Committed to Teaching
School of Business instructor Fiaz Merani is committed to his student's success, whether in a SAIT classroom or half-way across the globe.
This past summer, Merani travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan to teach financial fundamentals courses to employees of the country's largest telecom — Roshan. While his travel expenses were covered by the company, he volunteered his summer vacation time to teach the classes.
"Volunteering is an ethic in my faith and in my family. It brings you a lot of satisfaction," says the Business Administration instructor, who has been volunteering since the beginning of his career.
Making an impression
Roshan was the first telecommunications company to launch following the war in Afghanistan. Many of the 1,200 employees are locals who, despite limited educational opportunities, have successfully moved up the corporate ladder into management positions. When additional telecom companies began to open in the region, Roshan knew it needed to provide more financial literacy education to maintain a competitive edge.
A manager with Roshan had been impressed by Merani's teaching style after working with him more than 10 years ago at a Calgary community centre.
"Despite his very strong financial background, he is able to speak at a level that everyone can understand.
"Fiaz was great in the sessions just like I expected him to be — he just clicked with the group. Even now employees ask me about how Fiaz is doing and when he's coming back. They say they learned so much from him and are now making better budgets and can answer financial questions confidently."
Creating culturally sensitive curriculums
To respect cultural differences, Merani customized the curriculum of the Financial Fundamentals for Managers and Managing Business Risk courses — everything from the names used to the examples themselves.
"I couldn't ask a question like — what does your spouse do? It's very personal. You never use family types of examples. Personal lives are left at the door," says Merani.
Close encounters with the military
While Merani was excited to explore a new country, security remained a top priority. During his stay he lived in a housing complex designed specifically for employees from outside countries. The facility is equipped with a social and dining hall, work-out room, and study area. Activities and entertainment are needed since residents are required to stay within the complex walls when they're not at work.
"The living environment was very challenging. After a week confined to this area, you go kind of nuts," says Merani. "When you came home from work at 5:30 or 6 pm this is where you would spend all your time. You could not go outside the complex because it was too risky."
Merani was made aware of the potential dangers prior to his trip — bomb-blasts and gun fire are not uncommon in the city. Thankfully he remained far from harm's way throughout his visit, aside from one minor incident.
"I was on the van on our way back to the complex one afternoon and a few phones began to beep at the same time. We were being advised by the head of security to turn around and go back. Close to the Village there was a tanker that had blown up and they weren't sure why."
Developing an international perspective
Despite the heavy security, Merani says he always felt safe and welcome in Kabul. He says his experience there has given him an international perspective when it comes to teaching — something he hopes will make him a better instructor here at SAIT.
"It was a terrific learning experience. I gained a lot of confidence in being able to travel to a different country, culture and business environment and still be able to transfer my knowledge."
Dec. 5, 2012