Interview – Nabeel Yousuf
Feryal: When did you join PharmEvo?
NY: It’s been 15 years since I’ve worked at PharmEvo. I had previously worked at Hilton Pharma for 8 years. I also worked for 4 years at Dawood Group. I have 27 years of experience in the corporate sector since 1996. I had also worked in the non-corporate sector. I was working from my school age. So, I am 46 years old, but my work experience is 30 years.
Feryal: What was your qualification back then, and why did you choose that?
NY: I did a master’s in finance, and I am partially qualified from ICMA. I think I chose finance because it relates to my interests. Secondly, I think finance is a very demanding field and is required in every chain of the supply chain, whether it’s manufacturing, retailing, trading, and many more. By the time I realised that the IT sector is more challenging, you have to keep yourself updated with the new trends, so I think that I have selected the right field according to my interest and attitude.
Feryal: How did you join PharmEvo after Hilton Pharma?
NY: The story is that here at PharmEvo, there is a colleague, Abdus Samad, who was working at Shield Group; previously, he was working with me at Dawood Group. He told me that there is a vacancy at PharmEvo. So in this way, I applied at PharmEvo.
Feryal: How was your journey at PharmEvo?
NY: My journey at PharmEvo was outstanding in these 15 years. My life was transformed in these 15 years. I was not appointed to any senior position at PharmEvo; I was appointed as a senior accounts officer, which is the second-lowest position in the department. I learned a lot from Ebhrahim Qassim, Haroon Qassim, Jamshed Saab, IP, and NR. They all played a big role in my personal and professional grooming. Things are very challenging here, but I do my work with enjoyment. I think if your work is not challenging, it will not motivate a person.
Feryal: How have you evolved as a person and a professional?
NY: If I talk about leadership, product management, business management, and how to manage all these on a broad scale, all these things I learned when I got promoted to senior positions. So I think finance plays a big role in any domain, and all this happened when competition increased globally. Before 2000, the perception was that ‘people come before numbers, and now they say ‘people come beyond numbers.’
Now the role of finance is not only restricted to numbers but finance played a great role in developing business strategy, and company growth and I think every finance person must learn how to develop business strategy, how to tackle with the regulatory environment. So I learned all these things working in senior positions at broader terms.
There are always two options available to an individual when they are in learning phase, first one is expert opinion and second one is do it yourself and when an individual try to learn new things on their ownself they they groom professionally. In this way, my soft and hard skills were groomed as well.
Feryal: To whom did you get the chance to get direct mentoring?
NY: I must say that Ebrahim Qassim and Haroon Qassim, both treated me like a family member. They supported me and provided guidance to me, and I learned many things directly and indirectly from both of them. I would like to mention here the names of Jamshed Sahab, Nadeem Rehmat, and IP, who have always been there to give me guidance.
My approach to life is that I pick good actions or skills from my mentors, who have diverse sets of skills and are good listeners, hard workers, and communicators.
Feryal: You started as a senior accounts officer. What was the journey after that?
NY: The journey was so exciting and eventful. There were three assistant managers, and Imran Panawala was general manager of the finance department at that time. It was Allah’s miracle that two assistant managers resigned. Samad Saab was transferred to Shield, and Imran Panawala was transferred to Premier Group. So, in the duration of three years, I got promoted to general manager from senior officer, and this was the fastest promotion in the department from the second-lowest position, i.e., senior officer, to head of the department. I was a little confused when I got promoted about whether I would perform up to the mark or not, but I had experience in the field, which is why I got the promotion.
I believe that to get the highest position is not a big deal in my opinion. To sustain the position, perform according to the set standards, and improve the performance of the department is the main thing that matters a lot. So, the journey after the promotion was challenging for me.
Feryal: As a manager, what challenges did you face in terms of leading, building, and transforming the team?
NY: For the duration of three years, the finance department team was a mixture of diverse age group individuals, and among all of them, I was the most experienced person. After me, Naeem Iqbal and Adeel joined the team. So, Alhumdulilah, I never faced any challenges in building the team and transforming the team because all team members were so supportive and hard workers that they transformed according to the standards I set for the department. There was no politics in the company or in the team. I also believe that if negativity comes around, one should always replace it with positivity. One should never counter negativity, and that is my approach.
Feryal: Can I assume that the turnover rate in the finance department is very low? Also, how do you retain talent when there is tough competition in other companies?
NY: Alhumdulilah, the turnover rate is the lowest in the finance department. People here have worked here for so many years. The most important tactic of a leader is to always hire the best candidates from the industry, provide them with a great work environment, and retain them.
As far as hiring good resources, I believe that new hires must be given a great working environment where they feel at home and do not feel any undue pressure coming to work, and leaders should put themselves in their subordinates shoes and learn what challenges they will face. Leaders should not blame their team members; rather, they should listen to their challenges and try to solve them. So we as a team always try to listen to our subordinates queries, and we always try to teach that one should never keep any mistake to themselves and not share it with the team because when you don’t share the mistakes, they will become crises.
Feryal: How was your journey from general manager to director of the department?
NY: It all occurred between 2011 and 2016, and I joined PharmEvo in 2008 and became general manager in 2016.
Feryal: What drives you at work?
NY: I think the work environment at PharmEvo is exceptional. The trust that top management has in all employees gives them the motivation to work in a more relaxed and focused manner. We all feel very comfortable working at PharmEvo, and whatever decision we take, our management stands with us and gives us the freedom to take decisions. They have built a high level of trust and given us authority.
Feryal: What are your traits which made you think that you are an exceptional Evodian?
NY: I think two things matter a lot. The first is that an individual must possess a high level of integrity and work ethic. These two things make a person grow.
Feryal: All this while, how did you keep work-life balance when all this was happening, if there was any?
NY: I am still working on this area of my life to create a balance between work and life. In my opinion, there are four stages in life: personal, professional, social, and family life. And I think my personal life got affected more in maintaining my work-life balance. I would like to appreciate my wife as well; she supports me a lot. She understands a lot of things, which gives me more support.
Also, I would like to mention one more important quality of my wife: that she is hafiz, and she is training our two sons well along with their studies.
Feryal: What challenges did you face during Covid -19?
NY: The challenges started in 2018; all of them were external challenges like taxation, inflation, economic crises, and the cost of doing business. The future visibility got so blurred that we are now in a difficult phase to think about what we should do in the future. Long-term prediction is very difficult to predict at this time. And in all this situation, there is a huge responsibility on the finance department to set budgets properly and maintain the cost of doing business.
Feryal: What is one of the biggest achievements of the finance department?
NY: The biggest achievement was that when PharmEvo achieved 10 billion landmark. The strategy to achieve 10 billion was developed by the finance department. This achievement could never be done with the efforts of marketing teams. We celebrated this great landmark at PharmEvo.
Another big achievement of the finance department was that in 2018, we introduced SAP and got an overwhelming response from our industry colleagues that it was a big achievement. All work was done smoothly, and we did not face any obstacles after SAP implementation. The IT department helped us through this initiative.
Feryal: What’s your motto at work?
NY: Work Hard in Silence; Let Your Success Be Your Noise. In my opinion, never tell your goals to anyone until you achieve them. And always try to split long-term goals into short-term goals.
Feryal: What are the characteristics you feel the Evodians must have?
NY: Evodians must possess a high level of integrity, and they should possess a strong set of values. And one should always be a giver and help others.
Feryal: Name two leaders you take inspiration from.
NY: Ebrahim Qassim and Haroon Qassim, both helped me a lot with personal and professional growth. I think one should never restrict his or her abilities. I have learned many new things from my junior and senior colleagues.
Feryal: What is your happiest moment at PharmEvo?
NY: The happiest moment was when I got promoted to Director of Finance and Haroon Qassim announced this big news in front of Evodians who were all gathered in Islamabad for an event.
Feryal: What is that one skill you wish you got better at?
NY: I am too hasty. When I start working on any task in my personal or professional life, I always try to finish it earlier.
Feryal: Which workplace behavior, in your opinion, is an absolute no-no?
NY: I think respect is the key element that must be part of company values, and without respect, employees will not be motivated to work. There is also a work ethic that is necessary for a win-win situation, and employees should not feel disrupted. If there is any undue pressure, politics, and zero business values, then such organisations will never get success, and employees will feel unmotivated and discouraged. And alhumdulilah, I must say that PharmEvo has strong business values and corporate values where employees always feel motivated to work on high.
Feryal: Who is your favorite colleague?
NY: There are many, but by the grace of Allah, I have such humble, kind, and good people on my team with whom I enjoy working.
Feryal: Do you have a hobby?
NY: I used to read books a lot, but as I got promoted to senior positions, I now focus on my technical skills. I have an interest in politics and current updates on country situations, and I daily watch the news or read the newspaper to keep myself updated. I also walk daily to keep my health in good shape.
Feryal: What is your passion?
NY: I never had any idea in my mind that I would get big positions in my life. I have always focused on one thing: doing my work with the best dedication, improving it constantly, and pursuing it. Do not try to run for positions and titles; instead, focus on hard work and dedication, and you will find success. Because when a person runs for positions and titles, he or she gets unfairly involved in politics, which affects their work. And by the grace of Allah, I always choose to work in the best possible way and never run to catch positions and titles.
I think when people get so many blessings in life, they start forgetting the importance of things, so it’s better to always update your life and feel happy. Always try to achieve big things in life by choosing the right direction, but never hurt anyone.
Feryal: In the future, if you leave PharmEvo, what do you think? How will your subordinates remember you?
NY: In 2016, there was an anonymous survey conducted at PharmEvo called the 360-degree survey, in which all the top management, including directors, were included. The survey was about leadership and other management skills. Haroon Qassim, Jamshed Ahmed, and other top management people were included in this survey, and I won the first position. This happened in the same year that I got promoted to head of the department.
I have heard that people talk more about my soft skills, and I believe that my teammates will talk about both soft and hard skills when I am not there with them.