Ali Shahbaz Ali Shah
Candidate's Office: International Director
Region Number: 11
Toastmasters member since: 2004
Education: Masters in Business Administration
Employer and/or position: Director of Professional Development Unit, British University of Bahrain
Served as District Director of District number: 20
Term of service: 2016-2017
In term as District Director, District achieved: Distinguished
Toastmasters offices held and terms of service (international and regional level):
- 2019-2020 Region Advisor
- 2016-2017 District Director
- 2015-2016 Program Quality Director
- 2012-2013 Division Governor
- 2007-2008 Area Governor
- 2006-2007 Club President
Toastmasters honors and recognition (international level):
- 2020 Master of Zoomverse (Toastmasters International)
- 2019-2020 Service Award as Region Advisor
- 2017-2019 Service Award as District Parliamentarian
- 2016-2017 District Director Service Award for Distinguished District
- 2015-2016 Excellence in Program Quality
Relevant work experience and how it relates to Toastmasters and your role as a Board Member:
My seventeen years of professional experience in the education management & information systems industry helped me understand education as the business of transformation. From transforming the educational system according to market and research drivers, to supporting individuals in their self-transformation within my professional capacity, the key element of my work is managing change.
- Serving in Quality Assurance committees to align our institution’s courses with the National Framework for an accreditation audit. Guiding the Students Communications Committee to establish a bottom-up communication channel to keep our organization responsive to its students.
- Serving as an IT consultant, lecturer and researcher in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Computer Science, which gives me an insight into the direction the future will take.
Therefore, my skillset and work experience in technology and education management enables me to support the Toastmasters International Board of Directors in future-proofing our organization.
What experience do you have in strategic planning?
I take a helicopter view of how strategic planning is managed and implemented. As the Director of Professional Development at a major university and a Senior Consultant, I monitor the performance and progress of key activities per our yearly strategic plan.
For example, I use the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to know if we need to invest in managing the transition from our starting point and continue with a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) strategy to define and achieve goals.
Using the same strategic planning approach in Toastmasters, has helped me be successful as a District Director. Giving the District’s two PQDs and two CGDs autonomy to operate and share their perspective in open discussions with the Trios and the District Officers resulted in a phenomenal outcome.
What experience do you have in the area of finance?
Developing a financial plan and an annual budget at my work, requires three things: working with a cross-unit administrative financial team, breaking down the structure of financial plans into phases, and accounting for factors such as seasonality and macroeconomic influences. Calculated risk-taking is essential for the sustainability of an educational institution, but it requires a fair amount of research and analysis, which often happens in phases, so finances stay on track. I have built several financial models for our programs before their public launch, which enables data-driven financial decisions while their real-world performance is regularly monitored. Additionally, my Masters in Business Administration-Finance has helped me become proficient in finance.
As the District 20 Director, I led a District covering seven countries (UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, and Bahrain) with over 365 clubs and the largest membership base across all Districts. My challenge was to manage a six-figure budget allocated across borders and differences in country policies and currencies. With the support of our District Finance Manager, I focused on instituting clear and transparent policies related to District finances, set a precedent, and most importantly, ensured a smooth transition for our successors.
What experience do you have in developing policies?
At my work, I have been developing, implementing and evaluating policies. Examples are:
- Developing Human Resources (HR) policies that support the mission and vision of the institution and the analysis of the staff
- Creating policies in an operational context to validate the feasibility study of the market before launching an academic certification process.
Additionally, I spearheaded a Toastmasters Committee to create "The Code" which is my District document on the code of conduct and the know-how regarding processes that complements the District Operating Procedures. This document is now modified yearly and is approved at the District Council meetings. I have also regularly reviewed the policy directives for decision making and conflict prevention.
What lessons did you learn from previous leadership positions?
At work, I have learned that keeping goals and objectives in sight is the way to move towards them and working with people requires much flexibility. Continuous progress and success require ongoing efforts and an effective team. The team members must be in tune with each other’s needs, wants, and way of thinking for all to be productive and have fun.
As a servant leader, I have learned that error is human. I have also learned to arrive at excellence, rather than managing for excellence. The building blocks of a great leader are humility, acceptance, and respect of those in his charge. My service for my District characterized by the diversity of cultures, opinions and customs solidified why the Toastmasters core values emphasize Respect. So now I start with integrity and respect and serve to help achieve excellence.
What experience and key strengths would you bring to the Board of Directors?
The purpose of the BoD is to uphold the mission of Toastmasters International and ensure the organization keeps thriving by managing its financial, strategic, and regulatory aspects of the organization. My skillset and experience in these three key aspects, makes me a strong International Director Candidate.
Furthermore, serving as District Parliamentarian twice allowed me to act as an ambassador for Toastmasters International on several platforms and stages, together with building a strong understanding of the parliamentary procedures which is an asset to all boardroom meetings.
I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to contribute to our organization’s financial analysis, strategy development, and policies to enhance the members’ experience and serve their needs.
Why do you want to serve as an International Officer/Director?
I am convinced that the Toastmasters International educational program is the most transformative, impactful, and personalized tool for building and honing communication and leadership skills. I want to be an integral part of the successful strategy of our organization, where we keep increasing its global reach and attracting growing and diverse demographics.
While serving as Region 11 Advisor in 2019-2020, the global pandemic hit us mid-term and changed the world. Being a Toastmaster helped me focus on meeting the needs of the members, in unique circumstances. Consequently, I grew stronger and more enthusiastic about inspiring our District leaders to collaborate and stay the course, while envisioning a brighter future for all of us.
Taking the same service attitude forward, I aspire to continue serving our organization as a member of the board and contribute strategically towards enhancing the experience of our members.
What volunteer experience do you have outside of Toastmasters?
During my college life, I was involved in communities from the Leos and Lions clubs to a few local charitable organizations. I also served as Chairman for the Nationwide Youth Speech Contest for teenagers. Moreover, I am involved in my local Meditation Society which focuses on improving lives using a holistic approach. I enjoy focusing on the needs of my local community.
Have you worked with other Boards of Directors outside of Toastmasters? If so, describe your experience.
As the Director of Professional Development, I am a member of the Academic Board which is the decision-making body for the overall policy decisions at the University.
I also serve as an Honorary Board member for a local company I am advising in the field of Events Management and Information Technology.
As a board and advisory committee member, I recommended the board on the processes towards a Consultancy and complex ERP Setup project which involved different phases of development and delivery. This proved to be successful and met the client’s requirements of keeping cultural diversity in place, legal and branding implications.
As a board member, I recommended pausing a specific launch of a long-awaited educational program which directly had calculated risk but proved well during the current pandemic.
In your opinion, what are Toastmasters International’s major objectives and how would you work to achieve them?
Our organization envisions “to be the first-choice provider of dynamic, high-value, experiential communication and leadership skills development.” Being “first-choice” means to me that Toastmasters is the first program prospective members look for personal development. Dynamic, high-value, experiential learning, within a world-wide network of experienced communicators and leaders, is what Toastmasters offer to members. Toastmasters also foster a culture of inclusiveness and diversity and unique benefits to empower members to be the best they can be.
The major objectives, that I believe would bring us closer to making this vision a reality, are growing the membership base, being financially sustainable in the long run, and increasing the visibility of our organization as both a professional and personal development platform.
As a member of the board, I commit to working on actions that enrich the demographic of the membership base, strategically analyze the incentives that resonate with members, and the value proposition that attracts prospective members. I also believe culture starts at the top, from the people who are trusted with upholding the mission of Toastmasters to its members. Therefore, with all the visibility I get, I commit to serving as an ambassador to our organization, leading by example, and inspiring other professionals to do the same.
Additional information about candidate:
You might have experienced change in your goals throughout your Toastmasters journey. I too experienced changes since I joined Toastmasters. I gained more confidence and competencies with each learning opportunity. From achieving my DTM in the traditional program and then in Pathways to serving in an office from Area Governor to Region Advisor, my heart now overflows with passion for why we do what we do.
Therefore, my goal is not to answer the question of what Toastmasters can do for me, but rather show you how I will pay forward the benefits I have received from Toastmasters. I want to share my knowledge and use my abilities to serve you.
Always at your service, fellow Toastmaster!