NADIR MOHAMED, ROGERS COMMUNICATIONS INC.
Rogers Communications Inc. CEO Nadir Mohamed can sum up the role education played in his upbringing and personal success with one word:
Born in East Africa, Mohamed grew up during a time of political and economic unrest in an area that would become the new nation of Tanzania. His parents raised their children with the knowledge that the world outside their young country’s borders might be a better place for them to find successful careers, and that working hard at their education would enable them to do so.
“One of the things that was drummed into us as kids was the importance of education and learning,” Mohamed said.
“The notion that stuck with me all the way through is that education in some ways is a passport to life, in that no matter where we ended up, it would be something that nobody could take away from you.”
Mohamed also describes his childhood community as being particularly focused on public service, a lesson that continued to influence him in his later career. He currently takes an active part in the Next 36 program, which aims to support young, undergraduate entrepreneurs, and is involved with the Digital Media Zone, an “entrepreneur incubator” at Ryerson University (for which he also sits on the board).
The community he grew up in isn’t the only environment he credits, though, with inspiring him as he got older. As an undergraduate, he was also given the chance to study at UBC, as his family made the move from Africa to Canada and settled in Vancouver when it was time for him to start university. He struggled at first, however, to settle on a program of study.
“I did first-year Science,” he said. “Because that’s, at least for our immigrant experience, what the desire of every parent would be growing up, is that their kid would be a doctor.”
The only roadblock was that he had little interest in the subject matter, and the one thing he felt he had in common with doctors was “having poor handwriting.”
It was during a conversation with a friend, from whom he often got rides to and from school, that he was reminded of his affinity for math, and the fact that his father had been a successful businessman during Mohamed’s childhood. It dawned on them both that studying commerce might be a way to find the careers they were both looking for.
It was in the commerce program at UBC that Mohamed found a motivated group of friends who had the similar goal of finding success in the business world, which in turn had an influence on his own aspirations.
“You’re young, you want to conquer the world,” he recounted. “There were a few people in the business faculty that I ended up spending a lot of time [with]… In a different way, it was those fellow students that shaped me, in terms of feeling good about being in the faculty of commerce.”
Empowered by his university studies, Mohamed now has over 30 years of experience in the Canadian telecom industry. He got his start at BC Tel, and later became president and CEO of Rogers Wireless in 2001. He notably succeeded late company founder Ted Rogers as president and CEO of Rogers Communications in 2009.
While his formal education concluded some time ago, learning continues to be an ongoing process in Mohamed’s life. He quietly keeps himself updated on the latest developments in the telecom industry through the simple methods of observing people as they use Rogers products and services, and listening to peers in the business world about their own challenges and new ideas.
Mohamed also strives to read “absolutely everything” that has to do with the telecom industry, which occupies most of what might be considered his “free time.”
“You should talk to my wife—I’m notorious with being on a beach and having reams of paper to go through,” he joked.
Mohamed announced in February that he will be retiring from his post as CEO this December, but said he will continue to be involved at Ryerson University and take part in the Next 36 program.
As for his own future learning experiences, he hints that there’s “more to come.”