2018 MBAs To Watch: Sameer Zafar, Rice University (Jones)

Sameer Zafar

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“I am goal oriented, reliable, modest, diligent and impactful with strong personal values.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Karachi, Pakistan

Fun fact about yourself: I have traveled to more than 30 states in the U.S. since I arrived here in August 2016.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Institute of Business Administration (Karachi); BBA (Finance and Economics)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked as Senior Business Analyst at Engro Powergen (formerly Exxon Pakistan) evaluating power sector investment opportunities in Asia and Africa.  

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Endeavor Energy (Houston), a global private equity backed power project developer in Sub-Saharan Africa

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided; but interested in emerging market private equity

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-Founder and President Rice Fintech Club: Rice Fintech club was created to provide educational opportunities on evolving disruptive financial technologies. The idea is to push students to think big and explore entrepreneurial ventures in the intersection of finance and technology.
  • Board Member Career & Recovery Resources: Career and Recovery Resources, Inc., (CRR) is a nonprofit, multi-service, United Way of Greater Houston agency established in 1945, which provides employment opportunities to people with barriers. I served as a non-voting board member for the firm for one year.
  • Chief Investment Officer M.A Wright Fund: I was nominated as the chief investment officer for a $1.8 million student-managed equity investment fund at Rice. As the CIO, I developed the fund’s investment strategy and worked with a team of over 20 senior/junior analysts to execute that strategy.
  • Admissions Ambassador: As an Admissions Ambassador, I worked with the Admissions and Recruiting Office to interview and evaluate applicants and help prospective candidates in making the best decision for their MBA education.
  • Vice President Net Impact Club
  • Vice President Strategy Club
  • Treasurer Blockchain club
  • Speaker at Doerr Institute of New Leaders

Honors and Awards:

Fulbright Scholarship: Fulbright scholarship is a prestigious global scholarship provided by the U.S. government. From the Fulbright alumni, 37 alumni have served as heads of government, 59 have won the Nobel Prize and 82 have received the Pulitzer Prize.  

Gordon Douglas Watson Award in Corporate Management: Merit scholarship for the MBA program

Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud to be the chief investment officer for the M.A. Wright Fund, a $1.8 million student-managed investment fund, at Rice. This was a huge responsibility, as I not only had to develop strategy for the fund but also lead a team of more than 20 senior and junior analysts. I relied on strategy and finance concepts learned during the first semester to create an investment portfolio that outperformed the S&P 500 index. I was able to achieve the fund’s objective but more importantly generate profits to finance scholarship for current students.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At my previous employer, I developed a platform to provide financial support and generate sports opportunities for aspiring young athletes from low income backgrounds. As a soccer enthusiast, I have always believed in the power of sports in bringing people together, building personalities and teaching life-long lessons which are applicable in any field of life. I directly worked with soccer clubs and organizations at grass root levels to understand their needs and created a platform where underprivileged children could display their skills and get selected for reputable soccer clubs. The event was a huge success in the first year and has been growing further since I started the MBA program.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Rice Business has quite a few really good professors, but if I had to select one then it would be Bill Arnold, professor in the practice of energy management. Bill has more than 35 years of experiences working with businesses and governments globally, and the perspective he brings to the class is inimitable. He has a fantastic personality, and he can enthrall audiences with his knowledge and experiences on the subject. Bill is a humble person and has helped me whenever I needed his guidance.

What was your favorite MBA Course? I have previously worked in developing markets and was always curious how developed world investors and businesses perceived risks in developing markets. ‘Geopolitics in Energy’ was one of my favorite courses in the MBA program. The course taught me how risks differ from developed vs developing countries and the importance of risk management vs measuring risk magnitude. Moreover, being able to learn from the first-hand experience of people who worked in different geopolitical environments was also a unique opportunity.

Why did you choose this business school? I didn’t know much about Rice before applying for MBA, so I decided to reach out to current students and alumni. I was amazed to see the positive response I received and the willingness of students not only to help me learn more about Rice but also assist me in the school selection process. The interactions I had with the Rice community convinced me that this is the top school to pursue my MBA. The small class size meant that I could develop life-long relationships with most of my colleagues. Moreover, my passion for global energy markets swayed my interest towards Houston, the energy capital of the world.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Learn more about the people and culture at the school. The MBA program is a huge time and capital investment, and it’s important to maximize this two-year experience. The Rice community is open, engaging, and willing to assist prospective students in making the tough career decisions. The culture at Rice is very collaborative. Learn more about the program and have honest conversations, so you know which school can help you achieve your long-term career goals.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth I would say is that Rice is an energy-focused MBA program due to its presence in Houston and links with the oil and gas industry. To some extent that is true, but over the past few years the school has made conscious effort to bring in students from diverse backgrounds. There is a growing percentage of students going into the tech, consumer and even venture capital industries.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wished I had attended more events and extra-curricular activities with class mates in the first year. There is so much going in business school that you hardly get the time to hang out with colleagues and spend quality time with classmates over lunch and dinners.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Billy McLucas is one person in my MBA class whom I really admire. We were in the same core group during the first semester, and I was impressed by his strong work ethic. He is focused, calm, hard-working and a calculated risk-taker. We could always count on Billy to deliver on tight timelines and review team projects. As a person, he is modest, sociable and willing to help out in any way possible.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Definitely my parents. They have always encouraged me to aim high and chase every opportunity to expand my horizons. There were times when I lacked the self-belief to take the next challenge, but my parents were there as my biggest cheerleaders. I wouldn’t be here without their selfless support and prayers.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working on renewable energy and power generation projects in Africa and Asia.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would increase interaction between the full-time, professional and executive MBA programs. There is an opportunity to learn from everyone’s experience which I believe gets missed out during the program.  

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1) Sky diving and 2) Backpacking across Europe.  

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a dependable, honest and trustworthy person who is willing to go an extra mile to help out others.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Pursuit of Happyness. The movie is a great example of how hard work and ambition can lead to personal and professional success.

What would your theme song be? “Eye of the Tiger”

Favorite vacation spot: Key West, Florida

Hobbies? Travelling, finding new adventures, watching sports and reading (a hobby I recently developed)

What made Sameer such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Sameer Zafar has been an outstanding and innovative leader in Rice University’s MBA class of 2018 as well as a leader who truly cares about his peer and faculty. Sameer was the chief investment officer of our student-managed stock endowment fund, the M.A. Wright Fund. I was thoroughly impressed with the speed, professionalism, depth and uniqueness of Sameer’s analysis. He would be off quietly working for a relatively short period of time and then…Wow!! Sameer would deliver a truly innovative, in-depth report or presentation—some of the best work I have seen in my 30-year career. Sameer successfully cofounded and then served as president of the Rice Fintech Club, which has provided a platform for MBA students and other Rice students to interact in the emerging Fintech space. He also organized a speaker series to allow students to learn about evolving industry trends. Sameer skillfully served as an Admissions Ambassador, expertly shepherding prospective Rice MBA students through the process. A great “face” for the Rice MBA program.

In addition to his highly visible leadership roles, Sameer also leads more quietly through his remarkable spirit of volunteerism. He has tutored numerous other students—particularly those in the professional and executive program, who in some cases are substantially older than Sameer—providing finance and accounting academic support to maximize their MBA experience. As vice president of the Net Impact Club, Sameer developed a platform where MBA students can engage with companies to help them solve sustainability and social impact issues. On a more personal note, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Sameer very quickly put together a group of students to help me with the cleanup of my flooded house, including the worst part of cleaning out the refrigerator! It is my honor to have worked with Sameer Zafar, but mostly it is my honor to call him my friend.”

Jill Foote, CFA, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Finance

 

DON’T MISS THE FULL LIST:

100 MBAS TO WATCH IN THE CLASS OF 2018