When Kashif Khaleel sat in his third-floor Islamabad office watching troops storm the infamous Red Mosque in Islamabad, he knew it was time to leave Pakistan.
From his Nestle office window he could see smoke bellowing from the mosque and hear gun fire. This was the final straw as he became increasingly concerned about his family and future. Terrorist attacks are a weekly occurrence in Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s National Internal Security Policy from 2001 to November 2013, 48,994 people were killed by terrorist attacks.
In 2009 Kashif decided to give up his burgeoning career at Nestle and through the High Skilled Migrant Programme, which no longer exists, moved to the UK. “I stayed with my brother in Chertsey, I was unemployed for four months and left my wife behind,” says Kashif. “It was tough but at least I had a future to look forward to. I needed to get a job and bring my wife Mariam over. I eventually found a job as a merchandiser, putting stock in retail outlets. It was about five levels below where I was in Pakistan but it was a start.”
From there he moved on to other roles and now, thanks to his Executive MBA, Kashif is working for Amazon as an Operations Manager. He is now based in Prague and on the firm’s MBA Pathways programme, a three-year education on the online retail giant’s business that leads to a senior management position – a world away from the life of uncertainty he left behind. “I never thought I would get a job at Amazon, this whole journey has been fantastic for me,” says Kashif, who now has two children with his wife.
Kashif already had an MBA from Lahore University of Management Science, but found in the UK it was not as well recognised, so decided to do another one to get his career back on track. “Having already done a full-time MBA I knew what was I was looking for and the Warwick MBA augmented my previous qualification, it wasn’t just repeating what I had done in Lahore,” says Kashif.
The MBA gives you that resilience and doggedness to keep going
“By meeting and making friends on the course I saw some of these guys were looking after half the UK and were the same age as me, so I started looking at the MBA schemes offered by employers. I wanted to do better then 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 fellow MBA student sparked Kashif’s interest in Amazon, now the biggest retailer in market capitalisation in the US. “My friend had taken a sabbatical to do an internship there,” says Kashif. “Unfortunately he didn’t get a job out of it, but he gave me a lot of fantastic feedback about the company. Then we had an on-campus presentation by Amazon. 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.”
What is the interview process at Amazon like?
It wasn’t just any old interview process. There was a maths-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.”
Working in a warehouse the size of 13 football pitches and with more than 4,000 workers, Kashif walks 10km a day in the Amazon fulfilment centre just outside Prague, which mainly serves Germany. “When I first walked in, my jaw dropped,” says Kashif. “I have never seen that many people, conveyor belts and machines in one place working at that level of efficiency.”
Kashif has had to learn fast. Leading a team of 150 and dealing with vendor returns, while also combating the challenges of a new language has been no easy task. “The MBA gives you that resilience and doggedness to keep going,” says Kashif. “Google translate is my best friend!”
For the next three years Amazon intends to fly Kashif around the world, gaining experience and learning about the Amazon way. And with more than 300,000 employees and more than 360 fulfilment centres and hundreds of offices and distribution networks across the globe, plus its 14-building headquarters in Seattle, there are plenty of places to choose from.
“The scale of Amazon is incredible, which adds to the complexity,” says Kashif. “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.”
Having opted for a life in the West, Kashif’s MBA has made him determined to dream big and given him the opportunity to achieve his goals Kashif 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.”