again, and then some. You’ll take heat, and it’s not going to be pretty. Candidates are criticized by journalists, constituents, and even by people who endorse them. Listen objectively, learn, and work on improving yourself. Do not waste time feeling resentment. It is useless.
Make yourself available to your constituents. Listen with heart. During the campaign I was “summoned” to a meeting with a group of citizens who were irate about the way the party I represented handled a safety issue in the area. I wasn’t the decision maker, but lobbied for the concerned constituents, and they knew I cared. It feels good to remember that I did not let those people down.
Learn about the history of your party and your constituency, and fill in any gaps you might have. You’ll be asked about things that happened when you weren’t even born and will be sentenced to political disgrace if you do not have the answers. I was once asked about a constituent allegedly abused by the police. I hadn’t heard. Trust me, I didn’t look good then.
Nothing is off the record with journalists. When my signs were vandalized during the campaign, I had a journalist make me think four times over an interview that I wasn’t on camera anymore in an attempt to “elicit” what she wanted me to reveal. My team had warned me, and fortunately, I didn’t beep a word.
Keep your family close. Do not let your campaign team become the “middle-man”. Always make sure your children know where to reach you. Listen closely to your spouse, and do not make any major decisions about your career without your family. They will be part of every bit of it. My family stood by me every minute of it, and I do thank them for that.
Be ready to move on whatever happens. Your life does not stop on ballot night. Whether you make the seat or not, there is much more to think about , work for and live for.
Read the numbers well. I was glad to find out that I had gotten more votes than my incumbent opponent did the first time he ran. Definitely what many considered a huge success, especially considering all the circumstances surrounding my nomination.
I hope this was helpful. However, I’d like to say that the biggest lesson I have learnt from my political experience is not to enter politics unless it is for wanting to make a change, a good one. It is only then that it can be rewarding.
Being a public figure and submitting yourself to scrutiny is definitely not a bed of roses. It takes a toll on your health, personal life, and even your freedom. If you’re doing it for the power or for the money, then DON’T. It is just not worth any part of it.
Being a volunteer myself involved in leading volunteers, I get to reflect often on how things are done and how to improve.
It is without doubt that leading volunteers tends to be tricky as you’ll have to ensure motivation and commitment are high at all times. Moreover, you’ll need to take care of the feelings and aspirations of the volunteers, no matter how young or old they are.
So to make things simple, I am going to share with you 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts in managing and leading volunteers:
- Thank volunteers at every milestone, every good report, every job well done. There is no upper limit of how much you can thank them and how. It can range from a simple thank you email, a tap on the shoulder, to inviting them for a free dinner/lunch/get-away.
- Give volunteers space to make decisions and have a say in what is being done. Barely anyone likes to do donkey work or to simply follow steps given, let the volunteer role be more demanding and challenging.
- Lead by being a role model, show the way and be the first to step up for action. It takes people a very short time to realize preachers from doers.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up… oh and did I say it’s important to follow up? You wont imagine how smooth things will go if you just remind people if they missed something ,follow up on tasks to be done and make sure things are progressing as planned. If you just sit there and expect volunteers to get things done without any follow up..at least at the beginning, then you’ll be surprised.
- Be friendly, polite and respectful. Yes they may seem trivial, but so many times discussions, emails or meetings can become tense, issues urgent, stakes high…that you might lose your temper, say something mean, be a bit harsh or disrespectful. Once you do that..you know you’re going to lose some one from the team or lose their trust and respect to say the least.
- Don’t underestimate any volunteer’s abilities, knowledge, network or creativity. You’ll be surprised with how much people can do when you believe in them.
- Don’t blame or criticize volunteers publicly. Keep morale high and respect of others to each other and to yourself, if you have something negative to say…say it one-to-one.
- Don’t take all the credit. Give credit where credit belongs… if the team is doing a good job, you owe them the credit, not yourself.
- Don’t be biased for personal reasons. Give work, credit or thanks for those who are doing work…not for those you like or you’re friends with.
- Don’t keep information hidden to yourself. Sharing knowledge, experience, information, contacts ..etc. with your team is key to show them you trust them and to empower them with what they need to lead…to become self-motivated and self-managed.
I hope those few things help you out!
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In the following article I will try to extract the most notable lessons learned from my experience in the IT field for the past few years.
A quick overview for my dear readers who don’t know my background, I studied Computer Science(CMPS) at the American University of Beirut(AUB) while working at the Computing and Networking Services (CNS) on campus. Following my graduation I worked in IT development at a banking/financial institution while doing some free lance web-development and IT related consultancies.
Overall, I had my share of working on both hardware and software…and the lessons learned all fit in together and I will be pinpointing them as briefly as possible in the below lines:
- No problem is too complex. The key to success in this is to decompose the complexity of the issue into smaller manageable parts. Afterwards one only needs to resolve a group of simpler issues that fit in together.
- Automation is the key to ongoing growth and sustainability of many companies. This is due to the fact that any requested behavior can be mimicked and coded accordingly, with as many exceptions as needed, replacing the need for human interaction with machines.
- Technology is advancing faster than we expect. The rate at which technology is evolving allows for sophisticated solutions to be designed and implemented with growing speed and ease. What was nearly impossible 10 years ago can be developed in a week today.
- IT team leaders can make or break the company. One of the keys for successful IT teams is a team leader who knows how to leverage the expertise of the team, provide enough autonomy while still closely overseeing the work.
- Programming in multiple languages is becoming a must. Knowing one programming language …in our times…is no longer enough to keep with the pace of advancement and to develop the solutions the best fit the needs.
- GUI is king. Graphical user interface and packaging became as important as the actual functionality of the solutions requested as users demand the simplest and most intuitive tools they can have. People want eye-candy with minimal intellectual effort to use the applications.
In this context, and after checking the above with some of my friends and colleagues, the same lessons apply in most fields and I will definitely be taking those lessons with me in my consultancy and management work from now on.
I hope they help you in one way or another in your career…and I’m open for your comments and suggestions as always.