Our May Spotlight : Dr. Salman Al-Shobaki of Aramex Corporate University

1.     Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.

I did not move into the Middle East, but I was born here. I believe that the Middle East is an exciting and dynamic region with a lot of opportunities for those who spend some time trying to understand the local culture and market opportunities.

I did my studies in the UK and came back to Jordan in June 2000, working as a lecturer at the Industrial Engineering Department – Hashemite University in Zarqa – Jordan. The department was just starting, which left me and the two other lecturers who were hired at the same time with several challenges. This included developing a study plan for the BSC and MSC programs, setting up engineering workshops and labs, tendering machines for the labs and the workshops, hiring technicians and engineers, and creating the selection process for scholarships in industrial engineering. It was an exciting time where I learned a lot about management (sometimes the hard way).

In 2007, I did a consultancy for Aramex on developing a “Corporate University” concept. They liked the final roadmap that I produced, and asked me to join them to help implement it. Thus, I made the jump from academia to business.

In 2011, I attended a conference in Dubai related to learning and development. There I got to meet other Chief Learning Officers (CLO’s) who work in the region and got interested in the CLO-ME network that they are developing and decided that I would like to contribute to this network’s success and development. I think that the new proposed CLO-ME network will enable me to get better access to other CLO’s that have similar issues and concerns. This will enable the exchange of ideas to better develop our respective organisations.

2.     How would you describe the culture of your business?

Aramex thrives on flexibility and empowerment. Our decision-making structure is based on a federal, decentralized model where each region is empowered to make decisions. This lean business model enhances effectiveness and responsiveness to the diverse local environments while maintaining a unified global brand. The model also promotes collaborative decision-making towards a common business development strategy. Open lines of communication ensure continuous feedback and allow leaders to really understand what is going on in the ground. This in turn leads to better decision making process and higher level of employee engagement.

 3.     How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision makers in your company?

Continuous learning and development is a big part of Aramex’s commitment to its people and this is also coupled with a company that is characterized by open doors and high level of empowerment among its employees. Thus, I have a direct and easy line of communication to any decision maker at Aramex.

4.     What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?

For me, the biggest challenge will always be the continuous development of people; the perpetual engagement of our employees to ensure that they are learning something new every day, and that process is always dynamic and exciting. Within this challenge two issues are of concern: How do you foster creativity and innovation among your staff, and how to identify talents and stars at an early stage? I do not think that this is about systems as much as it is about human communication and being close to your employees and encouraging them to excel.

5.     What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the regions talent requirements?

Although I reside in the Middle East, Aramex has a global reach in more than 57 countries and 300 locations worldwide. Thus, the challenge will be to develop skills that are needs for a competitive world rather than a specific region. Although there is a long list of skills that are needed, the critical ones continue to be leadership, creativity and problem solving, and interpersonal communication with others.

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