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Interview with Ms. Jane Whitby – Principal of ELM International School

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INTERVIEWERS: HEBA HASSAN & MAHMOUD MANSI

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About Jane Whitby: Principal of ELM International School. She is an active member of The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National College of School Leadership in the UK for over 10 years and have consistently attended courses, alongside other leading Head teachers and Principals, exploring research and strategies and therefore enabling schools to become schools suitable for children of the 21st Century. Specialisms include Leading English, Leading Mathematics, Religious Education and Special Educational Needs – all for ages 3-18.

Jane is currently also writing 3 books. One is related to Assessing Pupils Progress to enable each child to reach their best in all areas of education, another is to do with living in Alexandria – something she has done for 4 years, and the last one is a book of modern day proverbs which have a spiritual basis. Jane loves writing and has also had poetry published.

Jane has had a variety of jobs and has run her own businesses but settled on education as her calling in life. Her main focus is improving and ensuring life chances for children and raising leaders from within the Egyptian community.

About ELM School: It comprises both the IPC Program and the Seedlings Montessori Program, located in Kafr Abdu, Alexandria.

 

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: You have worked for more than twenty years in the field of Education, both in the UK and Egypt. What is the most significant difference regarding the work environment?

Jane Whitby: The main difference between the UK and here is the ability to get things done the first time you ask for it and for things to be done exactly as you ask. In the UK, especially in a school environment, you do not need to follow anyone to do their job. Everyone knows what is expected of them and they do their job to the maximum; knowing they are contributing to the whole school environment not matter what their job is. In Egypt, things are very different right across the board although I must say in our school, ELM International School, we have a really happy working environment where we find we don’t have to follow people as much and people do make an extra effort without being asked.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: How is managing teachers different than managing employees?

Jane Whitby: I have worked in a variety of fields: Limousine services, Wedding events, different management roles and the CEO of my own business BUT working with teachers is a totally different game. You have to connect with them on many levels, personal, social, spiritual etc. to get the best from them. How they feel will affect how the children behave so it is important to look after teachers. I have worked with over 10 Head Teachers and the 2 that were the most powerful were the ones who genuinely cared about staff and helped them to give their best. I prefer this strategy: to love and care for people and then they will do the same for the children. Other strategies that work are: 1 – Being willing to do what you expect others to do, if not more. 2 – Work phenomenally hard to support your teachers knowing that a teacher never has enough hours in a day to do what they need to do. 3 – Use more ‘carrot’ and praise than anything else and firmly discipline when someone is blatantly breaking the rules or damaging the ethos of a class/team or school.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Teaching is a very challenging mission, how do you manage to keep your teachers motivated in order to always keep their high spirits while teaching the students?

Jane Whitby: We laugh a lot in my school so spirits are high. There is no time for laziness so teachers are always operating on raw energy. I expect the best from and for my staff and this in turn makes them have the same attitude towards the children. I provide proper Professional Development and run the school as if it was an excellent school in the UK so the teachers appreciate such an environment especially in Egypt where schools are often very poor in management and Professional Development. My staff get weeks of training throughout the year which is all certificated and they know they will not get this anywhere else. I know all the children in my school and know their strengths and weaknesses academically. Therefore, we all work as a team to make sure that the children develop at an individual pace which makes teaching and learning more meaningful and the teachers see great results which makes them very motivated.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Apart from the educational programme the children are attaining, as a parent how can I help my child develop his/her skills, how can I help him/her establish their future goals and become good employees and leaders?

Jane Whitby: Wow – that’s a big question. We do an awful lot here to ensure we are making our children into Leaders. So how can this be translated from school to parents?

1 – To help children achieve their best – parents must at least know the real academic levels of children compared to children in the UK – only then can you then make sure their own teacher helps them towards the correct levels for a child of their age.

2 – Make them punctual, polite and self – organized – the basic skills of any leader.

3 – Be involved with their homework! Do not send them out for private tuition – do the work with them so that you learn together and so that they see you are interested in your own children.

4 – READ, READ, READ and read with your children, to your children and let them see you reading.

5 -Limit the TV or IPad to an hour and a half per day. Turn it on for specific purposes only do not let it drown out the ‘noise of life’. By having this limited time, you can spend more time with your child, engage in conversations and find out about them as they continue to grow and change.

6 – Don’t make excuses for your child when they are wrong. Let them understand the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ and help them accept the consequences of wrong actions.

7 – Make them eat healthily and well! Make them drink lots of water! Make them sleep at least 12 hours per day for a 3 year old and adjust that appropriately for each age.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Would you advise a CEO or a manager to attain a Montessori Teaching Diploma? How would this add benefit to their work, managing their employees and organisation?

Jane Whitby: I think you can never be over-qualified 🙂 I have always sought extra learning and often engage in courses with the NCSL in the UK (National College of School Leadership). Anyone saying they are a Montessori Nursery who only uses resources but are not properly trained should enhance their provision by being trained and then the trainer can train others – this is the minimum and is a must We have a teacher in EY1; Mrs Marta, and she is an outstanding Montessori practitioner as she had training with us from a specialist who came to the school. There is a massive difference between saying you ‘do’ Montessori and actually being Montessori trained. The benefits of having a professional Montessori Teaching diploma, according to Mrs Marta are:

1: To understand the purpose and the learning for each activity not just get the child to do an activity – this is so you can redirect, strengthen and enhance the learning per child as well as develop basic skills.

2: To be able to enable a child to move from one level of learning to another using the same equipment according to the age and development of each child. This is because all Montessori materials are divided by specific sensory/practical skills.

3: A Montessori Teaching Diploma is absolutely necessary for anyone working with young children as without it they cannot train staff properly and therefore the children will not use the resources properly and their learning will be low.

4: Lastly, anyone on a Montessori Teaching Diploma will begin to understand the importance of the ethos of Montessori and this will therefore enhance the independent and free spirited classroom learning environment.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: From your life and work in Egypt, what do you think Egyptian employees suffer from the most?

Jane Whitby: I see many Egyptians, in a variety of fields, do not find pleasure or purpose in their work – this may be for many reasons. Maybe they do not see that there are opportunities for development, maybe it is because wages are low, maybe it’s because they feel trapped – I think it is a mixture but I also know many Egyptians who are self-motivated, hardworking, forward thinking and very creative despite wages etc. I think, therefore, that the same problems exist all over the world for all people.

For me, I have always believed that if something needs doing, you should do it yourself. Do everything unto God so that whether or not you are given recognition or not – God still sees. Do what you believe you should be doing, no matter who else thinks otherwise and work HARD. Always improve your work environment, the business you are in and the people around you. This is the minimum.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: From your point of view and experience, what are the possible solutions to handle unemployment in Egypt?

Jane Whitby: People need to be entrepreneurial and stop expecting others to fix their problems. Our children age 8 started 2 of their own business recently after studying a project about Entrepreneurism. They made a service for cars and an ice cream make with their own branding and everything – if 8 year olds can do it, with no financial outlay in the first instance, and then there is hope for many. Some of my Seedlings teachers, many of whom are Egyptian, state that the reason people don’t work are because they don’t want. They quoted the fact that other nationalities come to Egypt and find work quickly and in some instances I see that this is right. I also notice that when people come to interview – they don’t really want a job or they just want to sit and do nothing, therefore I go through about 60 CV’s before I employ 1 person. I cannot stand lazy people and therefore only employ those who really want to make a difference. In Egypt – I find the number of people few.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: What are the criteria upon which you choose your staff members in ELM? How do you filter the applicants’ CVs and what are the key questions you ask in the interviews?

Jane Whitby: 1: Foreigners – They must know and love Egypt – this is important as it is not an easy country to live in at all. I usually do not employ anyone who has only experienced Sharm El-Sheik or Hurghada. They must truly love children, be properly qualified and be really hardworking. They must have been in their last couple of work places for a few years – I don’t trust job hoppers. References are always taken up before interview so that I don’t waste my time. They must be very energetic, creative in their thoughts and be coming to Egypt to make a difference to the lives of children. Anyone not wanting or showing this, gets their CV put in the bin.

2: Egyptians – the same applies actually except the love Egypt bit – although of course if they are miserable about being in their own country they do not get past interview stage point 1.

Questions I ask in an interview are:

1: What 3 words would your last colleague use to describe you?

2: What difficult situation did you experience at work and how did you deal with it?

3: Tell me a time you were very creative in a lesson and what was the learning outcomes for your children?

4: How do you differentiate for all the children in your class so that children get an individual and personalised learning experience?

5: What is the most recent training you received and how did you put it into practice?

6: Why are you really leaving your last job?

7: What changes did you make to your last school that have been long lasting?

8: What are your personal and academic areas for development?

9: Why do you want to come and work in Egypt as opposed to all the other countries in the world?

10? Why should I give you the job and not the others who are applying?

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: How do you describe the market of private education in Egypt?

Jane Whitby: Personally, I think it’s quite poor compared to the governmental schools in the UK. I think the testing, assessment, personalised learning, creative planning, meaningful education experiences for children that is fit for the 21Century – is lacking in Alexandria. I wish all schools would really change curriculums, change and develop IT, equip teachers with constant International standard training, use proper assessment techniques etc. and therefore really make a difference to the life success of children being educated in school.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: ELM is a new educational facility providing exceptional services to the Alexandrian community. How do you manage to train your staff members to stand out?

Jane Whitby: I make full and comprehensive training packages for all staff no matter how long they have been teaching and no matter where they have come from. They are trained and monitored in everything to make sure that the skills and techniques are being used correctly. We have a bank of trainers (both at ELM and in the UK) and we make sure we are totally up to date with all new developments. It’s exciting. They manage to stand out by being the best so that they may provide the best. I am proud of the attitude of my staff.

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: What are the biggest challenges that face your HR department? And your school as a whole?

Jane Whitby: To be honest, we don’t face many challenges, which has surprised me. We get tons of CV’s and the reputation of the school has grown enormously so lots of people apply here as they know what we offer the staff. The HR department is now efficient and we have a full set of procedures that are followed per CV or when people leave the school. Our school is overstaffed to make sure the children do not suffer in any unusual event. As for the school – on reflection I can see we have done well: we are very well resourced, very happy, hardworking and the children achieve high levels as if they are in a school in England. We even have a new healthy school canteen so that staff did not eat unhealthy food or no food at all. I think the biggest challenge is TIME. This is in all schools – there just isn’t enough time 🙂

HR Revolution Middle-East Magazine: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and time.

Civil Work

Q&A with Sherihan Elkamash; Researcher at the Center of Strategic Studies, Bibliotheca Alexandrina & Charity Activist

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Interviewer:
Mahmoud Mansi

“I am always trying to not lead members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.”

Sherihan Elkamash

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Sherihan you are multi-talented and active in building the community in several different ways, one of your main roles is working at the Center of Strategic Studies at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, can you tell us more about your role?

My main work is about making strategic researches. I also, write articles about the recent international political events. One of the main roles for me is to organize virtual discussions to discuss different economic and political subjects. I am always in contact with high profile degenerates in the political arena to make interviews with them to be published. I am also the social media specialist for the center, responsible for managing the official page by managing and posting the news, declare about the new events and conferences for the center.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Across your career you have worked in different careers and gained different experiences. Can you tell us what did you learn from these experiences? And how those skills are helping you at your current role?

I have been working in many fields since a young age I have acquired professional experience in many fields for the past fourteen years; working in NGOs, media, research, translation and communications. These experiences taught me to navigate in different kinds of structures (public/private/international), as well as dealing with the internal dynamics of each organization. In my previous roles, I have demonstrated exceptional ability to manage external stakeholders including senior government officials, high-profile clients, and well-regarded organizations. As a trilingual officer, I can communicate effectively in Arabic, English and French.

Working in all those fields taught me how to work in full power with a great performance, deliver my work in a high quality and always being in time and following the timetable.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You also have your own charity project “El Rahmoun”. Can you tells us more about managing people in a charity structured projects?

Let me first talk about myself when I was a regular member in NGO’s and volunteer projects. I starting volunteering since I was a 13-year-old school student. During those 21 years in charity, I’ve learned many things:

-I learned how to take the initiative to start new projects to help the maximum number of people in need.

-I learned more about contributing to the community and helping solve issues.

-I learned how to deal with all categories in my society, understanding their needs and being helpful to them.

-It is not only about leadership, but I have also been a great “team member”, by coming up with new ideas, working with enthusiasm and integrity.

As a founder or a leader for “El Rahmoun” charity group – like any business structure or project – it depends on the number of volunteers whether they are many or few, based on that we put a strong administration and operations management plan.

I am always trying to not lead “El Rahmoun” members, but inspire them and gain their trust by encouraging my team to work on new projects. I help them make their work plan, and I provide them with some guidance and coaching to finally have a successful deliverable to help impact more people in the community.

There is an interesting difference between a traditional corporate structure and a charity structure. In charity the individual is the one who deicides his/her responsibilities and commitment to the charity work. I cannot obligate them to attend the events or to do their tasks. Which means that I have to be their friend so they love me and maintain a good communication with the youth, meanwhile at the same time I have to be their leader when it comes to the big decisions. And this is the most difficult part. I think after 3 years of continuous work, while our volunteering community is getting bigger… my team and I are doing it well.

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How do you define success your own way? And what would be your success tips for youth?

I have learned the perfect strategy to achieve success, it is balance. We all have the desire towards success but those who are working and planning for it are the ones who are reaching their goals in a steady way. We all grew up with big dreams, seeking success in life, but few of us who understood that sustaining the success is the hard part. Balance is the key, youth need to know the importance of balance in their life between their studies, hard work, community service and social life. Youth need to make balance between physical, emotional and spiritual elements, to keep the high performance in everything they do. When we maintain our balance it shortly affects our sense of security and helps us to move forward. The balance in all activities in our days helps us maintain our mental health in order to have healthy minds and lifestyles. Stress is a serious threat to Youth and one should make it a priority to keep the stress away because stress prevents success.

Balance = Success

HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: With the development of technology, virtual communication and accessibility to knowledge, do you believe that some jobs are in threat? Can some careers take another form, offer different services and still impact the community?

The whole world is turning digital. The easy access to knowledge and data is the way of living now. Well, the development of technology can never be a threat. It actually helps us and is not a threat to our existence nor to anything created or made by the human being. NEW careers have been created and much more are on their way to glow and have place due to the virtual life. Furthermore, thousands of activities and services are provided through the internet now (website- social media) which also supports entrepreneurs and organizations to easily create new projects.

The Egyptian Government is taking the same track now in most of its governmental institutions. The pandemic helped a lot. It was a red light to hurry and accelerate our path, not only organizations that are turning digital but also individuals are becoming more focused on e-learning and other daily life services and in their lifestyles. I am very optimistic; because of the development of technology, new jobs are opening and great opportunities for youth which is very advantageous, beneficious and profitable to the growth of our great Nation EGYPT and to the rest of the world.

Thank you Sherihan for this interview and for developing and inspiring the community in such a unique way!

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LA CULTURA DIGITALE AZIENDALE E I SUOI LEADER CORAGGIOSI. LA SOCIETA’ DI MARKETING DIGITALE ITALIANA “DERAWEB” COME ESEMPIO DI ECCELLENZA NELLA GESTIONE DELLE RISORSE UMANE

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INTERVIEWER: Cinzia Nitti

HR Revolution: Ciao Fabio, grazie per aver accettato la nostra intervista e per quanto vorrai condividere con noi. Cominciamo: chi è Fabio De Lucia?

Fabio De Lucia: Ciao e grazie per questa intervista. Sono nato il 21 marzo del 1986 e il percorso accademico mi ha qualificato come perito commerciale con il massimo dei voti. Dopo la maturità e coerentemente con il mio approccio pratico alla vita, trovavo inefficace continuare a studiare per qualcosa di “non-tangibile”, quindi sono partito per Parigi e una volta rientrato, ho trovato impiego presso un’agenzia viaggi nel 2005. Ho iniziato a interessarmi a piani di sviluppo per implementare e migliorare i prodotti offerti. Credevo in quello che facevo ma, non trovando riscontro positivo da parte del mio titolare, ho rassegnato le dimissioni. All’epoca conoscevo già il mio caro amico e colui che sarebbe diventato il mio socio, Andrea (Dettole), il quale lavorava nel settore utilities nel nord Italia. Unendo le nostre conoscenze e competenze, nel 2008 abbiamo avviato Sundera, azienda di vendita servizi Business To Business (o B2B) e assistenza nel campo delle utilities: mi occupavo principalmente dei piani di sviluppo commerciale.

HR Revolution: Come nasce la web agency Deraweb e quale la sua mission?

Fabio De Lucia: Dall’esperienza positiva pregressa, nel 2016 abbiamo deciso di fondare con Andrea la società di marketing digitale Deraweb, brand partner della primogenita Sundera. L’impreparazione dei titolari di partita IVA in fatto di marketing e digitalizzazione dei prodotti aziendali – riscontrata a livello nazionale – è stato il fattore chiave che ha dato vita a Deraweb. La nostra azienda ha l’obiettivo di fornire strumenti efficaci per lo sviluppo aziendale in prospettiva di promozione digitale. In quattro anni il nostro pacchetto clienti è cresciuto in tutta Italia e su piano internazionale, acquisendo 600 clienti e con proiezione di raggiungere quota mille entro fine anno. La famiglia Deraweb conta oggi 15 dipendenti e 20 consulenti.

HR Revolution: Le Risorse Umane sono le componenti-chiave per il successo imprenditoriale. Il COVID-19 ha inevitabilmente imposto un cambiamento degli equilibri nella gestione aziendale. Come avete affrontato la sfida in fatto di nuovi assetti, ripianificazione e gestione del personale?

Fabio De Lucia: Il nostro metodo operativo prevede la maggior parte del lavoro da remoto. Gli strumenti digitali dunque, si sono confermati lo strumento indispensabile nel nostro lavoro; la pandemia è stata un elemento positivo in fatto di consolidamento di Deraweb. Si è trattato di un periodo di transizione per tutti. Nonostante uno stop forzato per alcuni e il crollo degli incassi nel mese di marzo, i nostri dipendenti si sono messi a completa disposizione dell’azienda, dei clienti, contribuendo in modo non indifferente alla buona riuscita degli intenti. Ci sono stati tutti vicini. Sono stati bravi e vanno tutti elogiati per questo.

HR Revolution: Cultura Digitale Aziendale: la risoluzione di problemi attraverso l’utilizzo di strumenti digitali si è rivelata un elemento vincente nella gestione del pacchetto-clienti durante la crisi pandemica?

Fabio De Lucia: Da titolari di azienda, nel supporto ai clienti e per una gestione ottimale dei servizi offerti, abbiamo deciso di operare in modo differente rispetto ai concorrenti. Abbiamo fornito gli strumenti necessari alla “sopravvivenza pandemica” con metodo studiato e mirato, soprattutto gratuito. In che modo? Creando manuali, guide strategiche “BUSINESS WORKOUT”, webinar e consulenze gratuite a disposizione dei clienti per evitare il fenomeno dell’inazione. Non a caso, il feedback è stato assolutamente positivo: abbiamo rafforzato il rapporto di reciprocità e fiducia con i nostri clienti, premiando inoltre coloro i quali hanno rispettato le scadenze in un periodo tanto complesso, fornendo un’estensione gratuita di un mese del servizio. Quest’approccio ci ha permesso di registrare risultati esponenzialmente più alti nel nostro ambito, a dispetto delle previsioni che la condizione economica generale avrebbe imposto.

HR Revolution: Spesso si pone l’accento sulla fidelizzazione del cliente, sottovalutando che la riuscita di un progetto o l’acquisizione di un contratto, derivi da un’ottima commistione di professionalità ed energie di un gruppo omogeneo e coeso. Dicci di più del tuo team. Sono importanti la Diversità e l’Inclusione in Deraweb e perché?

Fabio De Lucia: Assolutamente sì, per noi Diversità e Inclusione sono importanti. E rendono Deraweb un ambiente stimolante: il clima aziendale assume il giusto equilibrio tra competenze, rispetto delle qualità di ognuno e dimensione umana. Abbiamo messo in atto un modello di leadership che ispira gli altri e invoglia a migliorarsi. Dal consulente commerciale al servizio clienti, ai tecnici grafici, addetti marketing, comunicazione e social media, l’elemento della formazione continua inoltre, ha permesso di stabilire la gestione dei progetti in cui, senza più necessità di definizione esplicita, ogni membro del gruppo conosce esattamente il suo ruolo all’interno del processo. 

C’è fiducia e stima reciproca, spirito di sacrificio e altrettanta collaborazione. Da parte nostra c’è attenzione alle proposte di ognuno. Il mio lavoro mi ha dato modo di visitare tante aziende e conoscere altre realtà, ma qui da noi c’è un clima diverso, un clima che piace e che permette di lavorare secondo un equilibrio che dimostra quanto i nostri ragazzi siano “allineati”: in Deraweb proprio non riesce ad arrivare qualcuno che non abbia i nostri stessi valori.

HR Revolution: La Parità di Genere è un obiettivo di rilievo in una realtà aziendale. Definiresti l’equilibrio di genere parte integrante del vostro successo?

Fabio De Lucia: Sì, le donne nella nostra azienda sono un valore aggiunto e particolarmente apprezzate. Hanno un approccio naturalmente diverso all’ascolto del cliente e alla gestione di una richiesta. Sempre attente ai dettagli, precise, sicuramente meno impulsive in fatto creativo rispetto agli uomini. È una scelta aziendale mirata, quella di impostare gruppi di lavoro misti: sono la sintesi perfetta che genera stabilità. In Italia si parla troppo poco di Parità di Genere sul posto di lavoro, noi invece siamo ben felici di dare possibilità di crescita e carriera alle nostre dipendenti, mamme incluse! Sono tutte ben accolte, troviamo che siano una risorsa irrinunciabile e grande indice di maturità nel nostro team. Da sempre puntiamo su piani di sviluppo aziendale assolutamente paritari; la famiglia Deraweb è un gruppo eterogeneo che ha fatto anche di questo equilibrio un punto di forza. 

Grazie Fabio per averci aperto le porte di Deraweb e condiviso con HR Revolution Middle East, l’esempio positivo di una realtà aziendale solida che ha fatto delle Risorse Umane il suo motivo di orgoglio!

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Corporate

Interview with HRCI Advisory Council Member Dr. Amir Dhia

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Interviewer: Mariham Magdy

” The CEO Advisory Council is a model for other industries as they play a role in connecting the lines between the labor market needs and the professional job industries” Dr. Amir Dhia

Brief Biography about the Interviewee:

Previously, Dr. Dhia was Dean at INSEEC MBA & MSc

Dr. Amir Dhia serves on different boards and educational organization programs. He is a member of the HRCI CEO Advisory Council; a Board Member of the Standards Supreme Council of the Global Academy of Finance and Management (GAFM), and a Board Member of the Standards Supreme Council the American Academy of Project Management (AAPM). Dr. Dhia is the Director General of UBT Executive Education (University of Business and Technology, Jeddah); the Director General of UBT English Language Academy, and Assistant Professor of UBT MBA and MSc programs.

Previously, he was Dean at INSEEC MBA & MSc Programs (Paris Campus), Founder & Director of INSEEC MBA in Business Diplomacy (awarded Innovation Program for 2015 by Eduniversal Rankings), and Director of its MBA program in Marketing and Communication. He was also a Professor at the Center of Diplomatic and Strategic Studies (CEDS, Paris), and at the Department of Diplomacy and Strategic Negotiations of the University of Paris XI, Jean Monnet College (awarded Professor of the Year 2009), as well as Head of English language programs at one of the largest language and training centers in Paris, CFILC.

With a PhD in International Relations and Diplomacy (summa cum laude), Master and Bachelor degrees, Amir Dhia is a specialist in the Information and Knowledge Society, a Legal Translation Expert, an Accredited SME Consultant, a Certified Digital Marketing Associate, holds a Chartered Certification in Talent Management, and completed the Distinguished Leadership Development Program from the National School of Administration (ENA, Paris). Training diplomats, officers, government officials, CEOs, executives as well as undergraduate and graduate students, he has worked, lectured and trained in several countries around the world. 

1. HR Revolution Middle East: Dr. Amir, welcome to HR Revolution Middle East Magazine. It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to make this interview with you.

Would you please share with our readers more about the international certifications offered by the HRCI and how are they exactly designed to help advance HR professionals’ careers at different seniority levels?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI has an outstanding record of global certification and recognition for over 45 years. This is in part due to both the well-established standards and credibility and accreditation of its certifications and their impact on HR practitioners. HRCI’s eight certifications and qualifications requirements are significant for the HR profession. Certification adds value to a professional’s career. The various aspects of HR are included in the HRCI certifications and the exams cover a comprehensive spectrum of topics ranging from HR Administration and Operations, Recruitment, Talent Management, Compensation and Benefits, Employee Relations, HR Mobility, Health and Safety, HR Information Management and Business Leadership. With more than 500,000 certification holders in more than 125 countries, HRCI certified professionals lead global HR organizations and businesses. 

2- HR Revolution Middle East: Providing International Certification for such a sensitive profession like the HR is definitely not easy, considering the changing environments for this profession and how they can dramatically impact even the way of managing the HR different functions. Would you please let us know how do the HRCI succeed to tailor a sound know-how for global professionals? How is this secret recipe cooked?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI certifications are accredited by both the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and International Accreditation Service (IAS), where that accreditation offers impartial, third-party validation that the development and administration of HRCI certification programs has met stringent standards set by the testing industry. HRCI certification exams are conducted at proctored test centres worldwide and to a limited extent online. The certification exams are evaluated and revised to stay in line with current HR practices. Unlike other certifications that may simply require research and memorizing concepts, HRCI candidates need to acquire and master HR concepts and practices to be certified.

3- HR Revolution Middle East:  The aPHRi is the latest Certification added to the series of International Certifications offered by the HRCI. How did the HRCI evaluate the actual need in the market to help support the experience of junior professionals? How can this early certification help junior professionals to advance their careers with quicker steps than usual?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The HRCI aPHRi international certification is indeed highly useful and significant for new practitioners and recent university graduates in the field of Human Resources. Many candidates take the entry-level certification when they shift their career from one field or another towards HR. Recent university graduates also take the certification to combine their university degree with a professional certification to distinguish their qualifications when applying for their first job. HR practitioners who do not have a solid foundation in the field of HR are expressing interest in aPHRi to support them in their positions and careers. Encouragingly, aPHRi professionals are already planning to take their competence to a higher level by preparing for the PHRi certification. UBT Executive Education was among the very first global partners of HRCI to adopt the new aPHRi certification when it was first launched back in early 2018, noting that the number of aPHRi professionals are growing steadily.

4- HR Revolution Middle East: What special tips would you share with professionals preparing for their HRCI certification? How can they prepare themselves for the exams?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

Preparing for HRCI certifications should be a pleasant, enriching and fulfilling experience and challenge. Regardless which certification they target, candidates need to master HR concepts, understandings and practices rather than memorizing definitions for the sake of an exam or certificate. Candidates who take an exam preparation training program are recommended to take the certification exam within a month or two after that training is completed so that the knowledge and concepts acquired remain fresh. The longer the candidates wait to take the exam the more they find themselves spending longer time reviewing the materials. HRCI has a large global network of Certification Preparation Providers (CPP) that are selected for the quality of their training for HRCI certifications. Another important advice that I would like to highlight is that it is better and more efficient to be trained by an HR professional who is already an HRCI certification holder than by a practitioner who is not. That advantage helps aligns the training with the mind-set of the trainer and HRCI certification exams. For example, at UBT Executive Education we only recruit expert trainers who are both active practitioners in the field and are holders of the SPHRi certification. Those two assets are very important for our candidates in terms of trainer competence, qualification and quality standards.     

5- HR Revolution Middle East: The Middle East is one of the most important markets, the HRCI has been supporting for years now. As Member of the HRCI CEO Advisory Council, can you please let us know how did the HRCI expand lately its role in the Middle East? Are you planning to offer especially tailored products for the ME in the coming period?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

HRCI has devoted a lot of effort in recent years on its international development, particularly in the Middle East. In terms of exposure, HRCI is more visible in the region than ever before thanks to its participation in forums and events, along with its active communication and interaction on social media platforms. The fruit of all that is becoming increasingly obvious as more companies and professionals rely on HRCI certifications as a reference of quality and competence. With 93% of Fortune 500 companies employing HRCI certification holders, that is a testimony to the standards and reliability of HRCI certifications inspiring other companies and professionals, both in the Middle East and elsewhere. Also, thanks to the coordination between HRCI and UBT Executive Education, as of 2019, both aPHRi and PHRi certifications are approved and subsidized by the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) in Saudi Arabia. There has been a growing demand for candidates with aPHRi. HRCI is working on launching the certification exam in Arabic language to encourage a wider audience of HR professionals from the Middle East region.    

6- HR Revolution Middle East: Do you believe that the industry trends in the Middle East are different from that of Europe & America, and thus the HR professionals in the region have to nurture special set of skills and knowledge more related to the region?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The fundamentals and functions of any profession are essentially the same regardless of the industry or country. However, HR has a certain level of legal and cultural particularities that need to be taken into consideration per country specifications. For instance, there are HR laws and practices that are unique to Europe, North America and the Middle East region. As much as HR professionals need to adjust to their companies, they also need to adapt to their respective countries and cultures. This is what makes them global in their mind-set and culturally adaptive in their local practices. HRCI has reflected on that notion through three of its certifications (aPHRi, PHRi, SPHRi) that clearly highlight the knowledge HR practitioners need in both a regional and global context regardless of country or business industry, while encouraging them to be creative, flexible and dynamic, as needed locally.

7- HR Revolution Middle East: We are extremely amazed by the idea that the HRCI has a special “Advisory Council” acting as a resource to the HRCI CEO by offering advice, insight into industry trends and market needs.  Do you believe that this special set-up shall be adapted in other businesses as well? How will this help businesses to advance & grow more in the market with a more “customer-need based” approach?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The newly established HRCI CEO Advisory Council brings unique knowledge and skills. HRCI’s mission is to enable people and organizations to discover, develop and demonstrate their fullest potential through innovative learning and certification in the ever-evolving world of HR. Therefore, our role as CEO Advisory Council Members is to offer advice, insights and a different perspective into industry trends. The CEO Advisory Council is a model for other industries as they play a role in connecting the lines between the labour market needs and the professional job industries. I am proud and pleased to serve as a Member of the CEO Advisory Council along with other colleagues who are specialists and experts in HR.

8- HR Revolution Middle East: Finally, we would like to ask you to give an advice for professionals especially in the Middle East, about how they can support their businesses? How does the various technological/ environmental/ physical disruptions nowadays require them to develop their skills/knowledge/competencies in a different way?

Dr. Amir Dhia:

The whole world, including the Middle East, has been going through unprecedented challenges as a result of the pandemic. While many businesses have either closed their doors temporarily or are at the risk of permanent closure, many other companies and industries have sustained, emerged and even grown. We should look ahead and adapt to the dynamics of global businesses and industries by exploring opportunities and alternatives. A lot of professionals have made use of the recent circumstances and environment by reflecting on their careers and potentials. Many others spent quality time developing skills and new competencies. While the economy at-large may take some time to recover, let’s move forward constructively, positively and distinctively. 

THANK YOU

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