What's Different about MISK Fellows Program?
It is imperative in a shifting and increasingly complex world to identify "high-potential' youth" and invest in their development to become future leaders who, one day, will shape evolving sectors and industries and deliver on the aspirations of a nation, such as KSA Vision 2030. MISK Foundations has long recognized that current and future enterprises need 'adaptive' leaders who can demonstrate capabilities to navigate challenges in their respective fields and beyond. In this context, the MISK Fellowship program was borne and was designed to develop a cadre of leaders early on in their careers, targeting Saudis studying or graduating from elite schools around the world and developing them into more skilled individuals and leaders.
Historically, leadership development has been an individual endeavor, typically pursued through career progression in organizations, the MISK Fellowship program has embraced a contemporary and flexible approach to leadership development, which enables Fellows of the program to develop and adapt their leadership skills and behaviors by working with Fellow peers, and learning from local and global passionate leaders who are creators of positive impact. To meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, this type of leadership demands a mix of talents, skills, expertise, and synchronous efforts, which need to work in tandem to come up with innovative solutions! With this in mind, the Fellowship program was designed in collaboration with government and private entities as well as nonprofit organizations to have a maximum positive impact on participants.
Why MISK Fellowship?
Through the MISK Fellowship program, I stepped into a new realm of thinking, perceiving, and behaving. As a Ph.D. student and researcher in Human Movement Sciences at Columbia University, and previously with a doctorate in Physical Therapy and a master's in Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, my leadership knowledge and skills were still at a foundational level. On a cold NYC morning, I took a stroll with Dr. Lori Quinn, Chair of the Biobehavioral Sciences Department & Director of the Neurorehabilitation Research Laboratory, who asked me if I would be interested in taking up the Assistant lab manager role! It was then and there that I decided to face-up to the challenge of becoming a Scientific Consultant, a career I had long aspired to, and, consequently, I instinctively applied for the MISK Fellowship program.
You might wonder what factors potential applicants consider to decide if this program is suitable to reach their career goals! In my case, I was a specialist in a scientific field but had wanted to broaden my areas of expertise while simultaneously developing relationships with intelligent and inspiring people, so the Fellowship program was the perfect start!
I found the program to be appealing on many fronts. On the one hand, its modules surpassed my expectations, and on the other, being sponsored by Misk brought a sense of pride, and more importantly, a feeling of duty to help citizens of my country as one way to give back! - after all, who doesn't miss home when you've been away pursuing studies for years? What's more, the program, which was run virtually, created a meeting point and an intellectual haven for the 'Fellows to exchange ideas and learn from one another. I also can't shy from being referred to as a "MISk Fellow," something which makes me very proud!
Content and Role of Partners in the Program
My enrollment into the program started during the pandemic, which accommodated 75 Fellows worldwide by delivering the entire program virtually. In the first phase of the program, MISK partnered with Inspirational Development Group (IDG), which provided the leadership and mentoring boot camps. The amount of preparations and resources which into this were considerable and encompassed different social styles and tools to ensure optimum delivery and learning for participants.
Partners, such as MCIT, Monsha'at, UNDP, Strategy &, and Bain & Company, added tremendous value to the program, especially in the competition phase. The competition is a creative approach to exercising leadership skills, simultaneously allowing Fellows to find ways to drive change in the Kingdom and give back to the community. Partners added value in the frequency of tutorials they delivered to impact how Fellows approached problem-solving, leadership, and performance and their continued support and counseling throughout to meet the project milestones. To give an example; at the start of the competition, Fellows were introduced to the Global SDGs, split into groups, and then tasked to provide a technological solution to a question addressing one SDG goal. Each team had the autonomy to choose one goal of interest and was assigned a consultant as a mentor to help find and bring their solution to life.
The MISK team conducted networking sessions, at times with extraordinary and inspirational guest speakers. The speakers not only addressed the questions and concerns of Fellows but also delivered motivational topics, such as "Sphere of Influence" and "Adopting modern leadership during the rapid and positive change in Saudi Arabia. They also shared success stories as well as failures. Adi Ignatius, for instance, shared his story of how he became the Chief Editor of the Harvard Business Review journal. All these had a positive impact on me as I gained enriching insights, expanded my horizons, and broadened my perceptive.
Mentoring Does Help
In the MISK Fellowship program, a mentor is assigned for each Fellow, and once a Fellow acquires specific skills, they become in charge of other mentees, who in their capacity as mentors assume the role of listening, challenging, and support. A simple way to explain this is to think about planting and cultivating a foreign tree such as bamboo. This tree is tall, strong, flame-resistant, and flexible but does not grow in a typical fashion. After planting it, one would need to nurture it for years without visibly witnessing its growth. Suddenly, one day it becomes the fastest growing tree, and at a growth rate of 88 cm per day, achieves its optimum growth in just 60 days.
Having been in the position of a mentee and mentor has been a true privilege. In my current job, this has helped me bring my teams onboard, support them in their goals and shape their minds to succeed in whatever they aspire to be. When accompanied with exemplary leadership behavior and an understanding of the different social and learning styles, individuals and teams’ achievements will have no limits.
As MISK Fellows, we have been exposed to many skills and leadership development areas, which we will continue to harness in the long-term. The abundance of advice from subject matter experts, mentors, and prominent individuals, locally and globally, and the engagement with other Fellows have a lasting impact. Despite the pandemic, the boot camps were unforgettable and served to demonstrate the exceptional efforts made by Misk Foundation and their partners in the program's unique design and application. Fellows go on an incredible 6-months ride, an exceptional learning journey that develops them into future leaders, who will significantly impact the Kingdom in years to come. For this, I am truly honored and grateful!