Yusuf Khaled always had a sense for the bigger picture. From an early age, young Yusuf was interested in the community at large and the macro influences that shape it. It was his exploration of how to create positive influences in society that led him to a career at Posh.
From Yusuf’s account, his path to Posh wasn’t a straight shot, but rather was a winding road dotted with pivot-points.
To tell Yusuf’s story we started at home. When asked to describe his family, Yusuf’s face lights up. “I couldn’t have picked something better.” As Yusuf describes it, his family has always offered a solid jumping off point for him, with loving parents and siblings that are more like best friends.
Yusuf details an incredibly supportive and caring family where the biggest issue is when their dog Pluto gets into the fish for their annual Lobster-Fest picnic. It’s the kind of back-bone of support that afforded Yusuf the opportunity to make personal goals his main priority.
“What’s been so helpful for me has been self-belief and self confidence, thinking you can achieve what you want to achieve, and a lot of that came from my family being such supportive cheerleaders…I recognize that a stable family life is not a given for a lot of people, so I’m very grateful.”
Yusuf was undoubtedly bright at a young age, but he didn’t necessarily feel motivated by learning just for the sake of getting good grades. In fact, he describes a certain resentment for classroom environments, with arbitrary rules that often made little sense to the bigger picture.
“I realized that what school wanted was more so memorization rather than creativity or understanding. I didn’t think that would be the most important skill to have 30 years down the line.”
Because of this Yusuf rarely felt the motivation to really apply himself in school. He’d prefer to play sports with his friends, and would only read books about subjects that interested him.
Yusuf may describe himself as a bit of a slacker when it came to his early schooling, but it’s impossible to miss that he has always had an intense drive to discover answers to larger questions. This drive led Yusuf to start reading a genre where these questions are often explored: Science Fiction.
“A huge impact on my life more broadly has been reading sci-fi novels…I read a book called Foundation by Isaac Asimov…a key idea presented in the book is a fictional field of study called ‘Psychohistory’, which involves using Psychology and History to predict future events. That was the first time I thought to myself, ‘Wow! This sounds super interesting, and I can imagine some field of math accomplishing this in the future.’”
While the job title of Psychohistorian doesn’t exist (at least not in this reality) teenage Yusuf found that there were other real-world careers that worked along similar principles, which is where he got the idea to study Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Waterloo. But if he wanted to get into a great program at a top university like Waterloo, Yusuf would have to completely change his mentality about school. Luckily, there was another writer with a convincing argument about embracing success and achievement. While Yusuf acknowledges her political views are controversial, he credits Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead with inspiring him to push himself to participate in academics, even when the benefits of doing so weren’t immediately apparent.
“I always felt like school was just a game that wasn’t indicative of any kind of value…And what Ayn Rand taught me is that, it’s not that school is amazing, but you should feel proud of putting in real effort and getting real results, regardless of the game. You should give a s***.”
With a new career direction and a new mentality thanks to his impactful experiences through books, Yusuf set off to Waterloo ready to forge a new path forward. Throughout his experiences, Yusuf’s innate curiosity and knack for independent study served him well. As Yusuf describes it, he picked up a majority of the skills he uses at Posh today during his journey through several projects and ventures that had little to do with his initial major.
“It was a lot of self-teaching and learning on the job…Some people would have been too nervous to apply and start the job on day one not really knowing what they’re supposed to do, but I was like ‘Yeah, I can figure it out.’”
While at Waterloo, Yusuf watched others get drawn into the tech industry. Realizing that tech is where he wanted to be, Yusuf pivoted his focus toward building a tech project. Combining his love for science fiction with this new tech focus, Yusuf spent a summer in Waterloo’s incubator, Velocity, building a platform for online book clubs. Although the site gained some traction, it ultimately didn’t end up being a lucrative venture. However this experience broadened his knowledge of software engineering and technology as a whole, and gave Yusuf a clear picture of what kind of products he wanted to build in the future.
“Regardless of your level, having good goals to strive for is one of the best things you can do for yourself! Working at a high-agency place like Posh, there’s always an opportunity to expand your knowledge and become better at what you do.”
As much as Yusuf has explored and transformed so far, there are always new goals to set and look forward to. His goals for the future range from becoming a better engineer to improving his golf game. At Posh, however, his goals remain solidly tied to how the code he writes can have the biggest impact.
“I want to build really good products. Good software that solves user’s problems, that wins us pitches and that makes us best-in-class…it’s definitely about the customer more so than about the code we write because if we write code that’s not useful to the customer then it’s irrelevant.”