Zarak smiling at the camera
Zarak Khan, Alum 2021

Growing up in Waziristan, a small Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, Zarak Khan learned a difficult lesson early in life: war has zero good outcomes. His uncle, a Pakistani cabinet member who had spoken out against the Taliban for invading their country, was assassinated. This family tragedy would change Zarak’s life forever.

“Seeing firsthand the fate of my uncle and the plight of the people suffering in my region strengthened my resolve to work as hard as I could to make a positive impact in any way I could on the communities around me.”

Today, that resolve has focused Zarak’s attention on another war: the battle against climate change. “Greenhouse gas emissions are causing more of our world to be uninhabitable. Either we stop them, or they stop us.”

After earning his MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management, Zarak took a job to do just that: help the government of New South Wales transition the region to a clean energy future. It was here that Zarak’s Public Leadership Credential (PLC) journey began.      

“I quickly realized that the tools and frameworks I had gained in business school, while useful, were not necessarily transferable to the public sector challenges I was now tackling. That’s when I discovered the PLC program at Harvard Kennedy School.”

Delivered completely online, the PLC was created to expand  the reach and mission of HKS so that changemakers around the world could benefit from the University’s exceptional teaching methods without coming to Cambridge.

“Between my full-time commitments at work and at home raising three young children, I found the flexible format of the program incredibly attractive. The fact that the course content was being presented by the world’s foremost public policy thought leaders also added to its value.”

Like many passionate learners, Zarak was somewhat skeptical of taking an online course and not sure what to expect. However, shortly after he began his PLC journey, he was sure he had made the right decision.

“From the course content using Harvard’s signature pedagogy to the rewarding and eye-opening interaction with my peers, everything about the experience inspired me to bring my best self to class and make the most of this exceptional learning opportunity. Not only was the content well-structured, digestible and compelling, but relevant, too. I found myself applying several of the concepts I was learning in my PLC courses to problems I was at the same time tackling in my own work, and the tools I gained equipped me to serve my community more effectively.”

What’s next for Zarak in his quest to be a changemaker, or more specifically a climate changemaker: “While I want to continue to do what I am good at now, which is to decarbonize our economies, my long-term goal is to in some way inspire the people of Waziristan. Because I was able to attend Harvard Kennedy School, it shows them that they too can dare to dream big and achieve their own goals and aspirations.”