AN INTERVIEW WITH JAZIB ZAHIR
Old Boy Jazib Zahir is an entrepreneur, educationist and mentor. A Stanford graduate in Electrical Engineering with an MBA from LUMS, Jazib is currently working as the Chief Operations Officer at Tintash, a Lahore-based software house developing web and mobile apps for clients around the world. He is also an adjunct faculty member at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. In this interview, Jazib talks about his time at Aitchison and the impact it has had on his life.
When did you join Aitchison and what was it like back then? Were you a boarder or a day boy? What were you like as a student?
I joined Aitchison in class 3 in 1991 and stayed there till I graduated from A-levels in 2001. I was a day boy whose only interaction with the boarding house was the hot lunches offered when the working day was periodically extended.
It is difficult to give a neutral opinion about myself. I definitely cared about school and felt I could connect with all the diverse groups around me. Probably not one of the most adventurous people around, so don’t have any fun stories about bunking classes or being naughty, for better or for worse.
Has Aitchison influenced your journey? What kind of impact, if any, has it had on your life?
Most critically, Aitchison provided me with mentors and role models who inspired me to think big. This includes both faculty members as well as the many accomplished seniors and alums who remain a source of guidance till today.
Secondly, Aitchison gave me identity. The brand name is recognized all over Pakistan and even around the world. No matter where I go, I am quickly able to pull together an impromptu Aitchison reunion. Countless times when I’ve mentioned to people abroad that I’m from Pakistan, they’ve been able to guess right away that I’m from a school that some of their friends have attended which is modeled on British boarding schools, has lush lawns and where all the alums bond in a manner that they haven’t seen elsewhere.
Finally, Aitchison taught me discipline and diligence that I haven’t found the inspiration for anywhere else in the world. This encompasses everything from knowing when not to lean back in a chair to understanding when it’s my turn to speak.
Any fond or interesting memories from your time at Aitchison?
Positive memories definitely outweigh any negative sentiments! General Assembly is a great memory. Don’t think I’ll get that feeling of being in a Roman Coliseum again. When we used to walk back to classes after the assembly, we always used to explore different pathways through the vast college and explore its nooks and crannies.
I have soft spot for that stage in the Center of the Amphitheater. I associate it with our school plays and Founders Day events. Those were great character-building exercises.
If I were to compile a series of Aitchison flashbacks, I would definitely include: cross-country runs, waiting for those yellow envelopes with result cards like Harry Potter waiting for his letter to Hogwarts, any photo session with Bhatti Sahib, the year we inhabited the Old Building, and finally, being thrown out of campus on our last day for the indiscipline of a few!
Who was your favourite teacher in school? What did you like the most about him/her?
Too many! Kashmiri Sahib brought an incredible analytical approach to teaching something as subjective as English language. I’d like to believe I carry his torch by bringing an analytical approach to teaching ‘Business Communication’ at LUMS.
Amir Hussain Sahib and Muhammad Tahir Sahib were influential teachers for me in Senior School. I liked how they never shied from sharing their opinions about the school and life in general. Tahir Sahib’s passion for quizzes and competitions rubbed off on me.
Have fond memories of Madam Shakira and Farhat Jabeen in Prep School as well as all my class teachers from Junior School.
How do you define success?
Professional success comes from developing a specialization in life, a topic on which you are potentially a global authority.
Personal success comes from knowing you wake up every day excited about what’s coming ahead because you are surrounded by people and circumstances you care about.
Ultimate success is finding a place for both in your life.
Which one achievement are you most proud of?
Coming back to Pakistan after studying abroad, and cultivating a career and lifestyle that leave me with no regrets.
What do you think distinguishes Aitchison College from other institutions?
The willingness to embrace history, culture and discipline while other institutions are moving away from it. I still feel the institution has an inherent aversion to becoming too commercial, something that plagues most private educational institutions. Merit continues to be of value there. You aren’t special at Aitchison just because you have a recognizable last name.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Whatever little spare time I have, I enjoy letting it feel as unstructured as possible. Impromptu sports, reading and random discussions with family are things I look forward to. Living in Lahore also makes it possible for me to stay in touch with many friends, classmates, entrepreneurs and others so I enjoy meeting such people and re-connecting with them whenever they are in town or whenever there is an event that brings such like-minded people together.
Any advice for our current students?
The opportunities you have today are exponentially more than what I had. It also comes with exponentially more responsibility. It’s common today for students your age to already being running businesses or solving problems around the world or attempting university level work. Do realize that the expectations for an Aitchisonian are very high in today’s world and push yourself accordingly.
Also realize that in addition to your performance on paper, it’s important to develop social and practical skills. Employers and universities today are more excited about your portfolios of all the practical things you can do than your grades.
And never miss an opportunity to pick the mind of an older, wiser person. Mentoring makes all the difference.