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A Knack for Improving Processes

Wael Shawish

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, today, Wael was born and raised in East Jerusalem, where he attended the Collège des Frères near the Old City’s New Gate. Even though the school was one of the best in the country, it adhered to some dated practices, one of which was the two-stream system that separated students at age 15 into two groups: those who would follow the sciences-focused stream and those who would follow the arts and humanities stream. This process was based on the average mark attained in tenth grade, without considering the interests of the pupils. Wael hated biology and chemistry but loved physics and mathematics. He wanted to be an engineer, a dream dashed when he was thrown into the arts and humanities classes. It is worth noting that Wael was, and still is, a stubborn person who is driven by challenges. Despite not having the qualifications to study engineering, this is exactly what he did. Initially, Wael secured admission at an American university, but his father was apprehensive about Palestinians going to the United States. He believed that Palestinians who study at American universities would never return home. He preferred countries where students would be sent back home as soon as they finished their education. Britain seemed to fit that preference. Forty-two years on, and Wael is still in the United Kingdom. We can plan, but often destiny works in its own sphere.Staying in the UK was not the only major diversion from Wael’s life plan. Despite his determination to become an engineer, he never worked in that field. While studying, Wael worked for a life and pensions company to ease the financial burden on his family. He quickly proved himself to be a troubleshooter, challenging processes that didn’t work well and helping to fix them. The added value to the company’s performance was well rewarded, both financially and practically, as Wael’s trustworthiness gave him the possibility to work flexible hours to suit his study schedule. After graduating, Wael naturally started to apply for engineering jobs, and he had many job offers. However, the best of these jobs only paid less than half the salary that he was earning at the life and pensions company. Eight years later, Wael was still enjoying mending broken processes and proposing change to improve the company’s performance.
Aida Celtic Football team, with a history of Palestinian solidarity.

When it was time to move on to new challenges, Wael saw an opportunity to work as a business systems project manager at a government agency. His interview presentation not only secured him a good job offer, but his ideas were also adopted by the agency to change the model of loan repayments that had been in place since the agency’s inception. More change was to follow that would improve the customer experience as well as streamline processes that would save the agency hundreds of millions every year. Twelve years later, Wael felt it was time to move on and became a freelance project manager and senior change analyst, taking on assignments from major UK banks such as Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Despite a busy and challenging career, Wael has had time for his family. His son and daughter became his best friends from a very early age, a relationship that he cherishes as it continues until this day. His first wife was and still is one of his closest friends despite their divorce.

Wael has not forgotten his father’s wish for him to serve his country. His inability to return to his beloved Jerusalem has not stopped Wael from investing enormous effort and time to serve Palestine and its people. He is a serious political activist who over the years has engaged with a number of Scottish advocacy groups to further the cause of Palestine and amplify the voices of his people at every level of Scottish social and political life.

The life lesson that Wael shares with his family and friends is that they should constantly endeavor to reach their goals and dreams but always be grateful and content with whatever life throws their way. It could prove to be better than their wildest expectations even if at times it does not seem to be the case. We are in a much better place than countless others.

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