After spending my entire life in the USA, my wife and I realized we needed to use the skills we had gathered there to benefit ourselves and others in a much more powerful and material way—we felt a responsibility. We decided to sell everything and move to Pakistan in 2005. After two years of working in Pakistan, I became an Acumen Global Fellow (a program that helps develop leaders in the social impact space). During my year in the fellowship, I decided to start my own social venture that focused on providing affordable housing to the lower income segments of the country. After eight years of a lot of ups and downs, my company is the leading developer of affordable housing in the country and we are set to build 10,000 affordable homes in the market while providing reasonable returns to investors—and I am the CEO.
I love the fact that this place has enabled me to have the level of social impact I am currently having. I don’t think the opportunity would have been as far-reaching if I had stayed in the U.S. Given that my parents are based in Pakistan now, my being based here has allowed me to have a much more meaningful relationship with my extended family than I ever would have had.
At a broad level, I was not too focused on my college education during the first two years of my undergraduate degree. I transferred to UB in my junior year, and at that point I refocused in an environment of professors and classmates who held a slightly more mature view than I’d seen before.
As a U.S. citizen, I believe we tend to limit our opportunities by restricting our worldview to the USA. Even if for a few months, it has become all the more critical to expose yourself to the “other” in this world. Get to know other cultures, other people, other lands—their history, their values, and their aspirations. You will come out of the experience a richer person. From a career perspective, I feel that a few years after graduation spent in the American corporate sector is essential to launch your success in the international market. The rigor, discipline, and polishing you get while there cannot be substituted.