Career profile: Ali Hassan
Professor, Institute of Environmental Studies and Research, Ain Shams University; senior environmental expert, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), Oman
Why did you become an environment/sustainability professional?
During my early work in biomedical sciences, it became clear that no single discipline could solve the issues we face. I developed a multidisciplinary approach to problem analysis; this allowed me to embrace a holistic perspective, linking science, policy and planning to sustainable development. I employ multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary scientific knowledge to promote change and prosperity while protecting the processes sustaining our existence. What more would a scientist and practitioner want?
What was your first job in this field?
I was a lecturer for graduate students – teaching, supervising students’ studies, carrying out my own research and providing environmental advice to government agencies.
What does your current role involve?
I provide advice to top decision-makers at MECA on matters related to policy, strategy and regulations, and I participate in inter-ministerial committees dealing with national development or planning issues. I also advise technical departments on best practice in environmental management and sustainability, train staff, assist proponents and consultants as they develop sustainable projects, and review EIA reports.
How has your role changed/ progressed over the past few years?
It has progressed in parallel with my experience level and the changing political and economic environments. Now it involves innovative environmental policy and strategic actions advocating sustainable development and supporting economy diversification. It also revolves around systems improvement and change management, leading to better business environments while retaining environmental protection.
What’s the best part of your work?
Finding solutions, realising successful sustainable projects, and teaching.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Finding the right balance between a proposal’s economic, social and environmental costs and benefits.
What was the last development event you attended?
A course for ‘LEAN Managers’, preparing MECA management and advisors to lead change management in environmental planning.
What is/are the most important skill(s) for your job?
First and foremost, innovative and creative thinking, leading to operational and demonstrable change. That requires a comprehensive understanding of the business environment, policies and regulations, coupled with excellent communication and negotiation skills, which are key in driving sustainability.
Where do you see the profession going?
One should consider the geography – there are different trends in different geographic regions. The drivers also vary between countries and regions. We see different types of progression in various parts of the world. In my region, we are advocating changes to ensure continuous improvement, career development and high-quality professions. In addition, we are developing a system of accreditation for the various levels of environmental and sustainability professionals.
Where would you like to be in five years’ time?
My ambition is to go back to teaching, so I can continue to contribute to building a new generation of graduates capable of leading the world to true sustainability.
What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?
Learn the languages of all stakeholders of sustainability.
How do you use the IEMA Skills Map?
I use it to ensure I have what it takes and to direct a path to sustainability, one step at a time.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Grateful, determined and ambitious.
What motivates you?
Challenges, success and new practical developments.
What would be your personal motto?
Work for your wordly life as if you are living forever, and work for your Hereafter as if you are dying tomorrow.
Greatest risk you have ever taken?
I crossed a 50km of quicksand with my colleagues to carry out a piece of research.
If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?
Professor James Hardy of UC Berkeley, who taught me a lot when I was taking my first steps in the field.