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From the Big 4 to Edinburgh – How I made one of my easiest decisions in life

How a snap decision to resign from my role at Deloitte led to a place on the Edinburgh MBA.

“Run from what is comfortable, Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious” – Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

I come from a Pakistani family that resides in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. We are a large community that upholds honour, perseverance, resilience and hard work over comfort and ease. I have grown up with these values and have always been encouraged to do my best.

My first memories are of my mother encouraging me to work hard, achieve greatness and to be humble. This would help me become a good person, achieve my future goals and grow and become a ‘big man’ in order to make my parents and country proud.

After graduating from Middlesex University in London with a 2:1 in 2012, I started my career at Deloitte where I worked tirelessly to steadily progress up the ladder. I had reached the point where I believed I was getting comfortable. To be honest, I felt I had learned everything there was to learn in auditing. I came from a very generalist business background and was now advising my clients on what the right accounting treatments were and finding mistakes in their financial statements.

“Run from what is comfortable.”

The words of Rumi echoed in my head, and it was time to leave. I submitted my resignation letter a week before Ramadan, and everyone said it was the biggest mistake of my life. But most of these ‘advisors’ were those who had become accustomed to what they had, and they too had become comfortable. Little did they know, I had goals and aimed to achieve them. I have seen my parents and heard stories of my grandparent’s struggle. ‘Life is not easy, nor would it ever be’ was a constant mantra on my fathers’ lips.

I started applying for positions and sending out applications for Master’s programmes and the pain of waiting was just unbearable. This is what Dubai does to you, you become used to a quick turnaround, but this was just too long and painful.

I had applied to nearly fifteen universities across the Western world. Some had closed their applications and told me to reapply, and Oxbridge asked me to get another year of experience. Five had offered me a place, however I was not sure I wanted to study with them.

Everything happens for a reason

Then, one Friday afternoon, I got a call from the UEBS MBA department and an American accent rang in my ear telling me that a place had opened up and they wanted me to join for the 2017 start.

This changed everything. Literally!

I told my mother what had happened, and with a smile on her face she advised me that ‘everything happens for a reason, and you will be shocked with the positive outcomes’.

But, the course started in September and we were smack in the middle of August. I had to do an English exam, apply for my student visa, sort out accommodation and settle everything in Dubai. All this whilst studying for an ACCA tax exam (not the easiest paper). If it had not been for my parents’ encouragement, I would not have been able to do it!  By the end of August, I achieved 94% on my English exam, and was nearly done with my visa application.

The day I got my visa was a blur as I had to hurry to buy tickets for my flight. On the way to the airport we were in a car accident and had to reschedule the flight,  sending an apology email to the University.

Scottish hospitality

Eventually I arrived in London and took the train to Edinburgh, a city that I had never visited. On the train, a Scottish Pakistan saw my nervous look, heard my story and started laughing. ‘You should write book’ he said.

Well now I am writing a blog, so I think I got it right. He tore off a piece of paper from his pad and started telling me where I could buy food, all the restaurants I should visit and what I can do for a night out. Once we reached Edinburgh, he asked me if I knew where my Airbnb was, I said no. He grinned and offered me a ride in his taxi, which I reluctantly took, but was all too grateful for his help.

At my Airbnb, the Scottish couple that I stayed with were very helpful. Not only did they take my bags when I got there, they left me treats because they knew the hassle I had gone through and just wanted to know if I was okay. Scottish hospitality took me by surprise and I could not have been happier with my choices.

The next morning I was at the University. I finally met my colleagues and the MBA staff, who were all happy to see that I had arrived in one piece and was ready to start my new journey.

Intense year

Now it’s been nearly eight months since I started the course. As I look at the view of the Pentland Hills from the Main Library, I think about our visit to Colombia for the International Business in Context course and all the other adventures we have had. I am in the process of applying for my visa to Iceland for the annual business trek, and have been accepted on the Women in Leadership trek in London. Next week I will start my voluntary work as part of the Edinburgh Award and am learning basic Spanish because I intend to make another trip to South America.

If it had not been for my parents, sisters and friends advice and encouragement, I don’t believe I would have achieved what I have to be where I am today. Resilience does not develop overnight and changing your life completely in the span of a few weeks is not an easy task. But the MBA is not an easy course, it keeps you on your toes and makes you the professional you want to be.

I have never been so happy with the decisions that I have made.

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Saad Fayyaz

Saad Fayyaz is a former MBA student at the University of Edinburgh Business School, and the recipient of the MBA Diversity Award scholarship 2017/18. With professional experience working for Deloitte and Mashreq Bank in Dubai and London, Saad gained a wide range of cross-functional experience in project management, risk management, and specialised consultancy, before joining the MBA programme in 2017. Today, supported by his new MBA acquired skills, Saad finds himself looking to further his professional career in management and strategy consulting. From Karachi to Dubai, London, and now Edinburgh, Saad is always ready to take on new challenges, wherever they may be. As an avid traveler, he is on board to go and experience something new and exciting.