Noura Al Kaabi, a name we've come to hear more and more often, is a successful Emirati young woman with an education background in Management Information System.
Based in Abu Dhabi, Al Kaabi developed a career in media in the hope of reviving the industry in the Arab world. Her efforts to create original media content for and by Arabs, landed her as the CEO of twofour54, an Abu Dhabi initiative aimed at developing and promoting world-class Arab media in its many forms.
An inspiration to anyone wanting to accomplish a goal – or multiple goals – in their life, Al Kaabi is relentless in her pursuit of success. She strongly believes that she, as well as anyone else, can make a difference in the world.
Al Kaabi's efforts in adopting and developing creativity and innovation amongst the youth in her society have proven successful. Since heading twofour54, she has provided various opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs in Abu Dhabi.
In an engaging interview with Fajer Al Farsi, the ever inspiring Al Kaabi discusses her career, media in the Arab world, and why she believes in the importance of giving back to society.
First off, let's talk about your career.
After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Management Information Systems from Al Ain University, I started my career as an IT Support Manager in Zayed Military Hospital, followed by a position with Dolphin Energy where I held various positions in HR and administration.
In 2007 the opportunity to join twofour54 presented itself. This was during the early start-up stages of the company. I started as the head of tawasol (one-stop-shop), where I was responsible for services for companies locating to Abu Dhabi.
In early 2011, I was appointed Head of Human Development. In this role I led and facilitated the implementation of capacity building, knowledge transfer and succession planning. I became twofour54’s CEO in April 2012.
In addition to being the CEO of twofour54, I am a member of the UAE’s Federal National Council and a board member of Abu Dhabi Media Company, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, FLASH Entertainment and ImageNation.
What drew you towards this field especially?
In 2007 I took the decision to join the media-sphere. I remember vividly the reasons that encouraged me to make the choice. Why? Two simple reasons that have a huge impact on many of my generation: 1. Content that we currently enjoy is rarely originally created by us, and 2. I was not sure where we were heading to in the future; where our media was heading to.
I have fond memories of content from my youth. Remember Iftah Ya SimSim (the Arabic Sesame’s Street), Sindbad from Baghdad, Al Manahel? Those and many more shows make me, and others, go to YouTube to enjoy flashbacks. The challenge that we are facing today is that we need to find a way to make our youth believe in the media and, most importantly, play a vital role in it.
I have just started my new role as CEO of twofour54. twofour54 is an initiative propelled by the Abu Dhabi government that aims to create a sustainable Arabic media and entertainment industry for the region, answering the need for high quality, locally relevant content made by Arabs for Arabs. It is very much a vehicle that drives the turning point from where the media stood still and where it should go from here. We are witnessing the future of how the media is evolving globally and we want to be part of it.
What are the main difficulties that you face in your job?
Convincing and encouraging young Emiratis and their families that media is as important as a career in Engineering or Business can be challenging sometimes. Many young Emiratis do not see how many wonderful career opportunities the media and entertainment industry holds for them. Through twofour54’s academic outreach program, we are introducing the youth to the diverse roles and range of career choices that the industry has to offer and encourage them to take their first steps.
We also run a very successful internship program while our intaji program offers employment and traineeship opportunities to UAE nationals interested in building a career in the television production and broadcasting industry.
What do you think was carried out successfully because of your efforts?
Since its establishment in 2008, twofour54 has blossomed into a wonderful creative hub. Our focus has really been on youth and talent development. Since then, tadreeb, our media training academy has trained 4,089 students from over 25 countries, helping to develop the talent in the UAE and the region, and meeting their needs to support a world class media industry.
We have now over 3,500 creative lab community members. Short films produced by members of the community have been very successful with 43 international film festival acceptances in 14 different countries and awards at festivals in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, showing the depth of talent here in Abu Dhabi.
I am also very proud of the recognition of Fatima Al Dhaheri, who is part of our intaji traineeship program and won the inaugural Arab Film Studio competition earlier this year with her film Something Called Fear, proof that we have set the right track for our talent development strategy.
Finally, I would like to mention our support to the Taghreedat initiative, a grass roots Arabic e-content community building initiative to enrich Arabic content online (it was announced in April 2012). With twofour54’s support, Taghreedat has secured five new Arabic e-content projects with international stakeholders including the Wikimedia Foundation.
What is your future vision regarding media in the Arab world?
I believe that media in the Arab world has a bright future! There is an increasing amount of talent coupled with a significant demand for locally relevant content within the GCC and the wider Arab world. With such a large population and youthful demographic, there is hunger both for content and employment in the media and entertainment industry.
The industry in Abu Dhabi is rapidly expanding and it is estimated that a workforce of 8,000 to 10,000 skilled employees will be needed across the various media disciplines in the near future. The fact that we are already seeing twofour54 trained talent getting jobs in the industry is a clear indication of the industry’s needs. A prime example of this is the 2011 graduating class from the Cartoon Network Animation Academy. With our support, the 12 graduates have all found work in the local animation industry and are actively pursuing animation as a career option. We are replicating this in other industry sectors.
In your opinion, how can you give back to society?
To me, giving back to society means adding value by using my own experience and expertise. As an Emirati, I am especially passionate about the youth and how we can spread creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship across our young people. If I believe that I can make a difference by supporting youth initiatives in these areas, I don’t think twice, and jump on board.
What’s in the future for Noura Al Kaabi?
Great things, I hope.