Meet the InnoLabbers: Shah Rukh Shakeel


Image: “The images in this collage present glimpses of my journey with the University of Vaasa.”

This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Shah Rukh Shakeel.

What are you?

I am an inquisitive person – who likes to explore things, seeks to challenge existing practices, looks to find innovative ways of finding solutions to the problems. I am someone who is keen on self-development: I like to challenge myself and always eager to learn new things.

Academically, I am a doctor of science in Economics and Business Administration with majors in industrial management. Besides that, I am a friendly person and a nature lover; someone who likes listening to good music and enjoys reading books in their spare time.

Your title at InnoLab is researcher, but what exactly do you do?

Well, primarily I am working on two projects. The Digitalisation Academy project (DA-PITO), led by InnoLab, emphasizes university-industry collaboration to address the talent shortage and is developing a nationwide model for the digital sector. The Solar X project aims to remove technical barriers for extensive solar power integration into power systems. The latter is with the School of Marketing and Communication. In addition to these, I am involved in countless things – mainly: writing funding applications with national and international consortiums, creating and participating in various workshops and seminars, hackathons, giving guest lectures, writing articles, participating in scientific conferences, and the list goes on…

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

Emm…yes it is… but I consider myself among a small group of lucky individuals who get to do what they love. Being in academia is something I have always desired. Since the work is done with passion and interest, it hardly makes me feel overburdened. Besides, the topics we are working on are extremely interesting, as well as have practical relevance. Knowing that my small contribution can help science and society move further in the right direction provides good stimulus. Moreover, the bunch of people I am working with are truly magnificent. Collaboration and working together makes things super easy.

You’re in the right place, then – but how did you end up there?

Destiny and a bit of planning, I would say… Actually, it goes back to the time when I decided to move to Norway from Pakistan for higher studies and pursue my interest in the energy sector. In 2015, I moved to Vaasa for the doctoral degree. Being an integral part of the biggest ecosystem of energy and environmental sector, the University of Vaasa seemed an ideal place for conducting such research. Things have proceeded well since then, and here I am associated with the newly developed research platform, InnoLab, and the School of Marketing and Communication.

Imagine your phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been hoping for – what is it about?

A call from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment acknowledging the work we have done for the Digitalization Academy (DA-PITO) project, asking us to help implement the model across Finland. That would be something, wouldn’t it!!!

Just kidding, it’s actually a journalist. They’re finally doing a story on that one topic you’ve always wanted to give an interview on! What do you say?

Oh I see, so we have to wait for that call, it seems. I guess I would like to emphasize the need to facilitate university-industry collaboration and commercial application of academic research. Universities are home to innovative people, and their skills in the industrial setup are underutilized. The interaction can yield positive outcomes for both sectors. It is not something completely new, I mean, we have seen countries doing wonders by developing models that work for both. Currently, the collaboration between these sectors in Finland is way lower than desired. I would like to raise awareness of this issue.

Good job. Too bad you can’t be the resident expert on every topic. What would you like to learn more about?

So many things. Every time when I come across something new, I do get a strong urge to know more about it. But to answer your question, I would say – scholastically, I am keen on learning more about the effect of digitalization on my field of science. Generally, I like reading books on psychology and human behavior, so I’m always willing to read more on this. For instance, I can never get enough of Fyodor Dostoevsky – his writings are masterpieces.

And, o ya, I remember: I also need to sharpen my parental skills. I recently became a father and I am looking forward to learning more about the art of fatherhood.

Sounds interesting. Is that something I, too, should be concerned about?

All of these will have an effect on you, so yes you should. But, I guess the most important will be to be ready when you become a father. We, as humans, are endowed with the responsibility of raising our kin so that they become good human beings and valuable members of society. If many of us are able to do that, the world will become a better place.

Okay. Now recommend me something – anything!

Communicate – communication is the key. If you are happy, express; if you are sad, share and it might help; if you are having a difficulty with something at the office, discuss it with your colleagues; if you are struggling with personal relations, talk it through. And, if you can maintain a smile while doing it all, what can be better than this?

Any last advice for being both an effective researcher and a happy office worker?

Try Pakistani mangos this summer, if you have not yet. Believe me, there is no better delicacy than that. I can already feel my mouth watering while I am thinking about it.

On a serious note, try to maintain a balance between work and life. Time management is the key. We researchers often struggle with tremendous workloads, multiple deadlines, scheduled travels, trips, meetings and what not… It is important to ensure a right balance so we can grow and make our names in our respective fields, and stay healthy and happy at the same time. There are enough hours in a day to make everything work. This is what I am often advised by my superiors. I am trying to learn it, and I suggest you to try that too.

From the perspective of Shah Rukh’s colleagues: what makes you respect Shah Rukh as a colleague?

“He’s grounded in history and tradition while bravely reaching for new horizons. He can make you pause and challenges you to re-think.”

“He has a lot of innovative ideas and he keeps calm even in difficult situations.”

“Shah Rukh is calm and quiet, easy to talk to and gets on top of things quite fast even when he has started late in projects.”

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