woman @ work
Jobs at the top of corporations have changed drastically. Corporations expect much more from their C-level executives, who constantly find themselves excelling in innovative and different skills to deal with today’s business realities. More so, the number of women in C-roles is also on the rise.
One of the most strikingly consistent professionals, Naz Khan, is an inspiration for all members of senior management. With her remarkable technical and functional expertise that is woven with exceptional business acumen and leadership skills, she has thrived in the C-level position. A strong communicator, and a brilliant strategic thinker, she brings with her 25 years of management experience, traversing through financial services and industrial spheres. An energetically motivated graduate of economics from Mount Holyoke College, USA, she honed her abilities to reach some of the top positions, seldom enjoyed by women.
Her diverse experience offers a road map for ambitious managers who want to know which skills they should focus on developing in order to rise up the chain of command.
Talking about business models and developing risk management strategies on innovation for growth, Naz Khan says, “Global mind-set is extremely important in order to think that people are innovative. Educating people at a younger age to see things differently is a challenge, especially in Pakistan. The status quo is not just in the area of technology but also in business outlook as to how one can do things differently by making the most of the available resources. This will enable children, and then young graduates, at the grassroot level to build a talent structure that will provide a competitive edge.”
“Having interviewed numerous top managers about the requirements for senior leaders past, present, and future, I have seen some clear signals about how C-level jobs are evolving. Today members of senior management are expected not only to support the CEO on business strategies, insights, and key decisions but also to contribute positively to the talent of the future and how to lead them effectively,” she adds. It can be safely said that Ms Khan exemplifies this role like a proverbial glove.
She emphasises the importance of crisis management and crisis quotient, which is an additional tangent to look out for while hiring talent for innovation. “There is no dearth of talent. There is a dearth of leadership to recognise that talent. We need to focus on critical thinking. Even outside the education system, we need to learn to accept failure. It is considered extremely negative. This thinking needs to change,” stresses Ms Khan.
“We need less regulation on the governmental front. The state only needs to provide an enabling environment and the private sector will innovate and bring solutions on its own,” she suggests. “Typically, the government is the end of the line, and this requires a major shift for the industry to thrive, explore new markets, convene new methods, and streamline processes. Regulatory compliance is the most challenging and important issue that needs immediate resolution. Most of the solutions characteristically depend on regulatory counsel, which hinders growth and stifles profitability,” observes Ms Khan.
According to her, the energy sector is one of the sectors with the most potential for innovation. “We have experienced varying customer preferences as people are resorting to renewables. There are technological disruptions within the sector due to which the utility model is disordered globally.”
Ms Khan’s views across geographies and sectors, cement the fact that although there are serious barriers - in both leadership behaviour and capability - Pakistan is emerging between the business and technology functions. Few executives, like her, can straddle both worlds.
“As a developing economy, riddled with various macroeconomic issues, we are less exclusively concerned with the technology itself and more attuned to how it could generate competitive advantage; and more focused on leadership and organisational effectiveness. Meanwhile, another phenomenon has replaced the old one: globalisation. Right now, business needs have shifted again. We have to deal with integrating and standardising processes and platforms across multiple operating companies, group functions, and regions,” expresses Ms Khan.
For the foreseeable future, we see Naz Khan as a sophisticated mix of skills, as she is not only business savvy but also carries a body of work with analytics, organisational design, and infrastructure, a perfect trailblazer who knows how to wire together a holistic system that can support global growth. Cultivating the same angle, she elucidates, “I look at myself as a business leader and not as a CSO. I talk to my team about how to have different types of conversations. For instance, don’t talk about how great the technology is - talk about how it will improve delivery, drive up revenue growth, generate cost efficiencies and improve customer experience.”
The C-suites of the future will operate around the globe, in multiple time zones, and will regularly partner with areas of the business on growth initiatives and international expansion. Naz Khan champions and endorses this phenomenon strongly, both with a commercial sensibility and a global mind-set.
*Sara Danial is a writer with keen interest in economics and women issues.