Watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood films in Dhaka, Bangladesh, AKM Zabed Rahman never imagined traveling to their stomping grounds to learn how to improve his business.
Zabed serves as the managing director at Sthapottik Ltd., an architecture and interiors firm in Dhaka.
He was accepted into the Professional Fellows Program, a project financed by a U.S. State Department grant to bring in emerging leaders to broaden their professional experience. He finishes the program this week.
The grant is administered through the University of Oklahoma. The Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth worked together to host fellows from Bangladesh and Nepal, pairing them with public and private organizations.
Zabed was paired with The McKinney Partnership, a Norman architecture firm. He compared that business to his own.
“Process-wise, I think we are OK,” Zabed said. “But technology-wise, they are way ahead.”
Reality matched his predictions, he said. The United States is one of the most developed nations in the world, but Bangladesh is still developing.
The McKinney Partnership uses Autodesk Revit, a 3D modeling software, to help design buildings.
“One person can do four persons’ work,” Zabed said.
He was also impressed by the communication software available, namely Skype.
The McKinney Partnership’s community involvement inspired Zabed to see past the bottom line, he said.
The American firm showed him some of their work with nonprofits, day cares, hospitals and schools. He said it inspired him to use his business as a tool to grow society.
Members of the firm decided to provide not only professional guidance, but also cultural experience. Director Ann Benson created a photo album for Zabed to have a visual record of the trip.
Photos showed him posing next to a horse he rode, viewing an open prairie littered with buffalo and visiting the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
“I used to watch all the Western movies,” he said. “I just loved it.”
This isn’t Zabed’s first trip to America. He has visited many of its metros, including New York City and Los Angeles. He said he preferred Norman.
“I had no idea that a place in the U.S. could be so peaceful,” he said.
The grant financed the reciprocal exchange between Zabed’s firm and The McKinney Partnership, who will send one of their own architects, Michael Mitscher, to Bangladesh in June.
“There’s always potential to build partnerships,” Mitscher said.
Mitscher compared strengths of the two countries and their economies, naming technology and training as America’s strengths and naming manpower and work ethic as Bangladesh’s. He believes the pair could have a symbiotic relationship.