Using Personal Experience to Encourage Diverse Future Leaders
By Ali Ishaq, Business Unit Manager
The story of my career doesn’t involve a single calling that I’ve worked toward, but instead, I’ve gained a relatively unique set of experiences on my path to Jabil. My family immigrated from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Boise, Idaho, where my parents started a small fast food restaurant that I grew up working at, and to this day, whenever I visit, you’ll find me waiting tables in the evenings. I graduated with a degree in political science from Boise State with dreams of becoming a diplomat, had a brief career in finance and traveled to the country of Jordan on a State Department Fulbright Fellowship to work on democracy promotion projects with the Project on Middle East Democracy and the United Nations University
When I returned to the States, I moved to Washington, D.C. and began work at a consulting firm where I advised senior leaders across the federal government on strategy development and execution, but I had an inkling to move my career into the private sector. To make the transition, I enrolled at Duke University to complete my Master of Business Administration (MBA). In 2014 while approaching graduation, I sought out roles that would satisfy my global interests and that could relate to my experiences in strategy, business and leadership, while also looking at companies that have a rich and robust Social & Environmental Responsibility framework – that’s when I discovered Jabil.
… that’s when I discovered Jabil
After researching more about the company, I realized it manufactured tech products that I had read about, loved to use and ones that enriched so many lives, so I moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, to work in a position that aligned to my strategy-focused experience and for a global company that satisfied my tech-savvy mind. I joined Jabil as Strategy Manager for the Engineered Solutions Group (ESG) and Chief of Staff for Mike Loparco, Jabil’s executive vice president and chief executive officer of ESG, and who tasked me with a great project: create a competitive and prestigious internship program for ESG.
Reflecting on my experiences at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in the MBA program, I noticed cultural similarities between Jabil and Fuqua, from our global influence to our commitment to ingenuity and innovation. That’s why I decided to partner with the university and its highly sought-after students who were often recruited by prominent companies, such as Amazon, Google, McKinsey, Facebook and Apple. We constructed our internship program to not only focus on developing talent for Jabil but also highlight how much we benefit from fostering diversity and inclusivity in our organization.
Diversity is an essential focus of the program, and as one of the world’s largest manufacturers, Jabil takes pride in its global reach. One of our goals with this program is to bring in strong international and U.S. candidates who have a mix of experience so that we can help incubate them into a leadership track at Jabil. Currently in our third year of the program, we’ve hosted students from seven different countries, including China, Nigeria and the Ukraine.
It’s our hope that by focusing our efforts on diversity and inclusion, we can welcome these students over the summer, plug them into high-visibility strategic projects and for those who prove their spirit and impact, we extend offers to join Jabil full-time upon graduation.
One measure of success is that every year we’ve had at least one intern come back as a full-time employee.
The first year we welcomed back Kene Okoli who prior to Jabil was a fast-rising auditor at one of the big four international accounting firms. After the second year, Dana Noh joined us as a marketing expert and thought-leader at one of the world’s largest mobile phone and industrial companies. The interns and those who come back full-time, are making essential contributions to help us creatively grow our business.
While our teams at Jabil learn a lot from working with the interns, the interns also benefit from having a chance to apply their experiences and academic training at Jabil. Through this internship program, we work together to uncover what makes each intern tick and help align their work with that area of interest. Ironically, it’s also what I like best about Jabil: the entrepreneurial spirit of being able to always take risks and test out new ideas. We remain dedicated to ensuring an open environment for the students to grow professionally and demonstrate how their diversity brings value to the company.
My experiences at Jabil so far have given me a playground from which I’ve continued pursuing a fun, interesting and intellectually engaging variety of projects. This internship program and the seeds of leaders it is helping plant has been among my most rewarding experiences so far.