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Staying connected an ocean away

For Zach Mammadov, MS’03, providing leadership in the United Kingdom community felt like the right way to give back to a university that had a tremendous impact on his life.

Zaur N. “Zach” Mammadov’s decision to remain connected with Northeastern and become a leader in the university’s United Kingdom Community was an easy one.

“Northeastern played a crucial role in my career, therefore being part of the UK community I was always thinking of ways of how I can give back to the university,” said Mammadov, MS’03, the director of Vincore Limited, a specialist investment advisory boutique, and co-founding director of Signeer, an advertising technology firm.

In addition to receiving his Master of Science degree in Economic Analysis from Northeastern, Mammadov earned his Bachelor of Science in Economics/International Economics from Azerbaijan State Economic University, and his MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the University of Oxford’s Said Business School.

Mammadov recently took the time to answer 10 questions about his Northeastern experience, his career, and advice he’d provide to a prospective student.

What role do you feel Northeastern played in preparing you for your career?

I truly enjoyed my time at Northeastern and I can say Northeastern served a very important step in my career, essentially giving me a ticket to my successful career. I was an economics major and had a chance to be taught by some of the best professors in the U.S., some of whom were well-known in the academic community globally.  I was also fortunate to do a co-op in Washington, D.C., at a federal agency, where not only did I meet very interesting people, but also received an offer to work with them upon graduation. Soon after I graduated Northeastern I had four job offers to choose from, all from a reputable companies and organizations.

What were some of your biggest professional obstacles and how did you overcome them?

It happened to me many times that I was to manage a team or a project. However, I felt I did not have sufficient professional knowledge about the industry and had a very limited time to acquire some. I know for some people this can be a clear no-go situation. However as a big believer in lifelong learning and that we can learn anything if we truly want it, I would accept the challenge and would order books, get in touch to learn from people who are more knowledgeable and follow the express learning plan to emerge as an expert in a short time to lead the projects.

What do you love most about your career?

I truly enjoyed every year of my career so far and that’s because I got comfortable with taking responsibility and accepting more and more challenges from very early on. A few years ago, after 12 years of high-responsibility corporate roles, I decided to leave the corporate race and indulge in my passion of living a life of an entrepreneur. I’m now leading a team of four where we incubate innovative projects where we see immense potential of scaling. I probably did not do very badly – I came out as a finalist in both the 2014 and 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year by WBA [Wandsworth Business Awards]. Some of our companies are now ready for more investment and spinoff.

What do you think sets you apart from others in the same line of work?

I feel very fortunate to have gained a very valuable work experience, including managerial, from very early on in my career. At age 22, I was co-managing a $50 million investment portfolio. At 24, I was the head of business development at a large commercial bank in Azerbaijan (where I’m originally from), managing a team of 10 people. And at 28, I was deputy director and chief investment officer of a large state-owned private equity firm.

Do you have an interesting hobby or other interest/skill that provides a creative outlet?

I love engaging in physical activities – jogging, swimming, drum playing, or even working in a garden. Besides helping to relax they help me to consolidate and rejuvenate my thoughts. Very often I come up with creative ideas or solutions particularly when I’m involved in physical activities.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

As a successful businessman who has helped to change many people’s lives for the better.

What was your Northeastern student experience like?

I arrived at Northeastern as an international student. Therefore, for me, Northeastern was also an introduction to the U.S. and its people. I made lots of friends, took part in many events and activities at the university and outside, and explored U.S. cities and food. I also loved to audit classes in the business school as well as one on urban development history of Boston, which I loved.

Why did you choose to become involved as a leader of the Northeastern United Kingdom community, and what has that been like?

Northeastern played a crucial role in my career, therefore being part of the UK community I was always thinking of ways of how I can give back to the university. Back in 2010, while I was still in Oxford I got in touch with Northeastern and very soon after I was meeting with other alumni in London as well as prospective students and their parents. I always thought UK should be an important overseas center for the university’s alumni- and student-recruitment activities, due to its location, air connections with literally any country, and common language.

Have you seen Northeastern’s presence in the UK change over the years?

A great deal! Back in 2010 very few people besides alumni knew about Northeastern and we met once or two times a year in very small groups. People who knew about Northeastern at that time were either those who lived in Boston before or had a family member studying there. Nowadays, one can see dozens of people coming to Northeastern’s events in London. Also, we have seen an increase in the number of Northeastern events and meet-ups – last year we had perhaps nine or 10.

I feel like the university became closer to us as well – it’s a pleasure to see a member of the Northeastern staff traveling to London every now and then to meet with alumni and potential students. This pace certainly would not have been possible without the new vision that Northeastern has adopted with wise management of President [Joseph E.] Aoun that Northeastern must become a global university. It’s great to see that the UK has started to play an important role in this.

What words of advice would you provide to a prospective student who is considering attending Northeastern?

They are truly fortunate to have come across Northeastern! With most American universities struggling in terms of diversity with regard to international students, the share of foreign students at Northeastern has grown more than five times in the past 10 years! Northeastern is turning into a truly global university with international reach, its alumni activities are now at an unprecedentedly high level for any non-Ivy league university, thanks to Young Global Leaders alumni club (that I’m a proud member of, as well). The importance that the university is placing on providing an education that responds to the challenges of our time and the foreseeable future is another crucial element of Northeastern’s vision. Therefore any potential student will have a chance to not only get the best learning in a supportive environment, but also join the army of globally active alumni upon graduation.

Click here to read more Alumni stories.

published June 2016