Haidar Ali: 2015 Future Leader

Haidar is participating in a part of the British Council Future Leaders scheme. He started at British Council in September 2015.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background:

After graduating in Neuroscience in 2013, I joined the Civil Service Fast Stream looking at how to make government ‘digital by default’. I started out at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and ended up at the Cabinet Office (GDS). 

In 2015, I knew that I wanted something more. On a trip to Morocco I came across a Facebook advert for the British Council’s Future Leader Scheme. I read the job description and I knew that this was the job for me. The rest, as they say, is history.

What about the British Council Future Leaders Scheme attracted you?

The opportunity to rotate across three very distinct areas of the British Council within the first six months, followed by two overseas placements was the main attraction for me to join the British Council’s Future Leader Scheme. 

In terms of reach, the British Council operates in over 100 countries, which opens the door to a global career. Having done a bit of research in terms of how the British Council is structured: Education and Society, Arts and Culture, English and Exams – these pretty much cover the broad scope of work I wanted to do. Ultimately, I wanted to be part of something big which changes the lives of people around the world and I found myself in the path of the British Council, a truly remarkable and unique organisation!

Can you briefly summarise the work you have done with British Council as a Future Leader and beyond?

When I started in October 2015, I hit the ground running and began working in Education and Society as a project manager. I was thrown in at the deep end and was forced to learn on the job. The role was intense in that I had to start a project from scratch, run it and then hand over all within a period of six weeks – I had never experienced work like this before. Fortunately for me I had support all around me. I found that if you have a can do attitude and want to make things happen then you can go a long way.

My second rotation in Arts was a real cultural change for me. The workspace felt a lot more ‘artsy’ for one thing, secondly, there was a physical library (I’ve just remembered I need to return my book) and thirdly, the team tended to dress less formally. My role in the arts involved research into the internal stakeholder engagement mapping and collecting impact information about Arts projects and programmes which could feed into the refreshed Arts Vision 2016. During this time, we had the opportunity to visit a UK regional office. We spent three days in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where we attended lectures at University of Edinburgh, listened to traditional live music and were generally pampered by the Scottish office (they have a free coffee machine!).

Currently, I am working in English and Exams conducting a survey on awarding bodies in the UK who generate £80 million of income per year. This is high stakes research which will feed into business development opportunities later this year.  I have been coordinating this research alongside other colleagues including one in China. 

I am really looking forward to my overseas posting in New Delhi, India for the next 14 months as membership manager. My remit will be to explore what it means to be a British Council member across the South Asia region and I will be working closely with colleagues in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and multiple offices in India. I can’t wait to start my role!

How has your time with British Council benefited you?

Within my very short time at the British Council, I have been able to build strong solid relationships with colleagues all across the business which has helped me in countless ways and I hope it will bring me greater opportunities in the future. We’ve been using something called the graduate development framework tailored to our scheme and I’ve found this indispensable in being able to track my skills and experience and identify areas of deficit.

In terms of employability you really couldn’t get anything like what we’ve been given anywhere else. We’ve been receiving tailored development training from the likes of the Greenhouse Project, which for me has made all the difference, as well as formal project management and monitoring and evaluation certification. I could list all the other benefits we’ve received over the last six months such as buy in from senior management, mentoring scheme, and the support networks but really it’s about being here, connecting with others and seeing the bigger picture so as to be able to truly take away all the benefits of the investment that this scheme has made in us.

What has been the best part of working for British Council?

The best part of working for the British Council is the people: every single day I meet someone new, someone unique, someone who makes my day. I always ask how others have come into the British Council and I find the most exquisite and fascinating of stories. The biggest asset of this organisation is its people and our ability to do what we do. 

If you had to sum up your experience with British Council in one sentence, what would you say?

Being on the Future Leaders Scheme has been an exponentially awesome experience!

Haidar is participating in the British Council Future Leaders Scheme, aimed at UK young professionals.