Success in life requires trial and error, positivity, hard work, and, above all, adherence to a strong, personal vision. I believe this to be the core message articulated by Dr. Zak El-Ramly, President and CEO of the ZE family of companies, in his March 4 lecture to a group of students, alumni, and faculty at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Zak returned to Carleton, his alma mater, to present the 2015 Roadmaps Lecture, part of an ongoing series that gives current students and recent graduates the opportunity to learn from the experiences of prosperous alumni of Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design. Zak’s lecture, entitled “Power Your Future: Translating Vision into Success,” imparted insights from his unique and inspiring path toward professional development and success.
Zak graduated from Carleton with a master’s degree in 1972 and a Ph.D. in 1975. Today, he leads multiple successful businesses within the ZE family of companies, which includes ZE PowerGroup, the makers of the ZEMA data management software solution used by some of the largest companies worldwide. Zak’s lecture shared how he was able to achieve this landmark, along with numerous other career goals, by setting and working toward strategic visions.
In my early days with ZE PowerGroup, it was clear that the company is guided by a strong set of corporate values. While watching the video of Zak’s lecture at Carleton University, I recognized many of these values at work in the personal beliefs and attitudes of Zak himself. It is easy to see that his vision for the company goes beyond mere words to manifest itself in the very essence of the place. To fully understand the story of ZE, one must comprehend the convictions of its founder.
“Great people are ordinary people who are willing to take on a great challenge,” said Zak. “We are all ordinary; what we take on is what makes us great.” Zak’s lecture demonstrated how his own success can be attributed to his willingness to take on great challenges. He shared numerous lessons from his professional journey that included being an engineer in Egypt, relocating to Canada to study at Carleton, working his way up the ranks at BC Hydro, becoming Executive Vice President of Marketing at Powerex, and boldly founding his own company, ZE PowerGroup Inc., in 1995. While his path was unpredictable, at each step Zak was able to visualize his desired destination and work toward fulfilling his potential.
Commenting on the lack of adequate software in the market at the time, Dr. Rafik Goubran, Carleton’s Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design, who introduced Zak’s lecture, stated, “In his usual style, Zak decided to find a team to create his own software, and ZE Market Analyzer, or ZEMA, was released. ZEMA is now being used by some of the largest energy traders, business analysts, and oil and gas companies in the whole world.”
Zak’s remarks to the future leaders in the room emphasized that they were just as capable of success as he or anybody else. By believing in one’s own vision and pursuing it with passion, confidence, and diligence, success is achievable for anyone. But without vision, people fail to realize their own potential. “It is better to be lost trying to get to where you want to go,” said Zak, “than it is to know where you are but get confused about where you want to go.”