Spotlight: Aminah Kandar
Aminah Kandar, Class of 2013, IPOL
Senior Communications Specialist, Doha International Family Institute
After splitting her time in Canada between working and studying, Aminah Kandar (SFS '13) decided to fully commit to her studies and joined Georgetown's Qatar campus. Throughout her undergraduate experiences, into her career at Al Jazeera and most recently, at Qatar Foundation's Doha International Family Institute, Aminah has remained true to the Georgetown value of helping others.
Why did you choose Georgetown University in Qatar?
I chose Georgetown for three main reasons: First, I needed a change, and what better way to experience something new than to travel and study! Second, I wanted to fast-track my undergraduate degree, as I had been attending university in Canada part-time, while working full-time. Coming to Georgetown allowed me to apply for a Qatar Foundation loan, which later became a scholarship, and allowed me to focus on my studies full-time. Third, I was attracted to its interdisciplinary program that granted me the opportunity to explore various fields of study, all within an international politics context.
What has been the most rewarding moment in your career?
In terms of individual achievements, there are many large scale projects and programs I have managed as well as assisted with; however, sometimes it is the less-noticed achievements that bring the most satisfaction. I am very proud of a simple initiative I began at the start of my career, called “The English Zone.” When I first began working at the center, I noticed fellow colleagues would gravitate towards me to eagerly practice their English language skills. After some thought, I realized they simply need a safe and comfortable space where they can talk, interact, play games and be themselves… in English. We meet once a week for about an hour under a different theme, and I prepare activities that engage them within a well decorated room. Of course, as in Georgetown, what better way to attract people than with food! We will soon be celebrating our 1-year anniversary, and I am proud to have helped support my fellow colleagues in the development of their English speaking skills.
What is the best career advice you received?
Go for it! Never be afraid to drop-by, network and apply! Never miss a chance and grab hold of every opportunity. One can have many regrets, but make sure you are not one of those who will look back and say: “If I only I…”
What advice would you offer to first-year Hoyas?
Start early. As cliché as it sounds, it is true. Either way, it will take time, but better to get a head start than to wait until you graduate. Organizations are always looking and, while some may tell you that you need special connections, this is not always true. Trust in yourself, your value and your abilities, and amazing opportunities will come your way, often when you least expect it!
What challenges have you faced and how did you successfully overcome them?
One thing I learned was that there is no perfect position, especially when working with a diverse group of people with varying perspectives, beliefs and opinions. Simply reflect on what is important to you, what your threshold is and try to secure an opportunity that will fit within your personal criteria.
When I first started working, I landed an amazing position in the diplomatic field; however, my experience with my immediate supervisor was much less-than-desirable. It was an atmosphere that did not agree with me, and unfortunately I had to resign from a position that was initially very prestigious and appealing. Of course there will always be difficulties on the job with those around you, with the tasks at hand, and often you will find yourself doing the job of others to ensure that your end result is polished. This is why it is important to reflect on what matters most to you.
How did Georgetown influence your career path?
I must admit, because I was working for many years prior to returning to university and attending Georgetown, I had a bit of a head start in my employment journey. Georgetown prepares students for the world of work in many ways; however, the strongest foundation it provides is well-roundedness. Since the program is truly interdisciplinary, students acquire a strong and diverse knowledge base that givers them a clear edge over applicants.
What skills are needed in the current work environment and what prepared you the most for your career?
Communication, organization and professionalism. I cannot stress these three points enough. Everyone has a different communication style, but you need to ensure you communicate, not just verbally, but document everything through emails. To be organized not only helps others you work with in terms of an efficient workflow, it will also help you see the bigger picture of your annual tasks, track your projects and work with overall clarity. Professionalism is an absolute must in the workplace. While you may make friends, do not lose sight of the primary reason you are at work. Of course, with professionalism, one should be as personable as possible in order to forge good relations and make the work environment more pleasant for everyone. It is these three skills that prepared me best but what I get complimented on the most is my personality and ability to connect with those around.
If you could have another career what would it be?
Marine Biology. Yes, it is galaxies away from what I studied and where I am working but the underwater world is a deep passion of mine. I enjoy many fields, however, and am always open to new possibilities and change. I think this is what keeps life interesting, knowing you are not ‘stuck’ in one position and that you have the ability to flow with the twists and turns of life. Keep an open mind and enjoy the journey!