I have been blessed with a series of fortuitous turns throughout my life, one of which was responding to a job posting for an English language copyeditor at a small Egyptian publisher in 2004. Having recently graduated from university with a degree in Middle East studies but no real plan for my career, I briefly tried my hand at being a journalist in Cairo. Lacking the passion and dedication that I quickly realized I would need to succeed as a foreign correspondent, I decided to expand my horizons and consider a role in a field I had previously never given much thought to, namely scholarly journal publishing. That first interview at Hindawi would lead to opportunities I couldn’t have possibly imagined: the chance to build a great company and work with amazingly talented people to transform the way scholarly research is shared around the world.
I joined Hindawi at a time when open access was still new, both at Hindawi and in the wider publishing industry. From the very beginning, my role at Hindawi has given me the opportunity to work closely with a passionate group of publishers, librarians, and researchers working to advance open access. In early 2008, before any of the large publishers were seriously engaging with open access, a number of fully OA publishers including PLOS, BioMed Central, and Hindawi were starting to demonstrate signs of commercial success. During a coffee break at the 4th Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication, a few of us began a friendly conversation about the need for publishers of open access journals to have our own community, one where we could share ideas and work together to advance our shared mission. This conversation became the impetus for what would soon become the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).
During its first few years, OASPA operated with a shoestring budget and the volunteered support of OASPA’s board members and others. As the Chair of OASPA’s first five annual conferences, I vividly remember printing out all of the names tags and conference packs before each meeting, running up and down the aisles with a microphone in hand during Q&A sessions, and then going out to celebrate in the evenings with everyone who had worked so hard to make these events possible. As someone in their mid-20s and only a few years into my career, I was deeply inspired by the passion, dedication, and kindness that I saw in the people around me. Not only did these experiences help to bring out in me the passion and dedication that had been lacking during my brief career as a journalist, but they also gave me the chance to develop close relationships with people from across the industry. These relationships have always been of great importance to me, and many of my closest friends are people I first met at a publishing conference or at a board meeting of OASPA or Crossref.
Although I look back fondly at those conferences and the early formation of the OA movement, the achievements of those years can’t compare with the sense of accomplishment I’ve derived from leading Hindawi’s incredible team over these past 5 years. Since taking over as CEO in 2015, I have had the pleasure of watching Hindawi’s team in the UK and Romania grow from one person to more than 100. Leading such a passionate and capable team has been the absolute highlight of my career and one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Even in a year as challenging as 2020, Hindawi’s team was able to migrate all our 200+ journals onto our newly built Phenom platform, grow our publishing output by more than 30%, develop exciting new publishing partnerships with both Sage and Cambridge University Press, and successfully complete the sale of our company to an ideal partner like Wiley. It’s hard for me to express the pride and gratitude that I feel for the incredible efforts put forth by my colleagues at Hindawi, particularly at a time when many on our team have had to face serious personal hardships as a result of the pandemic.
Just as joining Hindawi in 2004 was a fortuitous turn that would forever change my life, I now find myself at another turning point that will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the rest of my life. At the start of January, only days after Hindawi joined the Wiley family, my wife and I welcomed our first child into our family. As many people had told me would happen, the birth of my son had a profound impact on me. Immediately, I knew that my family would forever be the most important priority in my life. After careful consideration over these past few weeks, I have decided to take a step back from my professional career and focus on being a full-time father and husband.
Among the many pieces of good fortune I’ve had in my life, I am particularly grateful for the auspicious timing of my son’s arrival. Coming only days after the successful completion of Hindawi’s sale to Wiley, I became a father at the exact moment in my life when I was given a rare opportunity. The sale of Hindawi has given me the financial security to be able to take an extended break from work, which is unfortunately something that very few parents are able to do. Equally important, Wiley’s acquisition of Hindawi gave me the ability to consider stepping back from my role as CEO without abandoning the deep sense of commitment and responsibility I feel towards Hindawi and its team. As difficult as it is for me to leave, I am confident that Wiley will provide the ideal home for Hindawi to continue in its mission and also provide great opportunities for Hindawi’s team members to advance in their careers.
There is a big part of me that would love to continue on this journey that I have been on for nearly half my life, particularly at this exciting moment of change for Hindawi. However, the right decision for my family and I is for me to take a step back and leave it to all of my incredible colleagues at Hindawi and Wiley to continue our shared mission of transforming scholarly communications and enabling a better future. I will always be grateful for the opportunity that Ahmed Hindawi gave me 16 years ago and for the trust he has placed in me ever since. I will always be grateful to the countless people I have met in my career who have shared with me their time, their wisdom, and their friendship without expecting anything in return. Most of all, I will always be grateful to my colleagues at Hindawi for your hard work and for the trust you placed in me. Words cannot express how proud I am of each of you.
I’ll be watching and cheering from the sidelines and I look forward to seeing what you can accomplish together in the years ahead.