How did a Facebook post shape my career vision

In December 2016, having nearly finished a very challenging fall semester, I decided to register for the morning section of HPT (Human Performance Technology), limit myself to just the assignments, and use my time to take better care of my family. My approach changed when Sonia Di Maulo, our superb teacher and mentor, posted a request on her Facebook page (See image below). She was asking companies to join her HPT class and use its assignments to solve a unique problem. How could I let such an amazing opportunity to study real life PI (Performance Improvement) case studies and do great networking pass me by? I switched to Sonia’s night class with an apology to my two sweet little kids. Sonia asked our class to join the case study competition for the #ISPI2017 conference on the first day. At the time, I had no idea what the case study competition was. I hesitated; how would this new time commitment affect my family? I shouldn’t have worried; after a brief discussion with my amazing and supportive husband, Anas Khamaiseh, I gave myself the green light and went for it. Though this involved a lengthy and realistic application process, I persisted because the opportunity seemed so promising. In the end, I was so proud of the finished application that I shared it on our Concordia Facebook page (See image below). It was the best decision that I have ever made.

I joined Gabby and Sara, and we started our #ISPI 2017 journey together. Our work began on a Saturday morning. During the workshop Sonia, Davina, and Elizabeth asked us and team Emu to tackle a very Canadian challenge: solving a snow removal company’s performance and public relations problems. This exercise taught us that every case has many possible solutions, and was a perfect preparation for our upcoming case study. That day we founded “Boost” and started writing its Performance Consulting Firm principles. As a team, we crafted a logo, posted pictures, and created social media accounts and a website. The experience felt identical to really starting a new company. During the process, my team and I benefitted enormously from the support of our mentors. Matt Donovan, Sonia Di Maulo, Elizabeth Lakoff and Davina Davies were always there for us.

Our first client kickoff meeting was with our remarkable mentor, Matt Donovan, who played the role of a demanding client. That Wednesday night was the start of a series of weekly meetings. Sara, Gabby and I spent countless hours figuring out both the questions we needed to ask and analyzing the facts that we received weekly. We used Carl Binder’s Six Boxes® as a starting point for our analysis. Splitting the work three ways proved complex. To get a deeper perspective on the case we re-analysed using the Swanson,1994 model. Combining both approaches finally helped us hit our target.

Meanwhile, on the home front, my husband suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that forced him to stay home and off the road; the stress level rose and my time became ever more valuable. I had to learn how to work under pressure, how to analyze the case and do my work any time and anywhere; hospitals, clinics, Tim Horton’s’, my office, or anywhere else I could manage. I discovered that I had the energy I needed, even if I only slept two hours at night. Most importantly, I learned that I was supported. I was surrounded with love and I had a shoulder to cry on. The support of my husband, family, and mentors was invaluable.

The case we were given to analyse was a bread-stick franchise whose profit margin was eroding. The catch was that they were still making money, but their profits weren’t growing the way they should. It took us a while to forgo the obvious conclusion and figure out that if the company kept to the same path they would soon no longer be profitable. That first key analytical insight occupied us for some time. The analysis was challenging. The case study was well designed to teach us that, in real life, every case has multiple solutions. Previously, I had often approached this kind of analysis asking; “We are educators, why do we need to know finances?” The HTP experience led me to understand the strong bond connects economics with education. Without a financial approach, after all, how could we calculate the case study’s return on investment? Aided by an innate love for numbers, and the financial lessons I learned from the knowledgeable and patient Qaise El Zoubi, Head of Audits for the government of Ras AlKhaimah-UAE, I analysed the case statistically. I was looking for concrete information that would drive me to a solid solution. My group and I had very different backgrounds, different experiences, and used differing strategies to confront the problem. We analysed and re-analysed, wrote and rewrote, until we agreed on the final shape of our analysis. We kept asking Matt for more information, and he kept telling us that we were missing an important piece. We dedicated long nights to putting things together; we wanted to be perfect.

Finally, we learned how important intangibles were. We learned to estimate where we had to. We learned that it is easy to teach procedures, while the real solution is to implement values. Success is achieved best when humans belong and understand the why before the how.[1] This project helped me realize how transmitting a company’s values is a key point of success. The most important lesson for me was the meaning of Performance improvement itself; as Matt said, “once we see it, we cannot unsee it.” I was finally getting a grip on the intangible value of human performance to the company. At last we had a concise, polished piece of work with lots of analysis and hard work behind it. To produce it, we had to argue, defend our ideas, and support each other no matter what.

At the 2017 ISPI conference:

On Sunday April 30th Gabby, Sara and I met at the Sheraton Hotel in Montreal to share our journey with the 2017 ISPI conference. We had the chance to meet Matt Donovan in person for the first time, though it felt like we had known him for years. The ISPI family welcomed us with all manner of kind words, and guided us through the networking event. It felt like it was a dreamland or the “ideal city.” During our group lunch that day, we discussed our case, our solutions, and our presentation. It was a new experience for all of us; we were worried yet excited. We wanted to do ourselves proud, and we wanted to impress all our mentors. The opportunity to attend and present at the 2017 ISPI conference was a chance to grow and make connections that could lead to a chance to work in the field in the future. The performance improvement discipline now looked like what I had been searching for when I first registered for my Master’s degree. During the conference, I got the chance to chat with Rose Noxon about my dream. She guided me and gave me a lot of hints, not least of which was to feed both the minds first. I also had the pleasure of meeting one of the innovators who inspired my dream to leave a better world for my children; I have learned a lot from “the father of needs assessment,” Roger Kaufman, who pioneered “Mega Planning.” I felt like I was in Education Hollywood.

My team and I believed that presenting our ideas to performance improvement stars, and being able to answer their questions, was a great honour. We felt our work was well received, and had a total belief that what we had accomplished up to that moment was a win in and of itself. We had always aimed to win, but tears still flowed when we found out that we placed first; I must admit that it was a thrilling and rewarding moment.

I have always pondered what I want to do with my life before it ends; I realize that life is short even if I am still young. I knew that this conference was a great opportunity. What I never dreamed was that I would find a huge step forward in a journey that I have pursued for long time.

When I was young I inherited refugee status from my grandparents, who had lost their homeland. I was born as a Palestinian refugee with no land, no citizenship, and no rights. My father, like many Palestinian refugees, believed that education was the way out of misery. He became an engineer with an MA in Education and worked as an electrical engineering educational expert for the United Nations. As a result, I lived in many countries; it was easy to travel using my Dad’s UN passport and it was hell travelling alone using my Palestinian travel documents. I have realized how hard it is to live without citizenship. I started building a dream of my own; how could I make the world better for all children, Palestinian and others alike? Why was I respected when I was with my father, and then humiliated alone? I was the same person with two different passports. How did those without a UN Passport survive? Why don’t we all live together in peace and have equal rights? Many, living under exceptional duress themselves, find that the easiest solution is to blame others. Some find spiritual relief in religion or politics, but end up considering theirs the only true virtue; in the end, they start hating the “other.” My father finally decided that his family needed citizenship, even if meant leaving his work building vocational learning centers for refugees with the UN. This is how we became Canadian Citizens.

Even living safely in Canada my eyes and heart still bleed every time I hear about any hate victim. Humans accept each other by nature, until they grow up and learn how to un-love. Uneducated and rigid ideologies trigger many wars in the Middle East. I wanted to leave a better world for my children and other children as well. I didn’t know how, at first, but I decided to register in the Instructional Design program and pursue an MA degree. My initial goal was to create learning materials that could help change the cruelty in this world. I wanted the new generation to be more educated, and thus more open-hearted. I have learned a lot on my journey in educational technology at Concordia. I chose projects that were awareness-related to improve my knowledge and widen my perspective. I had the opportunity to work with a project to spread awareness about benevolent behaviour at schools, and worked in support of LGBTQ rights; both experiences taught me even more. I always looked for projects to help me achieve my goals, but with every step, I asked myself one question; “Dad, did I make you proud?”

None of my recent progress would have been possible without the #ISPI conference community. On behalf of “Montreal Networks Inc.” I would like to extend a sincere thanks to Valerie Bernard and Klaus Wittkuhn for supporting, recognizing, and exceeding our expectations. On behalf of my group, I would like to thank all those who has supported us learn and work on our case. We believe in you, and we’re proud that you believed in us.

WhatsApp Image 2017-05-25 at 8.59.23 AM (1)



More pictures….


Boost’s success would not have been possible without the following people and organizations:

Our mentors: Matt Donovan, Sonia di Maulo, Davina Davies, and Elizabeth Lakeoff, who offered their time, advice, and unwavering support with humour and kindness.

Benjamin Bogus, who set up all of our WebEx meetings with the client and took great minutes—even on weekends!

ISPI’s Montreal Chapter for their generosity and the great article promoting our team!

Scot Crain, Vice President, Franchising Relations at Auntie Anne’s, who taught us about building successful relationships with franchisees.

Zach Ottinger, Business Development Representative at Playerlync who educated us about the platform’s features and benefits.

Montreal Networks Inc. for their generous contributions to our project.

Melanie Briand who offered us valuable resources, feedback and support.

Elizabeth Triassi who kindly offered us the use of her PowToon account.

Qais Zoubi, Head of Audits, government of Ras Al Khaimah, and our new friends from JMSB, who taught us about accounting.

My family;

My parents, Ihmayed Ali and Huda abu Hajir; my husband, Anas Khamaiseh; and my close family Samah Ali, Khaled el Badawe, Yousef Ali, Dalia Abdo, Amal Hussein,and Mohammed el Kafri. All were of enormous assistance, and I remain deeply grateful for their kindness and forbearance.

[1] Simon Sinek TED talk

2 thoughts on “How did a Facebook post shape my career vision

  1. Congratulations to you and your team, Laila! A first-place finish speaks for itself. This is just the beginning of the footprint you will make in the Performance Improvement field. I look forward to following your journey. I am definitely in the Laila Ali fan club!! All the best….


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