It’s  rewarding to get recognized for your role in education.

Case in point: I was selected by Maggie Williams to step into the June 2018 “Spotlight” of Chief Learning Officer Middle East. The Spotlight is a short interview completed virtually, face to face and can be written or video.

Through this profile I was invited to share my insights into education with the Chief Learning Officer Middle East community of educators, learning and development professionals, and human resources practitioners. 

Presented in question and answer format, I  addressed each of the following inquiries:

  • How would you describe the culture of your business?
  • What are the biggest challenges in the next 5 years?
  • What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the region’s talent requirements?
  • What is your Philosophy?
  • What’s next on your agenda?
  • How can people connect with me?

Of the seven questions above, the one I found most interesting was the second one: What are the biggest challenges in the next 5 years? My answer to that question follows:

I envision three big challenges facing higher education and corporate training in the next five years; they are broad in scope, but specific in application and can be characterized as: pedagogical, practical, and portable.

The first, pedagogical, means that all learning activities should be anchored to educational objectives; these provide parameters for the development of curriculum and metrics against which assessments can be measured. As educational offerings continue to embrace entertainment, it is essential to ensure there is still value to that experience.

The second, practical, acknowledges that learning should be useful and applicable to the real world; it might not be immediately actionable, but it should be relatable to the learners taking the course. Giving a nod to the influx of entertainment in learning, learning should leverage all technology and tools to make it as engaging and entertaining as possible — without sacrificing the integrity of the instruction.

The last challenge, portable, speaks to increased use of mobile devices as delivery devices. At the most basic level educational offerings should be developed using responsive design principles to ensure their accessibility on as many devices as possible. Ideally, learning modules will be specifically designed for mobile devices via customized apps, technology, or tools. Consideration should also be given to making content available offline and for users with low-bandwidth connections.

Do you agree — or disagree — with my predictions?

“My family, my future; it means too much to me. I can’t risk it, it’s not worth the risk; I’m done.” — Eric Lopez in Game’s Over

I previously blogged about my adventures as an extra on Star Trek Beyond in 2015, but in July 2017 I beamed up to a starring role as Eric Lopez in “Game’s Over,” a short film by students at SAE Institute Dubai. We shot the film during the evening on July 18 and 19 in Dubai and it premiered at a student showcase at SAE on August 20.

I was invited to participate in this film noir project by Natalie Aji, the film’s producer, Melissa Urresti, the director, via my profile on Mixfame (an online platform connecting talented individuals with production houses, casting directors and producers for projects in UAE and the Middle East).

A description of the film follows:

“Three men are involved in the Los Angeles underground scene. When Eric wants to quit in order to save his family, John and Matthew must figure out a way to make him stay in order to sustain their social status and not expose the crimes they have committed.”

After participating in a student film and two promotional videos at the American University in the Emirates (where I have taught management and marketing courses since 2015) in addition to my past appearances on game shows from 2000 to 2008 I was thrilled to be a part of this project. Acting in this film was challenging, yet rewarding; it pushed me to expand my abilities creatively and professionally.

I also appreciated the opportunity to expand my acting experience with such a dramatic role in a project that helped students complete a project for their degree program. I was thoroughly impressed with their dedication and determination. Although it is slightly less than 8 minutes in length, we spent at least 10 hours shooting on location; I am sure at least that many hours were spent editing the final film.

You can watch “Game’s Over” below or view it directly on YouTube.

Bravo to the crew and my fellow cast members for a job well done!

Professor, Brand Yourself!

On March 16 from 2:30 to 3:00 pm at the at GESS Dubai I delivered my “Professor, Brand Yourself!” workshopGESS (Global Educational Supplies & Solutions) Dubai is the largest education event not just in the UAE but across the entire Middle East. It’s the only event that brings together all levels of educationalists together, in one place.

“Professor, Brand Yourself!” is a personal branding workshop for individuals working in higher education, vocational, and leadership/management positions. However, it also appeals to anyone wanting to develop their personal brand and learn how to leverage social media to promote themselves professionally.

Watch a recording of my workshop below via YouTube (it was originally streamed live to my Facebook page):

The workshop was designed to help individuals understand what personal branding is and what it is not, why personal branding is important personally and professionally, and how to create your personal brand. Attendees don’t need prior personal branding experience to participate in the workshop, which is organized into the following three sections:

1. What is a Personal Brand?
2. Why Do I Need a Personal Brand?
3. How Do I Create a Personal Brand?

At the conclusion of the workshop attendees should understand how to:

1. Define personal branding and its relevance.
2. Identify the most effective social platforms.
3. Develop and promote your personal brand.

The presentation slides I used are shared below via Slideshare:

Two years ago I began my journey from California to Dubai. I took two United flights on September 7, 2014: one from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD); then my second from IAD to Dubai International Airport (DXB).

MG@LAX

After flying 9,357 miles and traveling nearly 22 hours — including an almost 4 hour delay in Dulles  — I arrived in Dubai the evening of September 8, 2014. Coincidentally Lady Gaga arrived that evening for her first UAE concert ever two days later.

My time in Dubai has presented me with many challenges and many rewards as well; it’s certainly shaped me as a person and a professional. I have been enriched with memories and moments I would have not encountered elsewhere. Being an expat has been a notable time in my life; I am fortunate to have experienced it.

Having taught only adjunct prior to leaving the US, I experienced an evolution from “feral to formal” (as I call it) at two universities: Jumeira University and now American University in the Emirates (AUE). I am grateful for those experiences and treasure the time I’ve had here; I feel I’ve made a difference and made an impact.

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The biggest challenge and source of uncertainty for me has been not being present in lives of my two sons, Jacob and Max; especially Jacob, who turns 13 on the 10th (which was my first day at Jumeira University in 2014). I’m mindful of the short number of years I have left until they leave for college.

I’m at a point of pause as I determine my next steps. I am unsure where I might find myself in the future and what I might be doing; remaining here is an option as well. I have enjoyed living in Dubai — where Bedouin meets Blade Runner (my idea for a new tourism slogan; what do you think?). It is a crossroads of cultures and has given me an experience unlike anywhere else.

So, here’s to two years; may the next two — wherever they are — be as meaningful and memorable! To further explore my experiences in or about Dubai, please read the following:

raj-kotechaOn Sunday, November 29, 2015 Raj Kotecha delivered a guest lecture — “Content is the New Oil” — at American University in the Emirates (AUE). Notably, I met Raj  the same night I met Robert Scoble here in Dubai.

This was the first in a planned series of “Business of Marketing” guest lectures from the Department of Marketing, Logistics, and Supply Chain Management in the College of Business Administration (COBA).

Raj is the founder of Creative Content Agency (CCA) where he has designed and implemented marketing campaigns from events to social media for industry leading brands such as The Fragrance Shop, GolfOnline and Carrier Bag Shop.

CCA has also supplied creative strategy and production services for a range of professional institutions including Accenture, Endava, Westminster Business Council, Royal Bank of Scotland and London Business School.

Today is Raj’s 36th birthday and, to celebrate, his lectures are shared in this post. There are five videos of his lecture in total; in the video below I introduce Raj.

In this video, Raj outlines his objective, strategy, and tactics for his guest lecture.

In this video, Raj informs attendees of his guest lecture that they can essentially create their own qualifications for job opportunities by creating content relevant to their career goals.

In this video, Raj informs attendees of his gueate their own qualifications for job opportunities by creating content relevant to their career goals.

In this short clip, recorded just after his 2 hour lecture and discussion, Raj shares his thoughts on which metrics to use for your content marketing campaign and how to measure the impact of your efforts.

Raj’s lecture was engaging, insightful, and most importantly practical. A very interactive experience, Raj spent a significant amount of time answering career and content creation questions from the 40 students and faculty members who attended. Looking forward to having Raj back whenever he is inspired to join us again!

To learn more about Raj please visit:

Welcome to Dubai.”

Waiting to depart LAX on Sunday, September 7, 2014.
Waiting in the United Airlines terminal to depart LAX the morning of Sunday, September 7, 2014.

After flying 9,357 miles from LAX and traveling for nearly 22 hours — including an almost 4 hour delay in Dulles (IAD) — I had arrived at Dubai International Airport (DXB) the evening of September 8, 2014. Coincidentally Lady Gaga  arrived that evening for her first UAE concert ever.

Beginning a two year contract as a full time Lecturer in the College of Business Administration at Jumeira University, I awaited a brave new world of professional development  and personal growth. One quick month later, I have experienced that and more.

Below are three of my initial  impressions — aka “teachable moments” — from my first month in Dubai. Each is a different degree of the same spectrum of educational adventure and I am grateful for the knowledge gained through each experience:

Community

Having worked as an adjunct instructor since 2007 I became accustomed to a “lone wolf” style of working and, to some degree, living. One of the first changes — aside from the obvious fact that I am thousands of miles from my former home in another country — is I am now a full-time faculty member, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. I am fortunate to have exceptional colleagues and students who, from  day one, have enriched my experience ten fold. There is a wonderful sense of community and camaraderie here and it is both motivating and reassuring. I am looking forward to creating a community of practice and making the most of this exceptional opportunity.

Connectivity

Finding reliable WiFi has been a challenge everywhere including at my apartment, where I had to wait an additional 10 days for service due to an issue with the fiber cable and, subsequently, the server box in my apartment.  This complicated  matters, including my ability to speak with my sons via Skype over WiFi. Fortunately, my building management and my Internet provider — du — worked with me to resolve the issue even with an important Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, impeding their progress. I am happy to report that I am now writing this fully connected at my apartment. Ironically, my connectivity issues started even before I arrived in Dubai when neither of the two flights I took had WiFi on-board. Having previously been continuously connected, this was a challenging adjustment; one that forced me to find creative, constructive, and somewhat costly alternatives. The lesson here was one of persistence mixed with patience and politeness.

Mobility

Coming from Los Angeles (where nobody walks), I was accustomed to driving everywhere. But, when I arrived in Dubai I had $300 in my pocket, two large suitcases, one carry-on, and a messenger bag with my laptop; I was without personal transportation. Initially, and now occasionally, I depended on the kindness of strangers or colleagues. I even had an exceptional experience with a total stranger named “Ali Boots” who graciously drove me to my university after getting an important housing document called an Ejari. Now I am taking taxis or the Dubai Metro light rail system. While individual taxi rides are only between AED 30 and 50 ($8.17 to $13.61), these costs can quickly add up, as can the time spent waiting for scheduled taxis or trying to find an available option. For the most part this has been a seamless process, but it has taught me to plan more efficiently, travel lightly, and be flexible — it’s also forced me to more carefully budget my cash flow.

Me in front of Jumeira University in Dubai, UAE.
Me in front of Jumeira University in Dubai, UAE.

This is a small sampling of my observations. During my next two years in Dubai I will share “tips and quips” as time and subject matter permit. If ever there was an opportunity to learn continuously and live generatively this is certainly it!