A. Faisal Siddiqui may live on the east coast, but part of him will always be in Las Vegas.
“I grew up in the city, starting when I was five years old,” he recalls. “I went to Paradise Elementary School right next to the campus, and because I lived at the University Park Apartments, I would walk across the campus to go to school.”
That walk across campus would become a familiar experience for Faisal as he got older. He earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University in 1996, and a few years later, he became one of the earliest graduates of the Executive MBA program.
“I was in Cohort 2, and it was a two-day-per-week program that lasted about 18 months,” he says. “It was pretty intense, but the schedule worked out well, because I could work full-time and go to school on the weekend.”
The intensity of the program was like “drinking from a fire hose” at times, but Faisal felt he needed to commit to the program to further his career. With his bachelor’s degree, he’d been able to rise to the level of Chief Information Officer for a developer of apartment buildings and hotels, but felt he needed to add “more business acumen, not just technology acumen,” to his skill set. Fortunately, the EMBA program is designed to provide professionals with practical skills and knowledge that can be applied immediately in the workforce.
“The education I was getting would translate [to my work] in real-time,” Faisal says. “Near the end of the program, my company was going through a major restructuring, so it became very practical, very fast.
“I was part of the leadership team during the restructuring, and I don’t know where I would have been if I had not been in the program at the same time.”
Being able to look at things not just from a technology perspective, but also from finance, marketing, and operations perspectives, allowed Faisal to expand his opportunities and branch out into the realm of startups and M&A. He launched his first startup in the technology and social-casino space in Silicon Valley shortly after finishing his EMBA and now serves as founder and chief executive officer of Park Avenue Gaming, a lottery supplier to governments around the world.
Though Faisal admits that, before sitting down to be interviewed, it took him some time to recall the specifics of some of his EMBA classes, he’s never forgotten his classmates or the lessons he learned in the program. To this day he remains in touch with members of his cohort, and he even joined a few of them for a reunion in Las Vegas in 2019.
“You spend so much concentrated time with your cohort, and we come from all different parts of life – that’s a super valuable resource,” Faisal says. “You build trust among each other, and that happens very quickly because the program is so intense.
“For someone like me, I may have left the city, but those relationships are invaluable because I’ll always have people to call on for advice.