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Q.1.      Bilal tell us about your childhood?
I had been an above average student in my earlier days but it was only after I entered high school I started making some good progress. In academics I used to be always in first three positions and in 8th class was declared the best student of the school by scoring maximum marks in any class. I was born in Islamabad and have spent all my early years in Islamabad  

Q.2.      Have you been outside Islamabad during your early childhood?
Yes but only after I achieved the status of World’s Youngest MCSE, I had some opportunities to go out of Islamabad when I was called by International Rotary Club for an achievement award in Karachi. I also had a chance to visit UK and have had an opportunity of visiting offices of some major IT Businesses in the UK.

Q.3.      Tell us something about your family?
My father was Assistant Director in CDA, now retired. My mother manages our home and does it pretty well. I am the youngest in the family of two brothers and three sisters. My brother is the eldest and I am the youngest. My brother was in Army and has recently got his release from Army at the rank of Major.
He had been involved in a number of IT initiatives within Army and at national level for last 17 years and was one of the founding members and a technical lead in the establishment of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in Pakistan. My eldest sister is MA (Islamic Studies) and is a school teacher. Second sister is in final year at Rawalpindi Medical College. Third and youngest sister is in 2nd year Architectural Engineering at University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore.

Q.4.      So you are the kid brother to all?
Yes, I am and that’s probably why I received the maximum share of love from all my family members.

Q.5       What is your brother doing after released from the Army?
He is thinking of setting up his own software house and is on the visiting faculty of a number of Universities like NUST, Hamdard, APCOMS, PIMSAT and Fatima Jinnah Women University.

Q.6.      Tell us something about your parents?
My father is retired and live in Lahore. My mother manages the house and my elder brother is our Guardian for all practical purposes.

Q.7.      Tell us something about your primary education?
My primary education was pretty normal and I did not go to some very expensive schools. I studied in Federal Government schools but I think the standard of Government schools in capital is much better than in any other city.

Q.8.      Where did you start your schooling?
I started my schooling very near to my place of residence that is in F-10/2. The school has now been upgraded and is now known as Islamabad Model College for Girls F-10/2. After my primary school I spent 5 years in Islamabad Model College for Boys F-7/3 for Grades 5-10. Now-a-days I am studying in 11th Grade or 1st Year FSc at Bahria College, Islamabad

Q.9       When you were first introduced to a PC?
I was about 5 or 6 when I first started playing around with a keyboard. Though it was only small little games with which I used to be involved in but that provided me a good basis and interest in this fascinating piece of equipment. Well, getting my way with computers was a fascination I always had as soon as I had sense enough to understand what my elder brother was always doing.

Q-10     Did you have a PC at home or you were introduced at school?
How much time you used to spend on PC before the certification and how much time do you spend now.
My brother, who is an Army Officer, always had a computer at home. He always asked me to learn more than games but I was kind of afraid to do anything else with his computer lest I would harm it in any way. It was not earlier than when I was 9 or
10 when I actively got involved with the real computing. I think I spend all my available time with my computer. If I am not at school or sleeping, you can find me hooked to my computer. I now have a dedicated computer all to myself with all the possible accessories I ever dreamed of.

Q.11     Did the interest in computers affect your education?
No, not at all. I rather think it further enhanced my interest in studies and kind of polished my brain cells to be more active and logical. As soon as I started making my achievements in the field of computing, my results at school started improving mysteriously. I was declare the best student when I was in 8th class and that was the time I was spending almost all my time learning computers.

Q.12.    How did you develop interest in computers at such a tender age?
My brother who was running a free hobbyist Bulletin Board Service by the name of CompuCraze BBS had to leave for Quetta on posting and I had his online BBS server all to myself. Though I was instructed never to bother BBS users but I kept interfering them for a chat often. I started learning small little things from them and kept exploring the system. I was soon in shape to handle all the functions of the BBS all by myself as a System
Operator (sysop) that means by then I had almost full command over DOS and the BBS administrative software which was much like UNIX. As soon as Internet access was available, my brother got me the access and I had been a part of all internet activity generating from Pakistan. I had been an active programmer at KKMOO of PTC, kept running my BBS and started running my own MOO by the name CompuCraze MOO hosted in USA. Soon the server hosting my MOO asked me to place my own server on their network as the MOO was attracting a lot of traffic. About five years back, I bought a PC on Electronic Auction from USA, paid through my brother’s credit card and got it delivered to my hosting service. I had the unique experience of installing and setting up my own server in Illinois USA, sitting right from my home in Islamabad. Since then I am managing it and it’s running smoothly on LINUX.

Q.13     Did you get full support from your family and teachers in learning Computers?
Yes, Of course, I could not have done anything if they did not support me. I was always encouraged by my family and specially by my brother. It was probably my brother’s guidance which got me through all these landmark achievements. As far as school is concerned, I think I did not get much of encouragement from there. They were blind to the achievements I was making and once my principal called me to brief him what was all this I was doing and making the news in papers.

Q14.     How did you come to know about all certificates of Microsoft which you have done?
Looks odd to mention my brother in every answer but it was he who guided me about all the certification exams. Later I started exploring other certification by myself and started appearing in further exams, but only after I have taken suggestion from my elder brother.

Q.15     What inspired you to go for MCSE certification at this age?
The decision to go for MCSE came just out of the blue. I never planned to do it but I was deeply involved with computers all these years. In my summer vacations of 9th class, my brother decided to go for it and asked me and my sister who was then in FSc 2nd year if we were interested. I was more than interested and immediately consented to attend the classes and we got admission in National Institute of Computer Studies (NICS) F-7 Islamabad.
When the course started, the first subject was Networking Essentials which fascinated me more than anything. Soon I realized that I could understand everything all by myself by reading the original Microsoft books and material provided by the institute. After hardly a month’s tuition, I and my brother appeared in the first paper and cleared it with flying colors.
We became confident enough and left attending the classes. Within next 25 days, e both cleared all the six papers of MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). Not only this we appeared and cleared two papers for A+ Hardware Technician Certification, Network + Certification and additive MCSE+I (Internet Specialist) Certification. I later did a number of other certifications and I have the honor of being the youngest in the world and also the only person from Pakistan to hold many of those certifications. That includes CIW tracks for which I am also a CIW Certified Instructor. I forgot to mention that I am also a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer), again the world’s youngest. Later on, I also upgraded the status of my MCSE to the latest track which is MCSE 2000.

Q.16     Before we talk about all other certification just tell us about all these certification and what are they all about?
Well, each of the certification has its own area of expertise and an objective. For example MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) teaches you to effectively design and implement Microsoft Windows systems in corporate environment. A MCSE can not only administer a large network but can design and troubleshoot as well. The latest track of MCSE i.e., 2000 gives the required knowledge on Microsoft Windows 2000 Platform.
MCDBA (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator) is a certification for MS SQL and teaches us skills to install, manage, administer and design databases in MS SQL. Some of the subjects of these two certifications are common and therefore after MCSE, I only had to do two papers to be certified as a MCDBA. MCT is Microsoft Certified Trainer. Once Microsoft tests the teaching skills of an applicant and finds them fit to impart teaching Microsoft Certification subjects on their behalf, they award the status of MCT to that person. CompTIA certifications which I have achieved are A+, Network+, i-Net+ and Linux+. They focus at technician level of training in the respective areas of Computer hardware, Networking, Internetworking and Linux Administration. CIW stands for Certified Internet Webmaster and I did a number of tracks by CIW like Administrator, Designer and Instructor and after having done all this, I was awarded the status of CIW Associate, CIW Professional, Master CIW Administrator, Master CIW Designer and CIW Certified Instructor. I am probably the only certified trainer of CIW in Pakistan. Then in the line Cisco certifications, CCNA (Cisco Certified Networking Associate) is the first and basic certification which I have done and there is a long way to become a CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetworking Expert).

Q.17     Is it too expensive to do all these certification in Pakistan?
Yes, it is definitely expensive to do all these certifications but as compared to the same standard of education anywhere else in the world, Pakistan is a heaven. The certification exam cost for Microsoft is considerably cheaper in Pakistan which was raised from $25 per paper to $50 recently, still less than international rate of $150 which was earlier $100. Other certifications have 2-7 papers for each certification costing around $100 to $175 (no rebates) per paper. The training in Pakistan is also very cheap as anyone now can get tuition for MCSE for as low as Rs. 12,000/- for all 7 subjects. I had the advantage of never having to take tuitions as I do all of it by myself at home. Collectively I have spent over $5,000 in last 3-4 years in securing all these certifications.

Q.18.    Did you know at the time you took your examination that you are the youngest to take the MCSE examination?
No, I never knew that and was only made aware of this thing when someone indicated to me that I might be the youngest. Then I started searching over the internet and traced the earlier record holder who was a Russian boy and was older than me when he completed his MCSE. I reported my Achievement to Microsoft and Guinness Book of World Records but none of them is ready to highlight any achievement made by a Pakistani. They made quite a story of the two Indian girls of age 11 and 12 respectively who had just cleared one single paper of MCSE. This is what I call bias attitude.

Q.19.    What was your feeling when your result announced and you come to know about this great achievement?
Microsoft does not bother who is the person who has cleared a specific exam and they do not even want to recognize that I am the youngest MCSE on record. My feeling was of great satisfaction and I was prompted by this success to do more than this.

Q20      What did you do after becoming the youngest MCSE? Are you planning on taking examination for other certifications?
I did take a number of other certification exams and hold more than 16 certifications right now out of which I am World’s Youngest to hold many of them. It is also an honor for me to be the only certified person in Pakistan to hold certifications like Linux+ and others. I always remain on a watch out for any new certification being announced and immediately start preparing for it. I did not very much pursue Cisco Certification track further than CCNA but it is my cherished dream to someday achieve the highest level of Cisco Certification and that is CCIE.
I was thinking of going for MCSD and CCIE but have pended that goal for some time. I intend and I can do a lot many more such certifications but I have naturally spent a fortune in doing what all I have so far achieved and do not feel justified in getting my guardians money spent like that. I think this is high time when Government of Pakistan should recognize my talent and take over all my educational expenses as a special case.

Q.21     What grade were you in school when you did your MCSE certification?
I was in 9th Class/Grade when I did my MCSE. Then I was one of the first people who upgraded their status to MCSE2000 by re-appearing in all exams for which Microsoft has issued me an Early MCSE 2000 Achiever Wallet Card.

Q.22.    Did Microsoft announced this worldwide about you being the youngest MCSE achiever? If yes, do tell us the link.
No, they did not but this achievement of mine is advertised by a number of third parties all over the web. I will not give you a link, just search my name over the Internet on any search engine and you will find many newspaper and sites recognizing my achievement. Microsoft never did because according to them, they don’t have age records of the people.

Q.23.    How do your friends at college react to the fame that you got, any appreciation from them or from school?
Not very excited but they look at me with amazement. It was hard for them to grasp what I have really done and they probably cannot imagine the intensity of my achievement. Now I am in Bahria College and I think it is much better and technical oriented. Other than school I am well-received where some computer professionals are there to appreciate what I have done. I am now treated as an elder and computer professionals treat me as one of them. I like to get involved in a serious installation or setup problems. I am currently helping my brother and his colleagues in getting their web sites hosted on my server. I am also occasionally consulted by training institutes and network businesses for networking problems.

Q.24     Did the fame affect your studies or your daily life in any respect?
No, I rather enhanced my quality of life.

Q.25.    Did you start working in any respect after completing this MCSE Certificate?
Not in the sense of being paid for what all I have been doing. I had been an observing consultant with NADRA where my brother used to work. They never paid me anything but I advised them on their LAN and WAN installations. Using the status of my MCT and CIW Instructor, I have been teaching in a number of training institutes teaching MCSE and CIW classes but as my brother advised me, I never asked for any payments. He thinks I should only enter my practical and professional life formally after having completed my education.

Q.26.    What are the other certifications in addition to MCSE you have completed?
As I said earlier that currently I hold more than sixteen certifications now namely MCP, MCP+I, MCDBA, MCSE(2000), MCSE+I, MCT, A+ and Network+, i-Net+, Linux+, CCNA, CIW Associate, CIW Professional, Master CIW Designer, Master CIW Administrator, CIW Certified Instructor and some e-Certifications from BrainBench.

Q.27     What interests you the most on the Internet and how do you use it to your advantage?
I believe, Internet is a whole new world and you find something new everyday to entice you further into it. I am in love with anything concerning networking and I am hooked to Wide Area Networks. Trying to learn anything and everything about it. I want to enter the grand new world of networking.
As I described earlier, I have my own server in Chicago and I keep administering it from here. I sometimes make some money when a client wants his web site hosted on my server but naturally that is not my prime aim.

Q.28.    What plans do you have for future?
I want to be a professional engineer. I am inclined towards electronics or telecommunications because I know either of these fields will keep an option for me to specialize in computers. My ultimate aim to do is Doctorate in some networking area of information technology. The new emerging sciences are indicating an era of wireless networking and I am very much interested in that.

Q.29.   Is your family financially supportive so that you can continue your education?
So far my brother has supported me through all these certifications and is still affording my study expenses but I am not sure if he can support me if I need to continue my education in some foreign university or a renowned university even within Pakistan like NUST, LUMS or GIK. It is so strange to learn that Government of Pakistan is completely blind to local talent and there is not a single soul who has ever uttered an encouraging word on my achievements. I have written to President of Pakistan, Minister for Science and Technology, Minister for Education and many others but the only response I got was from Member IT who said he had no such program to support me. I am very cynical about it and I know if I were born in another country and had achieved so much, the Government of that country would have taken up all responsibility of my educational expenses. I don’t want to say that but I really feel unlucky to be a Pakistani, it is frustrating here.

Q.30     Did you receive any appreciation or financial or any assistance from Ministry of IT government of Pakistan?
NONE, whatsoever. Government of Pakistan is probably too busy to be bothered by small timers like me. There had been large news from India about two girls of age 11 and 12 respectively having done only a MCP paper and Microsoft representative flying down to India and awarding them the certifications. Alas! Neither Microsoft nor our own Government bothers what goes on in Pakistan. I was introduced to Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Minister Planning Commission with last Government, when I established this record, and he had nothing more to say to me than a few nice remarks. I approached almost every responsible person of the present Government from the President of Pakistan to Ministers for Science and Technology, Education and Interior, but nobody seems to acknowledge my achievements.

Q31.   Do you take part in any sport? How you manage your time between studies, friendships and other activities.
I am not really very active in sports but like to play football and badminton. I have a number of friends but I am not in habit of going out very often. Once in a week, we have a lunch or dinner out and we discuss things. I think I have more mature friends and nothing about us is childish now. I take active part in small little responsibilities at home. I, being the youngest, am always the one who ends up doing one chore or the other. I think I have no problems with managing my time, I follow a set timetable and I know when to do what. I therefore do not end up missing out on anything important.

Q
.32.   Which third parties have acknowledged your claim or published about it?
When I first established the record of being the World’s Youngest MCSE, the Test Administrator of Testing Center reported about it to some news agency after which I have been interviewed by the following:
The News The Daily Jang PTV Live·        Voice of Germany  @Internet Computer Magazine  NetMag Computer Magazine·        Spider Computer Magazine Apart from these interviews, some people posted messages on several newsgroups about this claim to know about any disagreements from public which are not so far submitted. Some online newspapers have also published about my achievement including Islamic Voice, Pakistan Nation and some Indian Newspapers.
I have also asked for some type of rebate on certification exams from several certification companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Novell etc on the basis of my achievement. Unfortunately, Microsoft refused to provide any help saying that they don’t keep the age records but Cisco and Novell did provide me with support like Free Courseware and Free Exam Vouchers for their exams.

Q.33.    What message do you want for young CP viewer who would like to follow your footstep?

Yes! Of course. I would like to advice my colleagues, friends and the youth of my beloved country that nothing in this world is impossible. If you have a will, you definitely can do it and I am a live example for you all. Doing something on computers is like inventing something new and the sense of achievement is similarly great. Whether you program or design systems, it’s always something new you are learning. The coming ages will be so fast and advanced that keeping pace with them would be difficult, we have to prepare ourselves for the coming ages now or never. Second thing I will like to tell them is never to depend on anyone, find your own way out.

IA Khan
Ras Tanura
March 21, 2002
0245 Hours SST
Saudi Arabia