His larger than life personality is evident from the moment you meet. Smart, confident and extremely humble, Tariq Hilal al Barwani is someone who puts you at ease in seconds with a flash of his effortless smile. With stardom in his IT career after founding Knowledge Oman, an award-winning community platform that reaches out to empower social entrepreneurs and facilitate nationwide knowledge transfer, the 36-year-old has come a long way and is still raring to go.
Tariq founded Knowledge Oman in 2008, in line with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said’s vision of transforming Oman’s society into a knowledge based one. However, he stepped down as President of the organisation when it was at its peak last year, a decision he made to ensure everyone gets a fair chance to practice different roles within the company.
I remember Tariq from a column that he used to write for a supplement in a local newspaper and many people identify him as an “IT geek”, but I soon found out there is so much more to him.
“I appreciate it when people relate me with IT because that’s what I first played around with, but I’m not just a computer box,” he tells me. “I like creating things and IT is only the tool I use to create. I know what technology can do and I like to utilise that to impact and benefit society.”
Tariq’s interest in IT started at five years old when his father brought home a ZX Spectrum computer for him and his siblings. “My father had a foresight of what the future would be like. He gave me a computer and told us that we can use this to create things and play games, that’s where it all started for me,” he remembers.
Now, 31 years later, Tariq has had to put in a great deal of effort to achieve what he has. “Everything that comes easily to me today is because of the years of hard work. I used to sleep for only four hours a day and worked really hard when I was younger. I used to be in computer classes when my friends were playing in the evenings, but now I play more than most kids because of how much I worked before,” he laughs.
Tariq is the only Omani to be recognised as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for technical leadership. Microsoft’s MVP award is given to “exceptional, independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others” and Tariq has won it nine years in a row. The recurring recognition also led to the opportunity to meet Bill Gates. Of meeting the tech icon, Tariq says: “He is a very interesting guy who has done great things. Meeting him was a goal, not a dream. I knew that one day it would happen, and it did.”
While most people crave every minute of sleep possible and often end up rushing in the morning,Tariq has his daily routine planned out perfectly and will have achieved more than most by the time he sits down at his desk. “I wake up at 4am to pray and there is nothing more important than that. I go to the gym and then return home where I do some reading, and then I go to work,” he reveals.
At work, Tariq ensures he is always as productive as possible by making a point to stay positive. When the time comes to clock off, he spends time at home playing with his son and daughter, aged eight and six, or helping them with their homework before retiring to bed around 8pm, but by 10pm at the latest.
Aside from his full time job, consultancy in various projects and speaking engagements, Tariq also hosts the popular radio talk show, Knowledge Oman, where he sits down with an inspiring personality and chats through their story with them.
Outside of work, Tariq loves to travel, play and stay fit, and his social media accounts clearly reflect that. You will find him visiting new places often, even if it’s just taking his family out to discover a hidden gem in his home country.
His secret to success? “I prioritise and pick the most important things and leave everything else. I take on anything that will add more value to society and leave everything else; that is the key.”
My final question was about where Tariq saw himself in 10 or 20 years from now and his inspiring response reflected his determination to be a positive force of change in the world and left a lasting impression with me. “I might not be alive then or even after this meeting, but before I leave this world, I want to make sure that I have impacted all the people of Oman in a positive way.”