Feature in brief: Mohammed Kazim attended Mubadala’s annual Youth Forum and shares with us some of his notes and what inspired him through the forum’s speakers.
The smell of Oudh, flashy yet stylish Abayas, and perfectly ironed Kandoras filled the event hall. Although a familiar sight in Abu Dhabi, this morning had something different about it. The energy and passion I was feeling from the audience took me back to my younger days. I was surrounded by young Emirati men and women from colleges and universities across Abu Dhabi who were eagerly attending the 3rd Mubadala Youth Forum.
The annual Mubadala Youth Forum is an initiative from Mubadala, an investment and development company owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, which aims to increase awareness about education and career paths available to young Emiratis. Since its inception in 2011, the Mubadala Youth Forum has engaged youth in inspiring discussions with Emirati leaders in different roles within the UAE.
This year’s forum began with a spectacular documentary about Abu Dhabi and its evolution across generations which set the scene for the vibrant keynote speech of Mubadala’s CEO, Khaldoon Al Mubarak. “The most important factor in any project is the team, the people involved who make the project a reality” Al Mubarak stated as he began to highlight many examples of Emiratis who led many of Mubadala’s projects into existence. He then specifically focused his speech on the role of passion and love for the Nation and how that composes the ingredient that drives success within talented and hardworking Emiratis. The already stunned crowd was eager for more, just as Al Mubarak’s speech was endorsed by Khalid Al Qubaisi, the Director of Human Capital at Mubadala, who highlighted the importance of hard work and sincerity and linked it to the journey of Japan and South Korea.
Many of the new generation of Emiratis aspire to participate in development at a global level but lack the knowledge of how to do so. To target that curiosity, the forum then presented panel discussions. In the first panel discussion titled “Emiratis across the Globe”, Emirati leaders from various backgrounds shared their experiences, both educational and professional, whilst emphasizing the common theme of persistence in struggle and self-confidence. The topics discussed by the panel included acceptance into top universities such as Harvard University (Dr. Aisha Bilkhair), representing Abu Dhabi as the first woman process engineer at Global Foundries (Reem Al Zaabi), teaching culturally daring topics to male officers (Lt. Col. Dr. Iman Al Jabri), mingling with different cultures whilst maintaining modesty and humbleness (Saud Al Nowais), and life-saving negotiations with bandits in Yemen (Abdulla Al Mutawa).
Having attended the first forum in 2011, I do not remember a more effective panel discussion; the Emiratis in the crowd had endless questions that were challenging and inspiring. To me, it was an excellent indication of the presence of an intelligent and ambitious pool of youth that can take this nation to another level.
It did not end there; as the attendees returned from lunch, the forum fed the passion of the motivated youth with real life success stories of Emiratis. The examples included the first Emirati female co-pilot (Salma Al-Balushi), a social entrepreneur (Aisha Saeed Harib), a wilderness photographer (Abdullaziz Bin Ali), and a culinary blogger (Shaikha Al Ali).
The next panel, titled “ Rethink: Your Future Roadmap,” highlighted comparative discussions of the private and public sectors, university paths to serve these sectors, and various youth development initiatives within the UAE. Dr. Abdulla Al Amiri, Provost Zayed University, mentioned the difference of generations, how the youth today live in an information age, and discussed how to cater specific curriculums to better shape their future as Eisa Al Mulla (Executive Director, Emirates Nationals Development Program) engaged the audience in an extravagant show of statistics.
The grand finale then arrived as Badr Al Olama, CEO of Strata, surprised the audience. Not only did he mention his continuous examples of success, but he also presented his multiple failures that led him there. “You have two choices, either to face your challenges and take responsibility for them, or to give up. I chose the first and I hope you do too” he stated at the end of his speech.
Although many may argue that the forum may have undermined some challenges and hidden the inefficiencies and mismanagement that exists in the regional corporate realm, overall, to me, this forum was an excellent platform to engage the youth who require positive examples. These examples, I believe, act as a reinforcement that feeds their motivation and passion. The existence of wonderful and challenging mega projects in the UAE demands the involvement of the Emirati Youth. Such forums allow for the link between the youth and the role models and potential mentors in the UAE development scene.
As for me, I took with me a whole lot of learning, the best of which was Dr. Aisha Bilkhair’s final advice to the youth.
“ Formulate your own opinion and base it on a belief… base it on your love and passion for the improvement of our nation… do not base it on what others want you to do or on what others think is right for you.”
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.