Emmkan, an educational organization that empowers and enables youth to develop their social and emotional intelligence by providing the first Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) platform in Egypt, is celebrating its 5-year anniversary this week.
The founder, Ahmed Sameh, has an endless passion for learning. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering, an MBA in Marketing, a Master’s in International and Comparative Education and is currently studying at AUC for a Master’s in Philosophy.
Ahmed sat down with us to have a chat about the past 5 years and share his experience and dreams for the future.
1.Have you always wanted to work in the mentoring and training field? and how did your love for this field start?
It all started when I majored in computer engineering. The only reason I majored in it was because I knew it was a field that would gain society’s approval, acceptance and would offer good employment chances afterwards. No emotions or passion really. Throughout my years at university, I started volunteering, getting out of my comfort zone and joining youth driven organizations.
AIESEC is where I started. I got to travel and attend conferences. I discovered through this journey that I have a talent and passion for communicating with people and delivering sessions. This is where it started…where I discovered my passion even if I still hadn’t made it a profession. I followed this calling… I decided ever since that I’ll finish my studies but won’t work in this field and will look for work related to what I’ve discovered about myself.
The highlight of this journey was discovering this rewarding feeling. How a small session can change how a person thinks… this is what was magical to me. I felt I could be the change in someone’s life.
2.What made you turn this passion into a business? Why Emmkan?
For a couple of years, I was struggling to find the right job for me. I worked in marketing and sales because I have a bit of interest in these fields. But my passion was training and a time came when I couldn’t find a job in it. I was lost in terms of my career path…I spent a lot of time unemployed so I had a lot of time to think. I asked myself, why am I lost now? what happened?
It was then when I started to realize that this is all because of the inadequacy of the educational system I was part of. The education we receive in schools; isn’t enough to prep someone for modern society at all. I started to criticize my school and think that if it had done things differently and someone would’ve helped me when I was younger, I would be somewhere different now.
Then I thought why don’t I be that person who helps young people; what if I fill that gap to help them find themselves and understand more about the world around them. It made sense at this point and I decided I was going to make it happen.
3.Throughout your five-year journey what’s your Standout memory so far?
There are no certain incidents but most are related to my personal struggles with resourcing the team. Sometimes we didn’t have a place that was ready or the team would suddenly shrink. But when we would overcome it, I’d feel blessed to get through these hard moments. I’d thank God I didn’t quit when I wanted to.
4.When did you realize Emmkan was becoming big?
When the impact on the students themselves grew. In the beginning our impact was small and short term. Recently our content has become deeper. The students started to give us feedback and tell us the lessons they’ve learnt. When that happened; I started to feel our impact is big on their lives.
5.What would you say is necessary to succeed in your field of work?
I’d say connecting with the students genuinely. And, the strength of the academic and critical ground since we are providing an educational service after all. We can’t do that with just good intentions. These 2 things are very important in this field. The ability to connect and the ability to provide beneficial content.
6.What is one thing that you wish you had known when you first started Emmkan?
Ummm…. I don’t know…it has been the journey, still is. I think the beauty of the journey is discovering the right things at the right time. I wouldn’t want to spoil this pace…. I don’t find anything that I’m regretting.
Yes, I wish that school would’ve taught me how to find my purpose. But once I did, once I started Emmkan, I knew which path to follow. I’ve just been enjoying how things have been unfolding as my capacity has been growing
7.Do you have any tips for high school students today?
That’s what we do at Emmkan! We have a lot of tips. One of the golden ones which I advise teenagers to follow; is to be more open to new experiences and be open to the idea that what they already know, might not be enough.
Many times; we find teenagers that are too satisfied with their comfort zones. The ones that are open and want to learn are those who we witness grow rapidly and effectively. They do so because they’re open and are ready to change and learn. So, my advice is for them to be ready and open, challenge their comfort zones and learn as much as they can beyond school.
8.Do you have advice for those who want to work in your profession as trainers or social entrepreneurs? What are your top tips?
I have a few. One of them would be to be able to listen carefully, not to the words but to what’s beneath the words. Educators must be good, emotional listeners. They need to understand the audience very well. Not just prepare lessons and shower students with information.
The Second one is to be culturally sensitive and critical. A lot of the trainers I meet just franchise learning modules that are developed in different cultures. They just apply them without understanding the local reality. This can get serious and destroy relationships.
Third, is self-learning. An educator is a student after all.
Workshop by Emmkan
9.How do your friends, family, and loved ones perceive your job and success with your unconventional start-up?
At the beginning they were anticipating… they were optimistic and excited for my passion yet anticipating. The more clients I work with, the more impact I have. They’re now more confident in what I’m doing… they no longer worry. They’re happy and proud; not just of me but they too also believe in the importance of the message.
10.You wake up in ten years. Where are you and what are you doing?
I don’t want to know. I don’t want to spoil the story. I want to leave it open. Its what’s interesting and exciting about Emmkan. Since we’re on the topic of our fifth anniversary; I would have never guessed that it was going to be like this.
I didn’t know that I was going to do a master’s degree in education. I didn’t know the graduate school would appreciate my thesis about social emotional learning and would like to support social entrepreneurship and the cause of Emmkan. I didn’t know we would have these amazing people we’re inviting to the event nor the awesome team I have been working with.
All of these things; I never planned for and I’m grateful that they happened. I wish the same for the next 10 years. I wouldn’t want to limit it to what I say. I’d like to just leave it open.
An official EMMKANNIVERSARY event will take place this year in Moataz Al Alfi Hall at The American University in Cairo (AUC). It will celebrate and reunite all the Emmkaners.
AUC’s Graduate School of Education, a long-time supporter of social entrepreneurship in the field of education, is partnering with Emmkan in its celebratory event that highlights the value and significance of social emotional learning.