McKinsey-supported fellowship nurtures local young talent in Saudi Arabia

28 August 2018 3 min. read

Launched in conjunction with McKinsey in February, the inaugural class of 50 selected participants last month completed the first-of-its-kind Qimam Fellowship Program – designed to provide a career pathway for the Kingdom’s top young talent.

Working on the simple premise that there is no shortage of up-and-coming talent in the Middle East, just a shortcoming in identification and nurturing, the Qimam Fellowship Program was founded by former McKinsey & Company Engagement Manager Annas Abedin, a Middle East native who having grown up in Germany was granted the fortunate opportunity of professional development through support programmes – including having undertaken internships with all of EYRoland Berger and BCG.

After three years with McKinsey across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, in 2016 Abedin founded his own advisory and venture development company CAFZCO, and from the beginning of last year worked on developing the Qimam Fellowship Program to give back to the community by empowering the most promising local university students to achieve their full potential. For this, Abedin enlisted the support of former employer McKinsey.

“The primary way we ‘give back’ in the Middle East is by developing talent through workshops and leadership programmes, so this fit right in,” McKinsey partner and public sector and education specialist Tom Isherwood said. “Qimam offered a way to broaden access to opportunities, to include those who may not come from the wealthiest families or the best schools. There’s tremendous talent here, but it’s not always where you expect it to be.”McKinsey fellowship in Saudi Arabia nurtures outstanding young local talentTargeting students of any nationality studying a bachelor’s and master’s across disciplines in Saudi Arabia, as well as Saudi students studying abroad, the fellowship was designed as an intensive programme of career training, skills development, research and networking, and mentorship with industry leaders – with the organisers having signed on more than a dozen top local and multinational participant organisations operating across a range of industries.

The fellowship programme soon had 13,000 applicants, ultimately whittled down to a select group of 50 who last month completed the course as its first cohort of graduates. “Working with 50 of the brightest talent for the duration of the fellowship has been a great experience,” Abedin said. “I am humbled by the outstanding potential we have on our hands and confident that our fellows will have a tremendous positive impact on our future.”

Coming from a variety of backgrounds and split almost evenly by gender, the Qimam graduates represented a diverse mix of students, representing the most outstanding talent in various fields of study from more than 25 universities in Saudi Arabia and abroad. Further to just smarts, the Qimam selection criteria called for extra-curricular initiative and a demonstrated degree of social responsibility and service to the community.

Isherwood said: “We believe that Saudi Arabia is rich with extraordinary talent and were delighted to take the concept of Qimam under our wing when it was still just an idea. We are a member of this community and incubating and launching the Qimam Fellowship Program is a demonstration of our commitment to the Kingdom through identifying and developing future leaders. I congratulate the first batch of the very talented Qimam Fellows on their graduation.”