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Amal Mustafa: Planning for Change

This week I had a chance to catch up with Amal Mustafa, an amibitous woman who can usually be found in EV3. She has big dreams to provide some major contributions to the urban planning industry one day but by the looks of it, she’s already started! Here’s what she had to say: 

Amal Mustafa: Planning for Change

Program : 3A Honours Planning

What is your role for TedxUW?

I’m currently working as a finance director. As director, I work with a team of 3 people consisting of 2 sponsorship managers and an accountant. All three of them are from different academic backgrounds. My role is mainly work with the sponsorship managers and an accountant to make sure that we have enough funding for the event and that our expenses are being accurately recorded. I am to ensure that we have sufficient funds for the conference and to simultaneously reach out to different organizations within our own campus and the region to teach people what TedxUW is and what it values.

Tell me a little bit more about TedxUW.  

TedxUW is essentially a conference that we host every year. Aside from that, it’s a place where bright minded people get together and speak about inspiring ideas and basically bounce ideas off of each other. It’s a major source of inspiration for some people. I would say a lot of people look at TedxUW to get new ideas and start innovating.

What is theme of the conference this year?

The theme of the conference this year is collaboration. All of our speakers are going to be talking about how collaboration plays a key part in their lives and how they work with other people and organizations to achieve a greater goal. That’s what we want to relay to our students. Working together is something that is really important.

The speakers are from various different backgrounds speaking about collaborations from the perspective of different fields. They range from high profile to local speakers. There’s a nice diversity in order to ensure our audience connects with them. What connects them altogether is that they’re all passionate about motivating others to achieve their goals through collaborations.

Any successes to brag about?

The biggest success I’ve had was getting close with my team members. Really developing our relationship between my other three team members was crucial. We all have different personalities but getting to know where everyone’s comfort zones are and how everybody works was important to our success.

We have a goal of raising X amount of money. We’ve already reached 60% of that. We’re in full force right now. We meet weekly and we talk about what we’re doing wrong, what are our next steps. It really plays an important role of how we perform. It’s all about communication.

This year, we’ve really reached out to a lot of organizations in Waterloo and a majority of them didn’t know what TedxUW was.

Did you face any challenges as director?

We’ve definitely had a lot of challenges. Instances where we haven’t heard back from people, lack of interest because they don’t know what TedXUw is. One of the biggest challenges I would say is getting people to understand what we’re all about and get them connected with the organization.

In terms of my time management, it does get a bit hectic and everything is demanding. You have to compromise something. That’s usually myself in most cases. But it’s definitely all rewarding in the long run.

Urban planning is such a unique program! How has your co-op experiences been like?

I’ve completed one co-op job so far. I loved it! I love when people ask me about it.

Urban planning is a mix of a lot of things. Engineering, architecture, and psychology, for sure. You got to understand people. Understanding little things and what people want is a part of planning is. My previous co-op experience was working as a student planner for the County of Frotenac, which is municipality north of Kingston. So I was living away for the summer and it was an awesome experience. My managers were so supportive of everything. I made a lot of mistakes while I was there. (Incomplete reports to council – ahh!) But they were all super supportive of me.

Some of the things that I did was develop a community plan improvement plan for one of the townships over there. You’ll notice that there aren’t a lot of people that live in these types of counties but you still have to find a way to stimulate the economy and encourage people to live there. There are people that have lived there their entire lives. So understanding the whole dynamic of the area is a whole type of ball game.  Houses were at least 20 km away from each other which was different to the densely populated areas I’m used to living in. Understanding those challenges and what people want was a learning experience.

I really enjoyed site visits and eating at nice places. It was nice connecting to the locals there. Writing reports and giving advice as a planner including working with the city’s official plan were just some of the things I had to do.

That’s a lot of responsibility for a first co-op job! Did you face any challenges as a female of a visible minority in such a small county?

I’m very grateful I was surrounded by such positive people. It was a different environment and practicing my faith proved to be slightly inaccessible. I never felt like I was different. As a Muslim, whenever I had to go pray, they were okay with it. It sparked a lot of interest in them. They would ask me if I prayed yet. I felt so cared for! They were very considerate. So it definitely didn’t feel like a challenge. It was more like something I would have to adapt to.

In terms of being a woman, I would say there were a lot of woman in the county that were passionate about what they were doing. Whether it was a receptionist, sending out mail, making sure all the administrative tasks were going smoothly, everyone was very passionate. They all had families, manage their career, and they know how to have fun.

How will these experiences help you in your long term goals?

Being a financial director is all about connecting with people. It’s hard to accomplish goals if you don’t have a network. So it’s important to develop relationships prior to asking for support. Educating them about TedxUW and telling them about our goals is something important I’ve  learned that will really help in accomplishing my career goal.

Our role is powerful is TedxUW so it’s crucial to provide results for our team. So I plan to use these experiences for goals which I prefer not to disclose right now. They seem too far-fetched. 

However, I do have a large interest in village areas to provide the locals with basic needs. We need to start working in a micro scale. For example, we need to enable the women in these villages. Providing people with education institutions is a key part of any community success. Connecting with these people and understanding their challenges will help us provide services to help them in the long run.

What. A. Powerhouse. Good luck with accomplishing your goals Amal! You’re on the right path. Don’t forget to like TedxUW on Facebook for upcoming updates on projects and their conference – happening November 14, 2015! 

Tasnia is currently a student at the University of Waterloo in the Honours Rhetoric and Professional Writing Coop Program. With an interest in journalism and the communication industry, her passions include reading, writing, and watching commercials on YouTube. Follow her on twitter @tasnia_n! 
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