Get to know Ali Jaffery, Associate Manager of Grants and Innovation, Memphis Education Fund and Greater Memphis Chamber 2020 Young Memphis Honoree.
What event or accomplishment has been the most impactful for your career so far?
The most impactful accomplishment in my career would be the COVID-19 Response programming we have headed at Memphis Education Fund (MEF). The ‘MEF Family Grant Program’, a micro-grant program for Memphis families with school-aged children designed to encourage and support their students’ daily attendance in a virtual learning environment and the ‘South Memphis Tech Project’, a technology project for high school seniors from South Memphis via a cross-sector collaboration with schools, philanthropy and community organizations. These programs taught me about creating public policies, designing a large, multi-faceted process and so much more. I am honored to lead this work alongside Memphis Education Fund board, staff and leadership.
What motivates you to be active in your community or profession?
My main motivator to remain active in the Memphis community is a deep appreciation for the city’s history. With all of its celebrities, triumphs and downfalls, I think Memphis is a very special place, and I hope people will continue to give credence to its unique position in the broader American story. Professionally, I am motivated and compelled by the unfortunate disparities that exist between young people from indigent and affluent homes. As a former educator and youth soccer coach, I’ve seen these disparities result in adverse effects within families, communities and entire cities. As a sector, public k-12 education needs to improve now, or the economic progress Memphis is projecting will benefit the children of other cities more than our own.
What does “being a young professional in Memphis” mean to you?
It means being a passionate leader. Memphis, like any city, needs great leaders to step up and be the change. In Memphis’ case, we are on the cusp of an economic uptick and changes to the social fabric of our city. The need for leadership has expanded beyond the seasoned veterans and now beckons the 30-somethings to the table. Being a young professional in Memphis means being a passionate leader willing to do the hard work to create and lead change.
What do you like about living in Memphis?
For the sake of the reader’s ease, I will provide a shortened list! Food & Drink: Arcade, Blue Monkey, Celtic Crossing, Cozy Corner, Crazy Noodle, Earnestine & Hazel’s, Farm Burger, Loflin’s Yard, India Palace, Mayuri, New Wing Order, South of Beale, Railgarten, Slider’s Inn, Stak’s, Tacos Nganas, Vice & Virtue, Wiseacre and Young Avenue Deli. Activities: Hanging with my wife, running or cycling at one of the beautiful Memphis River Parks Partnership parks, attending New Memphis events, spending quality time on our patio with friends and family.
What advice do you have for new young professionals interested in starting or building their career in Memphis?
It’s an amazing time to be a young professional in Memphis. The city is ripe with professional opportunity in many different industries. Folks from the production line to the C-suite are kind, inviting and willing to help you grow. My advice to incoming and upcoming young professionals is to build and utilize genuine relationships across different communities and sectors. The best way to move up in Memphis is by getting out there to meet new people, learn their stories and connect the dots to positively impact communities.
Who do you most admire and why?
I most admire my mother and father. My mother is a farmer’s daughter from Hughes, Arkansas that became a first-generation college graduate. She perfectly balanced homemaking with business leadership and currently manages a public library in one of Memphis’ largest suburbs. My father immigrated to North America from Karachi, Pakistan with a suitcase and two words of English. He went on to earn a college degree and lead businesses while helping people reach personal success. My parents instilled core values in me that have created my success which include live within your means, treat people right and make an honest living.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself bringing value to the Memphis community by building on the successes of my predecessors and uplifting the next generation of great Memphians. I plan to continue on the trajectory of non-profit and education involvement, while also building my own capacity to create and help within the community. I hope to see a prosperous, inclusive city that gives all Memphians the chance to smile often and live fully.
What’s your favorite thing about being a young professional in Memphis?
My favorite thing about my professional life right now is the opportunity to be a change agent in my city. Memphis has so many unmet needs, and people willing to step up can make a big difference in this city. “If you have the will, Memphis has the way!”
Interested in getting plugged in? Learn more about the Chamber's Soundcheck Young Professionals Council here.