TechieNotes: Leading Technology Innovation in the Middle East – 1- Introduction

When I was invited by Ahmad (SoCRaT) to start some articles in, I was honored by this invitation, however, I was not really prepared what will be exactly what I will say in this section

After some thoughts, I revised my passion towards technology, and what exactly attracted me to majoring in it, and taking this field, and why I shifted from a technology geek to management and leadership, and this was a point to start with

Actually, 10 years ago, when I was graduating from the Faculty of Engineering, as an Electronics and Communications Engineer, I only recognized myself, as an innovator, an Engineer who designs new innovative stuff, using the latest edge technologies, sharing in forums, producing papers, and books about the topic or group of topics I am specialized in, and leading some research groups to put my country in the edge of innovation, and setting an innovative edge to my nation

However, when I came out to the market, this dream was totally destroyed on the rocks of the technology leadership in The Middle East, I found out some roadblocks that will stop me from realizing my dream

Facts I realized about Technology and Innovation Leadership in Middle East that will be our points of discussion in the next articles

Fact #1–  Technology employment market is very narrow, when you are in one company, you can count the geeks in other companies, when you stay for more than 4 years, you are almost stuck, and it is not easy anymore to move to another competitive employment market

Fact #2- Technology Innovation is just a decoration in the companies, most of the companies which have Research and Technology are not serious about it, they do not induct a proper budget for R&D, most of these companies open R&D in The Middle East to make up a portfolio for themselves, or to Arabize their products, but are they serious about it? No they are not

Fact #3- Leadership in this field is left to Academic Doctors, not to professional business leaders and according to proper business planning, and this is a fact, most of the Research and Development companies, are led by professors, who are not business professionals, they know very little about business, and too much about research, so they keep micro managing, and getting down and involved with their research projects, without proper business planning, and without focusing on profitability, and research management, you can rarely find a research project that is well managed in terms of resources, budget, timing, and profitability

Fact #4- Top management of Corporates who have R&D as a department enforce the corporate culture on the R&D department, or the Technology innovation departments, they want them to dress in suites, and to attend on time, take their breaks on time, equaling them with any manufacturing or operations, or customer support or Sales forces or departments, even the incentives, and benefits are the same, the fact is technology innovation culture is different, it has to be treated in a different way, each division in a large enterprise should be managed in a different way, only values should remain the same, but way to apply the culture and regulations should differ according to the function

Fact #5- The plan is that there is no plan, only the leaders see what is the international trends and they follow it, either customizing their products, going to further cost reductions, size reductions, or arabization, but the fact is that there are no aggressive product road-maps, based on Market Research, and Marketing planning. Technology Innovation Leadership in the Middle East do not trust that they can set the international market trend based on what their strategy is, thus causing disappointment

Fact #6- No collaboration with other forces in the market, or the region, each company wants to do it alone, no group projects, no usage of academies, or universities, no use of governmental facilities, no use of open source forums, or international forums, this approach in technology innovation does not yield to results, at all, the companies should know they are not alone, they should start looking for collaborative programs, make use of all the facilities around them, and set peer pressure, to enhance the market, it is not smart to fight alone. This peer pressure will cause the whole market to rise up, and become more competitive

Fact #7- There is no trust in innovative ideas, technology leaders only trust their ideas, but not the Geeks ideas, the geeks are hired to give out innovative ideas, and this is their job, so let them do it. Leaders are just to make maximum use of these ideas, and not just to think and geeks to execute

Fact #8- It is prohibited to have individuals shining, this is the worst of technology innovation leadership practices, as most of them prohibit the shining of individuals they have, they always want to be in-it, or to take the shining all, and this is totally demotivating, and killing to the spirit, research geeks, and innovators, like to sign their names on their ideas, this is the most motivation they seek, they do not seek money, or bonuses as much as they seek room to innovate, create, and collect their recognition out of putting their names besides their ideas

Fact #9- As much as money, and yearly income is not a motivational factor, however, it should meet the minimum basic needs, this is another dilemma, when the technology innovators, or geeks are on less salary and benefits scale than their business counterparts, and even in some countries, like Egypt, they are almost on the line of poverty in terms of pay and salary, most of the salaries are so low, if they move to Professional Services, or Training Fields, they will be better paid than others, and this is not reasonable at all

Fact #10- Shining the competitors, and humbling to other companies or countries. Yes, The Middle East is still not on a competing edge in terms of setting standards of international competition, but this does not mean not trusting the forces that they could build up innovative ideas the west or the other countries did not yet think of. This tone of defeated leaders will always keep the Middle Eastern Innovation Houses crippled, and no hope to go into competition

Fact #11- Innovation is not done in the local language, geeks who do not know English, are regarded to as dumbs, who are not worth joining innovation teams, thus about 80% of possible geeks are discarded, because they are not fluent in English language, while the fact that innovation in any country should always be led in local language and the mother tongue, because normally this is the comfort zone of the creative mind

Fact #12- There is no brand or case to defend in The Middle East Innovation houses, this is a big issue, cause normal motivation comes from following a case or brand to get people motivated to competition, normally geeks and innovators are just following their wit, and comfort as professionals to join multinational brands, there is nothing local or no patriotism nor creed behind giving more to the companies they work for, so intrinsic motivators and extrinsic motivators are not efficiently used.

Of course these twelve facts are not the only facts, there are more, I hope you can share with them, the next articles, I will talk in details about each point, and how to get out of it, and what are the main drivers that will help technology innovation in the middle east become better.

Your inputs are welcomed

About مشمش

Change is a life essential, if you do not master making it.. you will be affected by it.. In other words.. Lead, follow.. or get out of my way.. التغيير في الحياة شئ أساسي، اذا لم تتقنه، فرض عليك اما أن تقود، واما أن تقاد، واما أن تذهب بعيدا عن طريقي
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14 Responses to TechieNotes: Leading Technology Innovation in the Middle East – 1- Introduction

  1. SoCRaT says:

    Such a marvelous start, I really enjoyed reading this article as it touches many situations that I’ve faced and decisions that I’ve made, especially facts number four and nine, eagerly waiting for the next article.


  2. Ahmed Kamal says:

    Awesome article, I tend to agree on almost all points except the one about local language and English. I believe that if you’re not fluent in English, you have cut 90% of information flow channels, you have effectively cancelled the Internet, and thus there is no way you can be an effective innovator or entrepreneur. Other than that, spot on, agreed


    • Thank you Ahmed,
      I believe that English has to be a language to learn, but not necessarily to innovate and express yourself
      What I tend to here, is to change the leadership culture to accept innovators, who can understand english, but can only express themselves in Arabic, that’s what I mean by that, and to add some translations to our libraries
      There is no Arabic documents to date,,, and this is shameful, and I know brilliant minds who cannot express themselves in English, and were turned off by multinationals and research centers because they express themselves poorly in English
      I am intending to talk about this in details when the article time comes.. stay tuned.. 🙂


  3. Ayman Wahba says:

    I don’t agree with you in many points:

    In a talk with an English manager working in UAE, he told me that the Egyptian employee, compared to others he has in his company, is very problematic. Always complaining, and never satisfied, not accepting criticism, always defensive when criticized, and not accepting the other opinions.

    You jumped to many conclusions in your article without real data to support your conclusions. I’ll comment only on the first two points (that you call facts). I ‘ll comment on the others later, as i don’t have enough time now.

    Point 1: This in not true. The market is in need for experienced guys that we don’t find. Every one wants to be a manager, and the technical experience is abandoned. That is why we are not growing. A lot of engineers after 6 pr 7 years of experience start to get bored and say that we are leaders, and we should not do work by ourselves. With this way of thinking, Yes I agree with you it will be hard to move.

    Point 2: I personally know many companies in different domains making real R&D. Examples are: IBM, Microsoft, SiWare, Swiftronix, Mentor Graphics, Sakhr, Harf, …. etc. May be you are just not aware of what is going on in these companies. We don’t have to generalize, and make these judgements, and call them facts.


    • Dear Dr. Ayman

      Thanks for your interaction and comments
      Please note that this is the Introduction only, i.e. that is a series of 13 drafts up to date, I posted the introduction as the first article, and numbered it “1” and then posted the second article yesterday talking about the Fact no. “1” only, which is the employment market, and if you give yourself sometime I guess you will find many answers to your conclusive remarks, which I consider ahead of the sequence
      Of course your experience is needed in this market, as you are one of its leaders, and you can see your name shining in my second article as one of the leading companies in this domain in Egypt nowadays
      As for the quality of the Egyptians in UAE, my analysis that it is about leadership style, Egyptians who are in Germany, US, UK, are not so, and I know many who are brilliant stars there, and they open doors for more Egyptian Engineers to receive job offers
      Also about the direction to leave the technical work to managerial work and leadership, this is common, when you do not find your passion in the technical work, to grow, to shine, to learn new things, to achieve your financial stability, to be recognized socially and emotionally, to teach others, and to influence the business trends, until now the business leaders of the innovation market are not able to engage their geeks or techies to feel this while they are doing the technical work only
      بالعربي، مش بيأكل عيش مقارنة بالمجالات الأخرى المتاحة
      Also the employment market is repulsive, it does not help maintaining the resources, and this is something to be considered, I see it comes from the leadership as a first reason, as leadership is responsible for engaging and directing the employees, and promoting for the company in the employment market and promoting the culture.
      I thank you for your comments, and kindly read my second article, and stay tuned for the next articles, and I may need an appointment with you to discuss your view points during the next few weeks, as I am bringing my facts through a series of interviews


      • السلام عليكم شرف
        والله زمان ايه اخبارك واخبار شغلك.الملاحظات الي كتبتها كلها كويسه ومقبوله بس خلي من كام حاجه
        1- زمان اول كارت داتا اكوزيشن عملناه اشتغلنا 6 شهور علشان يطلع حاجه بعد كده كان بياخد اسبوع ويشتغل
        2-اول عداد كهرباء الكتروني عملناه اشتغلنا فيه سنتين وبعد كده الدنيا اصبحت احسن
        الي انا عايز اقوله ان معظم الي اشتغله في مصر كانت البدايات من الصفر تقريبا علشان كده كان من الطبيعي ان دكاترة الجامعه هم الي يبدؤوا الشغل
        معظم الليدر كان عندهم حماس اكتر من العلم وده كان بدوره بيعمل اخطاء كتير
        النهارده الوضع اتغير بس هتلاقي معظم الي شغالين في التصميم في فاليو او اي بي ام او كويكتل سابقا او بهجت سابقا كانو شغالين في شركات اصغر زمان زي ريم او وسام او المكتب الهندسي يعني عمر التصميمات الهندسه في مصر مايكملش 20 سنه ومعظمها جهود فرديه وماحدش كانت عنده مهارات اداريه كفايه
        3- الي مفروض يحصل من زمان كان زملاؤونا الي سافرو واشتغله في شركات عالميه كنا ومازلنا متوقعين منهم يرجعو مصر او بلاش يرجعو بس يعملوا شركات في مصر و تتم ادراتها بطريقه تتلاشي فيها جميع المشاكل الي شرق ذكرها سابقا
        4- ملاحظه اخيره علي موضوعك ياشرف ان به روح تشاؤم اكتر منع تعلم من اخطاء الماضي


      • وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته

        لك وحشة والله يا باشمهندس، يا من له فضل علي في أول طريقي في العمل

        1,2 – أشكر حضرتك على المعلومات ده، بس للعلم، كان فيه اهتمام بالبحث والتطوير لغاية أيام عبد الناصر، وحدث انقطاع أيام السادات، وبدأت المجهودات أولا من الشريف، ثم انقلبت فردية كما تقول في آخر 20 عام، ولكن بانقطاع تام عن دروس الماضي، أو انقطاع عن الاستفادة من أبناء الخارج، أو جدية من رجال الأعمال، وكله بيقول مافيش فايدة، والنجاح محدود جدا، وحق قلته، هو المهارات الادارية، وده المقصود من المقالات ده، تنميتها، والتوعية على المشكلات وأسلوب التعامل معها
        3 – الذين سافروا للخارج لم يروا بالضرورة أسلوب الادارة، أو فتح المجالات التسويقية، يكونو في أغلب الأحيان ترس في ماكينة، وقد حدث فشل إداري وقيادي من 50% من القيادات الآتية من الخارج على الأقل، والباقون لا زالوا تحت التجربة، المثال الوحيد الناجح تماما أمامي هم الأساتذة العاملون في Mentor Graphics وكان على رأسهم الدكتور سامح عليه رحمة الله
        4- لست أقصد روح التشاؤم، ولكن أنقل الصورة كما لا يعلمها الكثيرون، أو لا يستشعرها العاملون بالداخل، وبالعكس، فإنني أعرض كل مشكلة وأمامها الحلول المقترحة لحلها، ومن فضلك راجع المقالة الثانية، وهذا هو منهجي على الدوام
        فلا يصح نقل الواقع بتزييفه، أو وضع أرؤسنا في الرمال، نريد وضع حلول عملية للمشكلات الموجودة، وهذا دوري في هذه المقالات

        والله المستعان
        أرجو ان تستمر في نقل رأيك بصراحة في المقالات القادمة، فقد أثرتني المعلومات الموجودة في تعليقك، وسأحاول الاتصال بك ان شاء الله لاستكمال معلومات هامة تتعلق بالمقالات القادمة

        محمد شرف الدين


    • SoCRaT says:

      Dear Ayman,

      Building a conclusion based upon something said by an “English manager working in UAE” during a conversation doesn’t make sense, and at the same time, you’re contradicting yourself as you’re criticizing Mohamed in building facts and conclusions with no data supporting them, while you’re doing exactly the same thing!

      In my opinion, a dialogue should have been started with that manager based on what he/she said, and understand why and on what basis he/she built that conclusion.

      1) If his/her viewpoint has been proved to you as correct – objectively – then I guess you need to share this viewpoint with other managers and those who might have influence in the society or a positive role.

      2) Otherwise, you should convince him and do whatever it takes to fix this image, as you are Egyptian as well (except if you really consider that Egyptian employees are very problematic, always complaining, never satisfied, not accepting criticism, always defensive when criticized, and not accepting the other opinions)

      Either way – whether that viewpoint was correct or not – you shouldn’t be advertising what he/she said without any supportive data and suggestions to help fix this problem, as you’re making things worse this way, and accordingly, Egyptians – especially those who are still at the beginning of their career – are negatively impacted.

      Let’s try to be as objective as possible and maintain a healthy and useful dialogue, for the good of our society.


  4. Dear Mohamed,

    very nice work, looking forward for the next ones

    fact#3 will make the academic doctors unhappy, although it’s totally valid


    • Dear Tarek

      I am pleased you liked it…
      I hope you read the second article too (Link from Fact #1)
      Also, looking forward to see your interactions

      About Fact #3: I know… these articles will make some people very unhappy, but to have a successful change you must do it out of the comfort zone of others..

      I will speak about it in a full article isA..
      Thanks,, 🙂


  5. Pingback: TechieNotes: Leading Technology Innovation in the Middle East – 3 – Innovation or Decoration? « Techie Notes

  6. محمد على says:

    السلام عليكم.
    سعدت كثيرا بهذه البداية وهذا الموضوع ,احسبنى من الذين ساهموا فى بدايات البحوث و التطوير فى أحد مجالاتها. سعيد بهذا الطرح لولا هذه اللبنة.
    ما لم يكن ممنوع لسبب أو لآخر الكتابة باللغة العربية فأنى أقترح كتابة كافة المقالات بها. فأنا احسبها البداية طالما أننا نتحدث عن الشرق الأوسط. على الأقل هذا ما حسبته عندما تسلمت الدعوة .


    • وعليكم السلام يا باشمهندس محمد
      وأنا أفتكر أن أول من علمني في هذا المجال في بهجت كان أنت، ربنا يكرمك، بالرغم من قصر المدة التي قضيناها سويا
      بصراحة أنا في هذه المقالات لا أخاطب الشرق الأوسط العربي فقط، فأنا أتكلم ايضا عن باكستان، وإيران، والبلاد الأفريقية
      وكذلك أود جذب انتباه الشركات الأجنبية إلى وجود هذا المجال في مصر لأجل فرص الـ
      وللأسف من ناحية أخرى أن اللغة المستخدمة في هذه المدونة هي بالأساس الانجليزية
      ولكن من الهام ترجمة المقالات، وأتمنى أن يتسنى لي الوقت لعمل ذلك عن قريب إن شاء الله بعد الفراغ منها كلية
      وشكرا على مداخلتك الغالية، وأتمنى أن تكمل الرؤى لنا


  7. Pingback: TechieNotes: Leading Technology Innovation in the Middle East – 4 – Academic Leadership « Techie Notes

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