Mohamed Omar Dessouki

Location: Cairo, Egypt
Age: 29
Job title: Sports content development manager

It’s a common assumption that the only people really succeeding with online courses are those who are super-motivated and already have a passion for self-guided learning. While most early adopters of online learning may fit that description, there are others who don’t, yet they’re still reaping the rewards. Mohamed Omar Dessouki is one such student.

After getting his degree in civil engineering and working in the construction industry for a couple of years, Mohamed knew it wasn’t his calling. He passion lay in sports management. To break into a new field, however, he needed a different skill set. “In the sports world, you have to show authority and be well-branded,” Mohamed says. “Also, you have a lot of international clients, and knowing only two languages wasn’t enough.”

But Mohamed’s experience in school made him reluctant to go back. He hated learning in school. Still, he knew he needed to upskill one way or the other. He felt like “the world was leaving me behind,” and it’s highly motivating when you’re “missing out on things you could be a part of.”

When a friend recommended Udemy, he checked it out. And, to his surprise, he liked it. “This isn’t like college courses; it’s skills,” he explains. Contrary to his college experience, Udemy and its instructors made it easy for Mohamed to learn. He appreciates the short videos that let him go at his own pace and fit in learning at his convenience, such as during a lunch break or his very long commute in Cairo’s “horrendous” traffic. He especially liked not having course completion deadlines stressing him out while he tried to juggle work, life, and other commitments. Now, he’s made it a habit to spend a little time on Udemy every day, even if it’s only one lesson. “Eventually, you’ll finish, even if it takes a year. And you’ll be learning new skills along the way so you still gain so much before you complete it.”

Mohamed started a new job as a sports content development manager in January 2016 after taking lots of Udemy courses on design, Photoshop, and personal branding, including many from instructor Dragos Stefanescu. He’s used what he’s learned to supercharge his LinkedIn and Twitter presence and, since his work requires lots of presentations, he’s gotten tremendous value from Stefanescu’s PowerPoint course. And, in addition to English and Arabic, Mohamed is picking up German, French, and Spanish through Udemy.

Now, the guy who once hated learning in school is a huge proponent of learning on Udemy, declaring there’s “no excuse” for others not to do the same. In Egypt, he explains, the quality of education hasn’t kept up with modern employment needs. “There’s not much a person can do except be self-motivated. You won’t learn this stuff in college, but there’s so much out there you should know about for yourself and your career. You’ve just got to go for it.”

Mohamed’s evangelizing has certainly worked on his brother-in-law, a 40-something army officer and aspiring photographer. Mohamed shared a Udemy photography course he’d taken, and his brother-in-law, even with limited English, loved it, took another, and exchanged messages with that instructor. Now, Mohamed’s brother-in-law believes he can continue developing his talent and get paying photography jobs.

It’s not hard to see why Mohamed came around to the idea of self-driven learning, despite his school experience. He expects this kind of skills training to really take off in the Middle East and other Arabic-speaking countries. “There aren’t other platforms that give you the time and space and expertise that Udemy courses offer,” he says.