When Zurich Principal Malik was studying Russian language in undergrad, he wasn’t quite sure what his next step would be. When he eventually decided to pursue his MBA at UC Berkeley, he had to pass remedial calculus and statistics, as his most recent math class had been called “Math as a Liberal Art”. It wasn’t until he neared the end of his MBA studies that he came across consulting—a career he’d never considered—and was instantly attracted to the people at one firm in particular: ZS.
When he was recruited at the height of the U.S. economic crisis in 2008, ZS was one of the few companies that was still hiring. With a smaller number of jobs posted, Malik made the decision to move from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Princeton. “I thought I’d stay on the east coast short term, but Princeton turned out to be great—both to me, and my family—and we stayed for seven years,” Malik said.
It was during his time in the Princeton office that Malik started focusing on marketing strategy and primary market research with clients within the oncology industry vertical. “I stumbled into oncology by chance, as I have no science background and am not your typical analytical thinker,” Malik said. “It lit a passion in me. I became fascinated by the drugs, the mechanisms for detection and the complexities of cancer.”
When the opportunity arose to relocate to Zurich a couple years ago, knowing many oncology clients could be served there, he seized it. “Much of my wife’s family lives in Ireland, and my two kids were excited about starting a new adventure in Europe and learning another language. The timing was right,” he said.
In Zurich, Malik has further narrowed his oncology focus, zeroing in on precision medicine, personalized healthcare, molecular diagnostics and next generation sequencing. “We’re helping our clients match patient tumor biology rationally and scientifically to the right drugs. We’re helping to enable their personalized healthcare strategy and combine real world data sets with molecular diagnostics—essentially changing the way cancer care is delivered.”
Malik has also taken on the people-centric role of office managing principal in Zurich—one he finds both challenging and very rewarding. Malik was elected principal in September 2018.
Now that we discussed what you do, let’s get to “the why”. How does ZS’s Core Purpose—together, we love solving complex problems to help companies and their customers thrive—resonate with you?
The most important part of our core purpose, to me, is our focus on people. I consider myself to be both a benefactor of and a contributor to that focus. I know it’s cliché, but we truly have great people here. I love that my team supports me and gets excited about solving a problem—and that we take that excitement directly to our clients. We’re not sitting in our offices behind our desks. We’re onsite, working together with them. We’re truly viewed as partners thanks to the energy and passion we bring, along with the value we’ve been able to drive.
What’s the most game-changing feedback you ever received?
I was a consultant and our team had run a forecasting workshop for a client. The workshop went exceedingly well but in typical ZS fashion, we sat down immediately after for a debrief. The principal and manager on the project were full of constructive feedback for me. I immediately became overwhelmed and broke down into tears. It was horribly awkward and everyone in the room wanted to evaporate into thin air.
The next day, we were sitting in the lobby at the hotel when the same principal and manager said something positive about me and my career. Whatever it was, it prompted me to react with “I’m not good enough for that.” And at that moment, they both called me out. It was a turning point for me. I realized I could be my own worst enemy if I let my self-doubt get the best of me. I learned to trust my instincts and be confident in myself and my abilities.
Describe your perfect ZS day.
Having a successful workshop with ZSers I love—and clients I love. Coming up with a really, powerful idea or innovation that gets everyone fired up. Going out to dinner, having a great time. Sometimes the most exhausting days are the best days.
What’s your life like outside of work and how do you balance it with your career?Family, family, family. My wife Liz and I have been married for 17 years and she’s enabled my career. We have a 15-year-old son, Finn, and a 13-year-old daughter, Theo. Switzerland has been a great match for us because we love being outside on the weekends. Finn and I love mountain biking, we all go hiking, and we enjoy all the surrounding lakes. We do a lot of swimming in the summer and skiing in the winter.