Masood Razaq, Class of 1992 (1990-92), is founder and director of Verdacore, a boutique advisory and project development firm.
Masood Razaq isn’t sure which was the most nerve-racking: working with Bill Gates or trying to break a Toblerone the Swiss way in front of his peers. But one thing he’s sure of is that no matter what he’s doing, the experience at AISZ taught him to aim high.
“You should try to surround yourself with as many talented people as possible,” says Masood. “It forces you to raise your game, to perform at a higher level, and to learn from some of the best people around. That will be a good thing for your career forever.”
Masood first came to Zurich at 15 (having lived in Egypt, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Greece and Germany), and he settled into school quickly. “There was a family atmosphere, which gave it a feeling of intimacy and trust,” he says. “Looking back, it was a privilege to be in such an intimate classroom setting. I do better in small groups.”
Via Harvard, Cambridge University and Harvard Business School, his first job was with management consulting firm A.T. Kearney in London. However, his most significant professional experience was at Microsoft in Seattle, where he spent four years as part of the corporate strategy group, working with senior executives on new product ideas. “I had some meetings with Bill Gates, which were mildly terrifying. He’s a really good guy, but it’s hard to talk to someone about the future when they’re way ahead of you on everything,” he says.
It was in Seattle that he met his wife, Sofia, an interior and clothing designer, and it was also a time where he discovered a new challenge. “I became interested in working with business people who are risking their own capital and doing things more organically, and I wanted to see if I could do that in an emerging markets context.” Through Verdacore, he advises Gulf-based family groups, entrepreneurs and mid-sized businesses on strategic opportunities, operational improvement and investments, in addition to mentoring a couple of startups.
He’d like his two sons (Zayn, 6, and Rayan, 10) to have a similar high school experience to his own and not just academically. He played soccer and tennis, visited the Uffizi gallery in Florence with his art class and took part in Model United Nations conferences, a simulated version of UN proceedings. “You definitely felt that teachers were passionate about their subjects and cared about you – they weren’t just punching in to a job,” says Masood.
He also picked up some practical skills. “One of my classmates taught me how to break a Toblerone the Swiss way: press inwards on the last point with your thumb, rather than pulling it apart.”
He still keeps in touch with about a dozen school friends through Facebook. “Many of them are doing amazing things. It makes you set your sights higher in terms of what you can do in the world.”
WORDS DIANE SHIPLEY / PHOTOGRAPHY SIDDHARTH SIVA