Rising Leaders Networking Event with Zia Chishti
By Taimour Chaudhri

DCM Mohammad Sadiq addresses the gathering
Zia Chishti addresses Rising Leaders
A question from the audience

Washington, DC: On Saturday July 23, 2005 Rising Leaders hosted a networking event with a presentation from Zia Chishti at the Embassy of Pakistan. The event was attended by a group of young Americans interning in DC this summer. Mr. Chishti, a successful businessman, gave a speech about his experience as a Pakistani American in the business world; he also discussed the important tips and tricks of networking.
Rising Leaders, a group aimed at empowering young Pakistani Americans to be active in fields that are non-traditional for the Pakistan community, hosted the event. The event was focused on bringing young interns in DC together to network. A mixer/reception gave interns the opportunity to mingle and network with each other. Rising Leaders Fauzia Tariq, Talha Fasih Khan, Taimour Chaudhri and Saad Bhatti greeted visitors while Raina Khan, Unaza Khan, Shaheen Chaudhry and Sarah Syed worked on the membership table.
The guest speaker, Zia Chishti, is an accomplished Pakistani-American businessman. Although Zia Chishti was born in Bar Harbour, Maine, he spent most of his young life in Pakistan and returned to US for higher educaion. He graduated from Columbia University in 1992 and then received his MBA from Stanford. In 1997, he co-founded Align Technology, a company that produced clear plastic removable orthodontic “aligners.” Soon after he left Align Technology and became the CEO and chairman of The Resource Group (TRG).
When Mr. Chishti was director of Align Technology around 700 Pakistanis were employed and stationed in Lahore, Pakistan. They were responsible for the 3D computer graphics responsible for the design of the orthodontic aligners, as well as providing valuable customer service to US clientele. Align technologies was Pakistan’s largest Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO).
After leaving Align Technology, Mr. Chishti created The Resource Group (TRG), which is now Pakistan’s largest BPO, employing around 1700 Pakistanis. Globally TRP employs over 5,000 people. Mr. Chishti believes that there are many skilled people in Pakistan, who, because of labor market abuse, have not been given the chance to work to their potential. His companies have helped to motivate many Pakistanis to increase activity in Pakistan’s labor markets.
Sarah Syed, emceed the event by welcoming the audience, thanking Rising Leaders Directors and introducing DCM Sadiq. DCM Sadiq, in turn introduced Mr. Chishti and welcomed everyone to the Embassy.
Mr. Chishti began his presentation by explaining certain attitudes one should have when one wants a job. Since the majority of the attendants were Pakistani Americans, Mr. Chishti focused on using a Pakistani background to one’s advantage. He stated that if an employer has certain misconceptions about Pakistan, one should explain the facts about Pakistan, and use positive points about Pakistan to change his perception. For instance, there are less murders in Pakistani every year than there are just in the city of Baltimore. There are many statistics that can help remove the stigma surrounding Pakistan as a dangerous and inhospitable country.
Mr. Chishti also stated that sincerity and candidness go a long way in an interview. A key point Mr. Chishti stressed is that in order for one to be successful, one must have “something to bring to the table.” Importantly, it is a give and take relationship between the prospective employee and the potential employer.
After Mr. Chishti finished his presentation, he answered several questions from the audience. There were interesting questions asked by the audience, starting with a staffer on Capitol Hill who was curious about how to work with Pakistani Americans that did not want to acknowledge their heritage. Mr. Chishti recognized that there are many stigmas that Pakistanis living in America face. He recalled one of his personal experiences: “When I worked at Morgan Stanley it took them a year before they would believe that I was good at anything besides math”. On a more serious note, he did say that this was one of the least difficult stereotypes to encounter when living in the US. Many people, because of the various pressures they encounter, take the easy path and disengage from their Pakistani identity.
Another questioner asked Mr. Chishti about the reasons behind his investment in Pakistan and if nationalism was the main driving force. Mr. Chishti, remarked, “Of course there are personal reasons for me to base my industry in Pakistan, which includes nationalism, being close to my family and helping the people I grew up with — but most significantly it is the economic potential of Pakistan that has always attracted my investment.”
Someone asked Mr. Chishti about the difference between investment banking and management consulting along with his advice on how to obtain a job in these fields. There was a question on work ethics and Pakistanis, to which Mr. Chishti responded with a much heard comment in Urdu, translated to, “They don’t work at all!” Despite this general attitude, Mr. Chishti believes that because people in Pakistan do not get paid what they are worth they do not want to work. Instead, at TRG, Mr. Chishti pays his employees three times as much as in other companies and his employees work hard, long hours because they are driven by their salary, which allows them and their family a reasonably good lifestyle.
It was the genuine charismatic nature and candidness of Mr. Chishti that made his presentation a huge success with both the Pakistani Americans in the audience as well as the non-Pakistanis. He emphasized that building relationships with people in life requires to adhere to a few simple tenets: honesty, sincerity, and the ability to bring something to the table.
Overall, the event was a huge success, and the audience got a rare glimpse into the life of an enigmatic and inspiring role model for Pakistanis living all around the world.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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