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Waleed Ismail

Waleed IsmailSenior Project Manager, IBM Canada

MSc Business Information Technology, 2006

Since leaving Middlesex you have had a very interesting career in IT, in a range of roles. Tell us a bit about the work you do at IBM.

I specialize in IT governance and compliance. Corporates & large organizations have regulatory compliance obligations that they have to meet, and regular audits that they have to pass to stay in the business.

Working for one of the largest IT service providers globally, I lead teams to help our clients pass governance & control audits, transform their IT environment to be regulatory compliant, and maintain information security standards.

My portfolio also includes security & audit assessment, IT Infrastructure security remediation, and business process transformation.

What drew you to IT in the first place?

I started programming with BASIC & FORTRAN languages when I was 12 years old. My mother is a doctor and she wished that I pursued a career in medicine, but I knew from an early age that it was computers that interested me more than anything and I trusted my instinct. When it came to choosing a career, it was a no-brainer.

What do you find most rewarding about your career?

IT Security share some aspects with insurance, you pay money for a service and pray that you don't need to use it. I truly believe it is about helping organizations saving money and allowing them to operate securely. I personally enjoy the confidence that we give to our clients, and the security mind-set that we empower business owners with.

Why did you choose Middlesex?

The first criteria I was looking for in my Master's degree was to be a degree in Information Technology geared towards business rather than science. At that time, I was moving from the technical side to the management side, and was looking for a program that can add value to that shift.

When I did my exercise to compare available programs, the BIT program that Middlesex offered stood out, touching on many IT topics and giving the exact amount of information that a technology manager needs to know to manage a heterogeneous IT environment.

The diverse and multicultural environment that Middlesex provides was definitely a decision factor as well.

What advice would you give to prospective students looking to study at Middlesex?

Middlesex has a lot to offer to any student, whether at the undergraduate or postgraduate levels. Make sure you take advantage of all these resources.

Think carefully before you take your decision, but be fully committed once you decide. You should enjoy your time studying at Middlesex, but you also need to work hard. The more you put in, the more you get out. Also, try and balance everything life throws at you.

What did you enjoy most about your course?

The richness and variety of modules, which were also relevant to my field. Many of the case studies offered were applicable and have helped me professionally.

One course stands out for me though: BIS4127, Management Support Systems, lectured by Dr Roman Belavki. Areas like Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Analysis were of special interest to me, and my passion for these subjects was a decision factor when it came to choosing the topic for my thesis.

The experience that I gained while preparing my thesis was remarkable as well. I researched data mining techniques for Internet Service Providers. The brilliant techniques and methodologies that my supervisor Dr Abou-Bakr Abdel-Moteleb used to show me were inspirational and insightful. It was probably one of the best learning experiences in my academic life.

I also liked the fact that the teachers were successful professionals in their fields. It gave them credibility in teaching their modules, and helped them provide us with practical examples that were applicable to real life situations.

How did your time at Middlesex help you to get where you are today?

Studying for a postgraduate degree is very intense. During my time at Middlesex I had to constantly meet course deadlines, prepare for coursework and lectures, read detailed papers, jump in and out of different areas of Information Technology, while balancing all of this with my social life. I learned how to work under pressure and multi-task, and these skills have served me throughout my professional career.

Also, apart from the academic side of the degree, there are a lot of interpersonal skills which I nurtured while at university. It's a fantastic place to start making contacts and to know many of them very well both professionally and sometimes socially.

What has been your career highlight to date?

Throughout my career of 15+ years across various international locations, I acquired the knowledge to forge partnerships with clients and management across diverse cultures and professional backgrounds.

I've been lucky enough to travel a lot and meet some very interesting people in different walks of life. While working in countries where Arabic, French & English were dominant languages, I had the business needs to communicate and report in these languages; and that has really enriched my life in a way that I never thought.

Do you have any tips for recent graduates who are looking to follow a similar career path to you?

In a world where 'Google before you Tweet' is replacing 'Think before you Speak', Information Technology has become a very competitive career choice. The industry is very fast paced, most of what I studied 10 years ago is either obsolete of inapplicable nowadays in terms of technology. So, if someone thinks of joining the field, he must be committed to a long journey of learning, sharpening and improving all the way.

A word to post-graduate students: be prepared to put a lot of effort in yourselves. To study at postgraduate level, you need to be able to strike a balance between family, work and study time, and it is far easier if you are enthusiastic about what you are studying to reach the last mile.

What does the future hold for you?

One of my favourite quotes is to shoot for the moon. Even if I miss, I will land among the stars (Norman Vincent Peale).

Medium term: I'm shooting for a top executive role in IT Governance & Control.

Longer term: hopefully to have the time to pursue a PHD degree in Strategic Management.

And of course: a long vacation in the French Riviera...

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