Featured Articles

POSTED MAY 7, 2021   |   
Zaheera Soomar

Founder & Principal Advisor at Zaheera Soomar Advisory

Founder & Chief Executive Officer at bizzscholar


Introduction

This week’s featured entrepreneur, Zaheera Soomar, has been through a very inspiring journey. She’s part of multiple initiatives that are changing the world. Zaheera is also a constant learner. She has been to many places around the globe, her latest journey has brought her to Canada where she is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration and Management at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business.

Zaheera has been in the corporate space for over 17 years, mainly in male dominated environments and often the only female at the table. An ex Bain alumni, that has re focused her career over the past 9 years on social impact, sustainability, DEI and making a difference through her work. Through this lens, she founded bizzscholar which seeks to bring academia and business closer together.

Alright Zaheera, the floor is yours!

Please provide us with your name(s)

Zaheera Soomar

Where are you from?

Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Spent most of her career in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. Immigrated to Dubai, UAE for 3 years and now settled in Toronto, Canada for the past 4 years.

Tell us about you (background info)?

I started in Oil and Gas and mining for the first 7 years of my career. I focused mainly on investments, strategy and operations. I spend a good part of my time at the actual operations. That included a year on back-and-forth travel between South Africa and the DRC, Zambia (Copperbelt). It was not easy but very enjoyable. I constantly felt like I was breaking barriers and gender norms and it felt good - woman of colour, married and 2 kids.

I did my MBA at UCT GSB in Cape Town and then joined Bain and company in Johannesburg. My experience at Bain allowed me to really develop my skill set and experience a variety of other industries. While I learnt a lot, I realised I wanted more meaning to my career - I wanted my time and effort to count for me and contribute towards more. Since then. I have purposefully chosen roles that have allowed me to focus on social impact, sustainability, and DEI. Over the past 9 years, I have worked with a few niche consulting firms focused on Government reform, education, health, ethics advisory and DEI. 3 years ago, I also started my own consultancy and advise various clients. I am also currently heading up Anglo Americans Education and Skills Portfolio globally. During this time, I also had my 3rd child - another girl.

18 months ago. I started my doctorate with Haskayne Business School in Canada. I really wanted to deepen my expertise in evidence-based solutions and research. In addition to that, I sit on a few boards focused on DEI, poverty alleviation, STEM Education and women empowerment.

Why are you starting this business?

In today’s world we face increasingly complex problems, including climate change, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, the education gap, poverty, and inequality. These problems require new approaches that go beyond conventional consulting and advisory. Businesses are under pressure to play their part in tackling societal issues, for example by going green, by producing innovative and sustainable products, and by promoting diversity. and inclusion in their workplaces. There is a strong business case for organizations to not only champion causes that their shareholders, employees, and consumers care about, but to also meet the needs of citizens and society around responsible business practice. These initiatives require specialist knowledge, and businesses often need access to experts and scholars with deep and broad expertise and evidence-based practices in these areas.

During my MBA and my current Doctorate studies, I constantly felt the distance between academia and business in terms of research and theory development. I experience the same on the business side, where I am constantly trying to partner with academics to dig into deeper research on key areas and find resolutions.

I decided to setup bizzscholar to address some of these challenges and bring academia and business closer together.

"I have experienced the benefits, both as an academic and a business leader, in the power and value of collaboration between the two worlds of academia and business. These worlds need to be more closely connected, and partnerships need to be faster and more accessible. From something as small as working with an academic researcher on an education or health-based study to working with AI tech ethics experts to determine harm and define privacy standards for new products, bizzscholar will unlock these types of partnerships for academics and businesses globally – we are going to revolutionize the opportunity to collaborate at scale."

Please provide us with some information about your business. (description, business model, etc.)

bizzscholar connects forward thinking businesses with leading academics to tackle complex challenges at local and global levels. We facilitate partnerships in new ways by leveraging the gig economy and moving beyond the limitations of current collaborations:

• Faster connections and time to partnership
• Global network - no boundaries
• Mutually beneficial partnerships that empower businesses, enrich academic research, and benefit society

bizzscholar is supported by an AI tech-enabled platform with key features:

• Intuitive and intelligent platform
• Pre-vetting of all scholars (academics and post-grads)
• Advanced search functions for academics, post-grads, and businesses
• Resources and capacity development: training and toolkits developed to support academics in working with business
• Research database: aimed at mobilizing practitioner-based knowledge and research between academia and business
• Secure platform and data security
• Provide access to deep specialist expertise in a simple, easy to access way

What stage are you in right now?

We are in the final stages of MVP development. We launched the brand in March and the bizzscholar platform will be launched in 4 weeks. We are about to do our final UAT next week.

What are you looking for at this stage for your business?

We are exploring a number of things at this stage such as:

• Connecting with universities across the globe to build partnerships
• Getting the word out to as many academics and post graduates to register on the platform
• Connecting with businesses to pilot the product and approach

Feel free to reach out if you can assist with the above.

What do you want us to remember about you?

I think I would generally always like to be remembered for trying to make a difference where it matters. I try my best to be an advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. I would also like to be remembered as a woman who pushed boundaries.

Where can we find you (social media)?

Linked in : https://www.linkedin.com/in/zaheera-soomar-mba-dba-candidate-7ab39b7/

Website : www.zaheerasoomar.com

bizzscholar webiste : www.bizzscholar.com