Usama Nouri - AcceMind

Usama Nouri - AcceMind

1. How did you first connect with the University / Centre and what is your current relationship? 

In 2010, I faced a pivotal choice: pursue a Master's degree in Engineering Education or an MBA. The choice led me to various schools and The University of Manchester. The Middle East Centre resonated with my entrepreneurial aspirations, offering a part-time MBA programme that blended academic rigour with real-world applications. Today, my relationship with the University spans my roles as an Adjunct Professor and Senior Alumni Ambassador; it's a vibrant, intellectually stimulating global and regional community.

2. Why did you choose the Manchester MBA and how would you describe the study/learning experience? 

The Manchester Part-time MBA offered a 3-year programme that delved deep into business complexities, unlike the rushed 18-month courses elsewhere. The blended learning experience, with residential workshops in various countries, not only deepened my business acumen but also broadened my cultural perspective. I am still in contact with friends I made during my various trips to multiple international centres, as well as Manchester, of course. That experience and exposure alone had a profound impact, especially on the empathy and communications part of the business education experience.

3. What were your motivations and objectives for joining the MBA programme? – did you achieve them? 

It was multi-fold. As a computer engineering graduate, I had no knowledge of how businesses are run, let alone matters of commercial, marketing, and other strategic parts of the business. My aspiration was to make the shift from the technical part of the business to the commercial side of the business. That took place immediately and during my final year of the MBA. The new opportunities that opened up were inconceivable. I started getting noticed in meetings and in discussions. At one meeting, which included both a deep technical discussion and a CEO-level business discussion, I was able to drive the discussion in both ways such that the CTO and the CEO were pleasantly surprised. That was in 2014, and in 2015 I was able to win business over established professional services firms. Now, my dream is to kick off my new venture, which will embody all the learnings and experiences I have acquired in the corporate world into my new startup.

4. How important was the faculty-led and face-to-face elements of the programme? 

Invaluable. The immersive, face-to-face experiences with faculty were instrumental in shaping my thinking. The intellectual camaraderie with my peers served as a catalyst for personal growth.

5. What did you learn that you still use/apply today?

Almost everything. The beauty of the MBA programme is that it "white-boxes" the corporate world, allows me to look my CFO in the eye (and call out their BS!), question the motives of my CMO, audit my CIO's costs with confidence, discuss the strategic objectives of the organisation with the ability to add value, understand why HR has these processes, support the commercial teams in their market research and client acquisition, and most importantly, articulate the operational and delivery elements in a way that circles back to the original vision and mission of the business. Sprinkle that with the ability to understand R&D and innovation efforts to stay ahead of the curve, and you have well-rounded professionals that speak the same business language, complement each other, and elevate the organisation to heights investors and shareholders can only dream of.

Basically, the MBA demystified the corporate world for me. It equipped me to question, challenge, and contribute to all facets of a business, which empowered me to launch my venture with a well-rounded skill set.

6. Do entrepreneurs need an MBA? – was this part of your thinking?

Yes and no. Do they need MBA knowledge? Unequivocally, yes. Over 90% of startups fail, and I know this first-hand from my own friends and network because they don't understand the business side of things. They might be excellent technical engineers or authorities in their own domains, but when it comes to business complexities, they crumble. So, they hire others, which is the last thing they would want to do at the beginning because that's always a gamble—a classic agency problem. No one will have the same passion and desire as the entrepreneur. I would argue that if someone actually went ahead and started their venture without the benefit of an MBA, they are not qualified to be called ‘entrepreneurs’ and are doomed to fail, without a shadow of a doubt.

7. How influential were your MBA colleagues and alumni in developing your ideas and ambitions?

There is an influence for sure. While many of my peers were excellent, their mindset often remained within the confines of traditional employment. I aim to shift this culture with my new venture.

8. How important is the alumni community to you?

A sense of belonging, support, encouragement, and feedback is the root of progress and growth for any individual who aims to make a true impact. We are always so busy with our professional and personal lives that we lose track of people around us. The Manchester alumni community keeps my goals in focus, which feeds the metaphysical part of our journey and charges our motives every time we meet and discuss our aspirations and goals. This intellectual tribe, as I call it, gives a sense of meaning to what we are trying to do.

9. A DBA? – what's the thinking and what will you focus on for the next 3-5 years? How will this benefit you personally and professionally?

I keep asking myself the same question: what was I thinking, and what did I get myself into!?

Jokes, blood, tears, and sweat aside, there is absolutely nothing more fulfilling than seeing the world through a scientific/academic lens. That rewiring of the brain, the ability to structure your thoughts and arguments in a convincing way is underrated. It's not the knowledge of the DBA, but the academic rigor and crafting narratives that reach the mind and the heart that is an invaluable and lost skill in the business world. My DBA journey is about marrying academic rigour with practical wisdom. It's not just about gaining knowledge; it's about applying it meaningfully because knowledge with passion is a waste, and passion without knowledge is blindness.

10. What was the inspiration for AcceMind and how did the collaboration with the Centre come about?

In an era of rapid technological advancement, the GCC region remains a space of untapped potential in innovation and research. Despite significant investments in various sectors, the region is yet to match global standards in innovation output. This innovation deficit is not a mere lack of investment or resources but is deeply rooted in organisational culture, mindset, and approach. The absence of a culture that fosters innovation, rewards risk-taking, and encourages continuous learning holds back organisations and, by extension, the region. So instead of just forwarding videos or motivational posts on social media sites such as LinkedIn, we set sail to elevate the region's innovation performance to global standards. When I discussed this with Randa Bessiso (Middle East Director), it aligned with her values and led to the collaboration with the University’s Middle East Centre, which believes in the mission and vision.

11. How important has your relationship with UoM been in your business and personal development?

I will always acknowledge the positive impact the University of Manchester has had on all aspects of my life. There is no substitute for education, but when it comes from a community that recognises you not just as another student, but as a valuable member of their intellectual tribe, it touches parts of your spirit that ignites courage and drive, which pushes you to be an active contributor to society. The University nurtured my intellectual curiosity and gave me the confidence to challenge the status quo, shaping both AcceMind and me.

12. With your multiple roles – what's the secret of your ability to manage time?

The belief in oneself is essential for everything we do, and if this belief is based on true and grand purpose, it ignites the flames of desire! That creates a mindset of positive thinking which eliminates any thought of giving up, because there won't be a single day that passes without you thinking about that purpose. That mindset creates an environment of satisfaction and happiness just by pursuing your goals with meaning. It actually makes you want to sleep faster, so you can jump out of bed to carry on. This complex set of feelings enables you to dream big and will give you the courage to not only pursue your dreams but also know that those dreams WILL come true. All of this not only drives action but becomes part of your being, which makes time management an afterthought because your vision compels you to act .

13. What's next?...

I keep Phil Knight of Nike's quote "the cowards never start, and the weak die along the way" front and centre, every day I wake up. What's next? Only the future will tell, but currently, I am focused on ‘the now’, as this is what’s in my control, and I will never slow down.