Ziauddin Qureshi's Life Trajectory

By Ziauddin Qureshi (C70)

Ziauddin Qureshi, 1964

Probably the only student of C70 who can claim to be born at home in the absence of a doctor, and on top of it on the Island of Manora at the Pakistan Navy base. While this may sound ordinary, it created challenges in securing a birth certificate, because the record of birth was noted in the Pakistan Navy base logs. My father was one of the original Navy officers who migrated to Pakistan during the partition. I have his Navy Commission hanging in my living room (click here to see the picture of the Commission) signed in ink by Field Marshal Lord Archibald Wavell – Viceroy of India.

The upbringing was rather disciplined in a military home, coupled with influences from a strong minded math teacher as a mother. With three sisters, focus was always on education and humility. My father was a Pushtoon, my mother was a Punjabi, we spoke Urdu, Pushto and Punjabi intermingled with English. Early education in Karachi was predominantly from English based schools, followed by matriculation from Cantt Public School. The next phase included a two year degree in science from St. Patrick’s College. Unfortunately, my grades were not the best, to consider NED at the time.

In 1965, my parents left for the UK for a year, I moved to Lahore and joined FC College in a BSc. Program. As fate will be, there was a war between India and Pakistan and my father was recalled back from UK to go back to active duty, which resulted in my exit from the BSc. Program. At no time did I vary my vision of NED, and was most fortunate that the Commissioner of Karachi nominated me for one of his two reserved seats, that got me into NED. If this was destiny or luck, whichever it was, I will take it all the time!

Collection of implements bought in 1966

The first two years at NED were somewhat of a blur. Did not focus much on the study part, and skated through the exams with the bare minimum requirements – translation was not a bookish kind of guy. In the third year, there was an awakening and a focus on getting the BE (C) degree. Joint study sessions with class mates were most helpful, and the results were equally impressive. The final year was a drill down focus, all night study sessions with Mazhirul Islam and Mohsin Kazmi were the turning point. Their mentoring was so good, I scored more total marks than both, and they were not only happy for me, but also irritated at the outcome.

As a payback for his help in the final year, I secured a full scholarship and a stipend for Mohsin Kazmi at Cincinnati.

Remembrances of the NED years are still vivid. It is not easy to forget, I have a clear view of the two volume final year project document in my office as a reminder of the good times. In 2007 I had the opportunity to drive by the old campus and was disappointed to see the run down state of the infrastructure, not that it was at its best when we were there.

I am sure that most folks from NED do no recall what happened to all of the various books and implements that were purchased to become an engineer! Look at the picture of my collection which was purchased in 1966!

Since I was a great note taker, left all my note books with Jehanbuksh Canteenwala – Class of 1971 who lives in Montreal.

Volumes I and II of my Final Year Project under Prof Azizul Hasan Khan

In the final two years of NED, I was attracted to the environment and water issues; hence the focus on what was labeled as Sanitary Engineering. At NED there was minimal focus on that aspect in course offerings or faculty depth, and Professor Aziz was substituting in that area. Looking back he was mostly struggling with basic engineering concepts of water and wastewater process and principles.

My personal interest and initiative led to development of a relationship with the Karachi Municipal Corporation Executives, they guided me to a successful undertaking of the final year project with unlimited access and exposure to wastewater treatment dynamics and complexities. This interest manifested into a pursuit of a MS Degree in the Environmental Engineering and Water Resources at the University of Cincinnati.

My advisor at UC, who was also the Dean of Engineering, encouraged me to sign up for a PhD. Which I did but quickly realized that Cincinnati was too cold, and I was washed out studying. My Professor’s vision was for me to develop a thesis on alluvial channels and their natural formation, in line with the Kennedy and Lacey theories of manmade canals in India and Pakistan. Sorry to have disappointed him!

As the saying goes, most individuals change careers between three to five times, which appears to be the case with me. Call it luck or fate, I had the intuitive sense and good timing to make the jumps to the hot sectors of the business, and excel accordingly.

Career #1

Moved to Jacksonville, FL, started a career in design of water distribution and wastewater collection systems, along with water resources type of assignments. Had no idea about drainage of storm water, which is still an alien concept in Pakistan despite the technological advancement. Learning basic engineering principles further advanced my interest in the environment and water resources. In 1976 the State of Florida created the Northwest Florida Water Management District and I became their chief surface water hydrologist.

My daughter Sarah, born 1980

Along the way I got married in 1973, and was blessed with the arrival of my only child Sarah in 1980. Unlike her father she chose to graduate with a dual major in history and journalism from Texas A&M University. Following that she went straight to law school, got married and is running her law firm and practice north of Houston in Conroe, Texas.

In 1978 Houston was booming, I was recruited by an engineering group to head up their water resources practice. This move was likely the setup for the balance of my career. In 1979 again was recruited by Woodward-Clyde Consultants to lead their water resources practice nationwide. Being the fourth largest consulting company, who was a leader in geotechnical engineering, I was mentored by many highly credentialed colleagues, mostly all PhD’s from Berkeley. My joke with them was how I rejected a scholarship offer from Berkeley to go to Cincinnati instead.

At this point not only was I getting technically proficient, as well as picking up on the business development and business aspects of the world of consulting engineering.

Career #2

While at Woodward – Clyde my focus was mostly in the environmental aspects of groundwater contamination from existing or abandoned disposal sites, referred to as Superfund sites. This activity led to a very strong understanding of geotechnical aspects of soils, groundwater transport and contaminants, with a focus on design of mitigation systems, and containment systems that would secure the environment.

Browning – Ferris Industries (BFI), at the time the largest publicly traded waste management company recruited me to become their Manager for Civil/Environmental Engineering. This move placed my career in a national and international focus and I was deeply involved in the design of landfill disposal cells both for municipal and hazardous wastes. I was also the EPA’s peer reviewer for many technical aspects of the design elements.

In 1987 was recruited away by a California based publicly traded waste management company to head up and develop their business in the waste disposal market. At this point I was transitioning rapidly from the technical to business, and was dealing with investors and bankers who were eager to spend. Gave up the technical aspects to hired consulting engineers.

The downside of this engagement was the commute to the LA area every week. I did not want to live in CA, and to this day do not like it there.

In 1992 realized that I had the complete package to go into business for myself. I accomplished this by developing a landfill in Houston, and subsequently selling it to Waste Management, Inc. As they say everybody is entitled to one big hit, and this was mine – huge economic reward.

Career #3

After the sale of the landfill, was taking it easy, and was called to a lunch meeting with the Solid Waste Director of the City of Houston, who requested that I help a company who was struggling to design three transfer stations. I was not in the employment market, and offered to meet the company executives and provide suggestions and leave. Well, that did not happen, from 1997 to 2010 I was fully engaged and functioning as its President. The work entailed environmental engineering and design of systems and mitigation strategies.

The interesting aspect of this company was its 49% partner, the largest French owned water company, who immediately seconded me to develop business in the south and the eastern US. I carried two business cards and did quite well to say the least.

Career #4

In 2011 Johnson Controls recruited me to become their National Business Development Director. The focus of my work would be to merge the extensive knowledge and experience from the water industry with energy efficiency. At the time I was unsure, but later realized that approximately 6% of the power generated daily in the US is consumed by water and wastewater plants. Economically that translates to $32 billion per year.

The association with JCI was short, another leading French Company – Schneider Electric recruited me to become their Subject Matter Expert and offer advice on energy efficiency opportunities in the water sector.

This is the current role I play, principally mentoring younger colleagues on what I have learned over the years.

From Civil Engineering to Culinary Engineering

I love to golf

My third Corvette

On the personal side, I spend most of my free time, which is limited, on the golf course. My family has been involved with golf for a very long time, and I got my start from my brother-in-law. Outside of golf, I also indulge in owning and driving fast cars. I currently have a Corvette, which is my third, and enjoy it very much. The irony is the car is a 2013 model year, and it just recorded 5,000 miles, needless to say I use it very sparingly. The training as an engineer leads me to an unending appetite for learning, which I do by reading mostly nonfiction, biographies, and real life experiences. Over the years, much to my surprise, I have become an accomplished cook – yes that includes jalabies, ghulab jaman and the likes!

Traveling to different countries with no friends has become my passion. I have met the nicest people on these solo excursions, and made real good friends over the years. I do not like Europe, except for Portugal, so no travel there. I have a preference for Latin America, with an eye for someday retiring there. I have visited Brazil, Argentina, Peru, most of Central America and all of the Caribbean Islands with a focus on locating a suitable retirement spot. The answer to my search has landed on Cela, Honduras, across from the Roatan Island. The ocean is blue, the seafood is over the top good, people are great, and the cost of living is ridiculously cheap.

Eating good food is also a major passion of mine, especially if it is ethnic and highly spiced.