Alumni Spotlight: Aminah Kandar
Aminah Kandar, Class of 2013, IPOL
Senior Communications Specialist, University of Calgary in Qatar
Aminah Kandar's journey has been one punctuated by reflection and revelation starting in high school. Growing up in Canada, she wasn't satisfied with her regular schooling and took time off to study Arabic in Damascus, Syria, for a year. After returning to Canada, she enrolled as a part-time student at Carleton University in Ottawa, while she worked full-time. Three years later, she decided to fully commit to her studies and transferred to Georgetown University in Qatar. It was in Qatar that Aminah began to truly discover her capacity to delve deeply into regional issues, make relevant connections and write with more conviction, skills she has carried with her into a career in communications. Today, Aminah works for the University of Calgary in Qatar as a Senior Communications Specialist. She recently sat down to discuss her career path and role that GU-Q has played in her life.
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 do you do, and how did you get to where you are now?
I worked in several departments while studying at Georgetown, the communications department being the most relevant. After graduation, my first job was at Al Jazeera, and then I went on to work in communications at the Doha International Family Institute, a member of Qatar Foundation. In 2017, I joined the University of Calgary in Doha as the Senior Communications Specialist in the Marketing and Communications Department. There are only three people in the department, which means I wear many hats-from social media management, website management (we are now revamping our website), to overseeing the filming and production of digital advertisements. I am also involved in student recruitment, partnership development and community engagement-finding and reaching out to like-minded institutions in Doha and beyond.
How did GU-Q influence your career path in general?
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 gives them a clear edge over other applicants.
How did your degree in International Politics aid you in your career?
Studying International Politics has helped me be more culturally aware and sensitive in general, and to the diversity of the Arab diaspora in particular. I understand how each person can be influenced by the politics and social fabric of their nation. This helps me in developing strategy around marketing to this region, but also in overall communications and working with others.
Did you engage in any research at GU-Q, and how did that help you in your career?
I did two major research projects at GU-Q, one for the Certificate in Arab and Regional Studies, where I researched women's inheritance in Islam, and my honor's thesis, supervised by Senior Assistant Dean for Research, Kai-Henrik Barth. For my thesis, I studied women in the Arab spring, and conducted a comparative analysis which included Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. My chapter on Yemen was accepted into a book project edited by Rita Stephan, Director of the Middle East Partnership Initiative at the U.S. Department of State, due to finally be published in 2019.
Research helped me in my career by teaching me to work on projects with real rigor, until they are refined and polished. Dean Barth expected the best, and I had to keep rewriting and perfecting my research until I finally finished my thesis with success. Learning the importance of the level of detail, focus and excellence required to do a job well, has helped me immensely in communications.
What career advice would you offer to current students?
One thing I learned was that there is no perfect position, especially when working with a diverse group of people with varying perspectives and approaches. Simply reflect on what is important to you in a job and work environment, and try to secure an opportunity that will fit your personal criteria.
Also, start your job search early. As cliche 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, that is not always true. Set up your Linkedin page and start applying. Trust in yourself, your value and your abilities and amazing opportunities will come your way, often when you least expect it.