I was born and raised on the coast of the Red Sea in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. An expatriate, my parents enrolled me into a British International School and I navigated the colourful intersection of Pakistani traditions at home, the Arab culture that surrounded me and the British educational values at school. It was only further accentuated by having friends who hailed from all over the world and in retrospect, this multi-cultural upbringing is something I am most grateful for.
The realisation of educational inequality struck me at 16, having just completed the first of these externally assessed exams and witnessing that even the neighbouring schools were unable to provide the same quality and resourcing in preparing their students. To consider the distribution that existed across the world where hundreds of thousands of students took the exact same exams left me astonished.
I had to do something.
I started a small blog to share the study notes I’d written for my own revision. Through simply word-of-mouth, students from all over started arriving and using the content for their studies. But among the emails of gratitude that flooded my inbox, some were from students who wanted to get involved. One student at a time, ZNotes began to support more and more subjects and unplanned, this platform transformed from a one-man-band into an initiative being supported by a globally distributed community of students.
It’s been 7 years since I launched that WordPress blog and today, ZNotes has been able to reach more than 3.5 million students, garnering over 24 million hits from 156 countries. With more than a hundred contributors and team members, the support has expanded to cover 7 different international exam boards with revision notes as well as hundreds of hours of live classes, podcasts and newsletters. All created for students, by students.
After finishing school, I headed to London and began my studies at UCL. I graduated in 2020 amidst the pandemic with a First-class Honours Master’s in Mathematics and a special interest in mathematical modelling and algebraic topology. My dissertation involved working in collaboration with Dstl and the Forensic Science Unit at UCL to develop a persistence-decay model for trace-residue.
Along this time, ZNotes continued to grow and evolved into a social-impact startup as I attended multiple prestigious accelerator programs including those run by Facebook, EY Foundation and Google. ZNotes is now headquartered in London and supported by the UCL Innovation and Enterprise Department.
Since graduating, I have engaged with different areas of the education sector including higher education institutions as part of the Digital Learning Team at the Cambridge Judge Business School, as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Bedford school engaging with over 500 boys between the ages of 11 to 18, and the EdTech sphere as a scalability consultant at a scale-up.
I also serve on the advisory board of the Digital Education Futures Initiative at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge led by Professor Rupert Wegerif and supporting the development of an entrepreneurial program for PhD and Post-Docs at the Faculty of Education.
In 2021, I was honoured with the Diana Legacy Award – ‘the highest accolade a young person can receive for their social and humanitarian efforts’ at Althorp House and invited to meet HRH the Duke of Cambridge at Kensington Palace.
With my learnings at ZNotes, I propose and am keen to implement a peer-based and community-led learning model at governmental educational reform strategies to ensure equitable quality education is available to all, especially in globally underresourced education systems.
Aside from all this, I am a huge outdoors person. I am a long-distance, minimalist, streak runner and have run every single day for more than 6 years including 3 marathons. (Curious? Read this.) I’ve also been skating since the age of 7 and picked up figure skating at university. Growing up in a desert, I have not simply acclimatised but pushed the boundaries with cold temperatures. I love swimming in rivers, lakes and seas, and can sometimes be found jumping in the River Cam at close to freezing temperatures.
Reading is my solace and the Kindle is my trusty companion. Recently, I’ve been particularly keen on translated works and chunky classics that do justice in their prose.