Time & Knowledge Nazrana at UCA

TKN Management Consultant Shireen Hirani engaged in Capacity Building at the University of Central Asia (UCA)

“When moving to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in November 2020 from the United States, I was clueless what I would be doing in a city I had not known before – geographically, culturally, linguistically or any other way…” reminisces Shireen about her move to not only a new city but a new continent, 20 months ago.  “However, I had one observation over the past 13 years: although many of my family members (including myself and my husband) and friends had pledged TKN during Golden Jubilee and then again in Diamond Jubilee, several were still anticipating being matched to an assignment. That is what created a spark to create projects and implement ideas through which I could engage international TKN volunteers across to match various needs and assignments at UCA” Shireen remarks.

Shireen graduated from Karachi’s Aga Khan University Medical College in ’97, and later pursued an MSc in Health Service Administration from the University of Detroit Mercy, Michigan. After 17 years of experience as a healthcare marketing consultant, she recently trained as a Conscious Living/Conscious Parenting Coach. Following her move to Bishkek, (due to her husband Saleem Hirani assuming the role as UCA’s CFO and CIO), in the spring of 2021, she met with various department heads at UCA to assess current needs at the University, where TKN resources could be utilised. Through these conversations, Shireen realized that the University of Central Asia, being in its infancy stage, had many areas in which professional expertise and global TKN talent could help gradually change the University’s trajectory and momentum. Shireen and UCA are immensely grateful to all the exceptional TKN volunteers mentioned in this article for their exemplary commitment and significant contribution in the successful delivery of these high-impact initiatives.

Below are some of the ideas/projects Shireen has successfully implemented to build the capacity of students and staff at UCA: 

• A 6-month Professional Development Program for 38 UCA students (application based selection) conducted by five TKN professional experts, remotely conducting sessions from Pakistan and Canada. The programme covered topics such as Writing Resumes and Cover Letters, Interview Skills, Communication/Presentation Skills, Internship/Job Search, Elevator Pitch, Maximizing LinkedIn, University Admissions Abroad/Scholarships, Branding and Networking. Students received completion certificates at culmination. (TKN Instructional Coaches: Afshan Basaria, Ayeesha Kanji, Danish Gangani, Muneerah Ramji, Munir Damani)

• In collaboration with another TKN volunteer Noor Rahimi, Shireen developed and conducted a Soft Skills training programme that included topics such as Time Management, Leadership Skills, Communication Skills and Team Building. Participants included HR employees at UCA’s Central Administration office based in Bishkek and the two campus locations in Naryn and Khorog who joined remotely.

• Organised and moderated a 3-part Guest Speaker series for UCA staff and students on Critical Thinking by TKN volunteer Sahib Karim Khan, and a 2-part Guest Speaker session for students on Computer Science Internships in USA, by a Senior Computer Science student at University of Texas at Austin, Aly Hirani.

• A 6-month Executive Mentorship Program for 20 students (application based selection), for one-on-one mentoring sessions with successful Ismaili Entrepreneurs/CEOs to help students plan and strategize based on their career aspirations. This ongoing program is also enabling these 20 students and 20 additional waitlisted students to attend guest speaker sessions on topics such as Navigating One’s Career Path, Finding One’s Passion, Resilience, A CEO’s Mindset, Public Speaking, Continuous Self-Development, and Gig Economy. Twelve Ismaili professionals from Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Canada and the United States have been crucial in this program’s implementation. (TKN Mentors: Amit Panjwani, Kamruddin Shams, Riyaz Lakhani, Zahoor Samji. TKN Project Coordinators: Abid Ali, Amber Ahmed, Saadia Nizar, Salima Bhojani, Sana Hasnani. Guest Speakers: Dilshad Delawalla, Saleem Hirani, Shireen Hirani)

Shireen has also thoroughly enjoyed her role in assisting with content creation for the new UCA website and cherishes helping the Advancement and Public Affairs team in program implementation/social media presence for the Historic First Convocation of UCA in 2021.

Shireen’s current long-term project is to engage experts to enable students in the Naryn Campus Enactus Club to take an entrepreneurial project idea from design phase to planning and finally implementation. The Enactus Club operates in 35 countries and 1800 Universities globally compete in it annually. Students first compete locally and nationally to gain access to potential donors and funding and then internationally. This will be a year-long project, and the students will be competing on the Enactus platform. (TKN Project Facilitator: Omario Kanji, TKN Project Coordinator: Sehar Naz Janani, Guest Speakers will be recruited throughout the year from the TKN Database including Salim Sikandar as the first).

Myrza Karimov, Head of UCA’s Co-Op Department, says “Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, stated ‘one book, one child, and one teacher can change the world.’ I firmly believe that one TKN volunteer can make a significant difference in the lives of many students.  In my view, Shireen Hirani is one of the change makers at UCA. She has made a remarkable contribution in successfully implementing the UCA Mentorship Program.  This program has already made positive changes in the lives of several UCA students. We consider Shireen not just as a TKN volunteer but also a member of UCA Co-op team and a leader and mentor.  We are grateful to have Shireen and Saleem Hirani at UCA, who both understand the importance of an internship program and provide valuable support to the Co-op team in finding internship placements for our students.”