Being a benefit to their society is one of the teachings of Islam, one which is put into practice by many Muslims from time to time. Yasir Naveed, a 26-year-old Muslim living in Hong Kong won a regional competition. Muslim Council of Hong Kong took the opportunity to know more about this achievement from the Pakistani born student who has been living in Hong Kong for 10 years now.
As-salāmu’Alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-Barakātuhu Yasir, firstly many congrats again on this incredible success. It’s heartwarming to know about such stories coming from Muslims.
So, what’s the competition all about and what went through your mind when you heard you won the competition?
Wa’alaykum as-salām Wa Rehmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu. Thank you and Jazak’Allahu Khayran. Present Around The World (PATW) is an international Engineering Presentation competition organized annually by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for young professionals. It is designed to enhance the communication skills of engineers and showcase new technologies through innovative methods. More details about the competition are available here.
Local level competitions are held in every IET member country. Winners from national stages compete on regional levels and winners of regional levels compete on the global level at IET headquarters in London.
When I won the Hong Kong round and was given the opportunity to represent my city at Asia Pacific regional competition in Sydney, I can’t explain the excitement in my heart. I kept saying Alhumdulilah in my heart and kept appreciating the unbiased role of judges in giving their judgement.
During the Asia Pacific round, I faced much harder competition. The biggest competitor for me was Ms. Ayesha Salleh from Brunei Darussalaam who worked in the development of synthetic blood for emergency care to patients in urgent need. She gave a fantastic presentation and I thought she had won it. During the result announcement I kept thinking she’ll get the first prize and I might be second. But Alhumdulilah I was announced to be the winner. It was a surreal feeling beyond words. I couldn’t believe my ears when they said my name. Suddenly the entire hall of more than 200 people burst into claps and everybody started looking at me and congratulating me. I just wanted to jump up high in the air!
Surely you had challenges, can you highlight any of them and how you overcame them?
My biggest challenge was to overcome the fear of public speaking at an international event. In Hong Kong you pretty much know what the judges are looking for. They look for clarity in speech and body language mostly. But in this regional competition, everybody was very clear in speech and had fantastic body language. In fact that’s what you’d expect from national level champions.
At the last moment, 30 minutes before my presentation, I realized I had no competitive edge over other presenters. So I improvised and added some light humor in my speech to make it more interesting and different. It turned out to be the best decision. Luckily everyone loved it and really laughed at my jokes.
Looking back, it was a big bet. If the light jokes had not been funny, the entire strategy would have failed.
I ask this question to everyone – what does it mean for a Muslim in a place like Hong Kong to achieve such success?
It gives me a sense of contribution to this city and its rich history. Hong Kong has always aspired, and achieved in many aspects, to be the best in the world. We got one of the best airlines, intra city railway systems, finance professionals, etc. So I’m really happy to bring Hong Kong in the list of best speakers.
In addition, I believe that I’m giving something back to Hong Kong. This city has given me so much. The people here have always made me feel home and given me so much love. It is an honor to give something back.
What’s your advice to Muslims and even ethnic minorities in Hong Kong? Do you think we at times fail to have high expectations?
My best advice is to find out what you love doing and then find mentors to help you become successful in that.
Hong Kong is full of super talented people in almost every field and it’s very easy to communicate with them through email or professional organizations. Just reach out to them and you’ll be surprised how many senior professionals are actually eager to teach you.
I agree that we sometimes fail to aim high and this could be due to multiple factors. For instance, at a very young age our parents decide what we should become when we grow up, who we should marry, where we should live, etc. And it’s very difficult to find what we love doing because we are just too busy making a living, paying bills and satisfying their dreams. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about my parents. They gave me full authority to choose whatever I wanted to do and only told me to do my best without the fear of failing. I have failed a lot, specially in past 10 years, but I can always go up to them and share my failures without being afraid. They guide me in the best way every time.
Where does the competition go from here and what’s your future plans?
So I’ve won the Asia Pacific round and next will be the Global round in London on 16 November. I hope and pray that I can win this one too. More importantly, I expect to widen my network through IET, get to meet fellow engineers from all over the world and learn from them.
My future plan is to continue working hard and strive to be a better Muslim,a better son, a better friend, a better employee and a better human overall.
Please keep me in your prayers. JazakAllah khair.
In sha Allah we sure will. We truly hope the best for you in your future endeavors. Thank you for your time.