Blog Interviews LifeStory World

Beauty With Brains

Firdouz Hameed

Humaira Khan is the Founder of Walzay, a company that connects top STEM talent to reputed companies worldwide. Early into her career, she founded another start-up in New York City, which after two years of a successful run, made her walk out with 113 million USD. She is a humanitarian and someone who cares to give back to nature. She is also an active contributor to UNRWA and WWF Pakistan.

Tell us a bit about your upbringing, family, and education.

My father didn’t go to school. He was a self-taught man with strong entrepreneurial instincts. He was an Arabic translator in Saudi Arabia, so I was born there. We then moved to Toronto, Canada.

We went to Canada and didn’t have any cash. My father worked a cash paid job and then started his local meat shop. Growing up, my brother and I would spend weekends packaging and pricing products. When my brother and I got older, we turned his meat business into private food label burgers and kebabs and now have a production plant, wholesaling all over Canada including to retailers such as Walmart.

I studied fashion marketing and merchandising for two years while being involved in many local social causes including poverty alleviation groups, seniors homes, interfaith dialogue communities, and more. In 2007, I was nominated to be one of the youngest people to run for a federal election for a national party.

I moved to NYC right after and did a two-year degree in Computer Science and a bachelor’s degree in Finance. I started working at a tech startup called Vettery, which was a talent marketplace headquartered in NYC. As one of the first hires, I helped to scale the company using different hacks with a data focus, we exited two years later for 100 million USD.

I’m now based in Dubai, with an objective to transform the work industry as we know it.

As the founder of a company that functions both in the Middle East and the US, which do you feel is your strongest market? What do you think separates both in terms of ease of doing business?

For the current vision and stage, the Middle East is the bigger market because of the demand for talent as they shift to a new economy. However, as the entire world shifts to a remote-work model, the long-game is to transform the global industry and the US would be the largest market at that point.

How does your company help the clients recruit the right talent?

Since we pre-vet all of the candidates based on special criteria, companies will only see the best talent put in front of them. Right now the focus is on STEM talent, primarily tech. Companies can sort through talent by themselves on our application.

Is there any way that a company can ensure that their best talents are working at their full potential? There are times when an individual may not be at their best spirits.

These are for senior roles and so companies will expect only dedicated staff working for them. We also ensure candidates are going to companies that will suit them and that they will enjoy based on culture-based matching to ensure a better match, higher retention.

A lot of companies are now using technology to hire the right talent in the workplace. But then, today there are several employees that are learning to decode it. Won’t this make the whole process slightly ineffective?

Future employees also want to get the best possible job that can suit their background, their interests, and their lifestyle. So if both sides are involved in the process to get the right match, the process will be effective.

Do companies today realize the need to provide flextime for employees? What are some of the advantages of such internal policies?

Yes, companies are facilitating flexible work advantages in order to compete for acquiring the best talent. The advantages are having higher retention of talent and attracting top talent.

We know that it is very important for any business to keep innovating and disrupting. The use of technology in recruitment has helped many organizations to save millions. Do companies in the UAE understand the significance of your service as much as your clients in the US?

Yes – companies here are more desperate than ever to have a solution to help them with hiring problems which include high costs and a poor pool of talent. The region is shifting to a digital economy and the need for tech talent is the highest in the world.

Will the introduction of the VAT make talented employees from abroad worry about employee tax, and thereby, think twice about working in the UAE in the near future?

Not necessarily, because people want to work somewhere they like and have the opportunity and the idea of geography is not a major issue as it used to be. Also, there are a lot of remote work opportunities.

Do you feel that a lot of a company’s success in the UAE depends on the reputation of its senior leaders or how many awards the organization has won?

In this region, to establish a good reputation to win over clients and talent, it helps to have someone trustworthy, which awards exemplify that. It is not necessary though. Have a great product, good user experience, great customer focus, and that is the main win.

How do you rate your journey so far? What made this all possible? Where do you look to go from here?

The journey had a lot of highs and lows, moving from NYC to Dubai, figuring out how things work here. But the market is great, so are the people, the demand, and everyone has been helpful. The journey has been great, and I’m looking for some great success across the region with Walzay.

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