Our country was built on the promise of a better life — it has the gates of opportunity that are often unavailable in other areas of the world. Though many people work their lives away in hopes of achieving their dreams, not all of them actually succeed. Jahangir Kabir, M.B.A. ’05, is one of the few who was able to beat the odds and create a better life for himself, his family and his community.
Kabir immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh in 1990 with the help of his brothers who were already in New York. He was young and prepared to start a new chapter of his life. However, no journey is without its hurdles. The first challenge Kabir encountered was the language barrier. Without knowing a word of English, he found it difficult to find a job, but was eventually hired as a cook for White Castle. “You didn’t need to speak English to cook and clean,” he explains. Even though he was employed, Kabir knew that this job would not be enough to pay his bills long term. “I was young, I wanted to be successful, and I had drive,” he says.
In order for him to move ahead in his career, Kabir pushed himself to learn English. He enrolled in an English as a second language (ESL) course at York College in Queens, and also spent time reading newspapers with a dictionary on hand. Within six months, he had a good grasp of the language, which improved his rapport with customers at work.
After four years on the job at White Castle, Kabir was promoted to general manager. His strong work ethic and dedication to customer service earned him the promotion and strengthened his desire to move up in the company.
Kabir’s internal drive to succeed is why he decided to begin his college education in 1997; he wanted to prove to himself that it was possible. “I realized if I wanted to move further, I had to do more,” he says. He attended Monroe College as a full-time student while simultaneously maintaining his job. Kabir majored in business because of his positive experience at White Castle and acquired a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2001. During his time in school, he also managed to earn a promotion to district supervisor.
As the ninth child out of 10 in his family, Kabir has been influenced by his siblings and their accomplishments. All of his siblings are successful in various professions, which encouraged Kabir to be just as hard-working. Thus, he chose to further his education at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, where he earned an Executive M.B.A. in 2005.
Today, Kabir still holds the position of district supervisor and is in charge of eight restaurants. He leads and trains a team of over 200 members and acts as a mentor for the general managers. His continual emphasis on customer satisfaction is what brings positive outcomes to his enterprises. “I don’t focus on results, because my true belief is that if I take care of my people, the results will be on the table,” he says. Kabir’s methodology seems to be working for him — in 2013, each of his eight restaurants was granted an excellence award from the White Castle corporate headquarters.
While work and education are important parts of Kabir’s life, he also extends his time to serve his community of East New York. He acts as a board secretary for both the Highland Park Community Development Corporation and the Bangladeshi American Advocacy Group, is a board member for the Council on American Islamic Relations of New York (CAIR-NY), and is an executive committee member and outreach director at Baitul Mamor Masjid and Community Center in Brooklyn. Professionally, Kabir has coordinated fundraising efforts for White Castle to benefit victims of hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, as well as organizations including the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and Autism Speaks.
Most people have their own vision of what they consider the American dream. For Kabir, his dream is to help other people. “To me, success is the ability to take care of myself, my family, the people I’m responsible for at work, and the people I work with in the community,” he says. Kabir explains that if he does not take care of himself, he wouldn’t be able to maintain his other responsibilities. With that mindset, he is continuing his education yet again, this time with the hopes of earning a doctorate degree in business administration from Wilmington University in Delaware.
All of the education and effort Kabir uses to take care of himself and others is apparent in his work and community outreach. This year he was rewarded for his efforts with the 2014 Faces of Diversity Award from the National Restaurant Association.