A lifelong learner is a lifelong winner by Dr Raja Al Gurg
To seek knowledge is a personal commitment, to benefit us individually and the community around us. With experience comes the understanding that we don’t know everything, and expanding our knowledge base is a path towards constant growth.
I have always believed that while qualifications might signal the end of a specific stage of academia, they do not mark the end of learning. I prefer to view academic milestones as key stops in a journey of lifelong learning.
After graduating from Kuwait University with a degree in English Literature in 1977, I took my first professional steps as an English teacher – and later as deputy principal – at Ayesha School in Dubai, before being appointed principal at the brand new Zabeel Secondary School for Girls. As a teacher and principal, I always stressed the significance of lifelong education. It was important for me to constantly motivate students and remind them that they possess the tools to realise their dreams if they commit to and engage in education beyond curricula.
There is a wealth of learning beyond traditional academic institutions. I learned this life truth when I made the decision to transition from education – a world I dearly loved – to join my family business in 1990. Within the comfortable confines of a Group bearing my family name, I remember readily embracing being a student again, learning from my father, and understanding every aspect of our business.
Getting acclimatised to this new workplace meant there were critical business elements to learn, skills to develop and resources to discover. During my early days with the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, every individual I interacted with, taught me something about the business and its fundamentals. But the success of this transition depended on being positive and receptive. I believe this requires a lot of self-direction and internal discipline.
The lifelong learning mindset was valuable when I accepted the role of Vice Chairperson of the Board at Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in 2015. Entering the field of healthcare education represented another major diversion in my career, as I had to balance these new responsibilities with my ‘day job’ and other commitments. For me, MBRU represented a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance to help shape another legacy for Dubai, guiding the country’s next generation of medical professionals through an industry-leading healthcare research center.
One of the proudest moments in my life was being present as the MBRU team conducted the first kidney transplant in the UAE. While the historic day highlighted to the leaders of our Emirates how much progress we were making, on a personal level it also broadened my understanding of a field where I am not naturally trained.
This is the essence of education to me: it is not accepting what you know, it is challenging and extending yourself into unknown areas and accepting there is always more on the horizon.
Each of us is on our own educational journey. Regardless of age, experience or status, a lifelong learning attitude is essential if we want to develop the skills and knowledge that will help us to stay relevant in our ever-changing world.