Manal Houri’s trajectory to becoming Facebook’s Head of Digital Transformation for the social media company’s Learning and Development function took a fortuitous turn when she transferred to the Lebanese American University (LAU).
“Interestingly, as an architecture major at another university I was more interested in the computer applications related to the subject rather than the core design – this prompted me to transfer into a strong computer science program in Beirut, and the rest is history,” explains Houri, who received a BS and MS in Computer Science in 2001 and 2004, from LAU, respectively.
Her decision to join LAU, and the knowledge and skills she acquired at the institution, has paid off tremendously. In fact, Houri is now part of shaping the future of corporate learning at one of the world’s most well-known social media platforms, and hopes to bring new technologies to a wider learner base in the future around the world and in Lebanon especially.
Describing her day-to-day work at Facebook, Houri says, “I work to bring emerging tech to the world of corporate training: a body of work that is often anchored in research, discovery and cross-functional partnerships – all of which are skills I started honing early on during my time at LAU.”
Part of her job is to bring emerging tech into the learning ecosystem as new modalities for learning including virtual reality (VR).
“My latest contribution in the VR space, launched on Women's International Day, is also available to the public, so anyone who wishes to consume our VR for inclusion content and create a learning moment around it in a self-serve fashion can do so by visiting https://vrforinclusion.fb.com.”
Indeed, attending LAU played a pivotal part of Houri’s journey towards securing a demanding role at Facebook, but it also positioned her to be accepted, and to excel, in her doctorate degree in Computer Science from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
“Whether in the classroom, where I learned to be critical and voice my opinions, or when in the computer lab, where I spent a lot of time collaborating with my classmates on programming projects and applying logical thinking and trial and error, or while working in the Registrar’s Office, where I learned firsthand the importance of empathy and efficient interpersonal communications, among countless job-related skills – all these experiences shaped my capabilities for graduate school and eventually launched me into the US for a PhD in Computer Science, and later multiple highly-technical highly-visible corporate jobs in Texas and California,” says Houri, who relied on financial aid during her time at LAU.
Recognizing the importance of financial support in realizing her dreams, Houri says, “I am very proud of the scholarship program at LAU. Personally, it offered me huge opportunities to advance my education in both the BS and MS programs.”
With her intuitive mind and unwavering ambition, Houri is an inspiration to LAU’s students and an emblem of the institution’s mission. With more support to LAU and its students following in her footsteps, the university’s brightest, can also go on to do great things for Lebanon and the world.