Dilawar Syed Chosen by President Obama to Join Commission
Washington, DC: On September 16, 2010 a White House press release announced that President Obama intends to add some key posts to his administration. Amongst the dozen or so people on the list, four are South Asian Americans. And out of those, one Pakistani American, Dilawar A. Syed has been chosen to be a part of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We congratulate him on being chosen for this role and hope that this will open more positions from within our community in Washington in the near future. Ras Siddiqui (RS) asked Dilawar (DS) some questions for the benefit of our readers.
RS: How does it feel to be nominated for a role in this administration?
DS: I am deeply humbled and honored by my appointment by President Obama. I feel especially gratified by the President's commitment to our communities through the establishment of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and the formation of the Presidential Commission on Asian Americans.
RS: What role will you be playing after becoming a part of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders?
DS: The Commission covers a broad range of issues concerning our communities across the country -- education, economic growth, civil rights and sustainable communities. Given my professional background and presence in Silicon Valley, I hope to focus on economic growth. We have a significant opportunity to educate the entrepreneur community about various initiatives and programs the Administration has rolled out to support small businesses and drive entrepreneurship. Just this week, for example, President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs bill into law, giving small businesses the support and incentives needed to grow and hire. In addition, we also have an important role in informing future policies at the Federal level. The Commission empowers our communities by giving them a much-needed voice at the highest levels of government in our country.
RS: What advice would you give to other members from within our community who aspire for similar positions in Washington in the future?
DS: The community lends an essential voice and perspective to policy-making and there is a clear recognition by the Administration of ensuring inclusiveness of all our communities. If you aspire to have a seat on the table, I firmly believe the doors are open for you. What you must do -- and do so consistently and with an unflinching commitment -- is to actively engage in serving the community and participate in broader civic life. The ability to organize and develop community is an invaluable skill and it is instrumental to ensuring success in public service.
RS: How did your family react when they heard the news of your nomination?
DS: This honor is an inspiration to my children -- and all our children -- that if you are committed to driving impact, the doors are open for you to serve our country at any level. While the kids are a bit less enthusiastic about my spending more time away from home to support the Commission's work, they are very excited and supportive of the role.
RS: What are you doing since you left Yahoo ?
DS: I joined Yonja Media Group as its CEO in early 2009. Yonja Media owns and operates several leading social media and community websites in Turkey and the region. I am based in Yonja's San Francisco Bay Area headquarters. We are in the midst of expanding the portfolio of our products and services as well as regional focus in this dynamic and high growth market.
RS: You were President of the OPEN organization in Silicon Valley. What can you tell us about that role and did you catch the “ Entrepreneur Bug” from holding that position
DS: It was a highly rewarding and gratifying experience to help build OPEN Silicon Valley as a leading entrepreneurship organization in Silicon Valley . As its President, I had the privilege of working with some of the most talented and committed individuals to help drive entrepreneurship and leadership in our community. I have benefited -- and continue to do so -- from the energy and resourcefulness of this organization. I have applied lessons learned from my OPEN colleagues to my professional career, and continue to do so as a leader of a global company now.
RS: In your new role, how do you think that you can assist the Asian and Pacific Islander community in getting their concerns heard in Washington?
DS: I hope to act as a bridge between our community and the Administration -- to channel their hopes, aspirations and needs -- and help ensure they are reflected in solutions the Administration delivers. Whether it's economic growth or civil rights, we have some critical work to do to inform policies that address the community's concerns. Over the next few weeks, the Commission will develop a comprehensive plan and identify strategic priorities to focus on key and immediate policy matters. In parallel, we will start to actively engage the community to both share the mandate and scope of our work, as well as, to invite community feedback.
RS: Thank you and congratulations once again, Dilawar.