In conversation with Dr Zeeshan Ahmed

By Tooba Ghani
Fri, 03, 20

A fter finishing college, when I was figuring out what career path I should choose, feeling a little bit lost...


A fter finishing college, when I was figuring out what career path I should choose, feeling a little bit lost, one common advice I was being constantly given was: go for BBA. They would just say get into business! The scope is so “huge” (I really had no idea what huge meant).

For students who feel lost at this critical phase in their lives, it sounds like an easy option. I actually saw students going for BBA even when they had no idea what this field was really like. Since all big and small universities offered this business degree and the screening tests were pretty easy to pass, BBA thing almost felt like an easy ticket to a bright future.

Now, things have changed a little bit! Students are really investing in career exploration and making sure they choose the right career path. But still, we need to keep learning.

Us had a conversation with Dr Zeeshan Ahmed, the Dean of Karachi School of Business Education and Leadership (KSBL) who has over 20 years of diverse experience in teaching, training, consulting and research. He is an Associate Professor, Finance and Accounting at KSBL. Prior to joining KSBL, he was heading the undergraduate programme at Suleman Dawood School of Business, LUMS. Dr. Zeeshan also serves on the Board of Institute of Financial Markets Pakistan (IFMP) SECP, CPD Committee of Institute of Chartered Accountants Pakistan (ICAP) and academic council of IBA Centre for Excellence in Islamic Finance (CEIF).

Now, let's catch a glimpse of this world with Dr Zeeshan ...

What’s the scope of business education in Pakistan?

Survey results show that today the biggest creator of jobs is not government or army anymore; it’s business! Whether it’s your own business or corporate, it will always be one of the most lucrative options.

Then, in business education you can play to your strengths. There are so many paths you can choose from depending on what you do best. Let’s say if you’re good at numbers, you can get into data analytics or accounting, or if you like to connect and network, you can go for sales and marketing.

And, right now entrepreneurship is such a big thing. I remember when I was a business student, the top graduates from the top business schools would always go for corporate jobs, but today it’s different. Graduates want to go to the Silicon Valley and start their own businesses.

So, you can say top jobs are in the startups, not in the corporate. Entrepreneurship has become a lot more glamorous and attractive option for young people.

Running your own business means more satisfaction and more autonomy since you are the master of your own destiny. All the success stories around us help people look forward to a career in business.

We have so many talented entrepreneurs in Pakistan; one of our graduates, Adnan Shaffi, launched and was on the Forbes’ 30 under 30 Asia List.

As we have entered into the new decade, what, in your opinion, is the future of education in Pakistan? And how can we improve our educational system?

I firmly believe that whatever Pakistan, or say the West, has achieved is solely through education. So if we invest more in education right now, we will see a lot of progression in the future.

There are many areas where we need to work! First, we need to address the fundamental problems students face when they go for higher education. It’s hard to see 23-year-old students not being able to solve a straight-line equation or write a grammatically correct application. This is something that has to be fixed at an early stage of education; it’s very difficult for the teachers at higher education level to start from scratch and teach basics.

We are making students hard workers, but not critical thinkers; we’re giving knowledge, but not teaching how to apply it; character development is an integral part of education and we completely ignore that part; and if you ask me something that goes beyond critical evaluation, it is transforming people so that they become better leaders, better people and better community members.

Another thing that really concerns me is that for a lot of places education is just about making money, especially business schools. There is no proper screening process for giving admissions; students are just taken in and as a result, the quality of education goes down.

For an educational institute, the key is not the campus or the facilities it has; it’s the teachers and the students’ willingness to benefit from the education provided at the institute. So remember, great teachers and great students can together make a great institute.

Why did you choose to be the Dean at KSBL?

I really believe when you are in an authoritative position, you can really push for change and inspire people in your own humble way.

Most importantly, the opportunity to hang out with young bright kids and influence their lives is something that makes this experience even more rewarding.

A lot of learning takes place when you get to meet top people from the industry and educators from all around the country. Every day is an exciting day.

What degrees are offered here at KSBL?

We offer MBA degree (morning and evening).

What does KSBL offer to students in terms of placement?

First, we have this mandatory course for the students where they learn skills necessary to pass tests (psychometric, language, reasoning, etc.) that companies use to choose the right candidates for the jobs. We ensure that students are able to perform well and meet the criterion at the different companies.

We have also asked Rahila Narejo to design assessment centres at our campus. She is the person who designs assessment centres for some big companies like Unilever, Nestle and Standard Chartered.

Our approach to helping students with placements is to prepare students for those really tough recruitment tests rather than pushing companies to hire our students.

And then, we also have career fairs, campus drives, and forward resumes.

We see some students who, after getting their medical or arts education, want to go for an MBA degree. Don’t you think transitioning is difficult?

It’s difficult, but only in the beginning! And challenges are different for everyone. For example, students from medical background might have to struggle with the technical and numerical part as they haven’t touched Maths since Matric. For engineers, report writing or networking could be daunting while people from journalism background might excel in this area.

Transitioning is possible and people do excel if they really work towards it.

How do your students describe you?

They say I am pushy and demanding; but, once they have graduated , they really appreciate that!

How do you deal with criticism?

It takes a lot of courage! If I am misunderstood or I think there has been some miscommunication, I go to the relevant person and tell them this is not how it is; it’s important to clarify things and when you talk, you always find the right solutions.

I also see criticism as an opportunity to learn about myself and improve. So criticism helps!

What are the last three books you have read?

1- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

2- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.

3- Mastery by Robert Greene