Leading the Way in International Tutoring: How One of the Youngest Self-Made CEOs in the World is Building an Education Force to be Reckoned With, with Founder & CEO of Interjoin Teach, Omar El Dokani: Podcast Transcript

​​Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?

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Ludo Millar  1:14  
Hello, and welcome to the 138th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, the host of this podcast. Welcome back to our regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to this podcast and a very warm welcome to our guest today, Omar El Dokani. Omar, welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast.

Omar El Dokani  2:27 
Thank you very much. It’s good to be here.

Ludo Millar  2:30 
My pleasure. You have a lifestyle that takes you from from place to place but today you’re dialing in from … ?

Omar El Dokani  2:42 
Romania.

Ludo Millar  2:43
Romania, very good. Well, I think that there will be a rich theme of the nature of international tutoring in today’s tutoring market. And you know, perhaps more than anyone, you have a really good handle, a good finger on the pulse there.

So listeners, over the next 25 minutes or so we’ll be exploring a little bit about Omar’s business, Interjoin and of course, the tutoring side of that, Interjoin Teach, which Omar founded a few years ago. But for those who haven’t come across Interjoin Teach, or indeed Omar, hailing from Cairo, and educated in both Dubai, and here in the UK, and as I mentioned, founded Interjoin just a number of years ago, and that really is a professional networking platform, which aims to do a whole number of things, but really the key elements are to match up employer with employee to reduce the number of startups that don’t eventually succeed and never make it into the real world. So answering some of the questions for today’s business world. And then, as I said, Interjoin Teach is the one-on-one tutoring branch connecting a huge pool of tutors worldwide from the Middle East and Asia and then into the UK and Europe. And really, at only 20 years old Omar is really a very, very exciting part of the business and the education world.

So I’m very, very glad, Omar, that you’re able to join us today. I always ask guests one question when we start, and I never tell guests that I’m going to ask this question, but that’s fine, because Omar told me, “Don’t worry, you can ask me anything” as I remember. That first question is: what is giving you reason to smile today? Here on Monday 31st October.

Omar El Dokani  4:36  
Probably that I’m going to be in bed in about two hours [LAUGHS]. That’s the number one reason for me to smile. No, look, I’m very happy about where we are with the company. I’m very happy about the progress we’ve made over the last three years. You know, building the Interjoin umbrella, so called the Interjoin Teach here was probably what brought us together. It’s been a significant journey for us and for my whole team. I couldn’t be prouder to say the least. Yes, it has taken me all over the world. Sometimes I want to, sometimes I don’t. But we’re here today, and it brings new opportunities every day. And that’s why I’m happy.

Ludo Millar  5:21  
Along the way, Omar, I imagine you’ve done a little bit of thinking about why you’re here and why you started Interjoin. I was wondering if you could give our listeners a little insight into your why, Omar? A little bit into why you do what you do.

Omar El Dokani  5:37  
Look, I mean, essentially, at the core of it, right, is providing better solutions for the market, right? I think that question can be divided into two sections, right: you’ve got the personal aspect of things and then you’ve got the professional aspect of things as well. From the professional side, I always found it very driving, and it always motivated me to see how you can compete in the market. I think that’s number one.

The second one is providing better solutions. As I said earlier, you’ve got pre-existing companies that have delivered great solutions and have been constant innovators in the market, and helped a lot of people along the way. A lot of people don’t realise that every company was just once an idea. Somebody that wanted to help others. And then from the personal side of things as well, that’s a slightly more complicated question. I guess, I couldn’t give you a straight answer. It’s just inside me, I always want to keep pushing forward. I always want to keep driving new initiatives, I keep wanting to grow with the team, with our outreach, with the different markets that we’re in, the 5+ countries that we have offices [in] right now as well. It brings me joy, and you know, it’s become my day-to-day life, and I couldn’t be happier. So that’s probably the answer from the personal side.

Ludo Millar  7:07  
… which is what we want to hear today is, of course, all about Interjoin. But it’s more about you, Omar. But if we’re to focus on Interjoin just a little bit, you’ve recently kind of relaunched the interjoin.com site. I wondered if there was a little bit you could tell us about how you came to launch Interjoin and why? Why now? What is the kind of ethos of the moment? What is the exciting project at the moment and why you’ve kind of relaunched Interjoin?

Omar El Dokani  7:42  
Well look, Interjoin, as it is today, wasn’t always what it is, right? At first, it started as a networking company, and then we had to rebrand. And then we dived into the education sector as what you see with Interjoin Teach. And then about a year ago, we decided to have Interjoin as an umbrella company, as a trademark, as a brand, and then have subsidiaries under it serving different purposes, serving different needs in the market. And interjoin.com currently carries the Interjoin Teach site, which, you know, I was a student about two years ago, three years ago. 

And look, I needed plenty of help, believe me, and there was no direct place for me to go, where I could sort of get the educational help that I wanted, in a quick, seamless, interactive way, which was also user-friendly. Look, a lot of our competitors today in the market require lots of time and require lots of sign-up length, and all these kinds of things from users, right? What we’re trying to build is a hub really for education, where you put [in] your data about yourself, that’s what you input. And that’s what we work with, right. We tailor the platform according to your needs, right. Instead of me having to type what I want to look for, send a few emails to see if I can get a booking with a teacher online, have a free trial session, I don’t know much about the teacher, so I don’t really have a clear idea. We wanted to build something where, look, this is the teacher in front of you, you can book it within 30-45 seconds, we have all your data in your home pages tailored to exactly what you study at school, university. And we built our own video conferencing as well, so you don’t have to take anything off the platform. And it gives you every single resource that you need to carry out these sessions.

Look, a lot of kids in class don’t necessarily learn the same way, right. And a lot of them are shamed or sort of shy perhaps to seek the help that they need. So with the rollout of our mobile app as well, in the next 2-3 months, they’ll be able to leave that class, book a session for 8pm tonight and attend from their laptop and never have to worry about falling behind with their education or if they just simply want to keep advancing and stay one step ahead. That’s what we aim to build. And I think that market was relatively empty and relatively underdeveloped. That’s my opinion. And that’s why I chose to go in there. And that’s why we’ve allocated a lot of our resources in building [something] extremely complex from the back end, however, from the front end, extremely seamless to the user, and how they can utilise it.

Ludo Millar  10:26  
Omar, I’ve known you for a few months now. And that is- you’ve really pulled out the bag for the podcast [LAUGHS]. That is the clearest manner in which you’ve put the problem and the solution that I’ve heard you give so far. I think what you’re saying is there is a rallying call for 1000s of people working in education, of course, but edtech more closely. And really, most tutors these days are now working in essentially edtech, aren’t they? You can’t really escape online tutoring in 2022, not that you’d want to anyway, but what you’ve just described there, do you think that is the direction that international tutoring is heading in?

Omar El Dokani  11:13  
Well, to be honest, I’m not a big fan of the word ‘tutoring’, right. I prefer to use the word ‘learning advancements’, because tutoring sort of signifies that you’re falling behind somewhere, right. Whereas the market simply needs to accept that different children are different, you know, kids learn different ways, and then from the other side need different resources to be able to be tailored to them. Look, the academic system is very straightforward. It’s sort of a tunnel, it doesn’t really accommodate for people on each side. So I think it’s the future for learning advancement, and you know, identifying each child’s skill and, you know, poking at the right holes, and really being able to extract the talents, the skills which go unidentified through their academic journey, which is a shame, right, and that’s something we need to work on as well is facing the problem at the root cause, right, which is [that] there’s great, fantastic things about the academic system. But we can all agree here that it doesn’t necessarily test or identify certain areas which kids might be talented in or might have skills [in]. So I think learning advancement is definitely moving that way. And I think technological inputs and aids for students are going to be the future for it. Absolutely.

Ludo Millar  12:37  
So what can tutors and tutoring companies do to prepare for learning development in 2022? How can they improve their systems to to be ready for that?

Omar El Dokani  12:51  
I think it always goes back to putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes, right. You have to be able to think like a student. You have to put yourself in their world and try to understand what they want access to, and how they want access to it. I think that’s the key to solving many problems is this world is just try to flip your perspective, not as a business owner, not as a tutoring company owner, not as whatever but simply as the consumer, right. What do they want? How do they want it? And how quickly do they want it? I think that solves a lot of the problems and, you know, if you’re able to envision yourself as a student, you’ll be able to give students solutions, right.

And that’s part of our success as well is, I was in a classroom two years ago, and I knew exactly what was needed. And I knew what was missing. So I had a relatively fresh insight and opinion about how to move forward in the education space and how to give kids what they want.

Ludo Millar  13:54  
And the product is Interjoin Teach.

Omar El Dokani  13:56  
Absolutely.

Ludo Millar  13:58  
When you were leaving school, was this something that you’d wanted to set up for a while? Was this something that came about because you saw the pandemic had given us an opportunity?

Omar El Dokani  14:12  
Yeah, this Interjoin started about 3-4 months before the pandemic, right. And as soon as I turned 18, I registered my first company. And let me tell you, I had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted to get a hold of the name, right. I sat piece of paper pen in my hand ‘Inter-something’, ‘Inter-this’, ‘Inter-that’. And the idea definitely isn’t what it is today. And it’s definitely come a long way since but yes, during my time at school, at least the last 6-7 months of my high school education, it was something I was looking into.

At very early stages, don’t get me wrong, there was no funding. There was no resources behind this. It was just me and a piece of paper – and I went to boarding school – in a school dorm, but yeah, it was after I transitioned to university when I was going to go to university straightaway, and then COVID hit. So I decided to take a gap year. And that’s where things started to change, right. That’s where we received funding for the company. That’s where our structure was set up. And that’s where I was really able to get to work in delivering that sort of solution that we’re talking about today.

Because at the end of the day, it’s an extremely complex platform, Ludo. And it takes years to build, especially all the in-house technologies that we have incorporated and embedded inside the platform. So it took us a while and a lot of hiccups and a lot of barriers and a lot of problems and issues that you have to face day-to-day. But we’re here today, and I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful to the team, grateful to our partners. And we can keep moving forward.

Ludo Millar  16:02  
So along the way, then, Omar, you’ve described how the journey has not been simple. And it’s required a lot of hard work, not just on the technology software side, but also on the relationship side, partnership side. What kind of- what I like to know [with] these questions is- so I’m going to ask for three pieces of advice that you have for sort of budding young entrepreneurs who want to go down a similar route.

Omar El Dokani  16:36  
The first one is always awareness. I believe each person should be aware of their skills, or what they’re good at and aware of the gaps that they need to fill, or things they are not so good at. Entrepreneurship requires a few amount of skills, which some people have, some people don’t. At the end of the day, it’s not just about ideas. A lot of people can have great ideas, a lot goes down to execution, and a lot goes down into resilience as well. A lot of people are going to be kicked numerous times to the ground, right, and how many times can you get back up? You’re gonna receive some funding, you might go through it all and you might not have an MVP or a finished product, right. And it’s about how can you recover? How can you keep moving forward at least one step a day? So awareness is definitely the first one, just be in tune with what you’re good at and how can you leverage and utilise those skills? And also be aware of what you’re not so good at, right, because humility I guess, is a big part of it. There’s no arrogance in entrepreneurship, because what you’re not good at will either get exposed today or five years from now, right. Somebody will poke every hole, let you in and see what’s empty, right. So, number one is definitely awareness.

The second one would be to have the ability to pivot, right, The market changes daily, yearly, monthly, whatever it is, and you must respond. A lot of entrepreneurs are very stubborn in their head, they treat their ideas just like babies, right, and you want to execute and you want to deliver on that same idea, right, where you have to take into account that the market changes a lot, or very frequently, so you must be able to change according to it, you must be able to alter some things, you must be able to accommodate for whatever the market needs because at the end of the day, that will determine your success, the performance once you put something out into the market.

The third thing I would probably have to say, a solid and concrete motivation source. It can’t be related to finances or can’t be financially related at all, I don’t think, because, you know, gun to your head, Ludo, if somebody says you can have $100 million, say, “Okay, just don’t kill me, you know what I mean?” So money isn’t necessarily concrete. You must have a greater purpose as to why you do such things. And people find it very early. Some people find it late but I would encourage everybody at least to try and look for that concrete motivation source [for] when your backs against the wall. That’s what will support you. And that’s what will remind you while you keep doing certain things.

Yeah, those would probably be my three advices. I mean, it’s very hard to create a handbook for entrepreneurs, right. Everybody’s journey is extremely different. Some people have it easier than others. However, I mean, if we were to give generic advice, that’s probably what I would go for.

Ludo Millar  19:54  
Omar, you’ve learned these skills along the way, but there must have been some influences on you, even. Who have you looked to before in terms of business advice and in terms of mentorship?

Omar El Dokani  20:10  
Well, it’s not necessarily to do with business, it’s just a way of life. I think that’s my father. My father is, you know, of the utmost importance to me and will forever be the person I go to to seek advice or whenever you have a problem in your life, and that’s partially due to years of experience. And you know, I came a very long way in a short space of time, right. And I always needed to stay grounded, I always needed to seek right advices at the right times, and that was always my father. He’s a much, much, much wiser man than I am.

Ludo Millar  20:55  
I’m sure your kids will say the same thing to you Omar [LAUGHS].

Omar El Dokani  20:58
Hahah

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Ludo Millar  21:02
And now, a brief word from last week’s guest, Sarah Cottingham, whose episode you can catch after this.

Sarah Cottingham  21:14  
So what did I learn from being on the Qualified Tutor Podcast? That tutors think really hard about very similar stuff to teachers. And I also got to be immersed in the world of tutoring, through discovering the Qualified Tutor Podcast, and listening to some episodes prior to doing the episode that I was on. And learned a lot of things I didn’t know about tutoring, for example, the academic as well as the pastoral side of it. And what I enjoyed most about being a guest on the podcast. Well I think Ludo is absolutely fantastic and it was great to meet him. He’s really open-minded and asks fantastic questions. It also gave me a chance to really clarify my ideas. Sometimes when you write about stuff and think about stuff, and you don’t kind of realise that you’re being quite opaque. But when you have to sit down and explain things to people, it really forces you to be clear. And what would I say to a future guest? I would say bring along your school report. I forgot to bring along my school report and ended up discussing my partner’s school report, which I found quite hilarious. But I wish I had dug out my own.  I think it’s a great and really clever way into the podcast.

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Ludo Millar  22:38  
Now, we’re just kind of coming to a close here, we like to at least keep the conversations to our listeners’ attention spans. So on that note, Omar, I’m going to close with a final question really, which is a little bit about the future, looking ahead to what’s next. And given that there’s been so much that’s come already, even in Interjoin’s short lifespan, that’s giving a good indication that the next few years are going to be an exciting place to be. But what’s next for you? What’s next for Omar El Dokani?

Omar El Dokani  23:22  
I’m trying to expand our international umbrella into as many markets as possible, right. How many markets can we get into? How many partners can we close in these markets to help us leverage the demand that we have, roll out solutions to the people and have some sort of effective user acquisition, right. Because as a person myself, it’s impossible to be in 50, 60 countries at once. So it’s always about identifying the right key people to join you on board and giving them opportunities to help us expand. From a personal standpoint as well, look, I need a holiday, I need to see my family. So that’s probably what I’m looking forward to the most. But we’ll keep moving forward surely, and I won’t stop. I probably won’t be taking that holiday [LAUGHS].

Ludo Millar  24:16  
Yeah, we can all dream about things we want. I wanted that question to be about realities [LAUGHS]. But no, Omar, thank you, thank you so much. We at Qualified Tutor are very much looking forward to working with what Interjoin has to offer and has to bring to the tutoring market because, you know, it’s not just about what Interjoin can get and how they can grow, but it’s also about the skills and the processes that you guys are going to bring to the market. I think whenever someone of your age, Omar, enters the market like this, there are, as you said, so many fresh ideas and insights and you understand schooling, basically, as well as anyone else does, because you’ve just been there. And I think that’s huge. It’s important to remember. So, yeah, very glad to have you on here. I can’t wait for, in 10 years’ time, to say, ‘Oh my god. We had Omar on our podcast ONCE UPON A TIME, 138th episode’.

Omar El Dokani  25:14  
I’ll be retiring on an island somewhere Ludo. You won’t be able to reach me [LAUGHS].

Ludo Millar  25:19  
I was thinking you might be the newest dragon in Dragon’s Den. But fine, if you want to go to an island.

Omar El Dokani  25:24  
I’m calling it quits at 30 {LAUGHS]. Oh, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for the invite. I appreciate [it] and we’re very happy to have you on board as well.

Ludo Millar  25:35  
Yeah. Well, for the next episode, we’ll be hearing from Jason Preece who runs The Tutor Index. A very similar platform really, in its early days without perhaps the international reach but moving towards a closer alignment between tutor and student. So continuing very similar themes to today’s episode. But Omar, thank you so, so much for coming on, and we will chat again soon.

Omar El Dokani  26:01  
Thank you very much. Bye.

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Ludo Millar
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Your next step is to check out the Love Tutoring Community and in particular LTC Connect, a premium membership space which will serve all your subject-specific CPD needs alongside a friendly, professional community space that meets regularly. Visit qualifiedtutor.org/transformational-training to find out more about our CPD-Accredited and Ofqual-recognised courses: the first of their kind in the tutoring industry.

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