According to AlJohara Al Thani, never in her most ambitious dreams did she imagine that one day, she would be visiting the headquarters of Google, Apple and Facebook.  

When I first stepped into VCUarts Qatar to study graphic design, never in my most ambitious dreams did I imagine that one day I would be visiting the headquarters of Google, Apple and Facebook, and the campuses of Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology for professional purposes.

Al Thani, an Incubation Manager at Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is a Graphic Design graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) – a partner university of Qatar Foundation.

Al Thani is just one of the many alumni from VCUarts Qatar who have applied the skills they acquired during their university years to fields not traditionally associated with art and design.

Her story presents the possibilities that a rigorous curriculum in design offers those stepping into a global economy that, due to its technological interconnectedness, is increasingly being defined more by commonalities than differences.

Al Thani, who calls herself a QF product, was working at Al Jazeera Children’s Channel when the post of Research Executive in Information and Communication Technologies opened at QSTP.

At that point, having worked in a variety of creative roles, she said she was looking for a career move that would teach her something new.

I didn’t see my lack of experience in the field of technology as a cause for concern; in fact, I was pleased that I could take my career on a different trajectory.

She immersed herself in her new role, which included working with and managing proofs of concept, and was amazed at the extent to which she could apply what she learned at VCUarts Qatar to a field that she previously considered as highly technical and scientific.

I was delighted to learn that design has a lot in common with technology and innovation. All three are about purpose-driven creativity, viewing situations from a different perspective and thinking out of the box. My time at VCUarts Qatar taught me all these – and much more.

She said that such facets of a creative process may seem routine, but those exercises are what gave her the grounding for the kind of informed decision-making that is required of her at QSTP.

She didn’t realise it at the time, but at VCUarts Qatar, she said she was being trained to apply critical thinking, analysis and observation to problem solving. These skills, according to her, stood her in good stead when as a QSTP employee, she visited the headquarters of Apple, Google and Uber to learn about their ideation and creative strategies.

Al Thani said that those visits were an eye-opener, inspiring her with ideas that she implemented when she got back to the QSTP incubation centre.

Without those years at VCUarts Qatar that taught me the significance of looking at detail as a part of the whole and to journal my thoughts and ideas, I doubt if I would have been able to pick up those nuances.

Al Thani said that her career path, while not for everyone, belies public misconceptions about the application of art and design in daily life.

My personal experiences are proof that a degree in science and technology is not a pre-requisite to working in a tech-based industry.

But she said that on the contrary, the more she work in the sector, the more she realise the relevance of design in nurturing a start-up ecosystem – be it for conducting a pilot study for project, for planning the physical layout of an office or for marketing a start-up platform.

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