Recent UCL graduate Anam Zaman talks setting up a charity in Dubai, attending leadership workshops in Paris and starting her investment banking career in London.
From the age of 16 or so, I knew that I wanted to study something economics-related and then eventually work in finance. I’m originally from Pakistan, although I’ve lived in the UAE since the age of 12, and after finishing my IB at the Al Habtoor Group’s Emirates International School in Dubai, I decided to go back to Pakistan and spent a semester studying economics at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. However, I soon realised that, to create the life I wanted for myself and really get ahead in my career, my best chance would be to study abroad, so I dropped out, applied to UCL and got an offer within two weeks! When it came to picking a university overseas, I was immediately drawn to UCL for its reputation as well as the incredible diversity, from the range of extracurricular activities and opportunities on offer to the international student population.
The course itself was also a major factor in choosing UCL. I wanted something that was broad but gave me the grounding I needed for an eventual career in finance, and since I was already interested in emerging markets, I thought the mix of an economics and business degree with ‘East European Studies’ would be particularly interesting. The course offers modules on a range of topics, from ‘Emerging Market Economies’, which focuses on the economic, political and social transformation that occurred when former communist regimes became market economies, to ‘New Venture Creation’, which allows students to apply their knowledge to real life by writing a business plan. The School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL also puts a lot of emphasis on course work, essays, group projects and presentations, so you’re encouraged to read widely around your course and develop your research and writing skills.
While interning during my gap year, I decided that I wanted to set up a charity that would provide non-perishable food items to the labourers in the UAE. I developed a plan of how we could collect non-perishable food from a range of residential areas and then redistribute it to the construction workers in Dubai’s labour camps. Then I actually phoned up the Ministry of Dubai and after about 4 or 5 attempts, they finally directed me to the owner of a local charity who was already managing the reallocation of leftover food from events at hotels to the labour camps. I explained to her what I wanted to do and she loved the idea so she gave me the resources I needed. Within a few days, I was running a project called ‘Got Food?’. As the head of the project, I had to coordinate a lot of the high-level operations and manage a team of up to 30 people. At first, there were a lot of challenges, from navigating the bureaucracy to finding a way to motivate unpaid volunteers, but fortunately, I’d gained a lot of experience in leading a team of fundraisers while at school so I could really apply everything I’d learnt to this role. Today, the project is still on-going every summer and so far, there have been over 110,000 beneficiaries! It was probably during this time that I realised I truly had the potential to make a real impact in the world!
When I arrived at UCL, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone by trying out extracurricular activities on offer that I’d never usually consider and by meeting people from different backgrounds and with different interests; I ended up getting involved in everything from glow-in-the-dark volleyball and ultimate frisbee to the jazz society! I’ve made a ton of amazing memories just by joining all these societies, from playing golf on an 18-hole course until dark with the UCLU Golf Society to flying a glider at the RAF airfield with the UCLU Gliding Society.
Later on, in my final year, I applied to a new network at McKinsey called Next Generation Women Leaders. McKinsey passionately believes in developing outstanding female leaders and this network brings together young women in London who have demonstrated leadership ability and potential. They hold regular webinars and workshops on topics such as leadership, self-confidence and gender equality at their London offices and then, in March this year, they held a 3-day summit in Paris and selected around 100 young women from the EMEA region to attend. This was truly an unforgettable experience, from staying in Chateau de Rochefort to hearing inspirational speeches from incredible women. I had the opportunity to become part of a group of like-minded young women from all over the world and in a range of different fields; a lot of us are still in contact and we make sure to meet up for lunch whenever we can! More importantly, I’d say this event marked the start of my journey towards hopefully one day becoming a female leader who makes an indelible mark in the world. Ever since the conference, I’ve become even more passionate about inspiring and motivating young people from KPK, my province in Pakistan [coincidentally the same one as Malala] to overcome their personal struggles, fulfil their ambitions and eventually become the best versions of themselves.
MY FREE TIME:
Living in London, you’re exposed to so many different cultures. I’m a big foodie so I love to try out all the incredible international cuisine; a few personal favourites include Salloos, which is an amazing experience, and also Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, Royal China, Ping Pong and Busaba. However, I’m not a food snob at all and most days, I’ll happily eat KFC, GBK and Byron! I also love to cook, especially Pakistani food; I like to think I make the best biryani in my family! I hope I have the good fortune to have a large family of my own someday so I can spoil everyone with my cooking!
While studying at UCL, away from home, I definitely learnt a lot about myself, especially that I’m very spiritual. I’ve got back in touch with my faith, which is a great source of comfort for when life is a bit overwhelming. Otherwise, I’ve also developed a passion for mentoring other young women; I’ve built up a list of informal mentees who come to me for advice on everything from their careers to their personal lives. These are people from different universities whom I believe in and who in turn appreciate the small but significant amount of wisdom I have gained from my life experiences.
This year, I’ve also had the chance to visit cities such as Paris and New York for career-related events, but next year, I would love to try something different and maybe go on a food tour of East Asia, particularly Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, with friends.
Before I started at UCL, I interned in the training development team at the World Food Programme in Dubai. This specific team’s job was to build training courses for the consultants who go into emergency situations and set up the IT infrastructure before the aid workers arrive, and my role was to help design these courses and market them by building promotional materials. So for example, one of the biggest tasks I was given was to write, direct and edit a promotional video for their website, despite never having made a video! It was definitely a huge challenge as I had to teach myself how to use the software and be quite innovative, but it worked out in the end and they eventually published my video worldwide on their official website.
However, although I’ll always have an affinity for NGOs, I’ve known since I was a teenager that I eventually wanted to go into banking. I’m incredibly passionate about female empowerment, particularly for young Pakistani women, and I felt like a career in finance would be a great way to not only gain independence for myself and become ‘self-made’ but also empower and inspire other women from KPK. In first year, I did my spring week in Securities at Goldman Sachs and received offers from them and the IBD floor. Then in second year, I went back into IBD at Goldman in Financing (DCM/ FICC Derivatives) and switched to the M&A [Mergers and Acquisitions] department. Finally, since graduating, I’ve completed training in their New York office and I’m now a full-time analyst in the Financial Institutions Group (FIG) M&A team at Goldman’s London offices. For me, FIG is the best place I could begin my career – I’m really enjoying working and learning with this new family of mine and I look forward to my future here.
–as told to CITOYENNE
Photography: Fedora Abu
CONNECT with Anam on LinkedIn.