Mr. Shaikh Muhammed Ali was the first Project Director who was hired since the inception of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Islamabad, Pakistan in January 2003 after being transferred from the Ministry of Information Technology. He has a Bachelor in Electronics Engineering from the University of Southern Colorado, Pueblo, CO, USA which he earned in 1991 and a Masters in Business Management from the Harvard of Asia i.e. Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Philippines which he passed with Distinction in 1995.
He carries a diversified exposure of Project Management, General Management & Human Resource Development with 20+ years of local & international experience. In his previous position at Computer Research (Pvt.) Ltd., Karachi, Pakistan (a major Software house in Karachi); Mr. Shaikh was working in the capacity of General Manager Projects and Human Resources.
Currently he is working as a high performing team player and a coach at the HRD Division of HEC and toying with the concept of Change Management. He has published 27 articles on his writing space on SCRIBD while he has written two book reviews and one movie review so far in OJS journals, international magazines, newspapers and international BLOGS.
He is a powerful orator and an inspirational speaker and has given presentations on General Management, Project Management, Human Resource Dev elopement, Business Leadership and Change Management on 37 occasions in some 9 cities in Pakistan and 6 countries abroad. He has taught subjects like Management, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior in three universities within Pakistan and is currently teaching Change Management at one of the best B-school of a Private University in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Q. Please tell us about your early life and education?
A. Having been born on the 25th December, 1964; I am sure I did not know at that moment in time as to what I was getting into. As I progressed with age; I slowly came to learn what being in the ‘Big League’ meant. I was indeed born to lead and lead I do (whether my contemporaries like it or not, Laughter☺)
Yes, I was born in Karachi at 5:00 p.m. at St. Nunes Hospital (close to Saddar area) to Prof. Mrs. Ameer Shahnaz Shaikh and Mr. Muhammed Ishaque Shaikh on the 25th of Dec. 1964. My mother is a Professor of English Language & Literature both while my father comes from the newspaper industry.
A friend once remarked that I must be really lucky to have been born on the 25th of December since the entire Pakistan celebrates my birthday because the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan) was also born on the same day but I politically corrected him by saying that Jesus Christ was also born on the 25th of December and thus the entire world celebrates my birthday and this is what I meant by the ‘Big League’ which I am proud to be a part of.
Started my schooling from Nasra School in Karachi but shifted to Gulshan-e-Fatima school in class 2 which was close to the Adamjee Science College where my mother taught for some 18 odd years. Completed till class 5 there and took admission in class six in one of the best school of Karachi at that time which was BVS Parsi School. Mrs. Dina Mistry, the principal of the school has made me what I am today without any doubts because she taught us respect for elders, our parents and our teachers.
We would pee our pants when she roared and would cane us when we would not behave. She was a Hitler whom we loved to hate and hated to love. She is still alive and going strong at the age beyond ninety. May she live long, Amen! While being certified rascals at school, somewhere along the line we read Math, Physics, Chemistry and Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth and Shakespeare. Most of the basic sciences I forgot but I still remember the poetry, literature and satire that I read in my English books. I finally completed my Matriculation in 1980 with Pre-Engineering subjects from the BVS Parsi School.
Did my Interscience from Adamjee Science College, Karachi in 1982 in Pre-Engineering and joined NED University, Karachi in the 1983-84 batch. Incidentally, this particular batch was one of the most unfortunate lots in the history of NED University since my class fellows graduated with a Bachelor Degree in approximately 6 or so years. I lost patience after completing one semester in 2.5 years due to the ongoing political turmoil in the country & initially went to Nicosia, Cyprus to pursue my Associate in Computer Science and later transferred to University of Southern Colorado @ Pueblo, USA to read my Bachelors in Electronics Engineering.
Colorado, USA was one colorful country I tell you where I stayed for 2.5 years and while reading Electronics delved in Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, Art, Culture, Music, Camping, Hiking and other subjects which I should rather not write here. Laughter! Two weeks before graduation on 15th May 1991; I came to realize that Engineering was not my cup of tea but I guess it was too late and I somehow came up with the courage to go on the podium and accepted the degree from Prof. Dr. Robert Shirley; the president of the school during that period. The hat which I wore on graduation read ‘I am done’ not to realize that I am still not done and at 45 still want to do much more.
After returning with a white card (which could have become green in a year’s time if I had stayed) in my back pocket to Pakistan; I would never return to the US but there is still a spark lit in the heart to redo the honors. Later, after working in Pakistan at a French telecommunication company for about 2 years; I landed a fully funded Japanese scholarship through the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) better known as the ‘Harvard of Asia’ in May 1993.
My entire perspective related to education and life both changed at 360 Degrees after going through the grind at this particular institute which I called the ‘Pakistan Military Academy’. The school was too tough for a mediocre like me where it was difficult to get in and much more difficult to get out with that stinking piece of paper called the Master Degree.
After graduating from AIM with a major attitude problem in 1995; I felt on top of the world where we were made to read some 1,300 odd cases and the system trained us for the dog eat dog world where anything goes in order to market / sell your product or win a project. But with the humble background of my parents and their basic teaching of humility filled with love, emotions and respect for others; unfortunately I could not become the moron that I could have become after graduating from the best business school in Asia.
Q. How about your professional career? Where did it start and when?
A. While struggling to get admission in some good university abroad after leaving the NED University in 1986 mid way, I started working for an organization which was more like the AAA club of US (American Automobile Association). This company formed a club while working on the same lines and attracted the elite and the yuppies of Karachi and provided them services like towing, replacing tyres and fixing their cars in times of distress and need. I was more of a sales person who would make calls from the Yellow pages and thus targeted my customers.
Later, while studying at Cyprus during 1988; I started a student newspaper at Inter College titled ‘Intergazette’ and also became the official photographer of the periodical. This was of course a voluntary position there but did spring board my educational career to get me a scholarship at the school in the 2nd semester.
Yet, again I took a transfer to University of Southern Colorado in Spring 1989 and while I was there between 1989 to 1991; I worked as a Marketing Officer for a local travel agent called Faricy’s Travel. These 2.5 years were spent in attracting customers to the business while my resume was in the making and I was making friends in the Pueblo market.
After graduating & returning from US; I landed a job as a Network Controller at the local branch of Societe Internationale de Telecommunicatione Aeronautices (SITA), a French Telecommunication giant which was based out of Luxembourg. Stayed at SITA for some two years to find out that there was life beyond this and thus got a fully funded Japanese scholarship to go study at AIM in Manila, Philippines.
While studying at AIM; I was privileged to work on short consultancy assignments in Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore on subjects and assignments like TQM, General Management and Human Resource Management involving newly learnt Just in Time (JIT), Kaizen and 360 Degrees techniques of Management.
After returning from Philippines, I landed a position as a Project Manager with Nasir Ali Shah Bukhari of Khadim Ali Sha Bukhari (KASB) fame to start an Internet Service Provider (ISP) project with him in Karachi. Later, I switched as a Branch Manager at Sysnet; one of the biggest telecom and networking company during those years and launched the Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) certificate program in Pakistan during 1997 – 1999.
I further moved on to become a Project Manager at Computer Research Pvt. Ltd. (CRPL) the 5th biggest Software house in Pakistan in July 1999. After successfully heading a Y2K compliant project for Instaphone (the biggest cell phone provider at that time in Pakistan); I was promoted as General Manager Projects and HR and was made responsible for some 22 projects for the business.
In June 2002, I saw an advertisement in Daily DAWN regarding the position of a Project Director at the Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST). Although it was never easy to get a job with the government but I tried anyways and was lucky in the first instance and got hired and thus moved to Islamabad. This move, although difficult, opened up new vistas for me but the initial years were indeed tough since I was moving from a hard core private sector to the much streamlined government way of working and looking at things and assignments. I served the MoST for hardly 6 months when the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was formed and I was asked by Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi to move with him. Dr. Naqvi was the Member (HRD) then who would later become the Executive Director at HEC after 3 years.
Q. Tell us about your experience at HEC and why have you stayed here for such a long time?
A. I moved to HEC from MoST on 1st January 2003 in the capacity of Project Director (HRD) and have surprisingly stayed here since then. This is my first and hopefully the last job whereby I would stay for such a long time. I enjoy a love – hate relationship with HEC since it has been a tough ride all along but if I were not with HEC, I would have been nowhere.
Q. Recently one of your articles titled ‘Higher Education Commission: An engine of Socio Economic Change’ has been published in Daily DAWN. May we please know what the gist of this article is?
A. Human Resource Development within the higher education sector lies at the heart of the HEC’s reform process. It is an area in which vital and significant progress has been made with a dual objective of increasing institutional capacity and enhancing local research activities. The major thrust of programs in this area has been aimed at improving the academic qualifications of university faculty through provision of scholarship to study at local as well as foreign universities. These scholarships are provided on open merit both to existing university faculty as well as other individuals who hail from the private sector.
The HEC Overseas scholars are placed at top ranking global universities doing research in all areas of study. Nearly 40% of the scholarships managed by the HEC have been awarded to the employees of R & D organizations and universities. On completion of their PhD, these people will serve the organizations they come from while the other graduates will be free to work in any Institution in Pakistan.
Since 2003, 21 different overseas scholarship schemes have been launched for PhD study primarily in countries in continental Europe such as Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, and Netherlands. In addition, HEC scholars have been sent in significant numbers to China, New Zealand, Thailand and Korea. A small number of scholars have also been sent to USA, UK, Australia and other slightly expensive countries. In the case of USA, a special Fulbright program jointly funded by USAID was also launched in 2008 to provide opportunities of faculty development in the US.
Under the various HEC overseas scholarship programs to date, 14,367 candidates were shortlisted out of which 3,789 scholars were sent abroad during 2003 – 10. During the year 2008-09 only, a total of 392 scholars proceeded abroad who had been selected earlier through a Merit based yet rigorous testing & interviewing process. A total of 820 scholars have already returned successfully while 2,567 candidates are currently abroad and are graduating and returning on a monthly basis.
The returning scholars to date mostly are the ones that were sent abroad in the initial phases of HEC’s HRD programs i.e. during the years 2003-5. Most of these scholars belonged to the group of University faculty members or R&D professionals from public sector organizations and thus they have returned successfully and joined back their parent universities or R&D organizations.
To ensure that returning graduates do not face problems with finding faculty appointments in institutions of higher learning in Pakistan, the HEC launched a program for placement of returning PhD scholars on the ‘Tenure Track Scheme’ at various public sector universities. HEC offers these returning PhD professionals a platform through placements in Pakistani public sector Universities and Degree Awarding Institutions (DAI) to contribute in establishing themselves and the institutions on the international standards. It is expected that most of these young scientists, engineers, social scientists and medical professionals will make a career in the academia once they are comfortably placed here.
A total of 44 PhD graduates had joined as Assistant Professors in public sector universities throughout Pakistan under the ‘Placement of fresh PhD Scholars returning from abroad program’ (PPSAP) during 2006 – 2008.
Another successful program titled ‘Interim Placement of Fresh PhDs’ (IPFP) was launched by HEC in 2008. Through this program, HEC wants to allure those Pakistani nationals who have recently completed or are about to complete doctorate studies from reputed universities of the world. Most of such young scientists, engineers, social scientists and medical professionals are likely to get employed abroad where there is an established infra-structure for their professional development and career advancement.
Being away from their home-country for a substantial period of time, these young professionals do not have any guidance on how to get a suitable employment in Pakistan. The program provides these young PhD professionals a platform through “Interim Placement of Fresh PhDs” to return home with confidence. This program has an added advantage for the universities and Degree Awarding Institutions (DAI) in getting back these Pakistani fresh PhDs from abroad which will immediately meet the short-fall of qualified faculty in the country.
The above mentioned program is designed to provide a Tenure Track System based Assistant Professor (AP) position for a maximum of one year period to fresh PhD’s from reputed Overseas universities to pursue a teaching profession in Pakistani public sector universities / Degree Awarding Institutions. This program, on a preferential basis; will seek placements for those HEC scholars who upon return to Pakistan after obtaining the doctorate degree will be requiring an immediate employment.
The program will primarily provide specialized faculty in the country which would reduce the need of expert faculty to a certain extent at least on a short term basis. In the long term, the project would result in a positive impact on the national economy in general and industry in particular. The program will also attract fresh PhD graduates to Pakistan on a respectable salary and a place to anchor them without any waiting period in getting a suitable employment. The qualified applicants selected on merit through this program will only be placed in those universities who have opted for Tenure Track System (TTS) and have a position available and are ready to complete the selection as per their procedure within the next six months but not exceeding twelve (12) months.
Against this particular program, 20 returning PhDs have already been placed in the University of Malakand, Quaid-e-Azam University, HEJ Research Institute of Chemistry – University of Karachi, Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology – Lahore, International Islamic University – Islamabad, UET Lahore, National Defense University – Islamabad, National Textile University – Faisalabad to name a few.
Correspondence for the placement of a further 24 returning PhDs is going on with COMSATS Institute of Information Technology – Islamabad, Bahaudin Zakariya University – Multan, University of Agriculture – Faisalabad, Mehran University of Engineering & Technology – Jamshoro, Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology – Lahore, UET Peshawar, University of Gujrat, Punjab University and Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) – Karachi respectively.
In conclusion, I would like to state that education is indeed the key for the progress of nations and if Pakistan wants to join the comity of advanced nations then this is the right path which we are treading at the Higher Education Commission and we must continue to invest whole heartedly in such scholarship programs in the future to come.