The Team

Alef Education is an innovative locally incubated Emirati company. We are proud of our Abu Dhabi roots but we have a large and diverse team of international experts that have been assembled together to truly change the education paradigm

We are home to a team of passionate educators, data nerds, algorithm engineers, learning scientists and creative designers. Our people have come from over 20 countries, studied at some of the world’s top universities, worked at Fortune 500 companies, founded exceptional startups, and have now come together in one of the world’s best cities to make the impossible happen.

We are bound together with passion for making a difference, the 
discipline to make it happen efficiently, and the skills to get it right.

Geoffrey Alphonso

Geoffrey Alphonso

Chief Executive Officer

In his role of CEO, Geoffrey Alphonso brings a wealth of experience in strategic thinking with over 20 years of experience in enabling business transformations across the North American, Australian and Middle East Markets. Prior to joining Alef Education, Geoffrey was General Manager and Head of PMO / Solutions for Pearson Education’s Middle East & Africa business practice for over 9 years, where he grew and led a cross functional team towards driving Pearson’s digital strategy with a combined portfolio of over $30M USD across both the K-12 and Higher Ed markets. Prior to his time at Pearson Education, Geoffrey held various senior leadership roles in Toronto, Canada & Brisbane, Australia across the Ed-Tech, Telecom and the Financial sectors. Geoffrey is an avid enthusiast of using technology to enable education. He also sits on a board of THAKI an NGO, that helps bring digital education products and services to underprivileged children in the MENA region. Geoffrey holds an MBA from the London Business School.

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Nadir Zafar

Nadir Zafar

Chief Operating Officer

As COO, Nadir Zafar has broad responsibilities driving business performance, including managing the Finance and Marketing functions. Nadir has over 20 years of experience leading teams and managing people. Prior to Alef, Nadir worked at GEMS Education as Director of Corporate Development, where he successfully led the charge for enrolments in their Singapore school. Before that, he served on the senior leadership team at GEMS in their corporate HQ in the UAE, reporting directly to the Group CEO. Among his responsibilities, he led the implementation of several critical projects and rolled out the strategic planning process across the organization. Nadir’s leadership extends beyond work; he has served the Singapore community as President of the Singapore Business Council UAE and taken on leadership roles in other voluntary organizations. Nadir holds an MBA from INSEAD.

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David Porcaro

David Porcaro

Director of Education & Content (Joining May 2018)

With nearly 15 years experience in education research and design in a number or settings, from a charter school board to international development to edtech startups, David is a thought leader in the field of education design. Currently Director of Learning Design at Pearson in Denver, Colorado, David is responsible to create and champion learning design strategies across global products by integrating learning sciences research with product analytics and human-centered design.  David holds a PhD in Learning, Design and Technology from the University of Georgia, an MPhil in Oriental Studies from the University of Cambridge and a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Brigham Young University. Additionally, he holds a Certificate in Innovation & Entrepreneurship from Stanford University and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in Oman where he taught pre-service teachers and researched computer supported collaborative learning and is author of four publications on the subject.  David is a strong researcher and academic, with more than two dozen professional presentations, keynote speeches, and peer-reviewed articles. He has taught at the University of Minnesota, University of Georgia, and Sultan Qaboos University. He continues to be a frequent contributor to blogs and social media in education. He is passionate about research and educational design that enhances learner experiences.

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Pathikrit Banerjee

Pathikrit Banerjee

Director of Special Projects

Pathikrit leads several strategic projects including educational delivery and content development responsibilities at Alef. Previously, Pathikrit was a Senior Project Manager within the executive offices of the Abu Dhabi government where he provided expertise in financial and strategic advisory. In 2011, Pathikrit led the design of the professional development program (Tamkeen) for more than 12,000 teachers and teacher leaders across all of Abu Dhabi’s public schools. He has been associated with several other innovative educational initiatives in the emerging markets since 2014. He holds almost ten U.S. patents in the field of separation technology. Pathikrit graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the United States with an MBA in General Management and a BSc in Mechanical Engineering.

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Amjad Khan

Amjad Khan

Director of Technology

Amjad Khan is a highly experienced and motivated Technical Professional with over 20 Years experience in the IT arena with around 14 years working as an independent consultant in a wide range of roles and sectors from government, telecommunications, digital, media and service sector industries. In addition to his strong customer facing ability, his key areas of expertise lie in agile software development, automation, design, deployment, operations, governance and architecture, which have been achieved with a diverse range of technologies, environments and a range of methodologies. He is passionate about agile methods, open source, software craftsmanship and is still actively coding to ensure he keeps up to date with latest tech. Amjad holds a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Manchester.

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Joseph El Sebaaly

Joseph El Sebaaly

Head of Product

Joe has over 13 years of experience working with publishers, technology and ed-tech firms in the middle-east with an emphasis on digital transformation. Prior to ALEF, he led education services initiatives at Pearson and McGraw-Hill across Higher-Education, K-12, and Vocational markets. He focused mainly on leveraging global expertise and capabilities to develop innovative products. Joe is currently leading the product team in ALEF with a focus on crystalizing the vision of the product and creating value propositions for end-users. Joe holds a Bachelor and Master degree in Computer Science from the American University of Beirut and a Master in Business Administration from London Business School.

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Jumana Salem

Jumana Salem

Head of Education & Research

Jumana Salem is a business leader in education technology. She has steered the development of a range of edtech products including in assessment, curriculum, classroom management, as well as math and science games. Her experience ranges from large institutions to start-up tech firms, Jumana is versed in implementing ambitious vision through practical edtech solutions. She comes to Alef from Knewton, where, among other initiatives, she started the company’s business in MENA. Previous to that, Jumana joined Amplify Education Inc. after its acquisition by News Corps, where she served as Executive Director of Product Management in the Learning division leading the development of student facing apps. Later she was promoted to the VP of International Development. Jumana started her career with a deep grounding in pedagogy and assessment while working at Educational Testing Service (ETS), as well as the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). In those positions she served as deputy project director of a large scale assessment reform and led the operations and scale-up for the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs Assessment. Jumana also consulted on several advisory panels in the US and internationally including serving as a Technical Advisor to the national Chief Council State of Schools (CCSSO) for English as a Second Language Assessment in the US, as well as the Queen Rania Distinguished Teacher Award in Jordan. Jumana, who is fluent in both Arabic and English, received her M.A. in International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and her Bachelors of Science in International Economics from Georgetown University.

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Tracy Collins

Tracy Collins

Head of Client Experience

Tracy Collins is a seasoned learning expert with 16+ years working in education and edtech startups. She has worked in K12, Higher Ed, Corporate contexts in Canada, South East Asia, and the Middle East. Over her career, she has enjoyed a wide range of professional experiences including her time as a classroom teacher, university instructor, curriculum design specialist, learning consultant, strategic consultant for large corporate and K12 systems, and as the owner of a learning consulting practice. Tracy joins Alef from Axonify, ​an adaptive microlearning platform that uses gamification and brain science concepts (like spaced repetition) to improve business performance. She managed the Adoption Services portfolio which included the creation of Business Intelligence tools to understand customer usage. As well she provided consulting services to support customers better utilize the platform. Prior to her time at Axonify, she held senior consulting roles with the Strategic Consulting Services team at Desire2Learn (D2L). She has partnered with key K12 accounts such as K12 Inc, New Mexico Public Education Department, and the New York Department of Education’s iLearn program. Another key account was the Ontario Ministry of Education, where she worked closely with the 72 school boards across the province. A key function of her responsibility was to support teachers through training and pedagogy. She also worked with school board leaders and Ministry stakeholders to build change management and communications approaches, as well as campaigns and programs to support usage by the boards. In her spare time, she has spent 10 years as an Executive Board member and youth mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters. She established the Dreamkeeper program, which empowers youth to earn money towards their educational goals through fundraising activities. She has also been an avid supporter of coding initiatives for youth, teach start-ups, and innovation.Tracy has an M.Ed from the University of Ottawa and speaks both English and French. She looks forward to building an exceptional client experience program.

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Heather Kotyk

Heather Kotyk

Head of Human Resources

Heather leads our Human Resources Team supporting all aspects of our talent strategy. With nearly 20 years of Human Resources and Organizational Development experience working in both the United States and United Arab Emirates, Heather has gained well rounded experience on how best to design, develop and deploy organizational solutions with focus in education, customer service, and technology sectors. In the past five years her focus as an Executive leader and Consultant with Deloitte Middle East has been to help organizations address a range of Human Capital issues including workforce capabilities and recruiting strategies. Heather holds an MBA from the University of Colorado, and has multiple certifications in Human Resources including the SPHR.

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Geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada

Advisory

Geoffrey Canada is internationally recognized as a leading advocate for children and innovator in the field of education. Canada created the Harlem Children’s Zone, a birth-through-college network of programs that today serves more than 13,000 low-income students in a 97-block area of Central Harlem in New York City. The concept of the Children’s Zone is to do whatever it takes to help children in areas of concentrated poverty overcome the entire range of barriers to their success – whether it is failing schools, the threat of violence or instability at home. The organization offers after-school programs, in-school supports, parenting classes, community-building, health and social-service programs, as well as running two public charter schools. The unprecedented success of the Harlem Children’s Zone has attracted the attention of the media and leaders around the world. In 2011, Canada was named one of the world’s most influential people by Time magazine and as one of the 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine in 2014. President Barack Obama created the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone model across the country, giving 58 matching grants totaling almost $290 million. The initiative was included in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, guaranteeing its lasting impact across the country.

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Dr. Ryan Baker

Dr. Ryan Baker

Advisory

Dr. Baker researches how students use and learn from educational games, intelligent tutors, and other kinds of educational software. Drawing on the fields of educational data mining, learning analytics, and human– computer interaction, he develops methods for mining the data that come out of the interactions between students and educational software. He then uses this information to improve our understanding of how students respond to educational software, and how these responses influence their learning. Prior to joining Penn GSE, Dr. Baker was an associate professor in the Department of Human Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. While at Teachers College, he taught the “Big Data and Education” MOOC twice, with total enrollment of more than 50,000 students. He has served as founding president of the International Educational Data Mining Society, where he currently serves on the board of directors. He has been co-author on nine award-winning papers. He serves as co-lead of the Big Data in Education spoke of the NSF Northeast Big Data Hub.

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Partha Talukdar

Partha Talukdar

Advisory

Partha Talukdar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computational and Data Sciences (CDS) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University, working with Tom Mitchell on the NELL project. Partha received his PhD (2010) in CIS from the University of Pennsylvania, working under the supervision of Fernando Pereira, Zack Ives, and Mark Liberman. Partha is broadly interested in Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Cognitive Neuroscience, with particular interest in large-scale learning and inference. Partha is a recipient of IBM Faculty Award, Google’s Focused Research Award, and Accenture Open Innovation Award. He is a co-author of a book on Graph-based Semi-Supervised Learning published by Morgan Claypool Publishers.

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