Alumni Spotlight: Hala Sheikh Al Souk
Hala Sheikh Al Souk (SFS'10) reached out in April 2019 to fill us in on her career path so far.
What are you doing now?
I am currently a Senior Academic Quality Assurance Officer at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
Did you earn a graduate degree? What did you study?
I earned my master’s degree in Public Policy from Oxford University ('13) in the United Kingdom.
How long did it take you to find your first job? How did you stay motivated?
It took me three months to find my first paid job at Squire Patton Boggs through a recommendation by a fellow GU-Q alumna who was working at the law firm at the time. This made me realize the power and importance of the alumni network at GU-Q. We can help each other, sometimes unexpectedly, and that can be very rewarding. At work, I stay motivated by trying to learn one thing every day before leaving the work place, whether it is acquiring new knowledge or learning something as simple as a new Excel trick. In life, the best way to stay motivated is to really understand and genuinely believe in what you are doing. When your motivation is low, that understanding and belief will eventually remind you why the work you are doing is worthwhile in the end.
What was your career path to get to your current position?
I work in the field of education, and while I believe my previous experience at Qatar Foundation Research & Development (an organization focused on education) and my passion for education definitely helped me get into a career in education, I really think that getting my position at Doha Institute came down also to other skills I gained from my non-education related work experiences and my postgraduate degree. In my experience of submitting job applications and going to interviews, I found that many employers who want to hire are not solely looking for related experience in the area they are hiring. Employers, especially when looking to hire recent graduates, are looking for transferrable skills and other personal qualities such as logic, emotional intelligence and creativity.
Looking back, what were some of your “takeaways” from your GU-Q experience?
Seize every opportunity that comes your way during your undergraduate years, and most importantly, live them. Whether these are internships, service learning trips, extracurricular activities, or volunteering, they really shape you in ways you won’t even realize or come to understand until four or five years after you graduate. These opportunities can also set you off early in your career.
What advice would you give to current undergraduates who may want to follow in your footsteps?
Know that for most of us our career is not a linear path. And that’s a very good, if not an important, thing to happen to you. Take the not-so glamorous job, the job with the long hours or the job that is not in line with your three-year career plan when you first graduate. Surprisingly, it is in these jobs where most of your learning happens if you are aware enough. So do explore all your career options before pursuing a specific career path, and allow yourself to fail because when you are a fresh graduate, you have the leeway to do so.
What are some of your proudest achievements so far? Future plans?
My plan for now is to continue to work in the field of education. One of my proudest achievements so far is one that is personal to me and that is initiating and establishing the Jusoor-Doha Institute Scholarship for Syrian Student program between the Doha Institute and Jusoor, a non-governmental organization that supports Syrian youth in the fields of education and career development. The program so far has helped sponsor over 35 Syrian students to study at the Doha Institute. Being of Syrian origin myself, seeing this coming to life meant so much.