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December 5, 2023
Ammar Shaar: not your typical COVID-19 bounceback story
Ammar Shaar is a front-end developer at Ramallah-based tech company Harri, after upskilling through TAP. His story is a lesson in the power of mindset.

Like many across Palestine, Ammar Shaar found himself out of a job in 2020. 

Up until that point, he had been juggling writing his masters thesis about sustainable economic development in Palestine with his work at a start-up based in Nablus. Together with the CEO, he had “big plans for the energy engineering sector in Palestine”. 

But these plans never came to fruition. Like the rest of the world, Palestine was forced into lockdown due to COVID-19 at the beginning of that year, with devastating effects for the young start-up, the fragile Palestinian economy, and Ammar’s career in sustainable energy and development.


Fast-forward two years, and Ammar’s in a different phase of his life. He is full of energy as he describes his current work as a front-end developer for Ramallah-based Harri. “The most important thing for happiness at work is the working environment”, and this tech company has a great one, Ammar says.

Pushing beyond expectations

A quick look at Ammar’s story and you may be forgiven for labeling his a typical COVID-19 bounceback story or ascribing it to ‘luck’. 

But dive deeper into his history, and you realize that he goes about his career and his personal development with far more intention than that.

Ammar’s unique mindset becomes clear when he takes you back to the end of the first of his two university degrees, a bachelor in Energy Engineering and Environment at An-Najah National University in Nablus.

“I was in my last year of my bachelor's and thought: I can do much more than ‘just’ graduating. Working on my graduation project, I told my supervisor: ‘Look, with this project I’d like to get at least a paper in a peer-reviewed journal’”. 

His eyes twinkle mischievously when he tells this story. Speaking to Ammar, these sorts of moments are sprinkled throughout the conversation. A big smile appears on his face as a shared but unspoken acknowledgement occurs that actually, this isn’t an everyday sort of mindset to have.

Taking a Palestinian energy solution international 

Presenting a business strategy at Ashridge Castle during the Hult Business Accelerator in London.

Ammar’s name now sits proudly alongside that of his university mentor, Tamer Khatib, and four other co-authors at the top of a 2018 article published in Energy Conversion and Management.

The article describes the team’s development of SolenX, a solar energy solution “we developed with Palestinian families in mind, so they can access reliable electricity”. 

That same year, the team went on to submit their idea to the internationally renowned Hult prize. They won locally, and bagged the top spot at the regional prize in Singapore where Ammar pitched their idea onstage. 

Ammar and the team then traveled to the UK, placed in the top 20 of the international competition and went through an intensive six-week Hult business accelerator program. He is visibly proud. "It was a big journey for me, also because I was still a student in university", he says.

The reality of post-university employment in Palestine

But as a fresh graduate a few short years later, Ammar was also painfully aware of the less rose-coloured realities of shaping a career and pursuing your passion in Palestine. 

Palestine has a high rate of university and college educated young people, and the number is growing by the day. Between 1995 and 2006, the number of students in university education almost tripled. 

Weighing down these hopeful statistics is the truth of employment post-university: the unemployment rate of new graduates stands at 40% for the engineering field, with 30% for males and 70% for females. The unemployment rate in the information technology field for new graduates sits at almost 60%.

In 2020, Ammar found himself similarly unemployed, in the midst of a global health crisis to boot. But his extraordinary mindset kicked in.

“I started looking for bootcamp programs around the world”, he says, that would help him upskill into software development. His search leads him as far as San Francisco, but it quickly becomes clear that the costs of these programs are prohibitive. “I was married, I had a family and responsibilities'', and simply couldn’t invest the money or the time to make these programs work.

He ends up finding the answer closer to home. 

“I heard about TAP from a friend”. Ammar had looked into the Dutch-Palestinian start-up, and spoke to the co-founder, Jafar Shunnar. Jafar told him about the challenges companies face finding talent in Palestine and Ammar recognized that TAP’s mission of creating a regenerative, sustainable economy for Palestine, through its talented young people, was fully aligned with his own passions and the topic of his thesis. 

He decided to apply, and TAP’s forward-thinking financing model as well as its pocket-money provision made it possible for him to commit fully to the three-month upskilling program. 

Jafar says of Ammar’s start at TAP: “When he applied to TAP, Ammar did not have a very strong background in programming, but the grit he showed left us with no doubt that he would succeed, so we decided to admit him into TAP.”

Jafar Shunnar (left) presenting Ammar Shaar (right) with his TAP certification

“TAP is a shortcut to finding a job”

“The amount of knowledge you gain in three short months is extraordinary”, says Ammar, and doesn’t stand in relation to the time you invest: "TAP is a shortcut to finding a job”.

TAP’s web development program helps its students apply their technical skills from the very start by placing them at tech companies as trainees, where they are tasked with real-life tickets. It focuses on addressing a problem that Ammar had already identified in his thesis about sustainable economic development in Palestine: “Companies don’t like hiring graduates fresh out of college. They say they’re not prepared for the job. And they’re right: graduates have pure information but not the skills needed in an actual job”. 

TAP leans heavily on teaching ‘power skills’ such as networking, time management and organization skills. Ammar: ‘You leave the program after three months not as a fresh graduate, but as a junior software developer ready for hire. This is the type of graduate companies are looking for’.

And when asked which of the power skills was the most important, his face lights up. The skill? Growth mindset. 

“One hundred percent this mindset changes everything. There is always other knowledge you can seek. It’s never a waste of your time. Keep learning, and adding to your knowledge bit by bit. You never know when you’ll need that knowledge in life”. 

Mashallah, you’re being headhunted”

TAP graduation ceremony 2021

Even two years after graduating from the program, Ammar’s cohort group of 15 are still in touch. Recently, they met up for lunch and shared tips and stories. Another member of his cohort is now being approached actively by companies looking to hire him, despite already having a job he enjoys (“Mashallah, you’re being headhunted, I told him”).

Ammar’s plans for his own future? 

“I’m focused on getting to know this new environment. I was a sustainable energy engineer before, and now I’m getting to know and getting more comfortable with the software development environment and industry’.

Again, there is a familiar twinkle in Ammar’s eyes. 

Listening to him speak, you just know that he’s got bigger plans for himself and for Palestine up his sleeve. 

For more information about Talent Acceleration Platform please visit: https://tapcareers.io 

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