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

Alef is home to some of the world’s best data nerds, algorithm engineers, learning scientists, creative designers, and educators. We seek constant feedback of a wide variety of students, both local and international, that work with us to validate that what we are doing has the utmost and most positive impact on the learner’s academic development and learning outcomes and also the learner’s environment. We come from over 20 countries, studied at some of the world’s top universities, worked at Fortune 500 companies, started 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.

Dr. Saleh Al Hashemi

Chief Executive Officer

In his role as CEO of Alef, Dr. Saleh Al Hashemi brings a wealth of experience from having worked in senior leadership positions across academia, government and business. As one of the founding team members of The Petroleum Institute, Dr. Saleh has been instrumental in... the development of its central lab facilities, through the formation of unique partnerships with elite research organizations, including the University of Minnesota and Cornell University. Having contributed to 30 documents covering peer reviewed journals and conference proceeding in the fields of chemistry, engineering and energy, Dr. Saleh is a published author in one of the world's top academic journals, Science. He is also a patented inventor with multiple U.S. patents. Dr. Saleh holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University in the United States.

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Dr. Ali Raddaoui

Head of Arabic Content

Dr. Ali H. Raddaoui is Head of Arabic Content with Alef Education, an innovative and progressive educational venture set on the serving the cause of learning in the Arab arena and beyond; Ali is a Fulbright Scholar and a mission-oriented Arab-American researcher and practitioner with an intercultural outlook. He is a trained applied linguist with an active research agenda and extensive experience teaching English, Arabic and French to speakers of other languages across educational systems in six countries.

Prior to his current appointment, Ali held a number of high-level, administrative, training and academic positions including Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs, Professional Development Program Coordinator, member of a national higher education reform team, leader for a team in charge of re-writing the full English Foundation Program Curriculum, and Learner Strategies Seminar Chair, among others.

Ali joins Alef Education with an extended curriculum design portfolio. He designed a full BA program in Arabic for International Students at Dhofar University, Oman. He also designed, implemented and supervised the entire curriculum for the Arabic-Language Immersion Institute known as STARTALK for high school students at the University of Wyoming, USA. He participated in the elaboration of the Tunisian Higher Education English Curriculum Reform to align it with the architecture and spirit of the European Higher Education Area.

His areas of research interest include best practices in language learning and teaching, the interface of learning and technology, e-learning, educational planning and translation. At this time, Dr. Raddaoui is keen on investigating the nature of relationship between pedagogy and technology. E-learning is fast becoming the default, standard practice in education in the UAE and elsewhere. Technologically-driven applications, media and learning management platforms have firmly established themselves as content providers, curators and distributors. The mission of educating twenty-first century citizenry is made easier because knowledge and knowledge production reside in the widely-available network.

The quality of the knowledge circulated and created by and within the network needs to be framed and informed by learning theory, best practices in pedagogy, and the requirement to provide learners with a complete, fulfilling, but also practical learning experience. The question will be how to make sure pedagogy and technology work together to provide quality content which is communicative, productive, interactive, and generally engaging for learners.

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Dr. Sandra Vonderlind

Head of Client Development

Dr. Vonderlind is a results-driven leader in educational training, consultancy and project management. Currently she is the Head – Client Development at Alef Education, where she is leading the implementation of the company’s technology-enabled educational delivery ecosystem. Prior to this, she was the Project Director for a prestigious social welfare initiative under the UAE’s Ministry of Interior. Dr. Vonderlind has significant experience in Abu Dhabi's public school district where she has led professional development training schemes associated with school reform initiatives for Nord Anglia Education and the University of Florida. She spent the early part of her career teaching English to non-native speakers in various academic and enterprise setting in both Germany and the UAE.

Dr. Vonderlind holds a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Florida – Gainesville in the field of Curriculum, Teaching & Teacher Education. Additionally, she holds an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Newcastle and an MA in Intercultural Communication and British and American Language Studies from the Technische Universität Chemnitz.

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Dr. Mohammed Adnan

Research Scientist

As an experimental scientist who worked at NASA LaRC on advanced space nanomaterials, Dr. Mohammed Adnan transfers his skills to education for developing and improving experiential learning at Alef while managing the Science content development team.

Dr. Adnan earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Rice University, Texas at a young age of 27. With 8 years of experience in experimental science combining bioengineering, nanotechnology, civil engineering, chemistry, mathematics, and physics as well as 4 years in education, Dr. Adnan merges the field of cutting - edge technology with education. He also mentors Gifted-and-talented school facilitators and students on best practice. Additionally, Dr. Adnan actively supports the technical team by developing innovative features in Alef’s portfolio of products.

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Vikraman Poduval

Chief Technology Officer

As a seasoned leader in the IT industry, Vikram bring more than 20 years of IT Solutions, Business Systems, Innovation and Product Management experience to his role as CTO at Alef. Previously, Vikram served as Director of Service Portfolio and Enterprise Architecture at Injazat Data Systems (a Mubadala Company), where he has delivered strategic solutions across various fields including artificial intelligence, cyber security and the enterprise cloud. Vikram has also served in several leadership positions within HCL (a $7.5bn innovative technology solutions group), and holds an MBA from the London Business School.

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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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Jumana Salem

Head of Projects

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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Geoffrey Alphonso

Head of Portfolio Management

Geoffrey Alphonso is a strategic thinker and seasoned Product / Program Management professional with over 19 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 brings digital education products and services to underprivileged children in the MENA region.

Geoffrey holds an MBA from the London Business School and is a certified PMP / CSM practitioner with both the Project Management Institute & Scrum Alliance.

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Amjad Khan

Head of Architecture & Development

Amjad Khan is a highly experienced and motivated Technical Professional with 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.

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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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