In 2013, I and my co-founder Saad, travelled to NYC to meet a native-ad company we worked with. We were one of the largest publishers for the native-ad company at that point, and they took a lot of interest in our business. They wanted to learn more about us and our work and so we were invited to their office to deliver a keynote, where we also met one of our relationship managers, Shane.
We also met Shane a few days later on a cold December night, while he hosted us for a mouthwatering steak. Later he invited us to his place which over-saw the breathtaking Hudson river. An unrelated but interesting event, he invited over another friend who smoked weed at his apartment which I saw happen for the first time in my life. On his bed, I saw two MacBook Pros, identical to each other with the same specs and colors. I was surprised and I wondered why would someone buy two identical laptops. And so I took the liberty to ask.
I was shocked with the answer I got. Shane had two MacBooks because one of them was given to him by his employer – the native ad company while the other one was his private property. I learnt that Shane also gives out freelance consulting on the side and doesn’t do it on his employer’s MacBook.
The reason why he doesn’t do it is because of “conflict of interest” which is roughly defined at Wikipedia as a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests, financial or otherwise, and serving one interest could involve working against another.
And by Shane’s definition of conflict of interest, using his employer’s MacBook to generate freelance consulting revenue on the side is a violation of trust put in him by his employer.
Since then, I’ve taken conflict of interest very seriously. I have kept it close to my heart. I’ve avoided it as much as practically possible for me. I’ve encouraged others to do the same and I hope and expect that Pakistani entrepreneurs will start to avoid or mitigate conflict of interest seriously.