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Award win at The World CIO 200 Summit is career highlight for PhD alumnus

Ali Mahmud

I would recommend Brunel out-rightly to others because it offers a complete ecosystem of learning which many other educational institutions do not.

Ali, Alumni, Research

Chief Information and Strategy Officer, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Economic Zones Development and Management Company

Electronic and Electrical Engineering PhD - 2010

From Pakistan

Previous Institution

University of Engineering and Technology (Peshawar) - BSc Electrical Engineering

What was your PhD research focus?

Wireless Communication and Networks

Tell us about your educational and/or career journey since you graduated from Brunel?

I joined the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar as a faculty member and established a research centre titled ‘Centre for Intelligent Systems and Networks Research.’ I successfully supervised various funded research projects on IoT, Smart Grids and Intelligent Transportation Systems and published in top tier IEEE journals. I have been granted a US patent and currently my H-Index is 15, Research Gate score is 21.85 and more than 760 citations to my published work. I then joined a Government owned company mandated to develop special economic zones as Chief Information and Strategy Officer and made various important policy level interventions.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

A typical day at work requires a lot of decision making, meeting with stakeholders, team meetings to discuss progress and resolve bottlenecks, if any, that may impede progress, and meetings with government functionaries at different levels. At times, there are policy level discussions that I participate in and provide my feedback on. Often it involves a lot of correspondence and following up at different levels regarding our projects.

What’s been the highlight of your career journey so far?

One recent highlight was getting nominated among 6 Chief Information Officers (CIOs) from Pakistan to participate in The World CIO 200 Summit 2019. The event was organised by the Global CIO Forum in 2019 and there were 3214 nominees from various countries, out of which 200 were shortlisted. Out of the 200, only 20 CIOs won the awards. I was among the two CIOs from Pakistan who won the award in the category of digital transformation. Other highlights include co-developing a Digital Policy and a revised Industrial Policy for the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.

How would you say your Brunel experience has helped you to get where you are today?

The Brunel experience was truly transformative for the better, not only career-wise, but also for instilling the urge for continuous learning and self-development under the supervision of Professor Hamed Al-Raweshidy. Various factors included the excellent quality of mentoring, training programs, involvement in an EU funded project MAGENT BEYOND (funding of 16 million Euros under FP6) and interaction with wonderful and cooperative peers. Coping with various difficult circumstances during my studies strengthened the virtue of forbearance in me. It helped me to deal effectively with competing priorities. Therefore, I owe a lot to the Brunel experience regarding where I am today.

Why did you choose to study at Brunel and why would you recommend Brunel to others?

My choice primarily was because of my research interests matching closely with the work done in Wireless Networks and Communications Group (WNCG, now a Centre), which was headed by Professor Hamed Al-Raweshidy. When I enquired further, I received excellent feedback about the group and generally about the conducive learning environment at the University. Since my hobbies include playing tennis, squash and cricket, having excellent sports facilities at the University also added to shape my decision to choose Brunel. I would recommend Brunel outrightly to others because it offers a complete ecosystem of learning which many other educational institutions do not.

What is your best memory of studying here?

There are a lot of good memories that I cherish forever. One of them is when Professor Hamed offered me the chane to be a part of the MAGNET BEYOND project which contributed a lot to enhance my overall set of competencies. My daughter was born in Hillingdon Hospital, which is an unforgettable memory. The best was when at the end of my PhD exam, my external examiner, Professor Jon Crowcroft from Cambridge University said these words in front of the examination committee: “I examined two students from Imperial College and one from the University of Warwick last month, and your defence was the best.”

If you could give one piece of advice to current Brunel students, what would that be?

Be consistent and never lose focus. Time passes very quickly and while taking time out to enjoy yourself, it is important to stick to a schedule and be disciplined about it. Do participate in the career development programs that are offered during your course of study.

What would be your top tip or key advice for new graduates as they begin their career journey after leaving Brunel?

Continuous learning and keeping oneself updated, always keep evolving and make yourself future ready. Learn when to be flexible and when to be firm while negotiating and taking decisions. When confused, try to get assistance and guidance from your senior colleagues and friends. Read good books on management, leadership, skill development, and generally on professional development.