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Making A Difference: Cisco Volunteers Develop Local Talent in Sohar, Oman

- January 20, 2010 - 10 Comments

Our goal was to showcase the important role information and communication technologies play in driving societies towards innovation and achieving economic growth and prosperity.

A global team of 27 Cisco volunteers came together in Sohar, Oman, with Fast Lane, a Cisco Learning Partner, to promote discussions on how ICT training can facilitate the transformation of Oman’s society by developing and empowering Omani youth; the main source for local IT talent.

Business Outreach: Setting the Course

Cisco’s Middle East Employee Resource Group brings together employees who want to enhance their careers, support the community, and grow the business by facilitating business partnerships between Cisco and the community.  As part of the Business Outreach Program, they were part of a global team representing employees in Dubai, Egypt, KSA, Lebanon, Belgium and the US. 

They started this journey by agreeing to deliver a pilot training program to college and high school students with the objective of:

  • Increasing technology awareness,
  • Enhancing technical and business skills for local workforce development, and
  • Focusing on philanthropic and community outreach


Knowledge Exchange

This past December, they delivered a five day IT talent development workshop to over 120 university and high school students at Sohar University, one of 12 Cisco Networking Academy sites in Oman.  Sohar University hosted the event and both private and public representatives from local IT and public sector attended the opening session.  The students comprised of more than 80% women pursuing bachelor degrees in Computer Science and IT related engineering careers.

The training tracks included IP Telephony, Wireless, Green Initiative and Professional Development.  The topics, content and, audience were selected based on input from various stakeholders, including Dr. Wail Omar, Dean of Faculty of Computing and Information Technology at Sohar University, Oman’s Information Technology Authority (ITA), and Networking Academy teams based in Dubai and Lebanon.

The volunteers, who delivered the training on site, were motivated to openly share their knowledge and professional expertise in both theory and practical hands-on labs. The success of this program emphasized the importance of connecting academic offerings with practitioners and experts in the field.

The initial feedback collected from the university staff, students and IT professionals was very positive with requests for future programs.  For the Cisco team, this was an opportunity to further develop their own professional skills, extend their professional network and gain a better understanding of the ICT needs of the region.  



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  1. Ayelet,On behalf of all the Oman Volunteers, I thank you for creating this blog to share our valuable experience volunteering in Sohar University in Sohar, Oman. This forum will help us gain the visibility of our efforts in the Cisco Communities. This will serve as great encouragement to all the participating volunteers and great inspiration for future volunteers. We have so much of rich experience to share with everyone. I want to highlight here one of the many wonderful experiences I had volunteering in Sohar.On the last day of our training program on Dec 17, 2009, I took a class for the high school students who were specially invited by Sohar University to attend this event. There were around 20 students in the session.I took the short version of Cisco IPT and Personal Development class. It was a very interactive class and students really enjoyed these sessions. They all liked the IPT lab and team building exercises. They were willing to extend the class duration to do more lab exercises. They were excited to learn about the Cisco and various services and technologies it can offer. The class ran from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm with a 30 min lunch break.I got a very good feedback from the students. Some of them were1.“The Best Class I have ever attended.”2.“After I graduate from High School, I will attend Sohar University to learn about Cisco Technologies”3.“Before this class, I had plans of becoming a doctor, but now I will reconsider it, I may become a computer engineer, I will join Sohar University”4.“This was an easy and fun way of learning new concepts, I learned a lot from this class”5.“When are you taking this class again, we want to attend again and invite more of our friends”6 We don’t mind paying for this class”7.""We don’t mind attending this class during our weekends, it was fun”8.“It as a very good class, it’s sad it’s only for one day, I needed more”I do get mails from these high school students almost daily. To mention few, they ask me about many IT related questions and seek career advices. They would like to know how they can join Cisco also they want to learn about volunteering and impacting others. These feedbacks make us feel appreciated and inspires us to do more ourreach efforts such as this."

  2. I think the best way to get cross-country collaboration is to focus on a specific project. ~The more interesting and rewarding the project, the greater the level of satisfaction of getting involved.

  3. It was a pleasure to be involved in this event and see how enthusiastic and hungry for knowledge the students were. The feedback from all was extremely positive and hopefully many will now go on to forge a career in the ICT industry or indeed with Cisco or Cisco Partners.The event was a great example of collaboration across multiple territories where all the stakeholders pulled together to deliver something that was truly memorable and had a significant impact on the local community. The event definitely reached an audience that does not normally have access to events of this nature and that in itself was groundbreaking.Long may initiatives of this nature continue!

  4. It was great event all together and the key thing is how it was organized among many different organizations within and outside of Cisco removing the cultural barrier. I was one of the instructor and have not seen student who were so hungry for the knowledge shared by Cisco and partners.I was overwhelmed by the positive response and the hospitality of the local people, the students and University staff. I will never going to forget the positive comments from the students like,1. This is the best training we ever had, and how can we get more of it.2. How can we implement this technology at our homes.3. Comment from a business owner, I will be buying the IP telephony pieces from CIsco, I am completely sold on it.4. We can stay late to perform more labs, even though the university buses left around 4 PM and its get dark around 5:30 or so..5. We love this training session as we are able to configure the IP-PBX and able to make calls. One question I was asked multiple time is, why are you guys doing all this and spend so much money and time and away from your families to provide training to us.We educate them also how important is to do volunteer work which does not bound by any culture, race or religion it is borderless work. This team of Cisco Volunteer left a very positive impact to the local Oman people and changed some of the perspective of the West as most of us flew from US.Way to Go MEDI, Way to Go Cisco

  5. It was a privilege to be a participant in this event. For me, this was a chance to work and collaborate with colleagues from across the world and to eventually contribute back to the community in this region.This event was actually the result of an extended period of planning and preparation that Khamsa and the rest of the team had to do beforehand. Many hours were also spent setting up the equipment on-site for labs and demonstrations. But eventually seeing the smiles and satisfaction on the faces of individuals as they were doing the hands-on configurations made it all worthwhile.Cheers to the Cisco volunteers! I hope this will be the start of many more similar initiatives in this region.

  6. I'm thrilled to see a Cisco Community initiative in Oman, a country with a growing youth population interested in IT technology. I also commend their focus on nurturing sustainable technology training for Omanis, the future of this rapidly changing community. While living in Oman, I was surprised by the large female percentage of engineering and technology students, something still slow to take root in the United States. It will be interested to see what comes of this program at Sohar University in the future.

  7. On behalf of Sohar University, I would like to personally thank you all for your volunteers work at Develop Local Talent in Sohar. This event could not have been a success without the great effort of the many volunteers from Cisco who donated their Precious time.We are extremely surprise with the level of interest and excitement generated by our students participants especially from the students who were ready to miss their 4 pm busses and stayed on to finish their labs.It was an amazing experience to see similar excitement registered in the faces of the students as they setup the lab and were able to make calls between two Cisco’s IP phones or configuring Wireless Network.Personally I’ve attend the IUWNE class that have been provided by FastLane. Even that I couldn’t attend all the classes but it was very helpful for me to pass the 640-721 exam last month.We are really appreciating all the effort that have been provided by Cisco team specially Khamsa and Asif whose didn’t spare any effort or time to make the event successful. I hope that we will be able to see you all again Next year.Thank you allMustafa HasanSohar University Team

  8. Fantastic interaction with the team!Although I work with the Networking Academy and these events really constitute an important chunk of our operations, yet I want to highlight the 'freshness' of doing CSR activities with the 'non-CSR' people.Looking forward for a future event and engagement with my new found friends.Kudos for Khamsa's efforts! Couldn't have been done without her spirit and commitment.

  9. Thank you Ayelet and everyone who commented. Since I have been back, from this Oman workshop trip, every time I am asked how did the project go, I can’t help it by start responding :”hmm!.. it would take one thousand and one night to tell the whole story, where do you want me to start ?! ” , So, for now , I picked only the first and the last days of the story“From day one, I heard about this project from Khamsa Enaya, I felt this is going to be very valuable - meeting such a great need in many of the emerging communities who are determined to invest in their growing talent pool via ICT education. Yet, when I actually attended the workshop, meeting the diverse volunteer team, project leaders, attending the inauguration event and training sessions, hearing from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, representatives from the local businesses, university faculties, students (over 80% female), local IT professionals and university alumni, as well as the impact on the volunteers via the visible attempt to be inclusive, collaborative and on the spot problem solving, I felt so happy and honored I could contribute and observe all of this. I immediately realized what a huge gap this type of programs are targeting to fill, and it does not require too much financial commitment. To me , this pilot workshop clearly showed , when there is a will and worthy problem to solve, and a practical plan and role to execute, talented volunteers show up and visionary entrepreneurs , like Dr. Wail at Sohar university and his university board show adequate leadership and commitment. The rest is a race to collaborate, innovate, bridge the gaps,… to make it happen, meet success criteria and overcome the barriers. It illustrated the missing link between the traditional education and the 21st century skills needed for reaching ideals like regional development and sustainability: building healthier, more productive communities and societies. I am so glad, I had the opportunity to be exposed to this event, promote it via MEDI and corporate affairs and learn so much from the other volunteers and students enthusiasm. I truly believe we practice and get better at being inclusive in a diverse world, by truly taking the “one team” , “one worthy cause” and “valuing engaged talents” approach .Best regards,Sima

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