Any educational institution is a sum of its students. These young minds who enroll in to a professional course with nothing but dreams of a bright future in their mind are turned into successful professionals and entrepreneurs by the institution they place their trust in.
This month, our writer, Nissy Elsa John, talks to six of ACKís Alumni who have been making headlines. From a media management company to martial arts training and an adventure travel enterprise these alumni have been leaving an unforgettable imprint everywhere they go. Here are their stories…
Khalil Al Hammar: Moving Onward & Upward
Armed with a Bachelor’s in Business Management from ACK, Khalil has been boldly exploring areas of creativity since 2013. Whilst still in college, he started his blog, www.q8path.com, posting the latest updates in Kuwait. That is, after all, the heart of every business’s success – a junction at which the audience’s needs, and the providers potential and passion meet.
ACK opened Khalil’s eyes to a world of opportunities. During his initial days at college, he had assumed that he would find employment, either in a company or in the ministry, and have a stable career. As he got to know those who had gone before him along the path of entrepreneurship, however, he discovered that his true interests lay in a slurry of creative ideas ñ web development, social media management, graphic designing and app development. And thus, Edges Media was conceived.
Recognizing the need for theoretical as well as practical business perspicacity, Khalil took a deep-dive into his academics at ACK.
However, ACK’s role in his journey did not end with academics; its Public Relations department supported Khalil with some events within campus, and the administration helped him further promote Edges Media and build his customer base. The inflow of encouragement and support was, undeniably, a boon for the start-up.
Thanks to this support and his own diligent groundwork, projects keep pouring in and testimonials are aplenty. For this ACK graduate, it’s all about building strong relationships based on trust and reliability, and he believes this adds to the strength of his business.
“No matter what, we give a full measure of our creativity to each of our projects. This is what defines us, and helps us with brand identity creation,” says Khalil. Khalil joined Tamkeen, a youth empowerment organization in Kuwait, two years ago as a Marketing Committee Director. He supports them with all media, PR and marketing-related tasks.
His end goal is to ultimately transition back to the education sector, but this time to give back. To teach. He says proudly, I love teaching others, guiding them. Education is the best form of support you can bestow upon your society. I believe that I received the best of what Kuwait has to offer. ACK’s education system, its environment as well as its facilities are unmatched in the region, and it is my turn to give back.
Khalil tells students who might be at a crossroads in their careers, “Everything has become easier and more accessible with technology. Stay motivated, and find out exactly what excites you. And just do it”.
Maali Salmeen: Emerging Stronger
An element of wistfulness is almost palpable as Ma’ali speaks of her life at ACK. Six years have passed since she earned her Aviation diploma from the Australian College of Kuwait, and yet, she is as enthused as a recent graduate might be.
Today, she steers her own successful business -Martial Calibre, while also working a full-time job as an aviation professional at Kuwait Airways. Looking back, Ma’ali remembers that the young woman who walked out of ACK’s doors after the 2.5 years of her coursework was a much stronger person than the quiet girl who took her first steps in. The transformation in her character was so radical that it was apparent to those who know her. She attributes this change to the substance of ACKís greatest gift to her – its culture of caring, giving, and understanding.
For Ma’ali, martial arts was a redemptive journey. When she started training, it was only to shed a few pounds. However, it gradually became a spiritual passage for her. Coaching students in Kajukenbo, which is fundamentally street fighting, she sees martial arts as a way to help empower girls and thereby, improve their lives. With its no-belt system, Martial Calibre is all about not admitting defeat in the face of an attack. By providing classes that are both bilingual and female-tutored, Martial Calibre has made self-defense more accessible to young girls in Kuwait.
Ma’ali believes that the behavioral and life lessons imparted by her instructors have given her an edge over others at her workplace. In fact, she avers that doing the work is the least difficult part of succeeding in a career. It is just as important to understand your own as well as others’ psychology to be able to handle situations well, something that ACK taught her well.
ACK’s academics are well aligned with the requirements of the corporate world, enabling its students to succeed at work and in life. Right from the onset of studies, opportunities are provided so that students can equip themselves with relevant experience and practical knowledge. On-the-job trainings are provided, wherein employers can gauge the caliber of trainees while students gain experiential knowledge. In fact, this is how Ma’ali came by her job at Kuwait Airways, where these trainings are seen as functional interviews of sorts.
The comforting atmosphere that welcomed her at ACK is something Ma’ali tries to recreate in the world she stepped out into. For her, it’s all about being good, doing good, improving herself and giving back to others – all values driven home by her instructors. Her positivity, optimism and assuring nature make it easy to see what she means, and what makes her such a good leader.
Out of the acquired strength has been born a ‘never-give-up’ attitude. She has broken through several stereotypes and stigmas that have seeped through and become standards in the Arab region. Being just the second girl to be on the field in her capacity as an aviation professional at Kuwait Airways, Ma’ali had to stick it through the tough times to prove that gender did not determine the quality of work that was delivered. “It is an amazing feeling to be part of a good change in social patterns”, she says.
To wrap up, Ma’ali urges students to speak out and communicate, knowing that the culture of ACK is one of complete understanding. “You know you will be heard. So if you see there is anything standing in the way of your success, be it academic or otherwise, make sure you speak out and let your instructors know.”
Manayer Salmeen: It’s All About Loving it!
Manayer joined ACK in 2006, having shifted from a local university she was previously enrolled in. The stark contrast was not lost on her, and counting her blessings, she remembers the relief she felt after her first day of classes at ACK. The friendly instructors, the organized and streamlined system, as well as the beautiful campus enabled her to be comfortable at college, and was conducive to her all-rounded success there.
Among the first three students to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Oil & Gas Engineering from ACK, Manayer found the hands-on approach employed by her college emboldening. It gave the students a chance to figure things out on their own through research, theses, and site visits. All of these experiences at ACK facilitated her transition into KOC, where she works full-time today.
She also runs condition:COMBAT, Kuwait’s first and only Ladies’ Shotokan Karate and Fitness Conditioning Academy. Having won regional and international acclaim as a Shotokan Karate professional, Manayer could see what was lacking in support for women’s karate in Kuwait. Her determination to open her own academy was cemented by her love for karate. Her training has a commingled approach of traditional and modern karate (combat), plus the added aspect of martial-arts-related fitness approach (condition).
“It is not a piece of cake, being a Petroleum Engineer, a business owner and a wife”, Manayer states unequivocally. However, she is quick to add, “There is a saying that goes something like, ‘If you love your job, you’ll never have to work a day in your life’, which I find to be true. I love what I do and I do what I love, and I am appreciative of that every single day of my life.”
One year after opening condition:COMBAT, Manayer transferred her training location to ACK. She taught her classes there for two and a half years. She says, “ACK has wonderful outdoor facilities that I was allowed access to, clean and tidy training areas, and impeccable security. Having the support of ACK to build my business, in a place I am familiar with, has been a blessing”.
Manayer finds every aspect of ACK to be invigorating and aimed at fulfilling its adamant aim to prepare a well-rounded employee who can excel in a workplace. In fact, so much is her love for her alma mater, she says she would be the first to sign up should there ever be a master’s program at ACK. As she says, “There is always room for self-improvement; do not be afraid to ask for help. Just realize your blessings, and love what you do!”
Abdulaziz Husain: ACK Gives you Wings
His passion for aviation forms the DNA of the driving factor behind Abdulaziz’s success, both at ACK and afterward. One among the first batch of EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) students in the country, he committed himself to academics and became the first at ACK to complete all of the required EASAs.
“The benefit of completing an Aviation Engineering diploma from ACK are multifold”, says Abdulaziz. Landing his dream job at Kuwait Airways, the fresh graduate was armed with practical knowledge that fortified his confidence enough for him not to be overwhelmed by the pressure of work.
Right from the start of his coursework, Abdulaziz was blessed with the opportunity to work on an actual aircraft – both the engine and the air frame, on campus. Spending hours on each section of the aircraft, Abdulaziz found himself exposed to new knowledge to absorb with each day he was at ACK.
But did success come easy? Most definitely not. Aviation is a difficult choice of major, no matter where you study. At ACK, it involves long workshop hours and weekly examinations, and during his time, aviation students were required to be on campus from 8 am to 4 pm. Abdulaziz attributes his success to the enriching nature of his classes, coupled with his determination to make the most of each and every one of them.
In retrospect, Abdulaziz is certain that the key to his success lies in having an actual commercial aircraft to train on, and the extensive on-the-job training he was required to complete before graduation. The program prepared him to be a quick learner and to efficiently complete maintenance tasks he was given at work.
The instructors were always supportive. Abdulaziz often visits his alma mater to meet his former instructors and to get under the wings of that aircraft on campus once more. He says of his life at ACK, “It may have been a challenging time in my life, but I would not trade it for the world. It has made me the person I am today.”
Saud Al Juwaiyann: The Connection Quotient
What Saud has accomplished in the years after college is a path that is at the behest of every student, and yet, is one that is not trodden often. At ACK, those with a passion are nudged and prodded so that the dreams of its students and alumni materialize into reality.
A year after having completed his Mechanical Engineering degree from ACK in 2011, Saud started breathing life into his own initiative, Oxadventure. What started as a blog thrived on support, and evolved into a non-profit organization that designs experiences to combine volunteering and adventure. Below is an excerpt from Studentalk’s interview with Saud.
Tell us a little bit about Oxadventure.
Oxadventure is an NGO that combines three elements: volunteering, cultural exchange, and getting out of your comfort zone. The focus is on involvement of youth which, I believe, shows them that life is so much bigger than what we can see around us. We achieve these goals by providing opportunities to volunteer in countries across the globe.
Would you say ACK has helped you reach where you are today?
Without a doubt. ACK helped kick-start my career. Education is a game changer, and it is about more than just the degree that we get from our alma mater. I believe that the problem-solving attitude that was planted and nurtured at ACK has helped me get to where I am today.
What would you say is your single most significant takeaway from ACK?
The support of my mentors, colleagues and even current students has shaped my career to a large degree. I would definitely say that the connections built during and as a consequence of my time at ACK have brought me to a whole new level. Whether it was in terms of supporting the initiative right from its conceptual stages, marketing or even expanding my network, ACK has been with me through and through.
If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently?
Maybe I would choose a different major. Maybe marketing. But thatís it; I would not want to change anything else.
Is there any advice that you would like to give current or future students on how they can make the best of their ACK experience?
I would advise students to follow their passion. See education not in terms of the degree you will have at the end of your years in college; see it as a way of life, as an opportunity for self-improvement. Find where your true interests lie, and then work hard on them.
Madonna Ghanem: P for Proactive
A wife. Mother of two. Managing Director and Partner of Biosphere Spa, which has three branches across Kuwait. Managing Director of a new dermatological clinic, Donna Bella, scheduled to open in 89 Mall. And simultaneously, pursuing an MBA. To say that Madonna has her plate full would be an understatement. ‘It is a lot of pressure’, she admits; but it is hard not to see her motivation and drive.
After having graduated from an Arabic school and with little knowledge of the English language, Madonnaís beginning at ACK was a struggle. However, she set her mind to devouring the vocabulary of her books, and with the encouragement of her instructors, got straight ëAís that first semester at college, and every one that followed in its wake. She completed her degree at ACK with a neat 4/4. Even to this day, Madonna finds the words of her instructor, Dr. Cathy Robenston, ‘Madonna, you are a proactive person’, an impetus to keep giving her best.
Madonna is yet another testimony of the efficiency of ACK’s hands-on approach to studies. It was during her early years at ACK that she was approached to develop a business plan for what later became Biosphere Spa. Launched in 2009, the spa benefits from the business acumen that Madonna obtained at ACK. Eight years down, she invests her intellectual resources to ensure that it maintains a competitive advantage over other offerings in the region and provides value-added services to all its customers.
There are still times when she turns to her lecturers for advice and recommendations. For her, it is this level of their dedication and the degree of openness they share with their students that sets the ACK experience a class above all others. The familial spirit that she experienced during her first years at ACK persists, though it has been seven years since she graduated. The Alumni Centre in particular has built strong bridges that keep communication lines open between ex-students and the current faculty and student body. In fact, they even help boost awareness of her business at every opportunity.
With passion underlining her tone, Madonna urges, ‘Do not wait for anyone to tell you what needs to be done. Identify opportunities, and focus on your ambition. ACK has your back and will support you.’ Simply be proactive.