Culture At bKash and The Future Of HR and Work in Bangladesh: An Interview With Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf, Chief Human Resources Officer, bKash

Culture At bKash and The Future Of HR and Work in Bangladesh: An Interview With Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf, Chief Human Resources Officer, bKash

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20 to 25 years ago, HR was a relatively obscure discipline, particularly in the context of Bangladesh. Today, not having an HR Department in your organization tells a lot about what kind of organization yours is. Of course, we have a long way to go where organizations will truly realize that investing in their people is the best form of investment they possibly could make, but the progress we have made in the last two decades is in no way insignificant.

“Any great business is about great people,” says Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf. “An organization has a great product, some brilliant processes in place and some brilliant ideas at work. The question is who runs all that? The answer is people,” continues Mr. Ferdous. “It is people who work day and night to keep the organization operational and for that, you are just paying them in the form of salary. Sometimes, mere money should work but most of the time, it does not because humans are complex being. Apart from money, they also seek cognitive challenges, satisfaction, long-term prospect of their work, development opportunities and many more.”

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf is the Chief Of Human Resources Officer at bKash, one of the most important fin-tech companies in the country. Mr. Ferdous has a fascinating story. He was born and brought up in Chittagong.

An only child of his parents, he had a rather comfortable life growing up in the hilly city which he dubbed “I had a rather easy and to some extent, you may call, a hedonistic life” but you know, very few things in life last long enough. After his HSC, he moved to India for higher studies where he finally came to know and understand realities of life. He says, struggles and difficulties he had to endure during his time in India has prepared him for the challenges of his later life and has greatly contributed to who he is today.

In this insightful and intellectually empowering interview, we discussed a wide range of topics ranging from his life in Chittagong and Delhi, his early career at Unilever, how HR works at bKash, how you build a culture and why it is important for an organization, history of HR in Bangladesh, the most sought after skills in the market, albeit which are not skills, his take on the future of work and workplace, what you need to do today to prepare yourself for the future, most important role the HR plays at an organization and why our relentless pursuit of the next big thing in life deprives us of the beauty of life. Happy reading – Ruhul

Future Startup

Please tell us about your background, where did you grow up, and then from there your journey to what you are doing today.

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

I was born in Chittagong and spent my childhood and young adult life in the beautiful hilly city. I completed my schooling at Cantonment Public School and then attended Chittagong Commerce College for HSC. After that, I went to India to study business at Delhi University. In Delhi, HR was not that popular a major and there was not much demand for HR in the market at that time. Accounting, Marketing, and Management were the most in-demand majors. Thus, I chose Marketing.

My life has two parts- one that I spent in Chittagong, the other when I went to India for higher studies, then returned to Bangladesh and up until today. In Chittagong, I had a rather easy and relatively, you may call, a hedonistic life – where I went to school and came back and did not have to worry about any special responsibilities, since I was an only child.

The second phase of my life began when I left Bangladesh for India. It was a diametrically different experience for me. In Chittagong, I was a little pampered by almost everyone around me and rooted, in India, I was a young adult in a foreign land.

After graduation, I returned to Bangladesh and joined Unilever Bangladesh in 2000. I was sent to Dinajpur as the Territory Manager. Before joining Unilever, I spent multiple years in Delhi, a major cosmopolitan city with its distinct culture and from there I came directly to Dinajpur, a small town in the Northern district of Bangladesh. It was a challenging and difficult transition for me. My Delhi experience made me agile and adaptable enough to stay and survive in Dinajpur. This is the use of our struggles; small ones prepare us for even bigger ones.

After working in Dinajpur for two years, I was posted in Dhaka and then in Karachi, Pakistan for 9 months. While I was in Pakistan, I met the HR Head of Unilever Bangladesh when he was on a tour and was lucky enough to grab lunch with him. We kept in touch and he probably noticed something in me that he thought would be a perfect fit for an HR position.

I returned to Bangladesh in 2006 and he asked me to start working in the HR department. I was surprised as I did not know anything about HR. He said that it is not rocket science and that every job has an HR component. For instance, as an Area Sales Manager, I had to manage my salespeople and other stakeholders, which made me an HR person as well. He said that I needed to understand what makes people happy and empower them to perform at their best, which was convincing enough. Out of my 16 years career in Unilever, I was in Sales for 6 years and in HR for 10 years.

I joined in HR as HR Transformation Lead in 2007 then moved to HR Operations Manager looking after Recruitment, Training, Reward & Compensation and HR Information system in 2008 and continued till 2010. After 2010, I became the HR Business Partner where I worked for almost three years. In 2013, I was made the HR Services Head of South Asia region excluding India. I had to supervise a team of over 30 people around South Asia for about 3 years.

During my time at Unilever, I would say that I did not have to look for new opportunities. I was having growth and movement either vertically or horizontally in my career as I had the exposure of almost every role in Human Resource Department.

I was doing quite well at Unilever but during the end of 2015, I realized I was thirsty for greater challenges and new ventures. In the beginning of 2016, I came across an opportunity at bKash which was the right time and right job for me as per my interest and desire. I thought that since bKash operates in a relatively nascent industry where there are so many things to be done and if I could do meaningful work at bKash it could help the entire industry.

I have always wanted to contribute, learn and add value. That’s what excites me. That’s how my journey at bKash started and it’s been one and a half years till now.

I would say, difficult and challenging situations of my life is the making of me. All my struggles have helped me to become the person that I am today.

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Future Startup

You spent a significant part of your childhood and young-adult life in Chittagong, a period of your life, as you said, when you did not have to worry much about almost anything, then you moved to Delhi for higher studies where actually you came to meet reality as it is and experienced the struggle of life. How did both of these, completely opposite, experiences shape your worldview?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

As I mentioned earlier, the two parts of my life, albeit fundamentally different from one another, made me what I am today.

My struggle in India was my first step into the real world. Although it was a challenge, I learned some priceless lessons of life. At first, I spent my six months’ allowance in 20 days. Sending money was cumbersome at that time and transaction used to take a certain amount of time to reach the recipient. I had to survive seven days on my own with whatever small amount of money I had. I ate bananas and bread three times a day for an entire week and finally learned the value of money. I became responsible and proactive by seeking solutions instead of complaining or worrying. It was the most important part of my life as I learned to be self-reliant, which has served me well since.

I would say that Delhi life matured me and pushed me to see things differently. I was more callous and lived lavishly in Chittagong but I had to be more serious about life in Delhi. Moreover, since I was a foreigner there, I had to compete with everyone else to fight for my place. I had to run the extra mile so if my Indian classmates were studying for 12 hours a day; I had to give in 15 hours because I was in a disadvantaged position.

Among the 60 students in my class, only 2 or 3 of us were from overseas. It was the polar opposite of my life in Chittagong. I finally came to know the difficulties and challenges of life and it gave me a reality check.

In Chittagong, I had a lot of support. I used to depend on my parents and relatives for anything and everything. I did not have to solve my problems, they did it for me. They saved me from what is known as the “tough life”.

Part of my job as CHRO is to listen to people and their complaints and challenges without being judgmental. People come to us and share their problems.More often than not, we tend to deal with the symptoms than the causes of the problem. But when I come across a problem, I try to find the root causes, it makes it easier to solve the problem. This is also a trait I learned during my difficult days in Delhi.

As for my career, I started as Territory Manager at the age of 23. I was responsible for the business of 3 northern districts. I just came out of the university and it was a huge responsibility. Moreover, I came from a certain environmental background where I had the exposure to people from a certain background.

When I started working at Unilever, I was put in a completely different situation. As the territory manager, I had to deal with traders, competitors, area managers and a lot of other people. Each of them had a different mindset and capability that call for a different way of dealing with them. Traders, who were our customers, used to make me wait for hours and I had to wait because they were our business partners.

At one point, things got so dismal that I, in fact, thought of giving up. I called my father and shared my despair and he told me something profound that it is easy to quit, that if you want to quit you can and come home but he also told me that if I try hard enough I could do it, that I had the ability in me to succeed and do better.

That conversation with my father helped me to look at things differently and motivated me to start working harder. I started to approach my work differently. I started to engage more closely with people around me and with my area.

After that I did a lot of interesting things in Dinajpur, starting from ‘Fair & Lovely Natto Utshab’ in Dinajpur to facilitating local trade fair. Instead of trying to sell my products all the time, I decided to make my brand a part of the area and actively spent time in engaging in different platforms. As a result, I was one of the quickest promoted people at Unilever from territory manager at that time. I moved to Dhaka in just 2 years.

That experience has always been a source of inspiration to me. It taught me how to push back and find solutions no matter how hard the situation gets.

I would say, difficult and challenging situations of my life is the making of me. All my struggles have helped me to become the person that I am today.

There are very few more useful things that you can do for yourself than a daily reflection session with yourself. You need to be your own judge and scrutinize yourself. For me, I do it regularly. I try to find a quiet place to spend time with myself and evaluate my day and take notes on how I can do better tomorrow.

Future Startup

You have decades of experience in managing people and helping companies to grow, what are some of the biggest lessons from all those years?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

We seldom take time out to reflect on our days and then on life. I think that reflecting on your days and life helps you to center yourself and find ways to improve and live a better life every day which is very important.

Our daily life calls for a regular scrutiny. Only then you will be able to see your shortcomings and then work on improvements. This has been an important lesson for me.

There are very few more useful things that you can do for yourself than a daily reflection session with yourself. You need to be your own judge and scrutinize yourself. For me, I do it regularly. I try to find a quiet place to spend time with myself and evaluate my day and take notes on how I can do better tomorrow.

It is hard to overstate the importance of self-confidence – when you believe in your ability to make a difference, it changes everything. Now it is tricky, how do you become self-confident? I think it requires a certain level of patience and self-compassion so that we appreciate our small wins and treat our failures more gently. And when we respect ourselves and appreciate our own small wins, it spills over and helps us to perform better in our other areas of life.

The history of human development is a history of collaboration. The most important quality that sets us apart from any other species is our ability to work in a team and collaborate with each other in order to produce the result. This is exactly why developing people skill is so much important. You might have a killer idea but if you don’t have a great team, you will go nowhere. That’s another lesson that I have learned and try to be mindful of.

Don’t judge people. It is easy to name things and attribute people with good and bad. But that’s a limiting perspective. When you judge people without knowing them, which is a difficult job, you limit their possibility as well as your possibility to collaborate with them at an effective level. As a leader, I should not judge people. I should give people multiple opportunities so that they can do their best.

Trust people. If you do not trust them, you cannot empower them and they will not be able to utilize their full potential. As a leader, your job is to help them to go from one side to the other. Be a facilitator of their learning and journey.

It is hard to overstate the importance of self-confidence – when you believe in your ability to make a difference, it changes everything. Now it is tricky, how do you become self-confident? I think it requires a certain level of patience and self-compassion so that we appreciate our small wins and treat our failures more gently. And when we respect ourselves and appreciate our own small wins, it spills over and helps us to perform better in our other areas of life.

Future Startup

How do you develop this mindset of not being judgmental? Naturally, we like to judge. We are used to giving names to things and tag people as skilled or unskilled, as good or bad. This itself promotes the idea of being judgmental. It makes our job easy in many ways!

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

I would say that Unilever had a great contribution to how I look at things. Being my first professional experience, I learned a lot from Unilever. The culture of Unilever was very open. It empowers people as a part of its leadership development process. In that case, I was lucky to have such an exposure early in my career that helped me to grow myself.

The most important thing I think is trust. Organizations need to trust their people with different roles and responsibilities. As I said, I joined Unilever when I was 23 and they gave me the responsibility of the business of 3 districts, which was a huge trust on me and that made me responsible. That’s when I learned instead of judging people arbitrarily, if you trust them, they rise up to the challenge.

Don’t judge people. It is easy to name things and attribute people with good and bad. But that’s a limiting perspective. When you judge people without knowing them, which is a difficult job, you limit their possibility as well as your possibility to collaborate with them at an effective level. As a leader, I should not judge people. I should give people multiple opportunities so that they can do their best. Trust people. If you do not trust them, you cannot empower them and they will not be able to utilize their full potential. As a leader, your job is to help them to go from one side to the other. Be a facilitator of their learning and journey.

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf Receiving South Asian Business Excellence Award as Best CHRO | photo by bKash

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf Receiving South Asian Business Excellence Award as Best CHRO | photo by bKash

Future Startup

Please give us an overview of HR at bKash as well as your company culture and HR practices?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

Let me start with giving you an overview of how HR works at bKash. We have 4 departments within the HR division that deals with specific responsibilities.

One is HR Business Partner. This department is comprised of HR business managers. They are the business managers looking after HR. HR business partners work in different departments and ensure that each department gets their HR requirements fulfilled to operate at an optimal level.

For instance, the HR Business Partner for sales sits with the sales team and looks after the sales team and their activities. S/he is a part of the sales team and has the same goal of attaining the target like other sales person. The only difference is that s/he focuses on the HR requirements of the sales team.

While these business partners work with different departments, they also work with HR, he/she tells HR about human resources requirements of sales function such as people the department needs, capabilities and requirements of people, training, and development needs and then design programs accordingly.

An HR Business Partner who works with sales is a complete sales guy, he has to understand sales and sales team, their requirements and everything in-between in order to effectively support sales department with HR requirements.

That is the HR business partner function.

Another division is the Organizational Development Team (OD Team) and Leadership Development Team (LD Team). This OD team collaborates with different campuses and universities with an ambition to attract new talents for us as well as work with universities to help them train people that would meet our human resource requirements.

The LD Team handles and analyzes all the skills requirements in the different functions of the organizations. The HR business partners provide the HR division with the data and requirements and the LD team puts up necessary courses, workshops, mentorship and development programs.

The third division is the HR operation that looks after the recruitment, training, deployment, payment and HR Information System.

Finally, reward and compensation division. They analyze the market for existing compensation packages and design our own packages that match both the market as well as our organizational priorities. They try to offer the right reward to the right people.

All these divisions work together to empower our people so that they can perform better and operate at their optimal level. The HR division drive ‘Togetherness’ in bKash.

At bKash, we have an inclusive culture where everyone has the right to speak up about anything. We respect each other and we respect our cultural traditions. We give responsibilities to our people and we allow them autonomy and authority to carry out their responsibilities.
Integrity is a core value at bKash and we never compromise when it comes to integrity. We have an HR guidelines and we are working hard to build these things into our organizational DNA.

Every organization has some values and principles that work like operating principles for that organization. At bKash, we have a set of values that inform how we operate. All our communications and engagements are done in alignment with that value. Culture, I think, is sort of practical manifestation of these values. When people start practicing their values, it becomes culture.

Future Startup

How do you build a great organizational culture?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

Every organization has some values and principles that work like operating principles for that organization. At bKash, we have a set of values that inform how we operate. All our communications and engagements are done in alignment with that value. Culture, I think, is sort of practical manifestation of these values. When people start practicing their values, it becomes culture.

Broadly speaking, organizational culture is the combination of two things: 1) how people interact internally and externally 2) how the organization as a whole interact internally and externally. Broadly, the manifestation of these two things is what we call culture. Now, these two aspects can be a result of a deliberate process and that deliberation is how you build a culture mindfully.

At bKash, one of our core values is openness and approachability. Anyone can approach anyone. We also encourage giving feedback. In fact, we have a system where our people can complain anonymously and there is a committee to deal with individual complaints. That makes everyone accountable. And as I said, integrity informs how we deal with almost anything.

Future Startup

Why do you think having a strong HR process is important for an organization?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

Companies are run by humans and HR is the department that deals with people. Any great business is about great people. Now having great people is not enough, you have to create an environment that empowers and enables them to perform at their best as well as you have to have programs and systems in place to help your people grow with the demand of time. These are some of the most important things a company needs to ensure in order grow and thrive.

An organization has a great product, some brilliant processes in place and some brilliant ideas at work. The question is who runs all that? The answer is people. It is people who work day and night to keep the organization operational and for that, you are just paying them in the form of salary. At the end of the day, they are giving away their time, efforts and resources to you. Sometimes, mere money should work but most of the time, it does not because humans are complex being. Apart from money, they also seek cognitive challenges, satisfaction, long-term prospect of their work, development opportunities and many more.

On the other hand, if you want to get best out of your people, you have to invest in him/her, develop him and turn his weaknesses into strengths. You have to make them more skillful to contribute more to your organization. When you look at all these things, you realize the importance of having an HR department.

It is ironic not to have a department to deal with the most important resource of your company which is the people. HR department designs processes, strategies, and activities that engage people and equip them to deliver at their best. This is why it is critical to have an HR department.

My goal as a CHRO is to make bKash a place where our people would look forward to work every day. They would come to office with great enthusiasm and enjoy their work and operate at their best. That’s I think what HR aspires to do.

Broadly speaking, organizational culture is the combination of two things: 1) how people interact internally and externally 2) how the organization as a whole interact internally and externally. Broadly, the manifestation of these two things is what we call culture. Now, these two aspects can be a result of a deliberate process and that deliberation is how you build a culture mindfully.

Future Startup

What are the qualities do you look for in a candidate? What are the qualities one needs to develop in order to succeed at bKash?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

We strongly believe that skills can be taught. We are more interested in your personality, mindset, and attitude. We look for the cultural fit, whether someone’s personality match with our culture and values.

We prefer adaptable and agile people. Our industry is relatively new and it is a fast-paced industry, things are changing every day, new challenges emerge every day. The people who are adaptive, maintain a growth mindset, and are able to approach challenges with a positive attitude will do better here. We look for these qualities. The thesis is that if your basic in strong and if you are willing to learn, you can learn almost anything.

Simply, in order to succeed at bKash, you have to be open to new learnings and experiences and you should not barricade your mind.
In the recruitment and selection process, we look for balanced candidates who have both a decent CGPA as well as meaningful ECA works. We look for how much that person has pushed himself to get himself out of the comfort zone.

We believe that balancing the CGPA and ECA means that a person is a good time manager and he can manage things more efficiently in his life. He is a multitasking guy and has the track of time in his days.

We focus mostly on their behavioral patterns, communication style, attitude, and mindset in different situations. We try to understand whether a person is comfortable with trying new things and can handle a difficult situation and maintain a positive attitude.

An organization has a great product, some brilliant processes in place and some brilliant ideas at work. The question is who runs all that? The answer is people. It is people who work day and night to keep the organization operational and for that, you are just paying them in the form of salary. At the end of the day, they are giving away their time, efforts and resources to you. Sometimes, mere money should work but most of the time, it does not because humans are complex being. Apart from money, they also seek cognitive challenges, satisfaction, long-term prospect of their work, development opportunities and many more.

Future Startup

How do you develop an HR strategy that works?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

The first task is identifying the outcome of the process or the strategy. That is your goal and expectation from doing something, I try to set that in the beginning. The rest is just back calculation for that goal post. This makes it a lot easier to design your strategy. Once you know where you want to reach, the rest is quite easy to figure out.

After defining the outcome, I try to analyze what kinds of skills and people I need to achieve that goal. After analyzing that, I try to define the stages or steps of going to that goal post and what is needed in each of the steps to overcome the obstacles.

The only question that needs to be asked in HR processes and strategies, is that whether it is adding value to both the organization and the people. This combination is critical. It has to be good for the people and it has to be good for the organization. If it is only good for the people but does not add any value to the organization, it is a no go and vice versa.

The another most important thing is the focus. Doing too many things at once often leads to a suboptimal result. When designing a strategy, it is better to take a focused approach. We always try to do less but high impact works at bKash.

We strongly believe that skills can be taught. We are more interested in your personality, mindset, and attitude. We look for the cultural fit, whether someone’s personality match with our culture and values. We prefer adaptable and agile people. Our industry is relatively new and it is a fast-paced industry, things are changing every day, new challenges emerge every day. The people who are adaptive, maintain a growth mindset, and are able to approach challenges with a positive attitude will do better here. We look for these qualities. The thesis is that if your basic in strong and if you are willing to learn, you can learn almost anything.

Future Startup

What are the challenges you face as the head of HR?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

There are quite a handful of challenges.

First of all, as CHRO, I’m the business partner of our senior leadership. They are never less knowledgeable than me. They know better and have seen more than what I have seen.

It requires real work to deal with them. I need to be methodical in my approach, that at a personal level at work.

In general, dealing with people is always a challenging job. We, humans, are complicated, right? One of the responsibilities of HR is to understand this complexity of people at the individual level so that we can help our people to thrive as well as at the organization level so that people can collaborate and work as a team to achieve the organizational goal.

Most importantly, we need to buy-in our people to have agreement among us with the new HR processes before presenting it to the superiors. Similarly, you need to buy-in the superiors as well to have a go or no-go with the strategy because, at the end of the day, they will be scrutinizing your efforts.

HR is a high stake job involving a diverse number of stakeholders and high stake complexities. Having said that, challenges are what make our work interesting. So I do enjoy these cognitive challenges.

Future Startup

What are your observations about the overall HR practices and HR industry in Bangladesh?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

Around 20 to 25 years ago, there was nothing called HR department. It was a part of administration or personnel department. HR, the state of HR that we are seeing now, is a development of the past 10 to 12 years. I would say we have made remarkable progress over the past few years.

There is of course room for development but I think we have come a long way.

Today, companies understand the importance of having great HR practices. Thanks to the work many of HR leaders in the country have done over the past years, now corporations are seeing that with right and appropriate HR practices, they can improve the overall performance of the company.

When you have a strong HR department and HR practices, you develop a better culture that helps people to perform better and you also can handle conflict better within the organizations. As a result organization productivity goes high.

In general, dealing with people is always a challenging job. We, humans, are complicated, right? One of the responsibilities of HR is to understand this complexity of people at the individual level so that we can help our people to thrive as well as at the organization level so that people can collaborate and work as a team to achieve the organizational goal.

Future Startup

What are the major challenges for the overall HR industry in Bangladesh?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

HR is a relatively new concept and consequently, we still do not have enough skilled HR people on the market. We do not have the right talent flow. This is the biggest challenge for the industry, the scarcity of skilled HR people.

I am a marketing graduate and now sitting in the HR chair. I had to learn things by doing and practicing while in the future we would want HR people with the basic knowledge of the HR functions. This would not be possible after a few years because the industry is growing and the HR specialists or at least HR majors, will be needed more than ever.

This is an industry-wide challenge and has to be solved by the managers and partners in the companies. Without their support and sponsoring, the HR would not be able to grow to its true potential.

Future Startup

What are the skills you think are most lacking in young professionals and graduates in Bangladesh?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

I have a different opinion on this. I don’t consider skill to be something that is as important as we try to portray it is, of course, I have my explanation for that. For example, swimming is a skill and if you don’t know it and if you are willing to learn and are given the opportunity, you can learn it. No big deal. That is true for almost all the skills, be it soft skills or otherwise.

If I ask you to climb Mt. Everest, you would certainly say no. Then again, people are climbing Everest with practices. The challenge is not skill, it is the mindset. I think we are worrying about the symptoms instead of the cause. If you think that you will never be able to climb mountains, that’s the problem. Not otherwise.

So to me, the challenge is the mindset and attitude and there are a few problems around these. Again this is my personal observation, I think our young people are impatient. They tend to try many things at once.

This impatience nature takes over many other parts of their lives. They tend to pursue a lot of things and want to achieve significant success overnight. When they are studying a subject, they don’t give enough time that is required to understand a particular subject. As a result, the depth of their understanding of a subject is superficial.

A good career is built over a long time. That is true for almost everything in life, be it a job, building a company or mastering a subject.

I would suggest that, it is better to find what you want to do in your career and stay put with that line of work for at least 4 to 5 years. Do not ever think about promotion in those years rather your focus should be only on the learnings, developments, and experience. After 5 years, you go to wherever you want to, and whatever position you want to hold.

So to me, the challenge is the mindset and attitude and there are a few problems around these. Again this is my personal observation, I think our young people are impatient. They tend to try many things at once. This impatience nature takes over many other parts of their lives. They tend to pursue a lot of things and want to achieve significant success overnight. When they are studying a subject, they don’t give enough time that is required to understand a particular subject. As a result, the depth of their understanding of a subject is superficial.

Future Startup

What kind of people you think will thrive in the future workplace?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

Agile and adaptable people would rule the workplace of the future. Our work is becoming increasingly complex and ambiguous, in order to succeed you have to be a relentless learner and open to changes and new things.

The reality that technology is taking over our lives and that it is changing the almost every industry in a very fundamental way. This means you have to be, regardless of your field of work, tech-savvy not only to thrive but also to survive.

Today, we live in a different world. Walls and boundaries are crumbling. The internet has effectively made the geographic boundary irrelevant. This means we will have to compete on a global stage and have to prepare ourselves for it. I would like to say that people with global standard acumen will do much better in the coming years. Do not think about Bangladesh alone, it is and will always be important to understand the local context but at the same time, I think talents will have to compete on a global stage.

On the work culture side, I think things are changing pretty fast. There will be a time when you may not have to come to the office and you may work from anywhere as long as you are doing the work. The delivery of the tasks would be important, rather than who is doing it, how it is being done and also where it is being done.

Future Startup

How do you deal with stress and challenges that come with your work as a CHRO?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

I am a positive person by nature. I try not to take my office works to home. I hardly open my laptop and works when I am at home. My target is to finish my work at the office no matter how late it gets. When I’m at home, I give my full time to my family and my kids. That is in itself a stress reliever for me.

The second trick is the prioritization. Try to prioritize the works that you have for today. I want to finish my priority list on a daily basis. I try not to leave work for tomorrow. Finishing your day is a huge advantage.

When you finish your today perfectly, your tomorrow will be a lot easier because then you don’t have to deal with the backlog.

Finally, a lot of our anxiety and stress comes from discontentment which I actively resist. I try to savor the moment and be grateful for where I’m today. Sometimes, I think that having peace with life is everything that people spend their life for. Throughout our lives we seek this contentment, sometimes without knowing and often we miss this because we tend to constantly look for something else than what we already have.

I actively try to maintain my sanity and preserve my inner peace, both don’t require much. If you live a life of desire, your anxiety will never end. But when you practice contentment, there is enough to be grateful for in every one of our life.

Today, we live in a different world. Walls and boundaries are crumbling. The internet has effectively made the geographic boundary irrelevant. This means we will have to compete on a global stage and have to prepare ourselves for it. I would like to say that people with global standard acumen will do much better in the coming years. Do not think about Bangladesh alone, it is and will always be important to understand the local context but at the same time, I think talents will have to compete on a global stage.

Future Startup

What is your management philosophy?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

As I already mentioned, I trust people and empower them. I communicate the fact that I trust them and have the full confidence in their abilities to make things happen with my people. When you trust people, it naturally brings out best in them. They give selflessly. This understanding informs my management style.

I am known as a tough boss to work with. But I’m not tough for the sake of toughness. I want my people to grow, excel and do better and I try to create an environment where excellence becomes the norm. I always tell them that this is not the destination, it is just a checkpoint to pass.

As I said, I sufficiently empower my people and allow them to make mistakes and learn. I’m not a micromanager and don’t interfere with their day to day work.

A lot of our anxiety and stress comes from discontentment which I actively resist. I try to savor the moment and be grateful for where I’m today. Sometimes, I think that having peace with life is everything that people spend their life for. Throughout our lives we seek this contentment, sometimes without knowing and often we miss this because we tend to constantly look for something else than what we already have. I actively try to maintain my sanity and preserve my inner peace, both don’t require much. If you live a life of desire, your anxiety will never end. But when you practice contentment, there is enough to be grateful for in every one of our life.

Future Startup

You have come a long way in life, what has contributed to your journey the most?

Mohammed Ferdous Yusuf

Going to Delhi for higher studies was a turning point for me, mostly because I experienced and had to deal with the realities of life. I had to struggle, suffer through hardships and difficult situations. I was challenged. These things prepare us for the greater challenges and opportunities of life. I would say my Delhi experience prepared me for the battle that the life is.

After my studies, when I returned to Bangladesh, I directly joined Unilever Bangladesh, that was again a formative experience for me. Since I was given a huge responsibility at a very young age and was sent to a remote part of the country, I had to struggle and find a way for me. When it comes to experience, I would say these two experiences was the making of me.

Then, our life is as good as people around us. They say you are average of five people you spend the most time with. I have been lucky throughout my life for having the opportunity to work with really brilliant people, many of them – superiors, teammates, juniors – pushed me to move forward, gave a hand when I was struggling and helped me to succeed. So, it is about the people I had the opportunity and still have the opportunity to share my life with at home and work.

On a personal level, I’m a relentless learner. I seek out opportunities where I see there is an opportunity for me to learn. This attitude has served me well not only to get ahead in life but also to do meaningful work. A work is only worth doing when it is complex and offers yo cognitive satisfaction.

Finally, I trust people which allows me to collaborate meaningfully with people. As you know, life is all about collaboration.

Then, our life is as good as people around us. They say you are average of five people you spend the most time with. I have been lucky throughout my life for having the opportunity to work with really brilliant people, many of them – superiors, teammates, juniors – pushed me to move forward, gave a hand when I was struggling and helped me to succeed. So, it is about the people I had the opportunity and still have the opportunity to share my life with at home and work.

(Interview and edited by Ruhul Kader, Transcription by Md. Tashnim)

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