“Become a Specialist, Instead of Being a Generalist”- Zaeem Yaqoob Khan

by Noc Team on August 18, 2010

Contributed by Iftikhar Hussain

Zaeem Yaqoob Khan completed his Masters from University of Engineering & Technology, Lahore. He started his career with teaching at University of Central Punjab (then PCBA-PICS) as a Permanent Member of Faculty and later as an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of IT. He went off to the United States of America with the intention to permanently settle there but returned to his homeland and joined UCP again, this time as Director of Job Placements. With an aim to work for the betterment of IT sector he started counseling students and fresh-graduates to remain hopeful about IT industry, since many began giving in to disappointment and lack of opportunity and started switching to non-IT professions. Post 2001-05 was believed to be the most crucial period for IT Industry and thus many professionals and fresh-graduates were having a hard time getting placed in a shrinking job-market.

In a conversation with CodeWeek he revealed his journey of success- where he started from and how successful his journey has been so far…

Zaeem: Observing the dismal situation of the IT industry, I decided to organize the first-ever Career Carnival in 2005 at UCP. The event coincided with P@SHA’s Job Fair and that’s when I met Jehan Ara, President of P@SHA and Mr. Monis Rahman, CEO, ROZEE.PK. These two amazing individuals helped instill a lot of confidence in me and I joined them in their initiatives. I began supporting all P@SHA and ROZEE.PK endeavors from then on with a fleet of volunteers from UCP. Jehan used to call us P@SHA’s B-team in Lahore. Meanwhile, to inculcate a culture for self-employment, I founded the Society for the Encouragement of Entrepreneurship (SEE) and got many UCP students involved on this platform. We got intimately engaged with TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) – Lahore Chapter under the patronage of Dr. Khalid Chaudhry. Positive encouragements and a passionate student-body made UCP clinch overall champions’ position at the Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs Summit (YLES) –2007 organized by LUMS. Moreover, three of the ten business plans presented by UCP were short-listed for TiE-Khudee Business Plan Competition the same year. And we also started hosting Business Plan Competitions in collaboration with the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry which continues till date.

I worked for 3 years at UCP’s Promotion and Placement Bureau and we were very successful in our placement initiatives. In 2007, we had an 81% placement rate for UCP graduates in IT up from 31% in 2005. We had over 500 organizations on our placement panel and more than half of these were IT companies and software houses. We also signed memoranda of understanding with software houses such as Ghost-Software and Amigo to help UCP upgrade curricula to include VoIP technology contents. We also hosted talks by Editor of Comms Business Magazine and Ray King, the CEO of AboutUs on-campus. We also had our first overseas placement of IT graduates the same year at Double A (Advance Agro), Thailand.

My successes in nurturing a meaningful liaison between academia and industry encouraged me to reach out and help employability of Pakistani youth at large. And one afternoon over a lunch-meeting with Monis, I came to know of ROZEE.PK’s Campus Career Portal Initiative. The idea of enabling access to jobs for university students and graduates across Pakistan enthused me immensely and just as Monis offered me to come onboard, I did not think twice and immediately joined Naseeb Networks. I kept on teaching as an adjunct member of faculty at UCP, Punjab University, NCA-multimedia department, Management and Professional Development Department (MPDD) of the Government of Punjab.

I co-supervised the Campus Portal Initiative at ROZEE.PK, under Monis’s great mentorship and association of colleagues such as Aisha Sarwari, who is now working for Punjab Board of Investment & Trade (PBIT), within eighteen months we managed to engage over 100 universities and successfully brought 87 onboard this initiative that has the capacity to serve the career placement needs of over half a million students and twice as many alumni from universities all over Pakistan. We trained the university personnel on meaningful ways of developing pragmatic industrial relations and also organized a number of counseling sessions for students at Peshawar, Quetta, Sargodha, Manshera, Kohat, Multan, Sukkar, besides Karachi,

Islamabad, Lahore on best practices to optimize online job-applications. Over 32000 employers are now linked with these universities as we achieved our first of ‘equalizing opportunities for all university students’. Thousands of students and alumni are availing job opportunities and career advice through ROZEE.PK Campus Portals as well via the linked Facebook fan-pages for each campus and employed social media such as Linked In, Twitter and Skype.

Codeweek: Can you please explain what exactly do you mean by equalizing opportunity?

Zaeem: Equalizing opportunity means enabling access to opportunity for everyone. When I first met students at the University of Baluchistan, they complained that graduates from Punjab and Karachi get priority in getting awareness about opportunities. They said, “we never get to hear about any MTO program”. There were similar resentments communicated by students and youth of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa. Through ROZEE.PK’s Campus Career Portal Initiative we made possible an opportunity in access of a LUMS or IBA graduate come within reach of a job-seeker at IBA, Sukkur and Islamia University at Bahawalpur, and Karakorum International University at Gilgit and other universities across Pakistan. I believe the main reason why people from Punjab and Karachi excel is because they are in proximity of opportunities generated by mainstream corporate activity in major cities of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. But technology being the greatest equalizer helped us leverage it for everyone.

CodeWeek: What were the measures taken in reaching out to all these areas and people?

Zaeem: We have connected thousands of students from 87 universities all over Pakistan in a very short time. Besides on-campus counseling session at many universities, we employed social media to reach out to them. These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Skype.

We post regular career-blogs and address user queries through Facebook fan-pages we have created for each university. We provide proper career advisory through weblogs on areas ranging from CV writing techniques to interview tips and necessary professional advice regularly. We have also been offering one-on-one career advice to many via Skype.

Students may not visit their university job portals but since they do visit their Facebook accounts regularly, they can navigate to their own university’s Facebook career page where we provide them with regular updates, counseling and awareness. This way we have been able to reach out to people very efficiently and in an effective manner.

We have used technology in the best possible ways for Pakistan. ROZEE.PK also became the organizers of Pakistan’s first-ever Virtual Job Fair. We are using all kinds of technology platforms that are available.

CodeWeek: What would be your advice for the students from every area? What should be their preference while moving ahead with their studies and career?

Zaeem: “If you love the work you do, you don’t have to work for a day”. [Confucius]

There is ample opportunity in IT Industry due to continuous innovation. ROZEE.PK’s homepage would be a proof of the availability of amazing opportunities in IT. The key to success is to know what you want to do. But always remember, “Your treasure lies where your heart is”[Paulo Coelho]

Degrees and certifications may qualify you for jobs but not success in your career. You should try and explore your niche. Do what you want to do rather than what you think you have to do. Know who you are and where exactly you want to go and want to see yourself in future.

CodeWeek: How should a student know where he should be and what he should do?

Zaeem: As an individual I am currently counseling youth. I interact with young minds all the time and have been expending hours trying to help them out. I feel there is a need for proper counseling beginning at the age of five. Moreover, vocational training can help a great deal in spotting your aptitude. Instead of blindly committing yourself to a profession, a better course should be for the young to get exposure in the field they want to enter and then decide if they still choose to go for it or not. The job competition of the future will not allow excuses such as peer-pressure or parent-steered choices, otherwise one may hit a brick-wall in career soon.

According to a research conducted by the British Council: Pakistan needs to create 36 million jobs in the upcoming decade. We are about to face a great challenge where we would have to equip the upcoming generation with a skill-set that can make them more employable besides supporting startup businesses and facilitating self-employability opportunities.

CodeWeek: Which do you believe was you major personal achievements in your life so far?

Zaeem: My awards and achievements are quite different from regular ones. The biggest achievement of my life is when I have a feeling I have contributed something in the life of a young person, which in turn has made him/her a responsible and industrious global citizen.

I have all the respect for mothers who have been calling me time-and-again to express their gratitude for a humble contribution I have made in their kid’s professional life. Their blessings and wishes are my collection of mementos and trophies that I have collected over the past decade.

I consider myself very fortunate that I have taught approximately 3000 students in my teaching career so far and I have tried to deliver my lectures with responsibility and diligence. And I am satisfied with my contribution as a teacher. This satisfaction is a source of achievement.

I have put in a lot of effort in connecting the IT Industry with higher-education institution. We pioneered in numerous ways to set benchmark for educational institutions on developing linkages and help in rationalizing why they should work in tandem.

One more achievement was when I managed to have a long and satisfying conversation with Baloch students on career opportunities. I could see their faces relaxed and less resentful. There I felt that I have contributed something for Pakistan.

CodeWeek: What are your personal and professional plans for the next ten years?

Zaeem: I wish to use latest technology for the academic, intellectual and economic betterment of Pakistani youth. I want to work for the development of youth. More than half of our population is young and they are our future. I have been working on this for some time now and plan to continue doing it in future also.

CodeWeek: Any parting words?

Zaeem: Information Technology is a great and rewarding discipline and sky is the limit for IT graduates. There are numerous opportunities in IT but one should always try to become a specialist instead of being a generalist. Even if you feel the career you wish to pursue is not financially rewarding, hang in there and carry on with the great work that you are doing, stay geared to leave your mark. I guarantee you with time everything will fall into place and money won’t be an issue.

Technology development platforms are becoming easier day by day. Channelize your energy towards the particular area that knocks at your heart. Perhaps starting with vocational certification will help you get familiar with the environment and according to Person-Environment fit theory, one should try to see if the work-environment suits your taste and is to your liking or not. Learning skills will not be an issue, you have your whole life to learn tools, but if you end up in a wrong environment you will get burnt out too easy.

Another option is that one should try becoming an “Agent of Change”, but only a select few would take that course. I see our young generation always expending their energies in finding super-quick ways to get rich and I assure you it’s possible with technology but that too would require patience and perseverance, so don’t run out on these two things!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Faisal Khan September 5, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Good Article. Rozee.pk’s contributions are increasing by the day.

Sameer Siddiqui September 27, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Bravo Zaeem for setting high goals for yourself and impacting so many lives in a such a positive manner.

badmash October 23, 2010 at 2:15 AM

I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

Sameen Zaki February 4, 2011 at 6:21 AM

Just met Mr. Zaeem today and I would like to comment that you as a person, undoubtedly is a source of energy for students! Your talks are quite optimistic, it has been a Pleasure to meet you and now to read you as well. I must say the frame of mind that you have is what we need as a society. You are definitely doing a great job for youth. I am much glad to meet you because….you are and you have been working so passionately, what I want to do for Home Economists in Pakistan & I am definitely looking forward to work with you and your wonderful ideas.

Sameen Zaki
M.Phil Scholar
College of Home Economics, Lahore.

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