Zakir I. Hussein

Zakir I. Hussein

Harvard University, Environmental Sciences & Strategic Management | Founder and CEO at the Organo Group Ltd. (Formerly known as Organo Energy Inc.)

With an entrepreneurial spirit and a venture that has embedded the triple bottom-line approach of economical, social and environmental benefits to his venture, Zakir I. Hussein was born in Daar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania and immigrated with his family to Canada at an early age. With no formal business background, Zakir grew up with lessons of hard work from his mother who was a seamstress and his father who was as a waiter. These lessons instilled in him the true meaning of execution and the value of a dollar.

In 2009, Zakir I. Hussein founded Organo Group (formerly known as Organo Energy Inc.) at the age of 19 years old.

As the CEO of Organo Group, Zakir has embedded in his firm and fellow colleagues that social responsibility and trust with clients is the fundamental core when developing enviro-social alliances with partners in sustainability in a competitive market place.

Organo Group, the Canadian conglomerate holding firm which is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada operates and services various major industries in Alberta: renewable energy, waste management and environmental solutions, petroleum waste services, recycling and marketing, advertising, import/export distribution and real estate.

Zakir I. Hussein has humbly accepted awards that include the Student Entrepreneur of the Year (Alberta & Western Canada), the Premier’s Citizenship Award, and recently Calgary’s 2014 Top 40 Under 40 by Avenue Magazine.

We asked Zakir:

The OGM: As you embark on your career path, how important is the culture of the organization you choose?

Zakir: I strongly believe that an organization whether it be for profit or not-for-profit should contain a culture that attracts not only the customers but also keeps the employees content and motivated on a consistent basis. I also trust that the key to having a fun and exciting culture is to craft a level of transparency between executive management and the rest of your organizations team.

The OGM: Describe the impact work flexibility will have on your career path.

Zakir: Entrepreneurship is sometimes viewed from the perspective that if you own a company you have the ability to make your schedules as flexible as possible. The reality is, there is still sacrifice and when starting off, there is no work-life balance. When starting off on your own personal venture or beginning your career, ensuring satisfaction amongst your customers and partners is difficult – this is where that word ‘passion’ comes into play. If you are happy and passionate about what you are doing, it will not be called ‘work’ for you.

A successful schedule maximizes my time during work hours to enhance the organization’s community, workforce and the environment while leaving enough time for loved ones such as my family and friends.

The OGM: What does a strong cohesive, team-oriented culture at work mean to you?

Zakir: I believe a strong team not only meets deadlines but also beats deadlines on a consistent basis to the benefit of our customers and partners in the community.

This means the team is committed to excellence, is persistent about meeting the end goal and committed to working together each and everyday, like a family.

The OGM: Is a transparent work environment in regards to compensation, rewards and career development important to you? If so, why?

Zakir: Absolutely, I believe people should be rewarded and compensated for their efforts. To make it clear though, I think folks that don’t place expectations on short-term, personal rewards yet do place expectations on long-term organizational milestones are the best folks to have on your team.

The OGM: How does technology impact your day-to-day?

Zakir: Technology has increased ever so fast, and to be honest, as a 24 year old, you can get side tracked by the latest gadgets, tools and new and exciting apps.

For me, I focus on simplicity. This means that I try to optimize new hardware or software that the organization uses to maximize our growth.

The gadgets are neat. However, sometimes they cause more work because we live in an age where data is transferring faster then ever and we must always have it protected with maximum security.

The OGM: What does the phrase, ‘sense of community’ mean to you?

Zakir: This phrase means everything to me. It is one of three key platforms the Organo Group was built on.

The community has always been there for me, and supported me when I was starting off and I will never forget that. People are always willing to listen to you if you have something that will benefit them and the greater community. At the Organo Group, we work with the community and organizations in the community to better the lives of Albertans. We are dedicated to enhancing the youth of tomorrow while bettering the standard of living and quality of life of individuals today.

I am extremely fortunate to be part of the supportive nation of Canada, and it is my duty to give back as much as possible.

The OGM: Are acknowledgment and support an integral component to your career needs? If so, how?

Zakir: Absolutely, without acknowledgement and support your team and organization will surely crumble.

It is simple, and as cheesy as this may sound – people are like flowers and what do flowers need?
They need to be nourished in order to flourish. As a leader, you need to praise folks that are maximizing their abilities and having positive impacts on the greater good of the organization.

The OGM: For other students just figuring things out, what words of encouragement would you offer?

Zakir: If I could leave students a few words of encouragement they would be:

– Trust yourself, you don’t need an ethics course to tell you what kind of life you want to live…Trust in your instincts and you will build a great life, a good life and you will change the world.

– Go forward, do the impossible. Canada is truly a land of opportunities.

– As Gen Y individuals, I believe our dreams have to be bigger, our ambitions higher, our commitments deeper, and our efforts greater.

– If you can dream it, you can do it. Think BIG, Think fast, Think ahead. Remember that ideas are no one’s monopoly and you do not require an invitation to make profits.

– Growth has no limit; it’s all about performance. If you work with determination and with perfection, success will follow.

– Face adversity and convert your goals into opportunity. Do NOT accept defeat. Challenge all negative forces.

– Never give up. Courage should be your conviction.

– Hope is your most powerful weapon and self-confidence is your greatest asset.

– I hope one day you will motivate the youth of tomorrow. Extend to them the support they need. Each one of them has an immense source of energy and they will deliver.

– I strongly believe ordinary individuals achieve EXTRAordinary things in the promising nation of Canada.

The OGM: Did you always know what you wanted to do?

Zakir: Actually I did not. I never focused on being a dentist, or a lawyer or a doctor. I knew I was extremely passionate about land, air, and the sea. I loved everything about the natural environment and how people interacted with it one another and I wanted to impact the world for the better and create a more sustainable environment for future generations.

The OGM: Where does/would your sense of satisfaction come from at work?

Zakir: My outer satisfaction comes from the joy that my team has and from how thankful our customers are for our products and services.

My inner satisfaction comes from having the ability to motivate and help our partners improve their social and environmental responsibilities by volunteering our employee’s time.

The OGM: How important are further education and training to your career development?

Zakir: I believe the day you think you are successful or start to think that you know it all marks the beginning of the end.

Constant learning and further education is key to maximizing growth in our organization.

I read nearly 60 books a year on all topics that I believe will impact my ways of thinking to become a better leader in my organization and in our community.

The OGM: How did you differentiate yourself in the workplace as a Millennial?

Zakir: Four things:

1. Persistence, each and every day

2. Drive to push an organization forward with a dedicated team

3. Change for the better in social, economical and environmental spheres

4. Failure was not an option

The OGM: If you could be stuck in an elevator with anybody, who would it be?

Zakir: I think it would have to be Murray Edwards, from CNRL.

I have the utmost respect for this individual and how he had the ability, courage, and persistence required for creating what is one of Canada’s iconic organizations. I believe he would have a ton of advice for me!

The OGM: Did you pursue University right after high school?

Zakir: Yes, I did.

The OGM: Will/Did your University program play a role in your career path? If not, why?

Zakir: Absolutely. I believe having a background in sustainable development and the ability to understand why sustainable development is so vital for our generation. This background has greatly assisted my organization.

The OGM: What are the three most important aspects you feel an organization should offer to retain a Millennial?

Zakir: 1. Transparency. Share the goals and milestone standards and achievements of the organization.

2. Recognize talent by rewarding the individual or team.

3. Make sure that learning is not being compromised and that every individual on your team is furthering their development and education in the field to maximize their strengths and keep up with national and global demands.

The OGM: Describe your ideal organization, one that you could grow and develop your career in?

Zakir: The ideal organization – that I strive to create each and everyday – would be an organization like Apple.

I don’t mean the capital side or the financial side of the organization, but the way the organization has been ran.

When you enter an Apple store, each staff member is knowledgeable and smiling and always willing to help.

You have to have fun. Your team has to be constantly excited and motivated and I believe Apple has been successful in this regard.

For these reasons, I am a dedicated Apple customer. I know that each time I go there, even if I am the millionth customer, they still treat me as if I was their first.

The OGM: From a scale of 1 to 10 how important are the following: incentives and rewards, compensation, training and development, global opportunities? 1 being least important.

Zakir: Training and development would be 10

Compensation would be 8

Incentives and rewards would be 9

Global opportunities would be 10

The OGM: Tell us about your most memorable achievement or milestone thus far?

Zakir: I was truly honored and humbly blessed by being awarded the Premiers Citizenship Award, Student Entrepreneur of the Year for Alberta & Western Canada and Calgary’s 2013 Top 40 Under 40.

Though I was humbled by this recognition, these awards are not my most memorable achievements. My most memorable achievement began when I met an elderly individual who was living in his truck as he was homeless and was in need of employment.

Hiring him onto our team allowed him to use his talents and skills and he was finally able to have a cell phone, and have a roof over his head.

For me, this has been the most wonderful thing about entrepreneurship. I believe our organization has benefited far more with him on our team. It has been a wonderful achievement for me to take someone, who showed dedication, the willingness to change and grow, and who was out in the blistering cold, and present him with opportunities within our organization.


Tina Olivero

Tina Olivero

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