Interview with Grameen America CEO Operations: Shah Newaz

January 24, 2012 | 7:55 AM

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Shah Newaz and Professor Yunus at Bronx Grand Opening

Mr. Newaz is the foremost Grameen expert in the US. Since our 2008 launch in Jackson Heights, N.Y., Mr. Newaz has successfully overseen and scaled our operations across the country


When did you join Grameen Bank? What specific experiences led you to your position at Grameen America?
When I was a student at Chittagong University, I would see Dr. Yunus interact with the poor residents of Jobra Village. My professor urged me to apply to Grameen Bank, stressing its progressive work and deep impact on our community.

Tell us about a turning point moment that changed the course of your life.
In Bangladesh, most parents want their sons to work in government because the jobs are life-long secure positions. Joining Grameen was a risk. But right after joining, Dr. Yunus discussed with us the noble and ground-breaking work Grameen was doing. His speech was invigorating and I don't think I ever looked back.

Under your leadership, Grameen America has lent to over 8,500 borrowers. In your opinion, what are the keys to success?
The effectiveness of our model developed by Dr. Yunus and its noble intent, the way our Branch and Center Managers work hard to implement it, and the encouragement we receive from our management. Our dedication to implementing the original model of Grameen ensures our success.

What surprised you most when you first arrived in New York?
So many things were new and surprising. The first time I ever had to swipe a card to get on the subway was a new experience. I needed the help of my friend to walk me through the chaos.

What was your biggest challenge starting the first branch in Jackson Heights, Queens?
The biggest challenge I faced and we have been facing to this day is hiring the right staff. Getting the right kind of Center Managers who are motivated to work in the community for poverty alleviation has always been a challenge in the United States.

What food dish do you miss most from home? Does American-Bengali food compare?
I miss “Alu Puri", a kind of potato bread made with spices that my mother and elder sister make. That's the food I miss the most.

What is the most exciting part of your job?
Visiting the Center Meetings. It is always encouraging and rewarding when our borrowers welcome us into their houses/ businesses where the Center Meetings takeplace. They show us their products with genuine enthusiasm and gratitude.


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