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Alumnus of the month - January 2013

Shahbaz Ali
BSc Software Engineering, 1994

Miriam Kennet

Since graduating from LSBU in 1994 in BSc Software Engineering, Shahbaz Ali has gone on to create three successful start-up companies and is now the President and CEO of TARMIN, INC., an award-winning company boasting multi-million dollar revenues.

During one of his recent business trips to London, Shahbaz found time to come back to campus and speak with the Alumni Office about his time as a student and his meteoric career in technology since graduation.

“My roots come from London South Bank University and I actually learned every single thing about software and computing during those initial years. I have very good memories of being here. My original teachers at South Bank taught me programming, which has enabled me to create award-winning technology.”

He is clearly enthusiastic to be back. We begin discussions about why he initially chose to study at LSBU, despite offers from various institutions at the time: “I decided on South Bank due to its hands-on approach. You can learn computer science theories, but I wanted to be more practical and the key thing that attracted me was the industrial placements. None of the other university’s I had on my books offered me this.”

Almost twenty years have passed since Shahbaz submitted his final assignment, yet LSBU has still retained its status as London’s professional university where teaching is practice-informed and links to industry and professional bodies are strong: “I learned a lot here. At the time, South Bank had just become a new university from the former polytechnic. They were formulating this new course. Many students did not complete, so of course I was proud to come away with a distinction.”

Shahbaz is eager to note that many of his fellow 1994 classmates have also go on to become Directors with some of the world’s leading organisations within banking, video gaming technology and the music industry : “Our course was great because we had some really smart people. I’m still friends with them today. The beauty was that we competed against one another and that actually spurred us on to achieve more.” 

Having worked on the FIFA World Cup’s communications project and founded of TARMIN, Shahbaz rates developing and executing Chip and PIN technology to widespread use as his finest professional achievement: “It’s been my biggest success in the market. It has been accepted worldwide and is used by global brands such as Google and Sky.”

The demands on Shahbaz’s time are understandably high, explaining why can only agree to occasional public speaking engagements. He is keen, however, to impart practical words of wisdom to budding entrepreneurs at LSBU: “I wouldn’t suggest anybody comes out of university and starts a company immediately. The best thing is that they get some experience and exposure to working in a start-up. Find an entrepreneur or small company and you’ll learn more than in a blue chip organisation.”

In addition to writing coherent business plans and strategies, Shahbaz believes success depends on having a good support structure that young professionals can tap into. To build that all-important network of contacts, passion will always set you ahead: “It’s more than an exchange of contact details. You need to leave something at the back of their minds that will make them remember you at the next conversation. We are social animals and in business, being social is very important and it’s part of the game. If you don’t have smart people around you, then you’re not going to succeed.”