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Alumni Stories: Syed Nouman

12 January 2016

Syed Nouman graduated from King’s in 2004 with a BSc in Computer Science from the Department of Informatics. He is now the founder of two successful financial services companies, SNK Financial and SNK Advisory; the former provides consultancy work for firms within financial services. He has also been involved with mentoring and volunteering abroad. As part of our alumni Q&A feature, we talk to Nouman about how his experiences at university have been a driving force in both his career and business ventures.

Please describe your career to date.

In the early 2000s the IT bug really struck me and so I decided against my original degree choice Mathematics and studied Computer Science at King’s. It played to my strengths: problem solving and logical thinking. Although I was never a natural programmer, the course helped me think in an abstract manner.

After graduating I went through the standard process of applying to every company under the sun and after a ton of rejections I managed to land two offers, one at Computer Science Corporation and another at CGI Group. The experience was a good insight into the corporate world and the transport, telecoms and finance sectors. I ended up getting a placement for a bank in Kuwait, advising on a large scale transformation of their core banking infrastructure. The challenges of working in the Gulf with an emphasis placed on relationship building and trust, added a lot of depth to my skill set. Following a successful delivery I was head hunted by UBS in the UK where I worked for two years. With increasing regulatory pressures on the financial market, I decided to start my own consultancy. Our clients thus far have included Barclays Capital and HSBC, and for the latter I was involved in implementing the largest Anti-Money laundering project across the sector at the time.

What has been the most interesting/exciting experience in your work?

Working in the Middle East was definitely the most interesting experience I have had to date. I always try to put myself outside my comfort zone and I had to adapt very quickly to the cultural nuances where things are done at a slower pace. Although the UK is a very multi-cultural society, in my professional experience, most people you come across at work here, adapt and incorporate a quintessential British culture, so the cultural diversity doesn’t carry that much significance in professional dealings. Although the same diversity of cultures was present in Kuwait, the expatriates in my experience haven’t adapted or incorporated the Kuwaiti culture, so dealing with each person required a good understanding of their culture’s normal business practice – in order to be effective.

In what ways did your time at King’s influence you?

At King’s one of the key things I learnt was time management. After a few months of taking it easy, I soon realised the intense nature of the course and that to be successful in exams I had to manage my time very well and appreciate the quality of the lectures. Effective use of time is something I try to implement daily in my work and general life, by time-boxing activities to get the most out of each day and achieve that work/life balance people always aspire to, but few actualise. The amount of globally influential people that were alumni and the position King’s holds as an internationally renowned educational institution also proved to be a massive influence and motivated me in my quest to achieve the very best, not only in my degree but further on in my career.

Is there anywhere on campus/in London that holds any special memories of your college days, or do you have a favourite memory from your time at King’s?

I think many intellectual discussions and games of pool enjoyed at the Waterfront, with its stunning views across the Thames will definitely remain in my memory. Watching the football and cricket world cup games there was another highlight. Somerset House in the summer will also be a lasting memory of my time at King’s.

What advice would you give to students/alumni for success in life after King’s?

Generally, I would advise to figure out as quickly as possible what you want to do in life. Secondly, you need to find a niche which sets you apart from your competition, these days good grades are not enough. Advanced training can also be a way to be successful at interviews. Thirdly, identify the real transferrable skills you have and make sure you mention these in applications and interviews – and make sure they are realistic, for example being a star in retail sales isn’t a direct transferrable skill that enables you to be a successful investment banking trader. Lastly, keep things simple and straight. I see too many students using complex language to oversell aspects of their career and achievements.

Who/what has been most inspirational to you in your life?

I have taken inspiration from others on many occasions; however certain events in your life help define you and are the real inspiration. My final year dissertation was the most inspirational experience in my life. I had been working diligently to complete my software programme and accompanying literature ahead of the deadline and through hard work and focus, I managed to complete it three days early. However, when attempting to transfer the document from my laptop onto a USB so I could take it to campus for printing, an error occurred causing the data to become corrupted. After several unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the data I had to call a computer engineer who at best was able to retrieve a backup I had taken two weeks ago. I had to complete the two weeks of coding and written work in three exhausting days. I somehow managed this, with little sleep and a horrendous amount of coffee. Not only did I complete it on time, but I managed to get a first for the dissertation and overall degree, which gave me an unexplainable amount of satisfaction. This is a driving factor for me time and time again, when faced with similar challenges.

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