10 Professionals that Inspired me in 2016

While most yearly reflections are personal; mine is based on what I learned from others and what traits inspired me in each.

I Met a ton of people this year across 4 countries for both work and leisure but few have left a great lesson or two and have motivated me to tweak my direction for 2017.

“People don’t remember what you said to them, they remember how you made them feel”

In no specific order, the list is my Oscar-ish awards so to speak:

A Very Reliable Event Maestro

I participated in 4 out of 5 committed conferences this year and three local meetups in Dubai and Riyadh but one conference stood out among others. The Middle East Smart Data Summit, held in May 2016 in Dubai.

The event was very well organized. The cadre of speakers, the participation of delegates and the engagement from sponsors was well worth the time. All in all, hats off to ExpoTrade Global team especially their lead organizer, Kalpita Dighe!

Event management especially conference are huge moments of boredom followed by few moments of extreme thrill and then the storm is over. Kalpita is definitely very seasoned to have her calm and composer throughout and her time management skills are impeccable!

Young Heart & Mind

This is a testament of claiming that I am still young as I still get to meet young professionals; usually a feat that only people in academia or startups get to enjoy. And I met many throughout the year. However, typically with the energy of youth comes the rough edges but I didn’t find any in a very smart bloke who started up his business (QuantDa) at 26 in Saudi Arabia and growing steadily with repeat customers in the region.

Focusing on Data and Analytics mainly targeting mainly Insurance sector among others, Ahmed Bukhamseen leads a team of risk actuaries both seasoned and new comers and has the uphill task of mentoring the young and getting the most out of the seasoned. He also makes time for running one of the meetups in town. I’ll put my money behind this man once I myself get rich :)

What strikes me about Ahmed is his people skills while being a budding data scientist and a business man and now a recently married man. We keep on reading why emotional intelligence is the key factor for success and this man’s got it!

Most Inspiring Speech & Persona

I attend a lot of talks and I am glued to my feed on TED, You Tube and Podcasts on a vast variety of subjects; However, one of these talks still resonate with me very well. It could be because I tend to retain talks where I am present in person but anecdotally, others felt it too: Goose Bumps!

Chris Hillman, Chief Data Scientist and Stephen Brobst, CTO at Teradata

Agreed, the talk was aimed at budding Data Scientists all belonging to the Telecom sector, yet the energy Stephen Brobst controls in a room is awe-inspiring and paints a vision for the future beyond OTT.

He didn’t speak to the audience, he had a conversation with us as if he was reading our minds. his speech related it us all and elevated us through inspiration and a newly seeded desire to excel at our chosen profession. Particularly, not an easy feat for a person representing a technology vendor. He comes with great authority and experience.

Brave Rising Star of the Year

One of the things about meeting people is at what stage in their personal journey did you get the chance to meet them. Quite often people miss the opportunity to witness a rising star during their early days. And then to add the adjective ‘Brave’ to acknowledge that rising is a lot harder than maintaining stardom.

Mirza Asfaar Baig and Speakers at Agile ME 2016

Its a complex journey where self-actualization is just the start; followed up by facing one’s fears both real and imaginary and taking them heads on. One person that arguably came to the local Agile scene with a Big Bang is my dear friend Mirza Asfaar Baig who is all sweat and tears in their quest to form a sizeable and prominent community for Agile in the Middle East. Now a conference speaker and an Agile coach as well.

Mirza comes with a warning that he is not a conformist and hence a great source to validate your ideas as Mirza possesses strong street cred when it comes to project and program management and the art of story telling.

Best Team at Work

Working at a Telecom incumbent requires great social skills to get along people and get things done. However, a few people go out of their usual way to help you out. The most genuine help is one where the helper doesn’t have anything to gain from you. But STC’s Campaign Management Operations Team go out on almost every occasion that requires them to. This is probably the values set by their leadership along with the individual’s own attitude. Two such great professionals (that truly can’t be separated) are Mohannad Azzam and Mishal AlShadouki but overall the entire CMS team gets my big vote of Thanks!

Both Mohanad and Mishal (M&M) possess strong analytical skills that distinguishes them from other support and operational teams as they have the ability to streamline their own processes and continuously improve the way they deliver their goods and service their customers. This combination is hard to find among operations and support as they are usually lost in detail. Not these fine fellows, they have a plan in mind, always!

The Mentor Figure

Mentorship can be anything to anyone. It’s really hard to standardize when there are just so many styles, personalities and goals involved. However, occasionally a mentor-figure emerges that picks up the initiative of working on a pool of people of the right size (I guess less than 5) on whom the mentor-figure actively works on.

Group selfie after one of Tim’s Session (Tim is on the top left)

I was lucky to be just at the right time in the right place when Tim Abbot, a technology veteran decided to share his brain on a list of topics around Agile; most notably LeSS.

What makes Tim special is his bottom up approach to relating concepts of Agile to everyday practices and nuances in Saudi Arabia. An eloquent speaker; personable and one who forms a bond beyond the call of duty; Dare I say Papa bear!

An Office that Gets It

Offices in Middle East in general aren’t well known to be designed for purpose. You will either find shabby monotonous functional units and endless arrays of cubicles with big bosses getting bigger corner offices or you may find a lot of money thrown around to ‘pimp up my crib’ sort of offices where you see that form is not following function at all; or atleast the function is pretty weird and hard to discover. Few exceptions abound, I found Careem’s office a memorable one.

Careem’s Data Science Team

Although the office is not at prime price points in Dubai nor they have lavishly spent on office goodies. It might be safe to say that their offices were pretty small compared to their growth or even people on board yet few things stood out and I loved it. It was all about Form follows function. Meet Andreas Hagglund, their “Chief Post-It Writer” :)

Andreas ensured that their meeting spaces have no desks or chairs and thus no room to doze off or kill everyone by boredom (or PowerPoint). There are Post-it Notes everywhere in visual arrangements ranging from Kanban boards to value chain mappings to customer life cycle journeys and even their database designs. These rooms make everyone gravitate towards the visuals and hence I believe they have an awesome place to spark creativity and fiery collaboration. Andreas: Thanks for inviting me over; awesome work you’ve done here!

Leaning In

I follow thousands of people on social media. However, a few of those are always in my inner circle of feeds because they don’t just focus on amplification and cross postings of their social meanderings online but also reveal their private selves which is an extension of their professionals selves. This is not only an element of trust that the broadcaster has given the consumers but it is a testament that the person is fully immersed in his professional attitude and that his professional life is pretty much aligned to his ethos and logos. Every word or action that comes out of such people doesn’t require much thought or effort on their part, it just comes naturally. That’s what I see from Pierre Neis

With his automated feeds with occasional personal documentary of his active field work in agile; I get to create a context around his style of delivery, school of thought. Its always nice to know what is the thinking of this man as he delivers great talks around collaboration and gamification.

Few people can bring comedy to their content; Pierre is a funny person by design (in all the good sense of the word) and he brings his content as an extension of his persona. I keep on enjoying his feeds online and occasional meetups; crack a few jokes and learn a hell lot of product, agile and people!

Information Luminary

All through college, I carried the stigma of being called TMI (Too Much Information). Every where I go, that title stayed with me. It has been an inert tendency of mine to share what I know. And hardly, I met someone before who could beat me at my own game until I met Sohail Iqbal.

In a cramped up room, the only smiling face is gotta be Sohail Iqbal’s

Sohail is a Solutions Architect primarily in Integration but his knowledge and ability to draft up solutions in such diverse areas as hardware, networks, software, data science and Hollywood are phenomenal. He radiates knowledge and every single time I get to learn something totally new and am always baffled by it.

Sohail Iqbal | LinkedIn
A preview of what LinkedIn members have to say about Sohail:www.linkedin.com

Sohail is energetic, passionate and a technologist at heart. He is a late blossomer and I am sure his best is yet to come. What makes him unique is his ability to bring humor to mundane technical topics and he can easily group concepts and bridge relationships between chunks very rapidly. A quick learner and an elaborate information radiator!

Passionate Service

They say that if Universal Basic Income become a reality, people will only do work that they are passionate about and not what they are used to do to make a living. In the Middle East, tea boys are low paid workers that exist due to lack of an egalitarian society. If universal basic income kicks in or labor laws improve, very few will opt to remain tea boys…maybe except for Bakruddin. This gentlemen would most probably still be a tea boy with all the awareness of the possibilities that befall him. He just loves to serve people and make their brains go high so they can deliver their goods. Service at the heart of the corporate infrastructure.

Bakruddin and me

He doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile; his social networking is still effective the traditional way! He is always passionate to serve you with a whole list of options ranging from tea to coffee to hot chocolate and the occasional sandwich as well. The level of passion does not deteriorate and he is ever consistent. I wish more of us were like him.

Honorary Mention

A lot of others merit a place on the list; its not a contest, just my way of acknowledging some of you. I hope 2017 will be a phenomenal year for all of us I am always open to ideas from you!