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EIU 360

Tennis + Business + Love = EIU

For a number of reasons, Sajeel Qureshi's time at Eastern was an important time in his life.

Coaching tennis and MBA coursework. For Sajeel Qureshi, these seemingly unrelated activities were cornerstones of his graduate studies at Eastern Illinois University -- a place where he not only paved the way for success in the business world, but also met the woman he eventually married.

Qureshi, currently the vice president of operations at Computan as well as a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, earned his master’s degree in business administration from EIU in 2007. The Ontario native ended up in Charleston largely by chance; after playing collegiate tennis at St. Bonaventure, he saw Eastern was in search of a graduate assistant coach for its own teams.

“I applied and John Blackburn gave me the job,” remembers Qureshi. “Working for him while at Eastern was a great experience. Just the way he’d prepare and plan for every practice, recruit visit and player meeting with a detailed itinerary was unheard for me at the time.”

Blackburn has equally flattering things to say about his former assistant.

“Sajeel was the first assistant coach I had the ability to hire in my second year as coach at EIU,” said the EIU tennis coach. “He played a big role in beginning the process of establishing higher standards and goals for Eastern Illinois Tennis.

“His job here was to be a teacher of tennis, and also to be an example of how a top NCAA I college tennis player should compete, train, study, and conduct their personal life to a young team. Sajeel excelled in all of areas and made a strong impact on the progression of our program to higher levels, I will always be grateful for his tireless efforts and passion to help our student-athletes in his time here.”

Qureshi said switching gears from a player to a coach was a very eye-opening experience.

“(Blackburn) taught me various things in order to get players ready to play and to understand when to push and when not to,” said Qureshi. “In hindsight, motivating and helping people succeed as a tennis coach was a great job to have considering what I do today.”

And what does Qureshi do today? It’s not a simple answer, but one that leaves you better understanding his versatility in the business world.

“In operations it’s my job to make sure ‘the car keeps running’ and that all of our customers, employees, departments and vendors are all satisfied, have what they need and are all happy,” explained Qureshi.

“Trying to keep that balance means I need to wear multiple hats! One day I’ll be consumed with finding new talent, then make sure our sales team is hitting their marks, then handle a customer emergency, then review contracts with our legal and then review our numbers with our finance team.”

Computan, according to its website, serves as a “long-term technology partner” to its clients, providing a wide array of tech-related services. The combination of marketing and technology that make up Qureshi’s day-to-day work are also what fuel his Huffington Post columns.

“I write a lot whenever I’m travelling -- which is usually quite often -- about whatever comes to mind,” said Qureshi, explaining his side gig. “A friend of mine writes their headlines and encouraged me to send in some samples I showed him.”

In addition to what he picked up as part of the tennis coaching staff, Qureshi found his time at EIU impactful on a professional and personal level. He found his MBA courses “great and extremely competitive in their own ways” while also meeting Naziya Shaik, a fellow Eastern student who eventually became his wife.

“Two particular courses that stick out were Organizational Behavior with Dr. (Melody) Wollan, which dealt a lot with inter-office issues that seemed mundane and amusing at the time, but very practical now.

“Another was business policy with Dr. (William) Minnis, who encouraged us to take holistic views at businesses, find their problems by looking for symptoms -- spending, morale, et cetera -- and making sound recommendations based on those symptoms.”

Wollan, now coordinator of the MBA program and associate chair of the School of Business, remembers Qureshi for his enthusiasm and positive attitude.

“Sajeel took advantage of the opportunities provided by EIU, the School of Business, and the MBA program,” said Dr. Wollan. “When we had executives-in-residence, alumni of the program, or other guests on campus, he attended, asked questions, and networked.

“He was also friendly with his classmates and always had a smile. It seemed like Sajeel was regularly pushing the envelope to learn as much as he could during this time at EIU. I am extremely proud of his professional accomplishments and what he has done to support EIU.”

Dr. Minnis added: “Sajeel has been very willing to share with MBA students via Skype and phone since his graduation. His advice is both valuable and motivating to the students and faculty.”

Shaik also earned her master’s degree in 2007, graduating from the School of Technology. Qureshi says she was recruited by Microsoft and now serves as a senior support escalation engineer for the software powerhouse.

Even though Qureshi admits he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted for a career upon finishing at EIU, he says students should come to college at least having a general idea of which paths might appeal to them.

“You don’t get in the car and drive with no destination,” Qureshi, analogized. “The more specific the better. I know lots of students don’t know what they want. Just list 50 things that sound like cool jobs to you or write down the job titles of 50 people who do things that you wouldn’t mind doing after you graduate. Chances are the names on that list won’t change entirely after four or six years.”

He also stressed the many on-campus opportunities and how important it is to take advantage of them.

“If working in the marketing department for the Chicago Bulls sounds fun, then start by working in the marketing department in EIU’s athletic department,” said Qureshi. “If you want to run a restaurant, then cook food or manage one of the cafeterias at EIU. If you want to write for the (Chicago) Tribune, start by getting in tons of practice at the Daily Eastern News.

“EIU is like a mini-city. There are tons of ways to ‘get reps in’ and become really good at whatever you want. Taking advantage of those opportunities is something I didn’t do, but definitely should have. That way you have a wealth of experience in addition to your degree that will help you when you graduate.”

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