Mar 28 2012

“What I discovered during all these years is that as long as you have confidence in what you do, and as long as you’re confident in your abilities and your skills, you can do anything you want. Having said that, you always have to have goals.”

Osman HamidAs you talk to Osman Hamid, you quickly realize that his story is about inspiration, both being inspired by and inspiring others.

A Maytree Scholarship program alumnus, Osman is currently completing his MBA at Ryerson University, where he is active in the university governance and community. He’s that rare person who can work and exist in two worlds that many times seem at odds with each other. Whether working closely and volunteering with and on behalf of students, or working on university governance, Osman has made strong contributions to university life and how the institution is responsive to various communities.

Like many students, Osman went through a period of being unsure of what he wanted to study. Starting and stopping an engineering program, dealing with the uncertainty of not finishing what he started and of moving from university to college for another program, he was able to not only persevere, but to thrive.

He promised himself that he was “going to do something when he got into university again. And I was able to do it by being involved with student government, being able to volunteer with different campaigns the university was holding.” He sees as one of his biggest accomplishments to prove to people who believed in him, “that I was able to do it, that I was able to get to the goal, which is graduate, get a degree and be able to move on and be a contributing member of society.”

Volunteering: an important part in Osman’s life

“Volunteering has been one of the best experiences that I’ve had. Why? Because, you know you’re doing something you believe in when you’re doing it without getting paid.”

Based on his own experiences, Osman sees volunteering as an important part of how he lives his life and contributes to his community. It allows him to continue to learn and grow, while also helping others to do the same. Whether supporting fellow students through the Muslim Student Association, Ryerson Commerce Society, and Ryerson Students Union or sitting on the Ryerson Board of Governors, volunteering has lead Osman into leadership.

Leadership, for Osman, is not merely being in a position of power or influence, but being able to create mutually supportive experiences and institutions that benefit all involved: “You’re able to understand how leadership is formed, what it takes to be a leader, and where you need to go. So for me, I was able to benefit, and I was able to benefit others, through the things that I did. So, volunteering, that’s what it does for you. It gives you that contentment, that sense of being able to do something.”

Leadership diversity and the importance of mentors

Osman sits on the Ryerson University Board of Governors and is proud of its diversity, not only from an optics standpoint, but because it makes the board better, more effective:

“That diversity is really appreciated because it helps us get different points of opinion, different takes on things, whether it’s business experience or cultural experience. And, at the same time, you feel that it is well represented. It represents the community.”

Part of being on the Board of Governors includes seeking a mentor. Osman sought out someone he trusted and respected. In this case, it was Ryerson University president, Sheldon Levy.

“Sheldon Levy was an excellent choice for me. We’ve worked together on certain student initiatives during my years at Ryerson, and I believe that he’s going to be able to give me the inside scoop on how to be a very productive and engaged governor on the board.”

Sheldon Levy is equally enthusiastic about Osman’s contributions: “We’re blessed to have him. He’s a very strong leader who sees his role as giving back. He wants to advance others. He’s not afraid to ask the difficult questions to do his job well. He shows strong backbone. He has strong opinions but is always willing to listen and is open enough to change his mind if he sees that the other person’s point has value. He treats others with respect, but expects to be treated with respect as well.”

Osman’s final word: “He’s management, at the end of the day, and I have to provide oversight over him. I have to get his side of the story in order to be able to make the decisions.”

Sounds like a balanced, productive relationship between two leaders who respect each other.

Advice for Maytree Scholarship students

Osman’s leadership is inspiring, in general, but also specifically to others who have been, are and will be participating in the Maytree Scholarship Program. When asked what advice he has for Maytree’s scholarship students, he highlights being confident, committed, and eager to learn.

He points to the importance of giving back. “Give back to community, because if you don’t give back to the community as part of this program, then you’re not fulfilling the values of this program. The Maytree Foundation is helping people, so you need to also go there and help people. If you don’t do that, then you’re not fulfilling the best that they saw in you.”

We’re proud to know Osman and to be inspired by him.


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Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.

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