In Conversation with Muhammad Shihab

Sumaiya Tasnim Adiba

Spade Academy is a skill development initiative determined to provide highly effective mentorship for youths of Bangladesh. He’s a brave entrepreneur with a vision to change this country through the youth. Here’s the downright conversation we had with the CEO of ‘Spade Academy’.

Before diving right into the story of Spade Academy, tell us what instigated the passion for designing in the first place.

My journey as a graphic designer started when I was in class 6. Around that time, I heard that one of my seniors at school designed the creatives of a music album and the whole thing seemed really lucrative to me. That was basically how Graphic Designing attracted me in the first place. Eventually, I started learning from youtube and also opened a Facebook page with the photos I’ve edited for my friends and seniors. 

How has been your journey in the designing sector so far? When did your professional career start in the field of designing and entrepreneurship? 

I got my first commercial work when I was in class 8 and designed the materials for two music albums around that time. It was kind of the first step to my entrepreneurship journey. I took a short break after that. During my A levels, I joined a photography agency named ‘Snapshot’ as a video editor. Simultaneously, I worked for a production house as the Assistant Director and worked on some projects. I came back to graphic designing again as I started designing social media content for a restaurant later on. It was around that time when I thought of opening an agency. I couldn’t open an office obviously, I was still in my A levels. What I did was I opened a Facebook page and started designing business cards. I remember earning 3000 Tk on my first order and with that money, I printed 1000 copies of business cards and money receipts. I visited several restaurants and hotels with the hope of having appointments. After getting my first work done, I received 6/7 more works within the next month which motivated me more. It has been almost five years since then. Now I lead my own team at ‘Spade Digital’ and I still design content with my team whenever I can. Also, I’m one of the instructors for the Graphic Designing course of ‘Spade Academy’ where I specifically mentor the students on social media content.

Was there any radical challenge you had to face on the way as a designer?

As a designer, I always did my jobs seriously and seeked help from others whenever I felt it was needed. My entrepreneurship journey started through designing and actually I didn’t need any huge investment for my businesses as there was no extra cost for designing contents. I always wanted to have my own business identity and dreamed of supervising a big office with many people working there. I started my journey with small steps back then and today I’m in the place where I dreamed to be.

Usually entrepreneurship in our country’s pretext is usually very perplexing and still perceived as an unaccommodating career track by maximum young graduates. So how would you define the dawn of your entrepreneurial career?

My family never discouraged me. Especially my father was always supportive of what I did as he was a businessman himself. Yes, many of my relatives demotivated my efforts and couldn’t appreciate the entrepreneurial mindset I had.

I was literally running two agencies at the same time and had graduates working for me from prestigious universities. But they never were able to understand what it was all about. In spite of the humiliations, I never stopped what I did. It was tough to carry on but I chose my career with what I had a passion for since the beginning. I proved myself with my abilities and fortunately, I was able to change the perspectives of many around me. It’s my dream to bring a change in our society’s perspective and I’m committed to bringing that transformation in Bangladesh.

From my personal perspective, I believe Spade Academy is the most impactful one among the ventures you’ve found so far in different fields. Tell us about the services Spade Academy is providing to the youth community of Bangladesh.

I realized that the designing institutions in Bangladesh didn’t focus on real-life projects and there was also inadequacy for industry professionals as instructors. In my learning days, once I discontinued a course for which I had already paid the full fee because I felt the instructor was not expert enough. All those incidents triggered me to start thinking about launching an institution like ‘Spade Academy.’ Today we’ve professionals with at least 5-7 years of industry experience as the instructors for ‘Spade Academy.’ Our motto for Spade Academy is ‘Learn from professional instructors.’

Businesses and companies have been revitalizing their operational system by adopting the ‘New Normal’ modification because of the COVID pandemic going on. What is the take of ‘Spade Academy’ in this context?

Personally I never preferred virtual classes as I always believed in hands-on real life learning. Spade academy never offered online courses until the pandemic. We put off it’s regular operations for one month after the beginning of lockdown and then we finally decided to give online classes a try. We eventually came to learn about various interesting softwares and advanced options which we didn’t know about before we attempted taking online courses. We were so astonished to see such widespread response for our online courses. There were far better results from those online courses rather than offline courses. We’ve brought all our courses online now and we don’t intend to open the Academy until COVID situation improves.

Being in the skill development industry, what differentiates ‘Spade Academy’ from others?

First of all, the best instructors in the industry are mentoring these courses. Secondly, it’s the support we provide during and after the training period. We encourage our successful alumni with official acknowledgments. It’s the students’ glory which defines ‘Spade Academy’ solely and we heartily believe in our students. 

Tell us something about your students. How are they coming out in the outer world after being sparked up from their mentorship tenure under Spade Academy?

The three-month-long timeline for the courses is done in two stages. In the first two months, students are trained for technical knowledge and the last month is for entering the marketplace successfully. We provide them with all the support they need to thrive in the freelancing marketplace or corporate sectors. Students are given real-life projects through which they experience what the professional world is all about. We have a Facebook group where our students share their success stories. Many of our students have launched their own business ventures in this pandemic. When an entrepreneur is sufficiently skilled with enough technical experience like graphics designing or web design, many of their expenses are reduced as they can already do those things themselves.

Being at such a strenuous time because of this pandemic, what keeps you motivated to keep going on, and also the people behind Spade Academy?

A professional workplace at home can always motivate you to concentrate your mind properly on your office work. I’ve my own workplace for my working hours and I always instruct my employees to have their own. Proper attire and working station can create that office mood for anyone. That’s how we’re coping up with the ‘working from home’ situation.

Amidst all the new revolutionizing changes and transformations of industries and companies, fresh graduates and undergraduate students are now quite in a dilemma of what path they should choose for ensuring a bright future ahead in their lives. Being an accomplished employer, what skill sets do you think are the most significant to reach that goal?

Some common technical stuff is very crucial for any type of career. For instance, MS Word, Excel are some skillsets which everyone should be skilled in. Basic presentation skills, Basic Illustrator, and Photoshop knowledge are also highly necessary hard skills that can enhance the image of any university student. Today’s young graduates must be skilled in these areas and undergraduate students should start learning similar stuff from the very beginning of their university life. Internships and part-time jobs can help future graduates tremendously. Enough industry knowledge for the sector an undergraduate wishes to enter guides them through the path they tread on. After having a particular goal in a career, it’s very easy to follow a certain road map. That’s the reason why they need to explore and know what they really want.

Lastly, do you have any advice for the readers of Torun?

I’m a dreamer and I will never stop dreaming even if I don’t have any backup or support behind me. So never place any barrier on your dreams. But dream while you are awake, not while you are sleeping. Do whatever you need to do to accomplish your dream. Best of luck!

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