Dubai: ‘Bring your pencil box — and an open mind.’
That was the catchline from the organisers of Youth Lead the Challenge (YLC) programme, to reach out to students in the age-group of 15-19 years in the country. The three-day event — that started here on Friday and concluded on Sunday — was a windfall for young-adults in the UAE as 51 students from 19 schools in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, across eight different curricula, got a rare opportunity to brush shoulders with mentors from Harvard Business School in Boston, who were flown in to offer tips and guidance on developing leadership skills in entrepreneurship for the future.
Conducting this first-of-its-kind workshop-cum-training module in the UAE were Harvard Business School mentors Varoun Gulati, Christopher Willis, Gillian Hess and Jonathan Iyamdemye. Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the event, Iyamdemye said: “Students here are much more aware of the world around them and are a lot more receptive to new ideas than what we have come across in many other parts of the globe. And I think that’s possible because of the cosmopolitan culture that the UAE has.”
His words were echoed by Karan Kumar, founder and CEO of Dubai-based venture capital firm Amalthea-Capital. “As a Harvard alumnus, I had the opportunity to share space with some of the finest minds in academics and I must say that these students at the YLC programme in Dubai are a revelation to me,” Kumar told Gulf News.
Grade 12 student V. Rana from Our Own High School, Al Warqa, told Gulf News: “I had participated in similar leadership programmes earlier, but the presence of Harvard mentors was something special. They really guided us through the process very well.”
Vetting of students for the YLC programme was done by The Education Advisory (TEA) — offering strategic guidance to UAE students for higher studies abroad — and the initiative was supported by Amalthea-Capital.
Niti Kewalramani, TEA founder and education counsellor, said: “As part of the selection process, students were told to write a 150-word essay, covering just two points: What does ‘leadership’ mean to them and how do they hope to be good future business leaders.”
After an initial briefing by the mentors, participants were divided into groups. Each group was given a case study on a typical business issue involving a well-known brand and was told to offer solutions through a group presentation. From ExxonMobil’s future in an age of growing awareness over the need for reduction in fossil fuel to what needs to be done to turn things around at cab-hailing firm Uber, students offered remedies based on their understanding of the issue through collective inputs and a mini-research of sorts.
Kumar further said, judging by the level of enthusiasm, the YLC programme will be back in the UAE in a bigger avatar next year.