Interviewer: Sara Abdelghany
“The organs in the human body coordinate and collaborate to make us what we are. So why not be like our human bodies, why not be one homogeneous society that helps one another”
Reem Al Olaby
About the Interviewee
Dr. Reem Al Olaby, a renowned young researcher, with a Bachelor of Pharmacy from Ain Shams University 2007, an MSc (2010) and PhD (2014) in Biotechnology from The American University of Cairo. Along with the title of scientist, she holds many others, such a wife, a mom, and a role model to all of us. Reem is also a public speaker in many events, one of them was TEDxAUC.
Currently Dr. Reem Al Olaby is pursuing her second Master’s Degree in Public Health from George Washington University.
1- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Dr. Reem, I want to thank you for giving us some of your valuable time to answer our questions, let’s start from the very beginning, when did you know that you want to become a scientific researcher, and how did you use this idea to progress forward?
Reem Al Olaby: It is a pleasure to take part in this interview with you Sara.
My passion for science started since an early age. I was 9 years old when I asked for a microscope as a birthday gift. Since then, with the help of my parents I started expanding my knowledge in science. My first choice was to get enrolled in faculty of pharmacy after finishing my high school. Back then Faculty of Pharmacy, Ain Shams University took the highest grade all over Egypt. I was truly blessed to have got the exact minimum grade they accept which is 97.8% and I got enrolled in FOPASU in 2002. The 5 years I spent in FOPASU empowered me with different set of skills. I learnt how to be a team player, aim high, and to take part in organizing student initiatives at a professional level. We were the first to start the Student Conference on Pharmaceutical Studies in 2006 and now it is the 11th generation. We took part in different competitions that involved reviewing different scientific breakthroughs. Through these activities my passion to science grew more specially towards biotechnology. I recall presenting about monoclonal antibodies, marine drugs, obesity and other topics. I also had the pleasure to work in the “Ain Shams Scientific Pharmaceutical Student Association” and then leading it in 2006. I have learnt a lot from my professors and colleagues. Those 5 years changed my way of thinking, mentality and attitude. Most importantly, my passion towards HCV started then.
2- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Your PhD thesis was on identifying drug leads against Hepatitis C and malaria, can you please explain (especially to those who lack a scientific background) how you reached different drug leads, and will those drugs ever make it to the market?
Reem Al Olaby: The idea came from an approach developed by Dr. Rod Balhorn and his team. They generated what is called Selective High Affinity Ligands (SHALs) against Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. I do recall Dr. Hassan Azzazy (M.Sc. and PhD Adviser – AUC) encouraging us to start looking for ideas and potential collaborators. I started fetching for ideas, until I read about SHALs approach and I felt that such an approach is very suitable for targeting HCV and other infectious diseases. I started communicating with Dr. Rod Balhorn who later became my M.Sc. and PhD thesis co-adviser and mentor. Since 2009, I started establishing collaborations with Scripps Research Institute, UC Irvine, UC Davis Medical Center, Stanford University, Caltech, John Hopkins University and Rutgers University in USA and Institute Pasteur De Lille in France. Without the help of my great advisers and the significant contribution of the collaborators, we wouldn’t have had 2 peer reviewed papers, and 3 full US PTO patents. I am trying with the help of my advisers to find source of fund to continue working on the drug leads and progress to clinical trials because they have shown promising results in vitro.
3- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: In HR Revolution Middle East Magazine, we like to look at our guests as a whole. What do you do for fun and how do you reach a life-work balance?
Reem Al Olaby: I love hanging out with my family (husband, 7.5 years old daughter, 4.5 years old son). I love travelling, playing tennis, cardio, cycling and above all socializing. I believe that the person can never function properly in his professional life without having fun, and spending good amount of time with the loved ones. Also there should always be a space to spirituality and religion practice.
4- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Many young scientists fall into the trap of being engrossed heavily in their scientific field, forgetting about other parts of their life. What do you recommend scientists to do in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Reem Al Olaby: They should always remember that even computers sometimes shutdown if it was overwhelmed with data and ongoing processes. So what would be the case if we are dealing with human bodies? Our bodies have all the right to relax every now and then, our brains need a break, as they can’t function properly without having a little bit of fun, meditation, and even staring at a blank wall and thinking of nothing.
5- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: By looking at your inspiring CV, I’ve noticed that you’re a Project Management Professional (PMP) holder, what inspired you to take the step of applying for that certification, and how does it relate to your work? Especially that many people think that science and business/management are two different worlds.
Reem Al Olaby: The main inspirer was my husband. He is the one who taught me all about the importance of project management, and I learnt from him about project management institute in USA and what it has to offer. He got the PMP, Pg-MP, OPM3 and RMP from PMI followed by a M.Sc. in project management from George Washington University. So this was my main trigger, simply to have a common ground between both of us; something to discuss and expand our knowledge together in. Additionally, I felt that PMP will give me the set of skills needed to manage any scientific project I handle in a very efficient way. Project management is a very important discipline that enables people to think in an organized and productive way to achieve the deliverables successfully.
6- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As an employee, what do you need from the HR of your organization, in order to excel at your job?
Reem Al Olaby: I simply need trust, honesty and a healthy working environment lacking any toxic behaviors such as backstabbing, gossiping, etc. It is always great to have space for creativity from your boss/leader.
7- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You have two beautiful children (God bless them); how do you manage being a mom, a wife, and a prominent scientist?
Reem Al Olaby: It is simply a blessing from Allah, he gave me great parents who helped me a lot, a great understanding husband who have backed me up and supported me throughout my postgraduate life. And now, I have 2 lovely children who understand the nature of their mum’s career and are engaged with me 🙂 I do have them wear lab coats and make simple experiments every now and then. I discuss with them the different roles of scientists and what they do.
8- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What are the most important skills and morals you try to instill in your children?
Reem Al Olaby: The most important thing is to believe in God, become aware that He is there watching over, because through that they will always try to do their best. Through that, they will try to increase their good deeds, excel in what they do, help others, try to be role models, and above all be honest, kind and disciplined.
9- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: If you had the chance to talk to the whole world, what would your message be?
Reem Al Olaby: Life is short, and as human beings we were mainly created to construct this world, not destruct it. We were created humans in the first place, no races or ethnicities. So why do we continually try to make this world darker instead of making it a better place for ourselves and the future generations? Why do we need wars, greed, racism, hate, and violence when we have peace, unity, love, and sharing? I hope that one day people would understand that when we die, we all decompose into dust, which means that we will have neither a skin color nor ethnicity! We are all one, Human Beings!
10- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You’ve recently started a new charity group in the USA, may you please tell us more about it?
Reem Al Olaby: The idea was sparked from our children. They saw several homeless people carrying cardboards that had “I need help” written on it. They told us that we need to help them. So from there came the idea of United Public. We wanted to create an organization that aims at uniting people of different ethnicities, races and backgrounds towards a noble cause. We are still working on it. The first initiative aims at blending with the homeless and showing them that we care, we are not afraid of them and we want to hear what they have to say.
11- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How did your medical background assist you in creating this charity?
Reem Al Olaby: The medical background is supposed to make the person more humane, more thoughtful. It simply shows the person how weak he/she is. It shows you how the organs in the human body coordinate and collaborate to make us what we are; seeing, speaking, breathing, talking, etc. So why not be like our human bodies, why not be one homogeneous society that helps one another.
HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Thank you again, Dr. Reem for your time.
Empathy at Work. Interview with Mimi Nicklin: Empathetic leader, Author and Business strategist
She is an experienced marketer and communications specialist, business strategist and a wellknown empathetic leader. She is a natural coach, writer and creative mind, and has held roles as diverse as Strategic Director, Vice President and Creative Officer in some of the world’s leading advertising agencies.
Her passion for balancing humanism with capitalism, drives her commitment to leading the practice of Regenerative and empathetic leadership, as well as her ‘principles of people’, into organisations and communities worldwide.
Softening The Edge is Mimi’s debut book – out on 15 September and available for pre-order now on amazon.com
INTERVIEWER: Cinzia Nitti
HR Revolution: Hi Mimi, it’s our honor to make this interview and thanks in advance for what you will share with the HR Revolution Middle East Family. Many people assume that Empathy is generally about “being there” when someone is going through a difficult life path. Would you tell us more about the value of Empathy and how the whole concept relates to corporate life?
Mimi Nicklin: After thirty years of data that shows empathy is declining, we have a deficit on our hands; a corporate humanity deficit, an Empathy Deficit. The Empathy Deficit has been formed by a gap in connection with each other at the deepest social and corporate levels over many decades, and it undermines the fundamental principles of our ability to thrive in at work. Workplace absenteeism and apathy are reaching endemic proportions. Corporate anxiety, depression, and extreme proportions of burnout often complete the picture. Never has there been a time in history when we needed an intervention into our working lives more than we do today and empathy and ‘Regenerative Leadership’ is a powerful driver for this turnaround.
HR Revolution: Why Empathy in the workplace matters and how it impacts employee productivity?
Mimi Nicklin: As the environments we work within become ever tougher and sharper edged, especially during 2020, we are seeing employee productivity and performance dwindle. We have a deep problem at the exact point where humanity meets capitalism, and there is a lack of balance between the two which is impacting the performance, focus and capability of team members. This is a problem fuelled by three key parts. First, an ubiquitous obsession with growth at all costs which sees employee wellness drop in importance; second, a never-ending stress cycle which is impacting staff at all levels; and third, a widespread disconnection between our people and corporate culture at an unprecedented scale.
HR Revolution: Mimi, as a consultant and business strategist, do you have a human-centric “recipe” to develop Empathy at work? What would you suggest to HR Departments to improve their effectiveness in supporting employees through Empathy?
Mimi Nicklin: The key of all empathetic organisations success lies in truly listening to our teams. Both overtly and directly, and through confidential channels such as questionnaires or feedback forms. After many months of 2020 have seen us working from home, as HR specialists we have had an opportunity for the first time in a long time to truly slow down and to consider the wider context of our teams and culture. We can’t expect our teams to not want to make change, to push back against old patterns and to want to work for a higher, more impactful purpose with a more flexible approach. It is in embracing this desire that will lead HR teams to be able to innovative and make sustainable changes to employee performance and health. At the top of our lists should be to listen to our teams as they re-enter their working environments and reassess each area of our business in light of the new world we are facing.
HR Revolution: Vulnerability has been a critical factor for business leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is there any kind of professional-empathetic method that balances both a company’s ambition and highlights the employee’s role?
Mimi Nicklin: I often talk about principles of people beyond profit. This is not to say people ‘before’ profit. Our businesses need to remain profitable and sustain our organisational imperatives, but we can lead a culture that looks at the value of the strength of our people as something that has commercial value. Empathy in leadership and culture is a data set and an input for your business and the method of balancing them reduces risk and improves uptake and trust from staff, leading to improvements across KPI’s. Without being able to walk in the shoes of our employees and understand their diverse viewpoints, it is nearly impossible to inspire and lead teams to success, and even harder to create marketing, powerful business decisions or innovative products and services that truly and deeply resonate with people.
HR Revolution: How Empathy, Emotional Intelligence and Technology coexist in response to the post-pandemic era?
Mimi Nicklin: We have more technology to connect with each other and our clients than ever before, and more data to leverage an understanding of what people want, yet the systematic dehumanization by corporate agendas and over analysis has damaged our ability to connect. Zoom calls and team applications can brilliantly connect us and facilitate our business processes but we must be aware the technology can lead to inauthentic and ‘cold’ culture’s between leaders and teams. As HR leaders, it is our intuition and integrity in empathising with the real and honest problems that our teams have (on and off screen) that will allow us to really make an impact and leverage technology without losing our humanity and connectedness to each other at work.
HR Revolution: “Softening the Edge.” A leadership book on Empathetic Influence and Emotional Intelligence is your first book (out on September 15th). Would you give our readers a glimpse of its content?
Mimi Nicklin: Softening the Edge focuses on something I have been passionate about for my entire career—the sustainable wellness of our workforce, treating people with kindness and decency, and the future of Regenerative Leadership that sustainably promotes human values as well as the financial value of every business. It addresses the Global Empathy Deficit from within our organisations, based on my own experiences leading teams around the world, and inspired by the turnaround story in my current organisation. The goal is to create wider understanding that the world of leadership and business is critically responsible for playing a role in protecting and improving our social future. Today, many people do not enjoy their work, burnout is at all-time high, depression is impacting over 33,000,000 people and the younger generation is leaving the corporate workplace in droves. By failing to proactively nurture empathy in our future leaders, we are failing to protect our future. Softening the Edge is part business tool, part corporate culture guide and part social eye opener to a downward trend impacting all areas of life and work. It shows how by harnessing and exercising empathy for employees and each other we can reverse the trend, build happier, more productive businesses and create a kinder, healthier world.
Thanks for your precious contribution, dear Mimi. The whole HR Revolution Crew wishes you all the best!
حوار صحفي مع سلمى صادق – ممرضة طوارئ بمستشفى جامعة الاسكندرية
صحافة: محمود منسي
الناس كانت متخيلة ان المهم في المجال الطبي هو الطبيب فقط ـ لكن اللي مش واخدين بالهم منه انه التمريض هو اللي بيفضل مع المريض بيلاحظ كل عرض وعلامة جديدة في تحسن أو سوء حالته الصحية وانه له دور عظيم جدا في عملية اتمام الشفاءسلمى صادق
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: ايه سر دخولك للكارير وايه التحديات اللى قابلتيها في بداية المجال؟
المجال الطبي عموما مجال ممتع جدا وأنا من صغري حسيت بشغف للمجال وبدأت ابحث عنه كتير ناس كتير قالتلي المجال صعب ومش هتستحملي اللي بيحصل فيه وشكل الحالات ف الطوارئ والاستقبال وانتي صغيرة مش هتتحملي ده، أنا اخدت كل الكلام ده على محمل التحدي وبدأت بشغفي الدراسة في المجال
أول تحدي قابلته في المجال هو نظرة المجتمع للتمريض في الوقت ده الناس كانت متخيلة ان المهم في المجال الطبي هو الطبيب فقط ـ لكن اللي مش واخدين بالهم منه انه التمريض هو اللي بيفضل مع المريض بيلاحظ كل عرض وعلامة جديدة في تحسن أو سوء حالته الصحية وانه له دور عظيم جدا في عملية اتمام الشفاء
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: ايه المهارات اللي بتميز شخص عن التاني ف المجال ده؟
السرعة في الأداء بشكل متقن لأن مش كل الناس عندها ميزة انها تلحق مريض على بعد دقايق من فقد الوعي وتكون سبب انك تعيده تاني للحياة بسرعه وده بيتمثل في انك تعمل الاجراء صح وتكون مركز جدا في كل حاجة حواليك زي أداواتك كاملة و
cooperative staff without any tensions
وحاجة تانية برضو هي
How to solve problems during work intelligently
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: هل ممكن يكون في كلاشات بين فريق التمريض والأطباء، ايه ممكن يكون سببها؟
ممكن يحصل مثلا كلاش على أساس ان بعض من طاقم التمريض غير مؤهل بنسبة كافيه للعمل أو توضيح أكتر انه على قيد الدراسة أو فترة الامتياز أو حتى حديث التخرج ويبدأ العمل في وقت لا يوجد به افراد اساسيين من الطاقم في وقت حرج فبيسبب ان العمل لا يسري بشكل جيد أو مش بكفاءة عالية
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: في ظل الظروف الحالية هل طبيعة العمل في مجال التمريض متغيرة مع الكورونا وايه المراحل اللي بيمر بيها المريض وازاى بتتعاملوا في كل مرحلة من المراحل دي؟
طبعا اتغيرت وأصبح الأمر شبيه بحالة الطوارئ وأصبحت كل الفرق الطبية على استعداد لاستقبال الحالات المصابة بكورونا وتم توفير الواقيات الشخصية في جميع اقسام المستشفى وتم تدريب الفرق على كيفية لبس وخلع الواقيات بطريقة صحيحة حسب تعليمات مكافحة العدوى اما بالنسبة للمراحل اللي بيمر بيها المريض خلينا نعتبرها الأعراض اللي بيحس بيها المريض على الاغلب بيكون تكسير في الجسم وصداع نصفي مؤلم جدا وارتفاع درجة حرارة الجسم عن 37.5 درجة وبيحصل ضيق في التنفس وجفاف في الحلق وبعض الاعراض اللي بتصيب الجهاز الهضمي زي الاسهال مثلا وحاليا بيتم معالجة الأعراض ومش لازم كل المرضى يكون عندهم نفس الأعراض لا ساعات بيكون تلت أو أربع اعراض متجمعة ف مريض أو عرضين فقط
بالنسبة لدورنا في المرحلة دي هو اول حاجه اننا نطمن المريض انه هيكون كويس في أقرب وقت ممكن واننا بنحاول بقدر الامكان نكون سبب في شفاؤه بجانب طبعا التحاليل اللازمة له والأشعة والمسحة اللي بتأكد لنا المريض ده ايجابي ولا سلبي وتوزيع كورس العلاج المناسب له على حسب الاعراض اللي حاسس بيها
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: كيف تم تأهيلكم للعمل في نطاق الحجر الصحي وايه هيا التدريبات اللى لو كنتم اخدتوها كانت هتساعدكم أكتر في شغلكم؟
أولا احنا اخدنا دورة تدريبية في كيفية التعامل مع مريض الكورونا من أول معرفة أشكال الواقيات الشخصية المختلفة وكيفية ارتدائها وخلعها بالطريقة الصحيحة على حسب تعليمات مكافحة العدوى بمنظمه الصحة العالمية واتعلمنا ازاي نحط خطة نشتغل عليها في نطاق الحجر في المستشفيات
اظن ان من اهم الدورات اللي مفترض تكون في خطة مواجهة الفيروس عموما سواء في نطاق العمل مع مرضى الكورونا في المستشفيات أو خارجها هيا كيفية مراعاة شعور المريض لان نفسيه المريض بتساعد على تحسن حالته الصحية بنسبة كبيرة فمن وجهة نظري اننا لازم نتعلم كلنا ازاي نساعد المريض نفسيا انه يقدر يتخطى المرض ده
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: هل تم اصابة ناس من فريق التمريض وكيف تم التعامل معها؟
للأسف تم اصابه بعض الأشخاص من الفريق المعالج ودة أمر وارد انه يحصل بسبب بعض الأخطاء اللي ممكن تحصل في عدم توخي الحذر اثناء خلع الواقيات الشخصية وما شابه
لكن تم عزل الزملاء اللي اتصابوا وتم بدأ عمل تحاليل ومسحات لهم وبدء كورس العلاج لهم حسب الأعراض وهكذا
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: ايه أكتر الحاجات اللي بترهقكم في شغلكم أيا كان صحيا أو نفسيا أو عقليا؟
أحيانا اللي بيرهقنا نفسيا هو حالة المريض اللي بنحاول بكل طاقتنا اننا ننقذه من الألم والمرض اللي هو فيه وبنتابع معاه من أول ما بيدخل المستشفى مرورا بالعناية المركزة وبنحاول نوفر له أكياس الدم والبلازما اللي محتاجها مثلا وبيصارع الألم بعدها وبنكون مقدرين كل الألم ده وللأسف مبيكملش حياته والأمر بيكون مسألة قدرية بحت وطبعا على الجانب الاخر ضغط الشغل نفسه في المستشفيات الحكومية بيكون عالي جدا وعدد الحالات الكبير لما بنشتغل معاهم بننسى نفسنا وساعات مبناكلش كويس مثلا ومبنهتمش بالتغذية السليمة اللي تدينا الطاقة الكافية اللي نقدر بيها نكمل شغلنا ـ أحيانا ده بيعود على الفرق الطبية عموما وبيأثر على صحتنا بالسلب للأسف لما ناخد عدد نبطشيات كتير دة بيخلينا مرهقين جدا وممكن يأثر على كفائه الشغل نفسه فبنحتاج نفصل أو ناخد بريك يخلينا نشحن طاقتنا تاني عشان نقدر نواصل مسيرة شغفنا واختيارنا للمجال نفسه 🙂
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: ايه الحاجات اللي ممكن تحصل عشان تساعدكم في صحتكم النفسية والجسدية وايه الحاجات اللي لو اتغيرت تخلي شغلكم أحسن؟
أظن ان من أهم الحاجات اللي ممكن تساعدنا في استعادة صحتنا وقوتنا في العمل هو تخفيف عدد النبطشيات في الشغل وتظبيط الاجازات وزيادة عدد العاملين بالمجال وده هيضمن كفاءة عمل كويسة جدا وهيكون سبب في شفاء عدد كتير من المرضى
وهيضمن مستوى صحي بجودة عالية وطبعا لازم يكون في تجديد وعرض لكل ما هو جديد في المجال زي ما حصل قبل كده واخدنا كلنا دورة كيفية السيطرة على الحريق ودي حاجة فعلا كنا محتاجينها جدا
من الحجات المهمة جدا اللي مش كتير واخد باله منها هيا نظرة المجتمع للأطقم الطبية لأن ده بيأثر بنسبة كبيرة جدا على تقديم مستوى أفضل للرعاية الصحية
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: هل بتلاقي وقت في روتين يومك تعملي الحاجات اللي بتحبيها؟
“Great things never come from comfort zones.”
دي عبارة اخدتها كمبدأ في حياتي
ان فعلا الحاجات أو الانجازات العظيمة مش بتيجي أبدا وأنا مريحه وكسلانة
في حاجات أساسية في روتين يومي زي قراءة الكتب مثلا ومشاهدة حلقات ل تيديكس، والتمارين اللي بعملها ف البيت، اختيار الأكل الصحي المناسب ليا
بجانب بقا اني بتعلم لغة جديدة ومؤخرا اكتشفت ان التعليم الالكتروني ممكن فعلا يكون أكثر فاعلية واستفادت منه كتير جدا
ساعات مثلا أصور صورة حلوة واشيرها مع أصحابي كنوع من أنواع المحافظة على دائرة الصداقة اللي خارج نطاق العمل بتاعي
بعمل مثلا تطوير للمعلومات بتاعتي في مجالي ولو اتعلمت حاجة جديدة مثلا بروح ادور عليها أكتر وأتفرج على فيديوز عنها وأفهمها كويس جدا
أنا بحاول بكل الأشكال اغير من شخصيتي للأفضل بأخلق وقت لقراية كتاب جديد أو لعمل اكلة جديدة حتى وأنا في المواصلات مثلا
اهم شيء هو اني أمشي ورا الشغف بتاعي، لأن ده اللي هيخليني أوصل للي أنا عايزاه وهيخليني أنجح وهيفتحلي أبواب كتيرة جدا بالسعي في الطرق دي
مجلة ثورة الموارد البشرية: نصايحك ايه للناس اللي حاسة انها مصابة ومش قادرة تروح المستشفى؟
أول نصيحة هيا الاهتمام بالنظافة الشخصية بتاعتهم والتزام البيوت وعدم الخروج الا للضرورة
غسل الايدين لازم يكون أكتر من مرة في اليوم بعد كل عمل بتعمله ولو خرجت برا البيت لازم تلبس الماسك ويكون معاك كحول ايثيلي 70% سواء جيل أو سبراي واي تعامل مع أوراق مالية أو تعامل شخصي مع اي فرد برا البيت لازم تستخدم الكحول بعدها مع مراعاة المسافة الآمنة بين الافراد
واتمني السلامة للجميع
شكرا جدا يا سلمى على الإخلاص في عملك والمقابلة الصحفية الهامة دي
Interview with Sally Khalil – Teacher and Librarian at New Horizon School, USA
Interviewer: Mahmoud Mansi
“I’ve always wanted to be an actress and students are my beautiful audience who admire my tales with their wide-open eyes and curious questions. I like reading out loud and roleplaying from picture books to the little ones. This is when I know how rewarding it is, just from the happy look in their eyes…”Sally Khalil
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
Sally is an ESL teacher, tech and media associate, and librarian at an elementary and middle school in California. She has a BA in English from Alexandria University, Egypt, an MA in English from Chapman University and an MA in Arabic from Middlebury College in California. She worked briefly as a Google rater and shown interest in the tech field and became a Certified Microsoft Administrator in 2004. She has worked as an ESL/ESP teacher for 20 years in different work fields.
1-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Sally, it is very interesting that you have been through a lot of career experiences that all revolve around “books”, as a learner and an educator and now you work as a Librarian. Do you consider this as a career shift?
Sally Khalil: I sure do think it’s a shift, and I am all the happier because of it. I have always been curious what Americans like to read. There was this huge gap of knowledge that I needed to make up, because I haven’t lived in the US all my life. Now I have a decent idea what children love to read, and I make sure that I have those books in my library. While teaching, I used books as tool. As a librarian, they are my treasures.
2-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: What other duties do you do as a school librarian? Do you enjoy them?
Sally Khalil: I read to students aloud from Pre-K to fourth grade when they do their weekly visit to the library. I’ve always wanted to be an actress and they are my beautiful audience who admire my tales with their wide-open eyes and curious questions. I like reading out loud and roleplaying from picture books to the little ones. This is when I know how rewarding it is, just from the happy look in their eyes. I also enjoy choosing books related to the various monthly themes. For example, in February during Black History Month, we read stories about the history and lives of African Americans.
Now the fact that I’ve majored in English literature, it becomes easier for me to do storytelling of a classic story to the older students. Sometimes I show short documentaries or scenes related to a book. They totally appreciate that and love their competitive spirit when they attempt to quickly answer the questions.
3-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: In your current role, you have led a couple of projects which include book fairs. How did you prepare yourself for these projects? What were your challenges and how you assured it was a success?
Sally Khalil: My school hosts a book fair every year. When they told me that I had to contact a certain book fair company to set up a book fair, I panicked. I’ve never done that before. Luckily, another teacher, who had worked previously as a librarian, provided help and suggestions. Things went smoothly soon after, and the book company came with several transportable bookshelves organized by genre. The students and teachers were able to purchase books for themselves and their classrooms.
Another challenge was the fact that I’ve always been a teacher since graduating college and have never worked a cash register job in my life. But during the fair, I had to learn quickly the first day. And thank God I did because the book fair was a big success. Depending on the company, the book company gives a certain percentage of the profits that you make selling their books and allows you to select books for your library for free. Because of my efforts, the school made a good profit that hadn’t happened in years. I felt proud and accomplished. Then the school made me arrange and host a mini-book fair for only one day. I thought it was going to be impossible to achieve any success, but it was another big one with another profit. I think I have a hidden talent in marketing.
4-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: It is not usual to have an ESL teacher who works in tech and media. How does it feel to be working in an area a bit far from your expertise? What are your duties as a tech support in school? Were they affected by Covid-19?
Sally Khalil: Sometimes it feels challenging but I’m a fast learner. Luckily, I am patient, and I love doing troubleshooting. As a young kid, I used to fix our VCR, cassette recorder, my uncle’s PC and even my friends’ laptops all the time. I think I was destined to be doing that type of technical work one day. As for my duties, it is basically setting up laptops, iPads, and Chromebooks, installing security settings, troubleshooting, and doing inventory. I also teach Computer basics and office. My tech supervisor has always been very supportive, because she understands the many different responsibilities I have to juggle. She always fixes what I can’t fix. My duties changed a little bit as we switched to online learning. Teachers would report the students’ technical issues. I would give them a call and try my best to help, something like Vodafone customer service in Egypt.
5-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How has Covid-19 affected your job as a librarian and a teacher?
Sally Khalil: I’m sure that it affected all teachers everywhere. The school closed, so my role as librarian temporarily came to an end. As a teacher, I applaud for my school supervisors who organized the remote learning process and always kept teachers and parents updated. The school faculty did a great job providing the same quality education online. The teachers and students worked hard to make sure everything works despite some technical issues that the students encountered. Beside uploading assignments, we had online Zoom sessions. We had to submit weekly assignments, fill in the pacing guide for the rest of the academic year and the learning gaps if there are any affected by the online work.
6-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How are the American students different than the Egyptian students?
Sally Khalil: They’re basically the same. Most of American students are of an Arab origin, and they are the most adorable well-behaved students. I consider myself lucky teaching them. I’ve had similar exciting experiences teaching Egyptian students. What I noticed is the authority of teachers in US is different than in Egypt, that is it is not accepted that the teacher has a complete authority over them.
7-HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Last but not least, we would love to take some “reading tips” from a librarian.
Sally Khalil: I would have started by saying visit your local public library, but it is not an option now. Use technology to your advantage. There are many free e-books. You can also rent or buy from Amazon and read on Kindle. Listen to audiobooks through audibles and iBooks. Now there is much time staying at home, this is the perfect time to commit to reading by dedicating a certain time for reading every day. Joining a book club will also motivate you to read.
THANK YOU SALLY
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