If it seems like time goes by faster today than before, it maybe because there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with what is going on in the world today. Trends change at the drop of a hat and technology travels at breakneck velocity. By the time it’s a household name, it’s probably making way for the next big innovation. Pakistan has historically played a game of catch up, today because of it, opportunities are scarce, yet in some ways, Pakistan is the perfect base for them.
Campus Connections 2018 held its third session at Indus University. The auditorium was packed with students from the fields of Management Sciences, Engineering and IT. The session was attended by Salman Ansari, a technology consultant and veteran of Pakistan’s IT & Telecom industry, Khushnood Aftab, CEO VIPER Technologies, and Syed Alay Raza, CISO at NBP.
Before the Q&A interaction started, Ansari applauded the increased participation of women in the education scene today. He reminisced about his time at NED in 1967 when the batch was composed of 45 students, only two of them girls. He said he was happy things had changed.
It quickly became apparent that the theme of the session would be risk and staying relevant in a changing world. The students’ questions revolved around what to pursue and how to pursue a career in a world where opportunities are so scarce.
Raza pointed out the weakness in many students to opt for shortcuts instead of the long grind. He expressed that students usually graduate with unrealistic expectations of landing a five figure salary when they step out. “Don’t get bogged down in this rat race to get rich quick and look for shortcuts. Organic growth is hard to come by.”
Aftab encouraged students not to be afraid of failure, “Failure isn’t being unsuccessful after a try, failure isn’t trying at all.” He added, “Stay up to date with current global trends. If you look at social media today, there is a lot to learn by the way people interact online. In my day, face to face conferences were common but today Skype and WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have taken their place. The conversations happening online are a great resource for people to innovate. Use social media positively instead of lounging around on it.”
The other panelists also emphasized taking advantage of new opportunities that people don’t usually see. Ansari talked about Bitcoin and the Blockchain and questioned people one their knowledge of those topics. Unfortunately, not even one student could explain how the cryptocurrency was mined or what the Blockchain was. “The Blockchain and Bitcoin are opportunities that have limitless potential today. You should acquaint yourself with these technologies because they are the future.”
He asked the students about another emerging trend, the Internet of Things. Fortunately, more people seemed familiar with this. Here, Ansari implored the students to foresee the dangers of complacency. “The driverless truck and the automated factory will leave thousands unemployed in their wake, but they will also create new opportunities not present before, the most important of which will be data scientist.” He said data analysis and trend identification is going to be one of the major professions in the world of tomorrow.
Alay added his personal experiences to the commentary about IT and the changing world. He spoke from a perspective of being a ‘job person’ all his life. He explained that he had twenty years of experience in FMCG, the Manufacturing Industry, the World Bank and financial consultancy. The one thing he had learned was that staying relevant and keeping up with the times and changing technology was paramount. “In the sixties, the case studies of companies showed MBAs leading the charge and hiring IT professionals to work under them. In the nineties there was a reversal of roles. IT professionals found the companies and hire MBAs to work.”
An acknowledgement was made during the session of the real world and the university being separate entities. The panelists asked what advice they had to prepare students for the real world. Aftab emphasized the importance of multiple internships, and gaining experience as well as earning money before graduating university, and understanding the worth of knowledge without pay. Raza spoke of gathering Learning, Wisdom, Knowledge, and Empathy to grow as an individual.
And with characteristic flair, Ansari put a figure in front of the audience to motivate them. “The size of the freelance industry in Pakistan is around $1.2 billion. And the sector is seeking to expand to around $10 billion in the next 4 -5 years. The potential for growth is vast. The impact you can create depends on how much time you have.”
The session ended with the Vice Chancellor of Indus University, Dr. Khalid Amin inspiring the students with his life story. He reminisced about sitting on the footpaths of Chiniot in 1958 during childhood and selling everything from clothes to milk with his father. He talked about driving taxis and even doing manual labour. He said he had never thought of building a university in his life. He also marvelled at the expanse of technology during his lifetime. “In Chiniot there were 200 telephones in my day and only one telephone operator could connect each one of them to their receivers. Today that, and more, resides in your pocket. That kind of opportunity should not be floundered. Have faith and move forward. Nothing is beyond reach.”