The Hybrid Muslim Professional

Asking someone what they do for a living is standard small talk. The answer should be easy enough. You are either a lawyer or a graphics designer. But what if you were both? What if you occupied more than one profession across different institutions?  

Up until a few months ago, I didn’t know how someone like me, who was interested and involved in several different professions, could be defined. I had an inkling that the world of work was moving away from rigid structures and classifications but I did not know where I fit into this new world. I was then introduced to the concept of ‘hybrid professionals’ by Sarabeth Berk Phd. Check out her awesome resources here.

My Professional Journey

It all started in 2017 when I met the CEO of one of the largest education groups in the world while promoting Area 2071 (at the time pretty much a concept in our minds).

I told him that I’m not sure my (then) 5’-year-old daughter would only have one profession and our education system wasn’t providing the double T shaped capability she needed to thrive with her innate talent (incidentally she used to choose my work ensemble every day because I was terrible at choosing my own clothes. She would tell whoever would listen that she would be a designer, football player, academic and chef when she grew older.).

Since then, I’ve been proselytizing to anyone who would listen that our education system is leaving most of our future workers handicapped with tunnel skills (equivalent to tunnel vision), not enabling them to transition between careers and opportunities that arise.

Working for the The Prime Minister of UAE

At the time, I was 5 years into my wonderful stint at the Executive Office of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and I was itching to do something new (I seem to get this itch once every 5 years). However, I was being pulled in all sorts of directions.

I knew for one that I thrived and enjoyed building visionary new propositions for the world – like I had the privilege of doing at the Executive Office (such as Area 2071, Dubai 10X, University Enterpreneurship Program, UAE AI 2031 etc). I also knew I had to get my hands dirty in managing and building them. Sitting at the Executive Office as a Strategy & Innovation Advisor gave me the opportunity to incubate propositions, but I was still looking to improve my ability to execute and lead those propositions.

I also knew I wanted to continue the good work that I started at the Executive Office supporting the transformation of government, as that is where large scale impact can be made and felt.

The other area of transformation that I was drawn to was assisting entrepreneurs build businesses in the new economy – creating hundreds of new jobs.

Changing the Future of Education

Finally, I was thoroughly passionate about advancing the educational system towards one that enabled future generations to flex with the necessities of the time and adapt to just-in-time learning – an outcome of a project I led at the Executive Office focusing on higher education ecologies of the future.

You are probably reading this and either confused or concerned. But believe it or not, I’ve always been like this. I have always enjoyed the challenge of working in completely different areas. I’ve just never had the luxury of choosing the areas that I want to invest my effort in – the places where my skills would be of value and where I would thrive.

Then Covid 19 struck. Covid gave us all (including myself) enough time (I was in lockdown for 5 months) to pause and think about what and where I could make an impact in the areas that interested me You make a difference – when you see the difference with your eyes – whether it is providing employment opportunities or upskilling education or changing someone’s life – that is real difference. You can do that in two ways – work in professions that make a difference or have enough money to make a difference by investing or supporting change makers. I’ve always edged towards the latter but also tried to do the former.

That brings me to where I landed along this journey. 

Helping Muslim to Own Homes

I’ve joined hands with my brother and co-founder of Crescent Wealth, Talal Yassine, to build a truly transformative proposition connecting global Islamic capital markets with one of the safest asset classes in the world – Australian residential property – thereby facilitating access to homes in a truly authentic manner – something that is largely unavailable in most parts of the world.

Muslims in Australia are unfortunately financially excluded from building their wealth due to lack of access to Islamically compliant options. This leaves them at the fringe of society when it comes to economic development and empowerment. According to the Australian census (2011) – only 15% of Australian Muslims fully owned their homes, as compared to 29% of the wider Australian population.

Giving Australian Muslims, who now number approx. 1 million, access to a clean source of funding – Islamic capital from Islamic financial institutions, through an instrument that is well tried and tested, is a no brainer of something I have a unique role and value to add.

Australia, as one of only nine AAA rated countries (by all ratings agencies) is uniquely placed to be a model case study of how Islamic capital markets can be tapped (through sukuk) to provide liquidity for residential property in a truly authentic and uncompromising Islamically compliant fashion. 

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First Billion Dollar Sukuk

As someone who defined the demand and supply gap for Sukuk, I still wonder why this hasn’t occurred en-masse, given the available pools of liquidity in the Islamic financial system searching for yielding investment-grade assets.

I’m looking forward to issuing our first billion-dollar Sukuk issuance program within the next couple of years inshaAllah.

If you want to learn more about our thesis and the data behind it, read the feature in the Refinitiv Sukuk Perceptions and Forecast Study 2021 (coming soon).

In addition, I have been and will continue to help transform the Crescent Group performing the group strategy function in the process. You will see alot of exciting updates and enhancements to Crescent Wealth as we rapidly scale to the $1b AUM mark in the coming 5 years. For those who have not come across Crescent Wealth, Crescent Wealth is the first and largest Islamic superannuation (retirement fund) provider in Australia with over $350 million in assets and more than 11,000 members.

Transforming Government

If you can help governments transform, you can change the course of entire nations. I’ve seen the small impact I’ve had being at the heart of government transformation in Dubai and the UAE and it left me yearning for more – particularly if we use customer-centric design led innovation. What if we could take that DNA to other governments in the rapidly emerging countries such as in MENA, South and South East Asia and Africa?

First training session with the Dubai 10X lead from each Dubai government entity with the current Minister of Economy H.E. Abdulla Bin Touq

That is why I have joined my brother Rafi-uddin Shikoh on the Board of DinarStandard and as a Senior Partner. I’ve been blessed to be associated with DinarStandard for the past decade in one form or the other – but mostly as a client. The quality of their work is second to none and I look forward to contributing to their legacy worthy vision of a next-generation innovation and growth strategy consulting platform passionately focused on delivering global-level social impact. 

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I can’t wait to support them as a member of their board and leading their government services and innovation practice.

Industry Orientated Education

I started the discussion talking about education and if you have followed my posts long enough you would know I’ve been an avid proponent of education reform. We need institutions that can equip the free thinkers of tomorrow – that go on to design and build the enterprises of tomorrow, not those who are subject to obsolescence by technological and AI advancement. Yet, most if not all our universities are beginning to engender narrower education which has little to do with what the market needs – an agile learner who can shape shift to the needs of the organisation and who can pull up their sleeves to build and design or work in whatever capacity that’s required.

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That’s why I’m also thrilled to be joining Western Sydney University (WSU) as a visiting 21st Century Industry Fellow, . WSU is a radically exciting and innovative university that is taking bold steps to transform curriculum – led in collaboration with industry, faculty and most importantly learners. 

Supporting enterpreneurs building high impact companies

A group of us started Falcon Network with a bold vision. We wanted to make an impact by supporting impact driven entrepreneurs in emerging markets, while investing in the next generation of growth companies in these markets. The thesis is – if impact driven entrepreneurs can build high growth companies that can attract global capital (of which there is no shortage), we could potentially transform the lives of millions in each of these countries.

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After 3 years of investing, we’ve had some great successes (and some failures) but nonetheless it has given us conviction that we need to do more and there is much more opportunity to make an impact if we continue down our route. Soon you will hear more news about the next stage of evolution of Falcon Network.

In the meantime, I continue to mentor some amazing impact driven entrepreneurs such as Project You

Serving refugees and communities at need through Crescent Foundation

For several years, I’ve been involved as a board member in the high powered board of Crescent Foundation, which counts among it a former Premier of the most important state in Australia (NSW), a former global football star, several investment bankers, and a Board director of multiple Top 50 ASX listed companies. When I returned to Australia, I couldn’t wait to apply myself to catalyse ventures and teams that were seeking to do good, harnessing the networks and resources we have as a collective. I’m really proud of the impact we have already made in a short time – particularly to refugee communities but also to homeless and youth civics and democracy, through initiatives such as the Crescent Champions Club (connecting 70 individuals from a refugee background with high profile mentors from corporate Australia), Crescent Community Grants (deploying catalytic funding towards high impact initiatives), sponsoring more than 80 scholars through the Crescent Leadership Scholarship at Western Sydney University and University of Technology Sydney and much much more.

The only way is up – towards higher impact.  

Supporting Responsible Finance

I continue to support my friend and very competent leader Blake Goud and our venerable Council of Advisors and Board of Trustees to leading the transition of emerging markets financial services towards responsible finance. When Professor Rifaat and I seeded the concept of the RFI Foundation in early 2015 to some of the leading central bank governors and the Islamic finance industry’s leaders, we couldn’t imagine what outcomes it would have in such a short time. When you have a great leader with unquestionable integrity and a innert sense of purpose like Blake at the helm, you don’t need to do much. We are blessed to have him and I hope we can do more to elevate the conversation around responsible finance through the RFI Foundation’s work.

So there you have it – this is what a hybrid professional looks like. I look forward to watching this space of professionals grow.  

Finally, if you had a choice, would you do one specialisation and focus on that one specialisation or do a lot of things?

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