In this series, TalentEgg will be exploring the lives of young professionals who have gone off the beaten career path to find success. From artists to entrepreneurs, their stories illustrate the importance of pursuing your passion.
If you were to meet Hamza Khan now, you might classify him as a textbook overachiever. But he wasn’t always this way.
Today, Hamza has a list of accomplishments and titles a mile long: award-winning marketer, entrepreneur, public speaker, and writer to name only a few. But this stellar track record is a new development in his life. When he was a university student, Hamza felt disengaged from his program and uninspired by his studies.
“I was the last to arrive to class and the first person to leave,” remembers Hamza. “I’d sit at the back of the class, with my headphones and my hat on, working on side projects.”
Hamza’s true passion was graphic design, but he was studying Political Science and Business with plans to become a lawyer. It wasn’t until he attended a leadership event, hosted by his eventual friend and mentor Drew Dudley, that things began to turn around.
“Drew said, ‘You don’t go to college or university to simply get a degree and get a job. You go there to grow up, to develop personally, professionally, and academically and become the person you’re going to be for the rest of your life.”
That advice was the catalyst for change that he needed. That same day, he changed his major to English and immersed himself in all things marketing. As a result, his career began to take shape. He spent a summer at the Rotman School of Management in their Bridge to Business program, which then led him to enter a marketing competition where he won a prestigious internship at Sony Music.
The internship was only supposed to last two to three months, but he ended up staying an entire year and got the incredible opportunity to see how the company responded and adapted to the digital shift in the music industry. From there, he worked at the University of Toronto Scarborough as a graphic designer and at Ryerson University as a Digital Community Facilitator in their Department of Student Affairs.
While it seems that his career has been a meteoric rise since the day he decided to change degrees, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Hamza. For instance, he struggled with Impostor Syndrome. Not only was he an English major trying to make it in the business world, he was also a first-generation student; the son of Indian immigrants. For many years, he felt like the odds were stacked against him and that he didn’t belong in the marketing field.
“I spent my whole life hearing that I wasn’t good enough, that my degree wasn’t valuable, and I started to believe that.”
Fortunately, entrepreneurship helped Hamza overcome this initial self-doubt. In 2012, he started his own marketing firm Splash Effect, with business partner Kareem Rahaman. With his business, he’s built a tight-knit and supportive team whose strengths and talents support his own.
“They say ‘hire for your weaknesses’ so I surround myself with people who are super confident, and when I’m around them, it’s infectious,” says Hamza. “Over time I’ve been able to undo some of that damage and regain my confidence.”
He’s also been able to share what he’s learned through his ‘side hustles’ as a social media marketing teacher at Seneca College, a freelance writer, and a public speaker. In fact, within the span of a week, he was asked to speak at two TEDx events, at Ryerson and UTSC respectively – a career highlight for the young professional.
“I think that was just the ultimate validation, to be considered amongst a handful of people to share my expertise,” says Hamza.
Hamza’s ultimate goal has always been to “make ideas happen” and he’s constantly working on new ways to help and empower others. In fact, just recently Splash Effect launched their newest venture SkillsCamp, a learning platform for soft skills. They’ve also got a web application, Runway, coming down the pipeline.
At the end of the day, not many people can say they’re following their life’s purpose in their twenties, but Hamza is clearly far from ordinary. In the future, he hopes to continue to grow his business and ultimately add value to the lives of the people around him.
“Why do I get up out of bed every morning and why do I do what I do? The answer is very simple: happiness.”
Hamza’s career advice
- Trial and error. “Say yes to everything until you absolutely can’t, take every opportunity to learn about what you actually want to do, and get insight into the jobs you’re hoping to have,” says Hamza
- Stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Achieving your dreams is hard work and, at times, can be stressful. However, if you develop resilience and push through the challenging periods, you’ll be rewarded with the joy of accomplishing your goals.
- Create a personal ‘board of directors.’ “Surround yourself with like-minded individuals, as well as people who are smarter and better than you in every which way,” says Hamza. “These relationships will likely result in the opportunities and introductions that will directly support your dreams.”