The Talk: Khalil Ullah Sheikh’s Secrets of Success with Hasnain Badami

Mar 4, 2019 by Mohsin Raza

Khalil Ullah

This interview was originally published on TSB education page- 2018

Here’s the full transcript of the interview.

Hello and Welcome. My name is Hasnain Badami and You are watching success stories with Hasnain Badami. With me is the person for whom I have an enormous amount of respect. Let’s welcome Sir Khaleel Ullah Sheikh

He is a person who has enormous experience in the corporate world. He is a person who has worked with several national and multinational firm while also mentoring thousands of students towards the path of success. He has also worked in positions of finance and director of treasury. Currently, Sir Khaleel Ullah Sheikh is appointed as the head of the supply chain for the K-Electric. Not just the corporate world, he is one of the popular figures in the accounting profession due to the association with ICAP. He is also the ex-vice President of ICAP. He is a strong candidate for the president as well in the upcoming years. As well as he is one of the educationists. His passion for education has led him to do great work in the field of the accounting profession, accounting education. He is the founding member of KnS Institute as well as a founding member of inter-school as well that is actually teaching more than two thousand students a year.

Enough said I think. Let’s meet Khalil Ullah Sheikh

1.Hasnain Badami: How are you, Sir?

Khaleel Ullah: Alhamdulillah, I am very good Hasnain. Thank you for a very generous introduction.

2.Hasnain Badami: You deserve it. Sir, there is one thing that everyone would like to ask you. You have a lot of different associations, you know, as a chartered accountant, being an educationist as well as in the corporate world. So how would Khalil Ullah Sheik define himself? Usually, people get confused about how can a person be in so many places at the same time and achieve so much success?

Khaleel Ullah: I think this is a quite challenging question to start with. If I were to define myself I would say that I am basically a chartered accountant and proud of my profession, Alhamdulillah. along with it, I’m a person who is also an educationalist deep down in his heart. I’m a person who has a derive for human development and a derive for professional excellence. That’s is how I would define myself.

3. Hasnain Badami: Sir a lot of people don’t know this, that you have 6 gold medals in your CA examinations. Normally when people hear such academic profiles they would assume that the person is bookish who studies all day along. It is also seen that those studious do not achieve a higher position in professional life as they are always into the books. I want to know, what is your recipe for success? How did you manage all this and achieve so much?

Khaleel Ullah: Firstly, I would say that it’s a great blessing from God. But one thing is that I’ve achieved my success because of my teachers and my mentors who taught me situational leadership. Probably, I was lucky to realize this earlier in my education career that every exam and every situation has its own dynamics and one has to mold, adapt and act accordingly. For example, if its a B.Com examination you have to study accordingly. One of my teachers told me if you study and attempt a examination in a way you are attempting your CA examination that would be a recipe for failure. That examination requires a different way of approaching the question and writing answers. Same is the case with different facets of life that we deal with.

Coming to the question about these Gold Medals, one thing I always say even when counseling my students is that yes Hard work is an indispensable ingredient of success but together with it smart work is a necessity. This smart work actually links with the earlier idea of understanding what is required from you and adapting yourself accordingly is important. People realize this after harsh phase or after a few attempts but I was lucky to realize this in the initial phases.

4. Hasnain Badami: Normally it is seen that studious students are not able to cope up with the corporate world but what was your experience which differentiates you from the other people? What helped you to lead a lot of different teams and get you into the leadership position?

Khaleel Ullah Sheikh: The first and foremost aspect of these leadership positions is the training we get. The practical training gives you a lot of exposure, especially when done in the right way. These pieces of training help you to prepare for the subsequent future and professional. What I see missing from a lot of young professionals is the ability to get out of the comfort zone. When you overcome your fears or come out of your comfort zone then the world unfolds itself in front of you. For example, you’d hardly find a chartered accountant who is willing to move into the business functions. They fear that Finance is my expertise how would I do operations.

But one thing they need to realize is that a finance professional can do wonders in the business profession as their ability to put the numbers across processes puts them in a very advantageous position.

Similarly, I started my career by breaking my fears. I went for Treasury field which people do not usually prefer then I moved into Business Finance and that actually helped me and prepared me for operation roles.

5. Hasnain Badami: When I used to work in Engro, our Marketing head used to be a Chartered Accountant. I know a supply chain head used to be a chartered accountant. Our HR head used to be a chemical engineer and our CEO used to be an engineer. So that culture is now coming into an organization where people are moving into different fields. Definitely, you pointed out correctly that people need to come out of their comfort zones. Having a linear mindset has a devastating effect on careers.

Yes. I usually say to our young people that once you have done Chartered Accountancy it means you have been tested for having the highest levels of skills set. As now Finance is a part of our DNA. that accounting and reporting is your strength but now the point is you have to develop business skills such as business management skills and leverage your financial background to do wonders in the business world.

6. Did you have any second thought when you accepted the position as a supply chain head? And what made you think you can also work in this area? Why is it important for people to move into a different field? Why not stick with the one thing that you are good with?

Khaleel Ullah Sheikh: When I first joined K- Electric, I established a Business Finance Function. So I had four different units reporting to me for generation, transmission, project, and distribution and I used to work closely with the business unit heads. That was the time when K-electric was going through complete business management. Alhamdulillah, in a few years we transformed ourselves from loss-making entity to a customer-centric and profit-making organization and still, it’s a long way to go. Furthermore, I also managed several financial projects so that’s where I identified more as somebody who can add value to business rather than somebody who is just reporting values as a Finance Manager. Because of this realization, I discovered that we accountants have amazing analytical abilities, which can be utilized in multiple fields. These analytical skills are not utilized completely by the people which results in their stagnation.

7. With the passage of time and with all the technological equipment coming in, You know, A.I technology or the robotics are in trend our mistrust and fear is also increasing. We are concerned with such changes and how a profession will look like in the coming 10-15 years. Disruption used to be a negative term but now it is seen in positive lights. Similarly, accounting is one of those professions is subjected to change in upcoming years. Take the example of the World Economic Forum. My question is that there are young people are coming into this field or are already part of this profession what advice would you give to them? How can they mold their careers so that they can become relevant to the industry as well for the organizations?

Khalil Ullah Sheikh: I think it’s a very important question. A very very pertinent question. A lot of people discuss and are concern about this matter. I will break this question into two parts. The first part is how do we deal with a situation like this as a human being. How do we handle this uncertainty and reconcile with it? Change has been a constant part of our lives. Things were changing before as well but now the pace of change is mind-boggling. Disruptive changes used to take years but now the rate of such disruption is that they come in a few months now. I believe we need to prepare ourselves to be able to reconcile with the uncertainty. Now on the other hand, whenever a new technology comes in it makes certain qualities redundant but it also brings a skill set.

When you look at history, you do not see much changes. For example, when the Wheel and Industrial revolution started people made protests that the machines will take over the world and the human race will be extinguished. Still, now, it’s the same with the A.I. But we saw in history what benefits it brings with it, the employment rate increased, average life expectancy increase.
I believe that A.I is not going to replace but only compliment Human intelligence and human skills.

Now coming to your specific question about the Finance Profession, I will share an insight. I have been representing Pakistan at IFET PIB committee of Professional Accountants and Business committee where we have discussions for last 2 and a half years. In this committee, we have a subgroup where we study the future the Finance profession and what is it going to look like in upcoming years. We came to know about the different skill sets that are going to be redundant in the future and will be introduced as well. The particular insight is that the future is all about skills rather than qualification. There is no doubt that qualification provides you basic foundation but in order to excel in the career, you need to continuously learn new skill sets and unlearn the previous. I am telling you the insights of global study we were involved in for two years.

All those processes which are routinely based will be replaced by cognitive computing and AI. for example, the tasks relating to accounting and FRS will be considered insignificant.

Then what would be considered important in the upcoming year?

There is a whole major are coming up such as Big Data Analysis, Cyber Security, Cyber Management and IT related fields. New opportunities will be open in Data Sciences. As well Accounting fields will be impactful especially when the learners are trained in Computer Sciences as they can become Data Scientists. In addition, accounting students can be in an advantageous position because of their analytical skills and capability of understanding the Business data.

8. HB: Exactly! I agree with you. In earlier times people used to study till they get 24-25 years old and then they would join a particular firm and choose a specific field and would stick to it for the rest of their lives. But now you have to adapt and learn your whole life. People have to ceaselessly work on their professional development if they want to have successful careers.

So we talked about your experience in the corporate world and your impact on technology. Let’s talk about a little bit about your passion for teaching. You have been teaching since the last couple of years. I think more than a decade now and you have taught more than 4-5 thousand students. My question is why do you associate yourself with teaching when you have already other works?

Khalil Ullah Sheikh: When I was doing my Intermediate I came across a couple of Inspirational teachers. I used to admire their passion for teaching and they became my source of inspiration. They were the professional who didn’t choose to teach out of some financial teaching. They choose to teach by their own choice. Inspirational teachers can have a huge impact on the lives of students. They not only help students to pass the examinations but also shape their world view. In early 2005, when I completed my CA, I had some time so I taught to myself why not teaching. I started my teaching career with Financial Management and at that time very few people used to teach that subject. I knew to be a good student is something whereas being a good teacher requires completely different skills set and temperament, so I started exploring myself. On top of it, Financial Management used to be a popular subject because of the passing rates. It was definitely not easy to clear it. But I managed to teach 50 students in my first badge. After the papers, few students came up to me and thanked me from the bottom of their hearts and told me that they have cleared their papers which they were not able to for the last 4-5 years.

At that particular moment, I had a genuine moment of self-actualization and felt that I have played an important role in others’ lives. I was able to contribute to life. On that day, I promised myself no matter what happens I will not disconnect myself from teaching. Now Alhamdulillah, it’s been a very rewarding experience.

9. The whole fabric of the educational institute is changing due to profit-making teachers and Institute. We now rarely see passionate and inspirational teachers who would go out of the way just to help the students out. What point of view due to hold on this sort of commercialization of the education sector as well as do you think that perception of seeing students as client and customers will affect the teaching philosophy?

Khalil Ulah Sheikh: First of all Hasnain, in every field, you will observe good and bad people. As awareness increases, we do have young, passionate, young, energetic teachers coming into this profession. People like you, Murtaza, Sajid who have left their rewarding corporate careers and joined teaching on a full-time basis. They are doing a fantastic job in terms of helping students and develop their careers. In terms of money, this profession has become a gratifying occupation which it didn’t use to be and I believe there is nothing bad about it. However, I argue that money shouldn’t be the primary motivation. I think the overall benefit of the students should be the supreme goal.

You see, one of the reasons I started to teach at Kns is that Sajid and I had an agreement that no student will leave this institute just because he/she cannot afford the fees. We made it our principle and trust me I have seen that money comes along if the student development and success is the primary goal.

10. HB: How did the idea of intel school come up? How did you manage all that infrastructure of the entire campus with 2000 students enrolled and studying there?

When I was doing my CA, I got acquainted with Maulana Abdul Sattar Sahab of Bait ul Salam mosque in DHA, phase 4. Masha Allah, he does a great job of mentoring and guiding young people as well the whole community. So one day we were having a discussion in which the topic of education came up. During the conversation, an idea came up that education shouldn’t just be focused on contemporary education but also on the value system. Religion is the best platform that creates a value system. We agreed that due to the rise of commercialization there is a gradual erosion of value system and this was the point in our discussion that led us to this idea of having a value based Islamic school and we called it a value based school.

We made our slogan that ‘’quality education will be our commitment value system will be our distinction’’. So with Imam sahab’s goodwill and prayers, he and I had envisioned this. We established a Cambridge based school but made it non-profit. We laid the foundations that it should be financially viable to sustain its expenses but it should not be a commercial institute. So we focused on the value system as much as contemporary modern education.

On 27 August 2007, we inaugurated the school with 60 students in total. I still remember doing multiple jobs at the same time such as handling the Finance, HR and leadership and Alhumdilah it proved to be worth it. We granted that with the passage of time, we will gradually add the classes as our own students will progress. Now alhamdulillah two badges of A-levels have passed from schools and they have done really well in exams.

We started with a small campus but alhamdulillah we have become the state of the art. It is our pride that hardly anyone in Karachi has that kind of infrastructure. There is a famous quote begin your journey a caravan would itself be created. I am thankful to Allah that a lot of people joined our vision as they were impressed with our ingenuity and the idea of the nonprofitable institute. Now I don’t even call it an institute, I believe it’s a mission-oriented movement which is working on the development of the students.

Although I believe we have a long way for us to go and the idea was to establish it as a unit once it’s established then replicate it across the country. So I believe in a couple of years we will start stimulating the concept across the country with the help of our partners and supporters.

11. HB: how do you see the role of technology into education as O/A levels or B.e.d. Also, does technology replace or complement teaching?

I think technology is affecting teaching just the way it is affecting all the professions. My advice to all the teachers out there that don’t take it as a competitor. Rather take it as an aid which compliments you and your teaching style. We need to come out of this Dilemma and embrace the change.
I always take this as an opportunity, as a facilitator which will help me in better delivery of my lectures. We have to build the habit of adaptability so that you can prepare yourself and your class for the times to come. In addition, in a few years, accessibility and flexibility to students and students access to the teachers is only meant to increase.

Although I believe that physical teaching concerns will not be completely addressed. Nevertheless, technology will complement the student-centered classrooms. Since, every student has a different time zone, different biological clock so this Ed-tech institutes will give flexibility to students learning at their own times and at their own pace.

I believe, What is important is that take it as an opportunity rather than taking it as a threat.

12.HB: Yes, I think this change is inevitable. I remember the founder of edX who started the professional courses platform. He used to teach students every semester but when he launched his online course for the first time students from all over the world enrolled themselves in his course. After that, he was compelled to say if he had taught for 2500 years he would still not be able to teach that many students which he had in his first online course. People are perceiving this as a second revolution in education industry after the printing press

Right, Hasnain! For countries like us, I believe that this is going to be a great blessing because we lack infrastructure. We can overcome lacking infrastructure of the embodiment. You see, we can target and reach out to remote areas where there is a shortage of grand infrastructures for schools. In this case, technology can give you lots of leverage if you properly use it. It’s definitely a blessing for countries like us.

13. HB: Absolutely! According to researchers, this is the era of screenagers. Now the generation is born with a screen in their hands. Henceforth, people need to adapt according to the present times and do away with the traditional black and whiteboard method as they need some more engaging things. If you see, we have a shortage of skilled and professional teachers. If people from remote and distant areas like Thana bola, Azad Kashmir or Gujranwala get the access to good educational resources from Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad then why not they will study. So I do think the future is technology along with human resources.

Now, Sir, we have discussed a lot about education but now let’s talk about certain other things, i.e. you are into education along with ICAP as we know you as a professional from KNS, and from Inter-School as well as K-Electric. My question is, how do you manage all these responsibilities at a time? You know Foreign Affairs is being managed by you amicably, but what about Interior Ministry Affairs, have you been able to manage this also?

I consider, it is not done as a hobby since every job performed and time spent externally while executing our professional responsibilities requires family support and that is indispensable in my case. I would fairly say a lot of credit goes to my wife and children in supporting me throughout my career. Personally, I don’t believe in work-life balance rather I believe in work-life integration. We are in a world where a person needs to integrate and prioritize things belonging to the family and work and a lot of time is required to concentrate on them. Many times, you have to prefer your personal life commitments and also there are times where professional responsibilities are much more important so it all depends upon you how you prioritize and create balance among the two aspects. Whenever I am free, usually I spend quality time with my kids and occasionally I use to go with them for a long drive or excursion trips. Alhamdulillah, I have three kids, two sons and the youngest is a daughter. In today’s time, normally people use to watch TV or they prefer to use social media, which, in my view is a waste of time. Spending quality time means to mingle with your family and let them feel the delight of real enjoyment. Here, I would realize that to attain the level where I am today was not possible without my family’s contribution, understanding, and sacrifices. Their compassionate efforts helped me reach up to this stage of life. The keen feelings of my entire family always made me strong to tackle matters more wisely. For example, if you receive SOS call from home when you are in the office and you are unable to leave the office at that moment, it is your family who compromises and deals with that situation. Similarly at 9.00 pm when you are relaxing at home, you receive a call from your CEO or from any Senior assigning you a task, you just have to leave everything and open the laptop and ensure proper execution of that job. In this way, you are prioritizing your work. It is all your ability to prioritize and integrate work in your life. Nowadays, everybody prioritizes his duration of hours by stating, this much hours are for my office and the rest of the hours are for home. I simply don’t believe in this phenomenon. You cannot control matters by sitting far away by using social media applications or mobile phones/emails as people have now starting misusing this facility and as a result, wasting their time. A person needs to learn to live with whatever circumstances are rather than taking stress count hours in the office and then goes home try to integrate both the places. This approach has actually worked for me and I believe this is the future approach as well.

14. So what does Khalil Ullah do in leisure time? Reading some good stuff? What kind of stuff do you love to read?

I really don’t have much time to read but I am very much fond of history and whenever I find some extra time, I stay connected with the books. I use to read poetry while traveling because more time is available to go through this kind of books therefore, I always keep 3-4 good poetry books during air travel. I feel that is a very good use of time to enjoy reading when you are disconnected with everything. I use to walk one or two days during the week and spend some time with family and friends. There are always close circle friends and it is essential to keep intact with them and speak out your heart.

15. Do you make new friends or enjoy with your old friends?

During traveling, chances always come to make new friends but to stay connected with old friends has always been a change and I try to manage it.

One lesson I would like to draw from this conversation that connecting with people has great importance but along with that disconnection also plays a vital role because when you switch from one channel to another you learn how to prioritize and make the work and domestic life balanced and integrated.

Hasnain, it can be related easily to the teachers’ job when you go to a class you leave your cell phones behind since you have to be present there with the presence of mind. It is required if you want to create an impact and justify your teaching profession by both mental and physical presence. You need to unplug yourself from all other irrelevant matters and I believe this profession itself a good teacher for you.

HB: Yes, now WhatsApp groups are created which were not made earlier. Every Class has its WhatsApp Group and you have to respond when you are having a cup of tea with your family and you know it becomes a challenge to respond those because sometimes teachers could not find enough space to manage them.

Yes! In that matter you make different small times zones hence you do not need to carry your cell phone every time. You have to make your response time after one hour or so rather than continuously responding to every single beep.

HB: You are right! It is very important. Self-control is better than being the hostage of your environment. So I appreciate your presence Khalilullah Sahib and extremely grateful for sparing your precious time and honor us by coming to our show for this very useful session of open conversation.

A person is always desirous to do something by replicating a role model and therefore, the importance of the role models never diminishes from our lives. That’s the reason we wish to bring some more role models as a source of inspiration and let our audience learn what they wish to know from their mentors. With this note of good gesture for every one of you, please take care of yourself and the people around you, we are signing off and Insha Allah will meet you with another episode of stories. Till then, ALLAH HAFIZ.

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