Meet Helen EIS Director
We sat down with Helen Al Uzaizi, Director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Social Impact at GEMS World Academy – Dubai, to find out more about her career and the ambitions for her new role
Tell Us A Little About Your Career To Date?
I studied law and politics in college, and realised early on that it wasn’t what I had expected it to be. I then fell into marketing and communications and discovered that if you love what you do, you’ll do it well. I was lucky to be successful in my communications career but there was always a feeling that there was more I wanted to do. After 10 years I moved into community development, where I’ve been working for the past eight years, working with disadvantaged youth on entrepreneurship and working on mentorship for entrepreneurs in the MENA region. Four years ago, I set up my own social enterprise providing entrepreneurship education to kids aged 8-15 years.
Tell Us About Your Role Here At GEMS World Academy - Dubai?
My new role at GEMS World Academy - Dubai embodies everything I dreamed of and is in tune with the objectives of my own social enterprise – to develop curriculums and embed entrepreneurship into the culture of schools. I aim to embed the three worlds of entrepreneurship, innovation and social impact into the culture of the school as a way of life, rather than an afterthought. The school has been doing a very good job to date and the students have been doing phenomenal work, but my goal will be to make it seamless and integrate it into everyday life, not just as three different pillars but as one guiding principal and a mindset.
We are developing a curriculum from Grade 3 to Grade 12 as well as doing activities with younger groups and are setting up an incubator and accelerator within the Academy that will support students with the development of their ideas to bring them to life. What this means for students, and teachers is that we will be taking the Academy to a level that focuses on life skills and prepares youth for the future. The development of an entrepreneurial mindset within our community is the core objective.
How Will Entrepreneurialism Be Integrated For A Grade 3 Student?
It will be a project-based approach, using lots of imaginative, simple concepts, focusing on process rather than the product itself. Children at this age are open to developing skills and it is a critical time for us to develop that mindset. As the years progress, we’ll integrate more innovation. We’d love to see young entrepreneurs launching products, selling them and creating businesses that will evolve into real-life examples.
How Do You Plan To Integrate Entrepreneurship, Innovation And Environmentalism?
Through various programmes, students will explore entrepreneurship as a way of life – allowing them to think outside the box and preparing them for the world outside of the Academy or university. The world they will enter after graduation is very different to what we are used to; it requires a mindset that is adaptable and creative, resilient to change and innovative, while also being socially aware and responsible.
Can Anyone Become An Entrepreneur?
Picasso once said that all children are born artists. I say that all children are born entrepreneurs. We all have it in us to do things outside the box, as it’s about taking one idea and making it actionable. Given the right approach and right skills and opportunity, anyone can create. Everyone can be an entrepreneur. It just takes that little extra step and the knowledge to move from the concept and ideation stage to a product or service. Also, I want entrepreneurship to no longer be seen as an overwhelming, huge topic that scares people. You can even be an entrepreneur inside a company if you innovate and do something differently – an intrapreneur. It’s the mindset of wanting to evolve and do things differently.
What Do You Look For In A Business Idea?
The first thing to look at is, how passionate is the student? If you don’t have the desire to make an idea work, it won’t. Secondly, how scalable is it? There’s a market for anything if the product is good enough. If you’re solving a problem, generally there’s a market there, whether it’s niche or addresses the masses.
How Much Of Entrepreneurship Is Down To Luck?
I’m the wrong person to ask, because I think we create our own luck. I think luck is a series of opportunities that you take advantage of. I believe everyone is lucky. If you’re passionate enough, you can see luck everywhere. I believe it’s a mindset.
Watch: The Entrepreneur ME - Achieving Women 2019 Award in Social Impact
What Can You Tell Us About Yourself That Students May Be Surprised To Learn?
I’m a triathlete. I always say that if you set your mind to something, you can do it. I learned how to swim and cycle in 2016. Before that, I couldn’t do either. Since then, I’ve completed 22 triathlons and four half ironman events in the past 18 months.