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From Classroom to Career

Zahid Panjwani, Northwestern 2014 grad and Senior Tech Lead at Chicago-based logistics startup, HaulHound, is no stranger to the world of entrepreneurship. Having worked with several startups since his time at Northwestern, Zahid is well-attuned to startup culture. However, dealing with the day-to-day operations of product development and software creation had not always come easy for Zahid.

“I came into Northwestern like most students not knowing what I wanted to do. It was only after a long path of trial and error that I figured out where I wanted to be.”

Zahid applied as a Weinberg Economics major, but eventually decided that McCormick’s Electrical Engineering (EE) track would be better suited to accommodate his interest in technology. Seeking to build upon this interest, Zahid traveled to Germany in the summer of 2012 for Finding Nano, a 6-week program centered on nanoelectronics research headed by Professor Grayson. Although Zahid found the trip to be productive and a great experience overall, he had decided that he wanted to pursue a track that would enable him to be more involved and hands-on with the industry.

“That was when I realized that doing research wasn’t something that I was interested in pursuing for the long term. When I returned to Northwestern the following year, I started to look for a track more geared towards industry,” Zahid says.

Recognizing that he wanted to apply what he was learning in his engineering classes in his daily life, Zahid took Farley Center’s ENTREP/IEMS 325 (Engineering Entrepreneurship)  in order to learn how to integrate his engineering-oriented education with his personal business goals. During the rigorous 10-week program, Zahid and his partner, Patricio Azcunaga, cofounded Share Transport, a logistics startup aimed at maximizing a company’s transportation efficiency. Through the process of learning about and experiencing first-hand how startups get off the ground, Zahid became comfortable with presenting himself professionally and quickly built confidence with making business decisions.

“These investors, these founders, everyone involved in the big-name companies are all just people that you interact with; investors are skeptical people, but they are also excited about what you have to say… that class really turned me onto the trajectory of entrepreneurship.”

Inspired to present Share Transport to a wider audience after nailing their final pitch in Engineering Entrepreneurship, Zahid and Patricio participated in the annual Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago that summer. Although they fell just short of winning to top prize, participation in the competition gave the duo valuable insight into ways to refine their product. The following year, Zahid and Patricio’s continued efforts allowed Share Transport to win the Chicago College Startup Competition, which secured them a year of free membership at 1871, a Chicago-based digital startup incubator. At 1871, Zahid and Patricio continued to develop their business ideas and skillsets, and eventually caught the attention of recruiters. Patricio’s involvement with Share Transport netted him an offer from Union Pacific, which he accepted. Patricio now serves as Union Pacific’s Intermodal Operations Director in Mexico. The connections that Zahid had formed and his experience with logistics and knowledge of startup culture prompted Chicago-based logistics startup, HaulHound, to ask Zahid to join its company as a tech lead. Through his journey, Zahid says that being a part of a startup is a unique and rewarding experience, and something that he will continue to do.

“The autonomy that you get to have, the chance to leave an imprint on a product, being able to have control over the direction of the company you’re in, these are all things that make being with a startup very fulfilling.”

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