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Connecting Africa’s Skilled Professionals
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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.



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‘What I learned along the way is…
…that I am never bigger than anything or anyone around me. That I’m a small particle in the complex picture of life.’

I was educated at…

…the St. Edwards Secondary School at King Tom and the Municipal Secondary School at Kissy Dockyard, Freetown, in my country of birth, Sierra Leone. I came to the UK in 1976, where I pursued my undergraduate and post-graduate education in Public Policy. I obtained professional qualifications in programme and project management, holding the PRINCE2 and Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) Certificates at practitioner level. I also hold a professional Diploma in Management Training (DipTM) accredited by the Institute of Training and Development; and the Institute of Marketing Professional Certificate.

As an African whose ethos is one of continuing professional development, I am constantly looking for and pursuing learning opportunities that will keep me at the top of my career.

Abdul Rashid Thomas was born in Sierra Leone and educated at the St. Edwards Secondary School at King Tom and the Municipal Secondary School at Kissy Dockyard, Freetown. He holds graduate and post-graduate degrees in Public Policy and a Diploma in Management Training (Dip TM) and is a qualified programme and project manager.

Abdul established his own business start-up and market research training and consultancy in the UK, providing support, advice, training and guidance for unemployed African and Caribbean youths wanting to pursue self-employment or community enterprise and provided training and consultancy services, designing and delivering courses, seminars and workshops in business skills and community enterprise development. In 1987, as the Executive Director of the Moss Side and Hulme Community Development Trust, he led a transformation and regeneration programme for the city of Manchester and now works for NHS England, using his programme and project management experience, knowledge and skills in various transformation projects.

In 2009, he set up the Sierra Leone Telegraph to transform and promote transparency, social and economic justice, civil liberty and democratic freedoms in Sierra Leone and to bring quality and independent analysis and commentary to readers across the world.

My first job was…

…self-employment. When I came out of university in Manchester, economic conditions and the UK employment market were pretty turbulent. It was at the height of an economic recession, but new opportunities were being created for young black people by the Thatcher government following the inner-city riots. So, with my knowledge and skills in business and marketing, I established my own business start-up and market research training and consultancy, providing support, advice, training and guidance for unemployed African and Caribbean youths wanting to pursue self-employment or community enterprise. I also provided training and consultancy to one of the UK’s largest national workforce development organisation known as Fielden House Productivity Centre, based in Manchester, designing and delivering courses, seminars and workshops in business skills and community enterprise development.

I was then headhunted in 1987 by one of the first inner city programmes established by HRH Prince Charles after the 1985 inner city riots, to set up and work as the Executive Director of the Moss Side and Hulme Community Development Trust, transforming and regenerating what was then a terribly rundown and economically deprived geographical area in the city of Manchester. We established a public-private partnership investment fund of £12 million and created employment, training and community enterprise opportunities for the community with an adult unemployment rate of 70%. This was a challenge that gave me immense job satisfaction, given the level of success achieved, especially in transforming a once environmentally blighted area, into a community that is fit for living, working and leisure, with hundreds of new homes built, dozens of new businesses attracted into the area, and thousands of real job opportunities created for young people in and outside of the community.

What I do now is…

…on a fulltime basis, I work for NHS England, using my programme and project management experience, knowledge and skills in helping to transform the entire NHS into a digitised and paperless landscape by 2020. I was previously managing a large supply chain innovation and research programme into the use of carbon fibre in producing 3D structures for the aerospace and automotive industries at Leeds University, where we partnered with Boeing to help develop materials for their new Dreamliner aeroplane.

Prior to joining Leeds University, I was an Innovation Programme Manager, responsible for managing projects aimed at transforming the textile industry into a globally competitive high value-added industry with a $3 billion turnover and employing 40,000 people in the region.

But my passion is my baby - the Sierra Leone Telegraph. I established the Sierra Leone Telegraph in 2009 after a serious and thorough introspection as to how best I can contribute in helping to transform and promote transparency, social and economic justice, civil liberty and democratic freedoms in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone had just come out of a brutal civil war that took the lives of tens of thousands of people and displacing millions. For a country that is potentially a paradise with some of the most spectacular beaches and landscapes in the world, it is obscene that the country is being labelled as one of the poorest in the world today, quite simply due to corruption, poor governance and misplaced priorities by those in power.

It is estimated that for every dollar of revenue earned by the government, seventy cents disappear into thin air through misappropriation and poor management. Whilst a tiny section of the country’s media is trying hard to do a good job in exposing corruption and informing the people of Sierra Leone of what is going on in the country - despite being constantly harassed and intimidated by the powers that be, most of the media are terribly partisan and surviving on handout from politicians. So, in 2009, I felt obliged to establish my own online newspaper to bring quality and independent analysis and commentary to readers across the world, and we are succeeding with our daily readership growing year-on-year, from 500 in 2009 to 2,500 in 2015.

What I learned along the way is…

…that this life we live is not a rehearsal, so whatever you do, do it well and enjoy it. And if it doesn’t make you smile, change it. I also learnt that to change who you are, you must first change your thinking. This is vital. When we set goals for ourselves, the organisations that we lead, or the people and teams we manage, what drives us are our values and beliefs. If we believe that mediocrity is not good enough, then striving to achieve excellence comes as second nature.

I also learnt that there is very little you can achieve in life without having people skills. Your ability to get people to do what you want done, at the right quality and time, depends on how well you interact, engage, communicate with and value them as individuals.

Finally, the world owes us nothing. In the aftermath of the riots in Moss Side in 1985, I was elected by the community as one of their representatives to work with British government ministers and local council to find solutions to the myriad of economic and social problems facing the community. I remember being interviewed by the BBC Panorama programme about the difficulties faced by young black people and the racism we experienced. My message was simple and clear: The world owes you nothing. To achieve anything in life, you first of all must become an active citizen and then empower yourself through education and personal enterprise.

The greatest influence on my life has been…

…My late Aunty Ramatu who brought me up as a young boy in Aberdeen, Freetown in the early sixties. She taught me to take pride in myself and whatever I do. She was an inspiration in my life, always making sure that I read a book every single day. But she also taught me to be self-sufficient, so that I can stand on my own feet.

The best advice I ever received is…

…to look after number one (yourself) first, before you can help anyone else. Far too often we see young Africans struggling to work and send money home, abandoning their education. While I understand that many are victims of changing political and economic circumstances here in the UK and elsewhere, I do believe that there is much that can be achieved financially for yourself, your family and community by achieving the highest level you can attain in education. Education makes you stronger and gives you the tool to earn more money.

My top tips for succeeding in my career area are…

…education, education, perseverance, and enterprise.

If you would like to nominate an inspiring personality for a ‘5 Minute Interview’ please contact us at editor@reconnectafrica.com

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