He Fled Terrorism At Home. An EMBA Helped Him Rebuild His Life

Kashif Khaleel and family. Courtesy photo

LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT PROGRAM

Looking for the right business school, it didn’t take long for Khaleel to land on Warwick, about 80 miles northwest of London. “Having already done a full-time MBA, I knew what was I was looking for,” he says, “and the Warwick MBA augmented my previous qualification, it wasn’t just repeating what I had done in Lahore.”

Warwick allowed Khaleel to take courses that built on what he’d already done. It was a modular program, and he was able to pursue the EMBA part-time. Warwick was also less expensive than other B-schools, and had more financing options and scholarship opportunities — a “major consideration” for someone with a growing family, as he and Mariam had a daughter in 2011 and a son in 2015.

“I had a distinct feeling that I was moving around in a circle that has a certain income level,” says Khaleel, now 38. “I’m not getting exposure to other segments of society — and the best way to do that is to sit in a class of people who are in those different levels.

“I wanted to do better than what I was doing. Plus, I needed to achieve the salary, package and career opportunity by the end of the second year so I could afford the third year.”

A PATHWAY TO A JOB, AND AN EDUCATION, WITH ONE OF THE WORLD’S TOP RETAILERS

Kashif Khaleel in the cockpit of a Dreamliner. Courtesy photo

What would that opportunity be? Not one he expected, Khaleel says.

“In the summer of my first year, I started looking at a lot of industries,” he says. “I hadn’t even thought about Amazon, to be honest with you. I never applied to Amazon, I never looked at jobs with Amazon. I started talking with a lot of people who had diverse backgrounds during my MBA — one of my best friends works for a waste management company, I would have never thought of working for them. And then this one guy, he took a sabbatical and he went away for a program that I’d never heard of, which was the Amazon Pathways.

“And so this guy comes back and starts telling me about his experience as an intern with Amazon, and I got as many details as I could from him. And I started looking at it. Then one fine day Amazon turns up at Warwick for an open house. They told me how fast the company was growing and the opportunities it offered. This led me to go through the WBS link to apply for the MBA Pathway program. The WBS CareersPlus and Corporate Relations teams were really helpful and I got an email back saying I had been invited for an interview.”

NOT JUST ANY OLD INTERVIEW PROCESS

The interview process was intense. There was a math-based initial screening followed by a series of rigorous interviews that ran over two days with multiple interviewers.

“The interviewers didn’t look very convinced,” says Kashif. “My wife said, ‘How did it go?’ and I said, ‘Nah, I don’t think I got it.’ Three hours later I got an offer letter via email. They offered me a chance in Poland or Prague, so I opted for Prague.”

Outside Prague, Khaleel works with more than 4,000 other workers in a warehouse the size of 13 soccer pitches. He  walks 10 kilometers a day in the Amazon fulfillment center that mainly serves Germany. And he’s had to learn fast. Leading a team of 150 and dealing with vendor returns while also confronting the challenges of a new language has been no easy task.

“The MBA gives you that resilience and doggedness to keep going,” Khaleel says. “Google translate is my best friend!”

A WORLD AWAY FROM THE CHAOS 

Amazon’s MBA Pathways program is called that for a reason. Khaleel isn’t just an employee — he’s being groomed for a senior management position. He’s receiving a three-year education in the online retail giant’s business, during which time Amazon intends to fly him around the world, gaining experience and learning about the Amazon way.

With more than 300,000 employees and more than 360 fulfillment centers and hundreds of offices and distribution networks across the globe — not to mention its 14-building headquarters in Seattle — there will be plenty of locations to choose from when Khaleel is done learning the ropes.

“The scale of Amazon is incredible, which adds to the complexity,” he says. “Ask any Amazonian how long they have been at the company and they will answer in peaks. The peak is November to January, when you work six days a week, all hours, all ranks get on the floor to ensure a lovely Christmas for our customers.”

It’s a world away from the life of uncertainty he left behind. Now, Khaleel says, “My general manager asked me, ‘What is your long-term plan?’ I replied that I want to be the guy who takes Amazon to Dubai.”

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