Friday, 8 May 2015

Thoughts on Mentorship

Q&A on mentoring with Shahzad Ali

1. What is 'mentoring' in your view?

Mentoring is about having someone help you both identify where you want to go and working with you on how to get there, not by telling you what to do but by supporting and challenging you in equal measure. A mentor should bring about growth in the mentee and I believe that growth can be found at the intersection between support and challenge.

2. What difference does mentoring make to a mentee's career?

Firstly, I believe that people have ‘careers’, ‘a job’ or ‘a calling’. People do a job to make money. They have a career in order to excel in a field of work, in order to get a better job and more money. A calling on the other hand, is what you have when you realise you are following your passion – when you’re immersed in what you’re doing and applying all your strengths to it because you love it.

A mentor can help a mentee find their calling and connect them to their flow state. It may be that the mentee’s current job or career is in fact their calling, but you as the mentor have to work with them to identify this. A mentor helps create a point of alignment for a mentee around which to centre them and their calling (“career”).

3. How does it benefit the mentor?

A mentoring partnership is a two way contract. It is not one person transmitting and the other person listening, but instead an equal learning by both. It is also an opportunity for the mentor to earn about a new person and possibly new interest or sector. People often presume mentors are older than their mentee, but this is not always the case. Everyone has different strengths and often mentees can help their mentors in a different and unrelated way.

Being a mentor gives one great energy and opportunity to grow as a person. You are giving back to others and through this Socratic Method (the form of inquiry and discussion, based on Socrates’ asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas), learning more about yourself through teaching.

4. What makes an effective mentor? Can anyone be a good mentor?

There are four things which I believe every mentor should possess. Firstly, intention: every mentor should assess what their intentions are to begin with, as this will determine whether or not a positive sponsorship is likely.

Secondly, a mentor’s require a lot of self-awareness. We all have our biases and a mentor should leave their preconceived ideas at the door. This is an exploratory journey between two people.

Thirdly, a mentor must be both passionate and compassionate about the person they’re mentoring; you have to meet the mentee in their model of the world. In Hindu tradition there is Sanskrit word called ‘upaya’, which translates to ‘start from where the learner is’.

Lastly, there is no doubt that patience is required. As a mentor, there is a great desire to fix everything for your mentee right away and to remove any suffering or hardship that they may face. However suffering brings endurance and endurance brings character. Sometimes you have to be okay with your mentee making a mistake and allow them to learn from it.

5. How can mentoring combat diversity issues?

With regards to gender diversity, I believe that mentoring plays a very necessary part for women in the world of work, as they have to be much more strategic and driven in order to align their ambitions with success.

However, I would argue that mentoring combats diversity issues of the mind more than anything. A good mentor will ask questions that often lead to a different or varied state of thinking from the norm. 

For example, if you ask most people, “can you fly a plane?” they tell you “No”. But that is incorrect – you can fly a plane, you just haven’t been taught how to yet.

Friday, 17 April 2015

From Security Guard to Successful Entrepreneur

When Shahzad landed in the UK in 2001, he was a 21 year old with little money, no university training or formal qualification, but a determination to succeed and prove to his father back home in Pakistan that he was not a failure. Thirteen years later, Shahzad was able to achieve much more than he had expected, and is now at the head of UK & US based businesses that he founded with his wife, Madiha.

He recalls how difficult it was to find a job those first few days. With no money to rent his own place, he found a friend who offered him a sofa in an North West London flat shared by other Pakistanis working in the security sector.

Through his new friends and flat mates, he was able to find a job as a security guard. “It was the only job I could find. I didn’t tell anyone in Pakistan as security guards are invisible people back home. But now, I cherish this experience. My ego dissolved at a very young age because of it.”

After working for a year, commuting for up to five hours a day for minimum wage, another old friend from Pakistan came to see him and offered him a position in the IT department of a new property company. Although he had no formal training in IT, Shahzad was good with computers and a fast learner. 4
 years after joining the company, he was able to introduce major savings. The employer, an entrepreneur himself, began to coach him for free and motivated him to start his own business.

Encouraged by his employer and mentor, in 2006, Shahzad built a recruitment platform, but it never took off. While working part time in IT and managing a failing business, he fell in love with his to be wife, Madiha, who immediately joined the business in an attempt to save it.

One day in 2006, a man randomly came to their office and asked if they could offer security training. Desperate for any income that might come his way, Shahzad said "Yes we do" and went from a recruitment site to find a suitable trainer. He eventually found more candidates after building his own website. By 2007, his security training business was becoming cash flow positive and eventually he was able to buy out his competitors. By the fourth year, with his wife Madiha by his side, he was able to grow the business into a several million dollar worth industry leader with an expanded training offering. “Pakistanis and security don’t go well together but we were able to build the largest security training company. At its peak, we were training 20,000 people a year, roughly three in ten working in the security sector in the UK had security training booked by us. All the people who helped me in my life now work with me, including Madiha’s brother, my two bothers, my sister and friends who supported me.”

But with the success, acquisitions and fast expansion came challenges and mistakes. “ I didn’t go to any business school so made some bad decisions and acquired a company that was not compliant with certain training regulations. As a result, we got our license for security training revoked three years ago and blocked by the industry.”

But with Madiha’s help and emotional support, Shahzad restructured the business, re-positioning is as a digital marketing platform for training providers to help small training providers promote their business and get affordable access to cutting edge technology to compete with large companies. The business now runs itself and is more profitable than the training business. "If I look back, I can see the gain in loss and now I also see loss in gain, life in the end is a zero sum game."

Looking back, Shahzad agrees that although in the early day his focus was on making money, his current motivation now is to help people, using business as a conduit. With his wife Madiha, he is also involved in projects advancing girls’ education in Pakistan as well as an incubator project to help young adults start their own businesses.

As he looks forward to what lies ahead, he is always reminded of how far he has reached with the help of others. “My background has helped me become more self-reflective and spiritual, and a strong believer that true success lies in inspiring others to achieve their full potential.”

Shahzad now attends Harvard Business School's prestigious OPM programme and will graduate in 2016.

There will be 50B connected devices by 2020

Thursday, 16 April 2015

This is your brain on FEAR

The human brain seeks bad news in order to survive, the media feeds bad news in order to exploit this and all this fuels the mindset of scarcity, promotes greed, violence and is the root cause of anxiety in our society today.

There are more chances that you will die of Cancer than Terrorism 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Most Powerful YPO Experience

An article in YPO about our experience.

Shahzad from YPO London had just landed at London’s Heathrow airport from Houston, Texas, when his wife, still in Houston with his two girls on an extended vacation during a school break, informed him their 3-year-old daughter Zaria was suffering from severe stomachaches. A few hours later, hearing that the paediatrician advised them to go straight to Texas Children’s Hospital based on suspicious blood test results, he was on a plane back to Houston.

Just before boarding, he called a WPO member and business partner who recommended he connect with YPO's (Member to Member Exchange) M2Mx. It was Shahzad’s first time using M2Mx and not knowing much about it, he entered a simple post that his wife, Madiha, was by herself at Texas Children’s and that the doctor was saying his daughter may have Leukaemia. He also included Madiha’s contact details.

Twenty minutes later, he got a call from a member who had a similar experience in Houston while Madiha started getting more calls from YPO and WPO members living in the Houston area, with offers of support including babysitting their older daughter, and sending food for the family. By the time he landed in Houston, there were more calls and emails from his M2Mx post, including from a board member of the hospital who immediately put the family in touch with the chief surgeon of the hospital.
The feedback not only reassured Shahzad and Madiha that medically Zaria was getting the best care possible, but revealed a level of generosity and compassion they never expected. “We were in awe. People we don’t know in a strange land offering to help, send us food, take care of our daughter. I felt very humbled. The emails and support continued on a daily basis for the whole month that we were there.”

YPO and WPO London and Mayfair members reached out to share similar experiences and put Shahzad in touch with top consultants in the U.K. in order to transfer the case back to a hospital near their home. With the help of these connections, the case was transferred and the family is back after Zaria completed the initial induction treatment. She is responding well and the cancer is in remission, but the treatment will continue for two more years.

“We count ourselves lucky in many ways. First, to not only have gotten diagnosed in Houston and treated in the best children’s hospital in the world, but also because of the support we got from the global network that YPO represents. It’s definitely the most powerful YPO experience I have ever had,” says Shahzad. “I have become a great fan of M2Mx and want to give back. If anyone sends a similar post, if I can, I will be the first one in the hospital for them.”


It has been six months since Zaria started her treatment. She is in remission and doing well, her treatment will continue till November 2016. All I have is gratitude for fellow YPOer's, Doctors at Texas Children Hospital, and at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

SXSW Takeaways

Martine Rothblatt on Transhumanism and Cyber Consciousness

Cindy Gallop on Porn and Sextech

Mike Moyer on Slicing the Pie for Startups 

Astro Teller on Moonshot Thinking

and finally Foodtrucks