Globetrotting Kronos Director and IT expert is equally at home with books as he is with gadgets
Ahmed ElShrif is Middle East Director of Workforce Management Solutions specialists Kronos, with experience across the globe from Oceania to Asia and Europe before taking on his current role. We asked the 46-year-old, among other things, what this worldwide adventure has taught him.
BR EME: Where were you educated? What subjects did you enjoy or excel at away from IT?
AE: I was fortunate to receive a multicultural educational background. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Statistics with a minor in Mathematics from Kuwait University. I also hold a Management Certificate from the Australian Graduate School of Management. Beyond formal classroom education, I followed numerous courses to strengthen and sharpen my sales, presentation, negotiation and communications skills.
Although IT was one of my favourite subjects (quite unsurprisingly where I ended up), I very much enjoyed human science subjects specifically: leadership/management and history. This allowed me to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of the “human/people” side of business that has proved decisive in my career.
BR EME: What lead you into the world of IT and business management software?
AE: When I graduated from high school, most of my colleagues wanted to study medicine or engineering as this was the trend then. Nobody was interested in IT. I, on the other hand, wanted to do something different and actually saw in IT a great way to combine my passion for Management and Sales and apply it to human-related topics – as opposed to traditionally technical ones. That’s a path I’m happy I have taken as it has led me to be working with many visionary organisations in different industries and countries.
BR EME: Are you a tech/gadget man in the home? If so, what is your favourite piece of technology you use away from work?
AE: My kids are the geeks at home. I like to take a simple yet effective approach to IT just like my clients. It would not come as a surprise to anybody who knows me well that my favourite piece of technology away from work is actually… a book!
BR EME: Mac or PC?
AE: Personally, I use PC for formal heavy work such as proposals, presentations, etc. However, I find iPhone/iPad great for mobility purpose as I need to stay on top of my work on-the-move by communicating with my team, partners and clients through emails, chats and others.
BR EME: What has working across several continents taught you?
AE: Working across several continents and with multinational teams has taught to assume nothing and question everything when it comes to business. Any minor assumption can have severe impact on your job, your career and your company. That is why you need to adopt a critical approach to everything without taking things for granted.
On a more personal level, my work experience taught me to celebrate differences and embrace the beauty of diversity. You have to be modest in the approach you take when dealing with other people and actually believe that everyone has something to contribute and teach you. Also, having great listening skills are crucial in building bridges across differences.
BR EME: Who or what has been your biggest influence during your career?
AE: My career has given me the opportunity to encounter so many different people from different backgrounds, and these have all in some way influenced the person I am today. From business executives, to colleagues and customers, I have learned so much.
Another memorable and influential moment in my career was attending a coaching session by Stephen Covey, the author of “The Seven Habits of the Highly Effective People”.
Covey’s disciplines truly resonate with me as he has inspired millions of people around the world to achieve their goals by maintaining ethical principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity.
BR EME: What motivates you?
AE: I am a very competitive person by nature and I always aim to do my very best in anything I set out to achieve be it business or personal. My biggest competitive edge being that I am always willing to learn and adapt. This really motivates me to excel at what I do.
BR EME: What was the best and worst piece of advice you ever received?
AE: I would say the best piece of advice I was ever given was to sign-up for the Stephen Covey session which I mentioned earlier. It was a truly inspiring course and I recommend anyone to have a read at his best-seller: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”
The worst piece of advice I was ever given was to move to a large IT company which was solid financially and had a great reputation. Doesn’t sound too bad? The issue was that the organisation lacked a true “Sales” culture and was more focused on the technical aspects of the business. As a people person, I did not feel I was in the right environment and didn’t see this company challenging me as an individual.
BR EME: What do you do in your free time?
AE: I always try to make the most of my free time when it’s available and spend as much of it as possible with my family and reading books – which you will have guessed by now, I enjoy very much.
BR EME: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs in your industry?
AE: For any entrepreneur I would give the following advice:
1. Never be afraid to take risks. You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.
2. Empty pockets never held anyone back, only empty heads or empty hearts can do that.
I also advise them to take the time to read biographies of great entrepreneurs from all walks of life, not just business. It is a strong moral boost to read the highs and lows of kindred spirits, and to see that the path to success is often paved by many challenges, fears and the lessons learned from the same.
Keeping to my simple direct approach, one of my favourites is “The One Minute Entrepreneur” by Ken Blanchard, Don Hutson and Ethan Willis. I highly recommend it: light yet so rich.
Like what you see! Signup for our weekly newsletter