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Ready from the get go
When Shahed Ballan, 24, graduated from AUD in May 2011, she never thought she would land on her feet so quickly. Like most new graduates, she was apprehensive – about finding a job, about whether she would be able to cope, about whether she had all the skillsets she needed to succeed in her career.
But barely four months later, the 24-year-old, who studied Digital Production and Storytelling, a four-year program, was in front of the camera hosting a weekly program for Dubai TV. “When I first joined I thought I would have to learn everything from scratch,” Shahed says. “I didn’t realize that all the workshops we attended would go a long way in helping me settle into my job.”
Shahed, a Dubai-born Syrian national, says she learned practically everything she needed to succeed in her career at the university. “From preparing sets to adjusting lighting to the final cutting process – there was no aspect of television that we did not get exposure to,” she says.
Print production, digital production, filmmaking – these were all part of the coursework. So when I entered the workplace I didn’t have to train much; I already had the skills to do the job. I never thought I would leave university with that much knowledge and confidence.
Today, Shahed presents the weekly Al Mawaad (The Appointment), a 30-minute Arabic show that chronicles the experiences of travellers in Dubai. “It is a young show,” Shahed says. “Our program is not about promoting Dubai – rather it is about the tourists who come to our city. They are the true stars.”
Our time is coming to an end and Shahed, who is well on her way to TV stardom herself, reflects on the fact that hers was the first batch to enroll in the program. “Those who came after us are even better,” she says. “They are probably more sophisticated.”
‘I learned hard part in AUD’
Dana Abu Laban is busy, like any other network presenter. When the 23-year-old does enter the meeting room in her Dubai TV office in Media City, she apologizes for the delay and settles down for a chat.
This time last year, the 23-year-old was still a student – she graduated from the Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication on May 9, 2012. In the short period since then, her career has been on a steep upward curve. “I studied Communication and Information Studies, with a focus in Journalism (Arabic Track). It was a four-year program,” she says. “I also obtained a Certificate in Middle-Eastern Studies.”

Soon after graduating, Dana landed a job at Dubai TV, presenting and managing one segment of a business program called ( “When I joined Dubai TV, this program was only at an idea stage,” she says. “Our main goal was to have a snappy business round-up in the mornings. is a one-hour program, broadcast Saturday to Thursday at 10am. Sometimes we cover special events in Dubai such as Gitex, in which case the program runs for two hours.”
Dana says the program has six segments: politics, business, foreign affairs, social media (which she presents), and technology and gadgets. “We try to mimic Twitter’s 140-character style and at the same time try to provide depth,” she says. “This is what I love about the program. My segment is called ‘’ ( and it looks at how people interact on the web.”
Dana’s work at Dubai TV has brought her a lot of recognition. “I think I have become quite famous on the social networks,” she says. “I have gained more than 2,300 followers on Twitter since the beginning of the show. I get a lot of messages and tweets commenting on my segment in the show. It feels great when you feel your work is being appreciated.
Dana says she has learned a lot in the short time that she has been a presenter. “Working in television teaches you how to deal with stress, long hours and time limitations,” she says. “It has taught me how to deal with different people from all walks of life.”
Asked who she credits her success to, Dana says: “Most of what I do now I learned at AUD. I learned how to write, how to edit, how to film, and how to interact with people – all the skills that one needs to succeed at the workplace. I learned enough to start off in a great position. When I came here a lot of things seemed easier. I learned the harder part at AUD, where there were students from all over the world. They all had different mindsets, different personalities – it was a great place to be.”
‘My degree helped me enter a new field’
Azza Zarour says she is popular with tweens and their parents. “I get recognized a lot. When I go to a mall they call out my name,” the MBC3 presenter says. “They want me sign autographs for them and pose for pictures. I am always surprised by the attention. I guess I should get used to it.”
Azza owes her popularity to her gig on MBC3; she produces and hosts Banat Wa Bas (Girls Only), which is aimed at girls between nine and 13. “It is the first such show in the region,” she says.
Azza graduated from AUD in May 2012. “I was already working as a presenter in a children’s channel at MBC3 in 2008 when I decided to study Digital Production and Storytelling at AUD,” she says. “Before attending university I was only a presenter. But my new degree has allowed me to enter a new field: production. I have now managed to produce three seasons of Banat Wa Bas. ”
For MBC it was a big act of faith to ask a young woman to produce television shows while she was still a student at university, and Azza worked hard to please her bosses. “I had a huge responsibility and I did not want to disappoint anyone,” she says.
Azza was nicknamed ‘The Runner’ at work because she was constantly shuttling between university and office. “I would go to work early, then go for my studies. I would be back in the studio in the evening,” she says. “It was really hectic. But in the end all the hard work has paid off.”