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Lessons from Mom:
Daud’s Journey


I grew up on a military base in Pakistan (U.S. Air Force Base Badaber for the history buffs). Back in the 70s, the local cinema on the base would show movies on the weekends.

My mother, an elementary teacher, had a brilliant idea to open a food stand at the cinema. Our family cooked and served sliders — or, as we called them, bun kababs. My mom put all the profits toward a school on the base for the poor. It was a magical lesson.

There was a need for funding for the new school, and there was a demand for snacks at the movies. My mother knew this, and she knew the winning formula: tasty food for hungry moviegoers that could provide funding to help educate the less fortunate.

So, every Thursday, our family prepared more than 300 burgers. I now recognize what a gift that ritual was for me.

Check out Daud’s video.
Check out Daud’s video.

Burgers and Beyond

The late 90s were a revolutionary time. While creating the Information Superhighway, the possibilities seemed endless.

I started my career at Cisco on April Fools’ Day in 1996. Today, I’m a Cybersecurity Sales Specialist. Who knows, but perhaps I unwittingly employ my mom’s strategies and tactics in my sales efforts!

For a long time, Cisco’s battle cry was, “Change the way we work, live, play, and learn.” Most of us took it to heart. Anything seemed possible and easy. You just don’t get that kind of cultural and organizational platform at other companies.

While my colleagues were making the next big tech innovation, others wanted to transform countries and governments. Others, like myself, knew that Cisco was building the architecture for the internet. It would enable so much, including social entrepreneurship initiatives.

SAYA’s Beginnings

Visiting SAYA this past January.

It all started by donating my family’s land along the foothills of the Himalayas. My mother’s vision was to create a clinic to address basic medical needs for people who could not afford access to doctors or medicine.

Many cases were complex. They needed to be referred and monetarily supported at specialist hospitals. Our funding was not sufficient, and the clinic morphed into a school.

Over the past two decades, I have helped with curriculum creation, hired staff, and fundraised.

As a remote worker, I knew we had the technology to connect people. I knew it because I lived it. It was easy to see the ways we could offer free education, with Cisco collaboration tools connecting us from thousands of miles apart.

We started the school with five kids, literally under a tree, and have grown to almost 800 children — impacting thousands of lives. Saya in the local language means “shade” … from the oppressively hot sun of South Asia.

Citizens of the World


There’s no other way to make sure that future generations have equal access to quality education. Once a child in an illiterate family is educated, others are able to follow along the learning path.

It takes many years to fulfill the promise of educating someone and to make them a self-sufficient citizen of the world. But the journey is possible — and invaluable.

As my brother always says, “Let’s teach them how to fish.”

Family’s Legacy

The SAYA Welfare Society is truly my family’s work. When you realize that you’re more fortunate than some — like many of us in the Cisco community — your natural inclination is to give back.

As my elder brother and mother envisioned the SAYA health clinic, and subsequently the school, their drive was contagious. My sister-in-law has done the yeoman’s work to sustain SAYA.

The result of their vision and effort? Very simple: Education is the only solution to all problems — manmade or natural.

“I know there is something bigger than me.”

Transformed Life — Mine!

Check out our other Be the Bridge Spotlights in our interactive eBook.

My path to volunteerism can be traced back to conversations with my mom. Mostly, I just wanted to make her happy by following through on her vision to create a health clinic for the poor.

To me, there’s nothing more fulfilling in life. Giving back has not just changed my career, it's changed my life.

If you want to get started, speak with someone who has given back. Ask them about their journey. A conversation is a great place to start.

If I could volunteer full time, I would work to promote K-12 education for every child. Using my experience starting one school to start a series of international schools in emerging countries — beginning in locales that have lowest literacy rates. Education is the only solution to all problems.

Connect everything. Innovate everywhere. Benefit everyone.

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