Synergyzer: Can you tell us about your journey in the IT industry and how you got started?
Muhammad Burhan Mirza: My journey in the IT industry has spanned over 1.5 decades, and it has been an incredible ride filled with both blessings and luck. I had the privilege of working alongside seasoned professionals who became my mentors, providing invaluable guidance and knowledge. Their influence played a significant role in shaping my path and igniting my passion for the IT sector.
However, I must acknowledge that it was not just luck that propelled me forward. It was also the unwavering dedication of an exceptional team that stood by me throughout our journey. Together, we weathered the challenges and celebrated the victories. The path we traversed was far from smooth; it resembled a roller coaster ride with its exhilarating highs and challenging lows. Success and failure walked hand in hand, teaching us invaluable lessons along the way.
Amidst the unpredictable nature of the industry, we learned the art of adaptability. We understood that change is an inevitable force, and to thrive, we needed to adjust swiftly to the ever-evolving circumstances. This adaptability became a cornerstone of our success, enabling us to embrace new technologies, trends, and market dynamics.
Yet, it was more than adaptability that propelled us forward. It was the unique culture we fostered within our organization. Our team thrived on strong bonds, harmony, and a shared sense of purpose. Loyalty was not merely tied to financial incentives; it was an intrinsic part of our collective ethos. Even when presented with tempting offers of double the salaries elsewhere, our team members chose to stay, driven by a culture that celebrated fanatic, crazy growth. It became evident that being part of our team meant embracing exponential personal and professional growth.
Reflecting on our journey, I realize that it has been an ever-evolving quest for excellence. Each day presents new opportunities for improvement and innovation. While the path ahead may be challenging, I am invigorated by the possibilities that lie ahead. There is still so much for us to achieve, new horizons to explore, and transformative ideas to bring to life. In conclusion, my journey in the IT industry has been an adventure filled with triumphs and lessons learned. It is a testament to the power of collaboration, perseverance, and a culture that embraces growth. Every step we have taken has been worth it, and I am excited to continue this exhilarating journey, pushing boundaries and leaving a lasting impact on Pakistan’s IT landscape.
Synergyzer: What motivated you to pursue a career in computer engineering and later transition into the business side of the industry?
Muhammad Burhan Mirza: At the time, I made the decision to pursue a career in computer engineering, which was one of the most exciting options available. Compared to the present, there were fewer alternatives back then. Although I was not specifically drawn to the hardware aspect of computer engineering, I was deeply fascinated by the field of IT and gradually recognized its immense potential. It was an industry experiencing rapid growth and even today, it continues to expand.
What truly captivated me was the constant opportunity for learning. In the IT industry, you have the privilege of acquiring new knowledge every day. It’s a realm of continuous innovation where fresh ideas emerge regularly. Moreover, the service sector within IT offers a wealth of possibilities and the chance to engage with people directly. This dynamic environment ensures that each day brings new challenges to overcome. The distinguishing factor of the IT industry, in my perspective, is the meaningful impact it can have on society. Through technology, we hold the power to make a profound difference in people’s lives. This is the level of impact that I believe is unparalleled in any other industry that I am aware of. Being able to contribute to society in such a transformative way is truly remarkable.
My motivation to pursue computer engineering stemmed from the allure of the IT field, its potential for constant learning, the diverse range of opportunities within the service sector, and the ability to impact society positively. These factors ultimately led me to transition into the business side of the industry, where I could utilize my skills and passion for driving innovation, foster growth, and making a meaningful difference.
Synergyzer: How did your experiences in Tennessee contribute to your professional growth and development?
Muhammad Burhan Mirza: During my tenure at South-Western, I had the opportunity to spend around six months in Tennessee. Looking back, it was an immensely challenging yet captivating period that greatly influenced my professional growth. Allow me to delve into the specifics of this experience. As part of the job, I was assigned the role of a student representative, going door-to-door to sell educational books. This particular aspect of the job was both demanding and fascinating. I distinctly remember receiving a phone call from my boss, Josh, shortly after the 9/11 incident. He warned me about the reactions I might encounter while knocking on doors. I even had a similar encounter in Pittsburgh, where a couple approached me at a bus stop and asked if I was carrying bombs. These instances illustrate the challenges I faced during this time.
Despite the difficulties, I managed to achieve significant success and was awarded the ‘Father’s Day Award’ for the highest sales. It was indeed a testament to the determination and perseverance required to excel in this role. To provide some context, imagine the complexity of collecting payments ranging from $800 to $1500-1600 from potential clients, promising them book delivery after a month. The process involved approaching people abruptly, engaging with them, building rapport, securing the payment, and then ensuring the timely delivery of the books. As students, our living arrangements were modest, often involving shared basements and rented houses for groups of two or three.
Nevertheless, no matter the difficulties encountered, the key lesson I learnt was the importance of perseverance. Regardless of the circumstances, it is crucial to keep pushing forward. The experiences I had during this time have left a major mark on my life and professional journey. Overall, my experiences in Tennessee played a vital role in shaping my professional growth. The demanding nature of door-to-door sales, coupled with the challenges of being in a new environment, taught me invaluable lessons about resilience and determination. These lessons continue to guide me, serving as a reminder that no matter the obstacles, we all have the ability to overcome them and achieve success.
Synergyzer: What were some of the key challenges you faced while managing the business activities as the Business Unit Head at TradeKey?
Muhammad Burhan Mirza: When I took on the role of Business Unit Head at TradeKey, there were indeed several challenges that I had to confront. In fact, the challenges began even before I assumed the position. Initially, when I joined TradeKey, there were only 12 people in the sales department, and the atmosphere was quite challenging. Especially when coming in as their senior, there was resistance and skepticism towards an outsider taking on a leadership role.
I vividly remember a conversation I had with one of the directors, who is an incredible individual and an exceptional leader. He advised me that in order to gain the trust of my colleagues, I needed to prove myself through actions. This was a particularly difficult period for me, as I lacked support from the team.
When I attempted to form a team, I faced resistance, and nobody was willing to share resources with me, and as a result of this, I had to recruit new team members. Additionally, there was a neglected revenue stream within the organization, where clients were showing interest, however, they were not getting converted due to various reasons. I quickly saw this gap and took it upon myself to focus on this area and built a team to address it. We worked diligently towards a mutual goal and eventually achieved our targets for several months. Through these efforts, I gradually earned the trust of my colleagues; even though it took time to overcome the initial resistance but I was successful in establishing myself as a member of the team rather than an adversary.
Although I held a leadership position, I intended to support and collaborate with my team, not exercise my power over them. The transformation happened gradually, and eventually, they saw me as one of them. Of course, there were other challenges that emerged along the way, such as resource management and addressing operational issues but none as big as proving yourself as a leader and, more importantly, a team player.
Synergyzer: How did you lead the International Business Division at TradeKey to achieve significant growth and compete with international corporations?
Muhammad Burhan Mirza: One of the fundamental approaches I adopted was setting clear goals and expectations for every individual within the team. I firmly believe that when team members are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities, conflicts arising from unmet expectations can be mitigated. By clearly defining each person’s role, we fostered an environment where individuals were motivated to step out of their comfort zones, become agents of change, and strive for excellence.
In addition to clarifying roles, we also prioritized building a culture of trust within the team. By promoting an atmosphere of trust, we were able to forge strong bonds and create a unified front. This sense of trust and camaraderie enabled our team members to go above and beyond their usual duties. They were willing to go the extra mile and put in an exceptional effort to achieve our mutual goals. Our team became resilient, adaptable, and resourceful, allowing us to compete with international corporations on a global scale.
Synergyzer: What’s the current status of Burhan Mirza’s journey? Where exactly do you stand today, and what are your personal future goals?
Muhammad Burhan Mirza: Putting in thought that you’re asking this from a business perspective, you’ll be astounded by my response, and it may disappoint you, but I have really made myself distant from being an entrepreneur and the opportunities and obstacles which come with it.
Currently, I provide strategic consultancy and my personalized scaling mentorship program to a couple of prominent IT companies and startups in Pakistan, which is my sole bread and butter. There is another area where I want to invest more time and expertise, which if you think about it, is the most underserved i.e., mentoring youth and budding entrepreneurs. For this, I founded Coach 360, which is an upskilling platform for youth by helping them navigate their careers and personal goals. Along with a couple of others who share the same passion, we take time out from our monotonous schedules to counsel the upcoming talent. Honestly speaking, this has been the most rewarding experience in the last few years. It is now shaping up to be something that I hope to practice dearly moving forward because the way it impacts the lives of other people is an achievement in itself.
Synergyzer: As a prominent figure in the IT industry, how are you contributing to the IT industry to ensure that we can reap its benefits?
Muhammad Burhan Mirza: As I mentioned earlier, I firmly believe that everyone has a role to play in fostering the growth of the IT industry. There are a few key areas where I emphasize the need for government intervention. Moreover, it is crucial for experienced individuals in each sector of Pakistan to step forward and guide the upcoming generation of leaders. By offering our assistance and guidance, we can collectively make a massive difference.
In line with this commitment, we are in the process of establishing an institution that will greatly benefit the youth of Pakistan. Our aim is to provide them with the necessary support and resources to thrive in the IT sector. What makes this initiative even more special is that we are making state-of-the-art facilities accessible to those who cannot afford expensive training.
Particularly in the densely populated rural areas in Pakistan, we will be offering our services free of cost. We will provide and install the latest equipment, educational opportunities, and a conducive learning environment, enabling individuals to acquire essential IT skills. Through this endeavor, we hope to transform not just the lives of a few individuals but also the future generations to come.