Hassan Bhatti, BSc’16
Hassan Bhatti completed his Bachelor of Science in 2016, double majoring in Physics and Economics. Hassan has forged his own career pathway, working in many different roles and sectors ranging from engineering to consulting. Recently, Hassan has co-founded his own company, CryptoNumerics, which focuses on ensuring data privacy is preserved. Hassan is also a member of the alumni UBC Toronto Leadership Committee (TLC).
This is a condensed and edited version of a conversation Alexander Howes, Alumni Career Assistant had with Hassan Bhatti on Monday, July 6th, 2020.
Tell us about your role
Currently, I am the Co-Founder and Head of Commercial at CryptoNumerics, which is a data privacy start-up based in Toronto, Ontario. Our focus is on organizations that have large-scale sensitive data. We enable them to use this dataset without compromising the consumer's privacy. Our objective is to share insights rather than simply sharing information.
What attracted you to this organization
I was always really interested in the data journey of an organization. My thesis was that data will be a fundamental element in this decade.
One of my mentors at the Creative Destruction Lab, who is also a co-founder and who I ended up creating a relationship with over the previous 12-18 months, heard about my ideas. He told me there was a company he was getting involved in which aligns with my interests. They needed someone to run the commercial team. He asked, “why don’t you come meet the team?” That’s how I got introduced to the CryptoNumerics team.
I finished my degree in December 2015. Then I started working at KPMG in their Infrastructure Advisory Financial Services team as a Consultant. I did that for a few months but I soon realized that wasn’t something I was really interested in. The self-awareness can be attributed to my boss who helped me understand that taking risks early in my career can lead to opportunities. So the more I delay, the harder it will be to take [career] risks. If I have an urge, if I desire to do something, this is most likely the best time to do that. I would rather do that now and fail early - and if I succeed, great. If I don’t succeed, I will always have these big jobs at these big firms. This is the best worst-case scenario.
So, I quit my job, helped my friend hire someone, and ended up also working for him in 2016. We moved to San Francisco for one year. Due to personal reasons, I returned back to Vancouver after that. Through a professor, I was introduced to the Creative Destruction Lab in Toronto and ended up joining. A key theme in my life so far is that relationships have opened doors. Mentors and friends have guided me along the way.
I also realized adding value is important, whether in a certain club or in the classroom. People remember you as someone who adds value.
Did you expect to be in this type of role/organization upon graduation?
I thought I would be an Engineer in mechanical engineering. Then I soon realized I didn’t like it after a few internships. I thought I wanted to study Physics because I felt it was a fundamental degree. I could do Engineering from Physics but moving to Engineering from Economics could be a stretch. Economics always excited me. UBC also allowed me to take various courses. I wanted to do liberal arts and science, but UBC didn’t really have that - so I created something of my own. The main reason was that I wanted to explore a lot.
I knew my degree would not define my job, unless it’s technical. It didn’t really matter what I studied as long as I was interested in it. Jobs are not given to people based on their degree, but based on their logic and their ability to do work.
What skill did you learn in your very first job after graduation that you are still using to this day?
Three mindsets became clear:
- You need to have a bias towards action. You can’t wait for your boss or team members to do something. If you have a bias towards action, people will notice. You will get more work and get more appreciated.
- Just figure it out. Don’t sit there expecting someone to teach you things. If you’re confused, go figure it out: ask people, Google. Do whatever you need to do.
- Appreciate people that are helping you on your journey on a daily basis. If you appreciate them, they will help you. I was blown away by that.
What techniques did you use to address career ambiguity?
In the fall of my final year, I was rejected by six or seven firms. I had no job offer before graduation. I was shocked. Regular recruitment season ended and I had no job.
I focused on working hard and being anti-fragile. I started reaching out to people and told them what I wanted. I found my job at KPMG by cold messaging someone on LinkedIn from Toronto, who introduced me to someone in Vancouver. I then had coffee with them and they ended up offering me a job without an interview. I didn’t even know KPMG was hiring.
When I reached out I always had a story, not reaching without intention.
What did you wish you knew when graduated?
It’s good to join a firm where you can get exposure to many different things. It doesn’t matter what the brand is. The type of exposure you’re getting from a project perspective makes a huge difference. You can always get the big brand, but early on getting the right exposure is important.
Your boss matters more than your company. Your direct boss, the person you report to. Someone who is willing to trust you, someone who is willing to promote you, someone who is willing to go out and bat for you, I think that’s really important.
I’ve followed a non-traditional path. I was always very curious about new and unique things. I always wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. People think if they have an accounting degree or engineering degree they can only do that job, but that is not the case.
No one’s asked me for my transcript. If you really like a job and like to do something and you are preventing yourself by putting yourself in a box, that’s the wrong mentality. Don’t put yourself in a box. Think about what that job requires and learn that task. People can move and change career paths very fast.
What advice do you have for the class of 2020?
- Even when people aren’t hiring, start building a professional network. Start asking for advice. Show how you can add value. People don’t have time for things so you need to show them. Don’t wait for when people are hiring.
- Inspire confidence in your professional network. Show you’re able to do things better than other people. Build a portfolio. If you’re a designer, have a great website. If you’re a financial analyst, show your models.
- Acquire skills for entry-level jobs. I am shocked by the number of students who cannot do basic research, build PowerPoint slides or write a memo.
- Nurture a bias towards action. Make sure you stay healthy. Health deteriorates fast. Doing all-nighters is not easy or good for you. Whatever you do, don’t harm yourself while doing.