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May 4, 2017

Working Seeples: Mir Yahya Ismail MPA ’17

In addition to taking 14 to 16 credits a semester and participating in student groups, some SIPA students also work part-time jobs or internships. Earlier this semester, SIPA News sat down with Mir Yahya Ismail MPA ’17 to discuss how he balances the demands of school and managing two enterprises in Pakistan.

What did you do before coming to SIPA?

I’m actually still doing what I did before coming to SIPA. In 2014, I invested in an online business with a family member. Since then the business [a clothing store] has grown from two to nine full-time staff members, and I remotely manage it from here.

I understand you also have a second professional commitment.

Yes. In 2016 I took over the management of an elementary school run by another family member. I develop the curriculum and work on infrastructure investment.

Why did you choose to attend SIPA?

The online business grew to the point where I felt like I could afford to go to graduate school—I was ready to delegate more of the business responsibilities and work on other ventures. I saw SIPA as a place to learn and an opportunity to connect with other people. I’m interested in launching businesses in growing sectors, so I’m concentrating in Energy and Environment at SIPA.

Why did you decide to continue to run these businesses remotely?

It gives me a high to motivate and see the staff accomplish their dreams. Money is not the object for me. If figure if I can be a stepping stone for someone, then why not? My biggest accomplishment has been bringing a sense of entrepreneurship to my family.

How do you manage your school and business obligations?

I try to avoid 9:30 a.m. classes! The market in Pakistan opens at 1 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, so I have to stay up until 5 a.m. in order to be available to my staff in Pakistan. Unfortunately, econ classes tend to be at that time so I’m like a zombie in those classes.

I think I spend 40 percent of my time working on new business ventures, 30 percent on my current businesses, and 10 to 15 percent on SIPA.

 How has SIPA supported your professional goals?

Thanks to SIPA, I was able to get an internship with solar developer in the Middle East as well as summer internships in Mexico. I’ve also made sure to take classes by every energy professor I’m interested in.

Right now I’m also taking a course on Entrepreneurship for the New (Technology) Economy. The professor, Hilary Gosher, is blowing me away.

This interview, conducted by Serina Bellamy MIA ’17, has been condensed and edited.

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