We sat down with Helen Al Uzaizi, the Director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Environmentalism at GEMS World Academy – Dubai, to find out more about the ambitions for her new role
Tell us a little about your career to date?
I studied law and politics in college and I hated it. 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 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 getting delinquent youth back into the market. I’ve been working with young entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa. For the past three years, I’ve been setting up my own social enterprise with the aim of providing entrepreneurship education to kids aged 8-15 years.
Tell us about your role here at GEMS World Academy – Dubai (GWA)?
My new role at GWA 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. My main objective will be to embed the three worlds of entrepreneurship, innovation and environmentalism into the culture of the school as a way of life, rather than as add-on curricular activities. The school has been doing a very good job to date, 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 mindset. So, we will be building curriculums from Grade 3 to Grade 12 as well as doing activities with younger groups. What this means for students, teachers and staff is that we will be taking the school to a level that focuses on life skills and prepares youth for the future.
How will entrepreneurship be integrated for a Grade 3 student?
At Grade 3 level, it will be a project-based learning approach, using lots of imaginative, simple concepts, focusing on process rather than the net product itself. As the years progress, we’ll integrate innovation and focus more on the product. Hopefully we’ll see young entrepreneurs launching products and selling them and creating businesses that will evolve into real-life examples.
How do you plan to integrate enterpreneurship, innovation and environmentalism?
What we’re trying to focus on at GWA is teaching students how to explore entrepreneurship as a way of life – allowing them to think outside the box and preparing them for the world outside of school or university.
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 to take something from an idea into an action. Also, I want entrepreneurship to no longer be seen as an overwhelming, huge topic, as it 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
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
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 big.
How much of entrepreneurship is down to pure 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 create your own luck, you can see luck everywhere. I think it’s a mindset.
What can you tell us about yourself that students may be surprised to learn?
I’m a triathlete. I do triathlons. 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. I’ve competed in 22 triathlons and four half Ironman events in the past 18 months.