The Professional Fellows Program, designed to bring together emerging leaders in the fields of legislative process and governance, civic engagement, NGO management, journalism, economic empowerment and entrepreneurship from around the world, was held during May 2 to June 3, 2016 in the United States. Young entrepreneur Syed Rabius Shams, founder of Dhaka-based digital advertising firm Ra’dia Media Inc, had the opportunity to participate in the prestigious program, along with Ratul Dev, Mohiuddin Chowdhury and Md Rasheduzzaman. Here, Shams speaks to Dhaka Tribune about his month long experience.
Tell us about the Professional Fellows Program
The PFP aims to provide professional experience and training to young entrepreneurs that nurture participants’ talent and prepare them for more responsible leadership positions in their businesses, communities and society in general. This fellowship is funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and hosted by the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma in collaboration with the Center for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) at BRAC University, BRAC Myanmar and Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII). These institutions have a shared passion to create a bridge of business incubation between the fellows and the potential U.S host organisations and associate them with the America’s leading universities.
What have you achieved from the Fellowship?
Dreams have no boundaries. This drives everybody in search of the “goal” that one cherishes for long. It always gives you a feeling of accomplishment when the dream becomes a reality. Being an ordinary person with endless dreams, I always wanted to get exposure in the relevant area that is my passion. I had a feeling of “achieving something” when I returned home after completion of the fellowship. It was a great platform for learning what call entrepreneurship is, enlargement of professional networks and how to make dreams come true.
What have you learned so far?
It was really a privilege to be associated with the Professional Fellowship Exchange Program as an emerging youth leader from Bangladesh. I came across wonderful people, numerous brilliant ideas and gained priceless experiences, which helped me both personally and professionally. My dreams started to take shape after learning so many business and leadership skills including conceptual lectures, discussions, meeting expert people of relevant areas, exposure to a variety of American business ventures and, last but not least, a three-week professional placement with a small business enterprise name Bold Multimedia at Norman, Oklahoma. There were plenty of new things for me and that I had to internalise within this short span of time.
What was the most exciting part of the program?
I can't express in words how excited I felt to be attached to this prestigious fellowship and exchange knowledge with like-minded young entrepreneurs from all over the world, especially Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. Needless to say, the cultural experience was also a huge pleasure. The most exciting part was probably th Native American culture I was exposed to at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Oklahoma, attending the Professional Fellows Congress and visiting US State Department in Washington, DC.
Tell us about the Professional Fellows Congress
With the slogan ‘Impacting the Future: it starts with us,’ a Professional Fellows Congress was held in Washington DC during May 31 – June 2. From 43 countries, 263 emerging global leaders were hosted by the US Department of State, concluding intensive month-long fellowship placements with state and local government offices, NGOs, media outlets, and businesses in 29 states across the country. Among them, we were four entrepreneurs from Bangladesh who also had the opportunity to attend as part of our month long fellowship. We were delighted to hear the speech of Thomas A. Shannon Jr, the under secretary of State for Political Affairs during the visit to the State Department, and enjoyed dinner at the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room.
How did you get selected for the Fellowship?
I came to know about the PFP announcement from the US Embassy Bangladesh website and I applied online. From the very beginning Elanie Steyn, co-Director of the program and associate professor of Gaylord College, tirelessly assisted me in various ways. At the end of the program, she informed me that we the fellows were selected following a strict three-fold scrutiny of more than 130 applications. Along with me the three Bangladeshis were Ratul Dev, Mohiuddin Chowdhury and Md Rasheduzzaman. We are grateful to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of Department of State, Gaylord College, American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) and finally our in-country partner BRAC business School, for their generous support and cooperation.
Syed Rabius Shams can be reached at [email protected]