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Name: Sahar Rahman
Title: Directory, Strategy
Sahar is a business transformation leader with over 15 years experience in corporate finance, retail, healthcare innovation, strategy execution and business transformation in high-growth complex environments. She has been recognized for transforming operating models and creating value with a laser focus on the customer.
Working for the some of the most influential brands in Canada including, PC Optimum and Walmart, Sahar has worked across Canadian and Global F500 companies leading digital transformation efforts, building teams and scaling for growth - further driving B2B and B2C commercial opportunities.
More recently, she has worked extensively in retail and healthcare from a Patient, Provider and currently Payor perspective in the continuum of healthcare delivery, with a focus on operating models, monetizing products and services, strategy development & execution.
Expertise in : Retail Grocery & Pharmacy, Health Services, Digital Transformation, Omni channel strategy and Payor networks.
Sahar's work doesn't stop there. She leads with passion, integrity and with a commitment to drive Diversity & Inclusion in everything she does. She is a humanitarian at heart and serves on a few non-profit boards in Canada, with a focus on mental health, poverty and hunger, and economic empowerment for immigrants and newcomers. Lastly, Sahar is a loving mom to her daughter and wife to her amazing partner in crime, who has always been supportive of her career and aspirations.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
As a leader, you have the privilege of empowering your team and influencing them to bring out their best. Empathy is one of my strong qualities, as revealed in a 360 leadership survey. However, with empathy comes emotional energy, and as a leader, there are times when tough decisions need to be made, especially when it comes to people. Balancing empathy and the courage to make difficult decisions for the benefit of your team and company can be one of the most challenging aspects of leadership.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Persistence is a crucial trait for success. Throughout my career, I have actively sought out opportunities, even in times of crisis or chaos, and leveraged them to create new prospects for myself. Building strong relationships has also been a key factor in my success. I have not shied away from taking on stretch projects or assignments that pushed me outside my comfort zone and helped me develop my leadership skills.
When I decided to leave Shoppers Drug Mart to join its parent company, Loblaw, I was warned about the challenges of navigating a large organization with a different culture. However, I saw it as an opportunity to broaden my horizons and take on new leadership roles. I actually went back to Shoppers in a senior leadership role managed a large scale digital transformation project in pharmacy. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made for my career, that led to even bigger opportunities.
Having a sponsor can also be incredibly valuable in navigating career challenges, especially for women of color who may face unconscious bias. I highly recommend finding a sponsor to help guide you through your career journey and build credibility. It is also important to educate your peers about the benefits of sponsorship and its importance in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
As a leader, it's important to have a well-organized routine. I personally structure my days with an early morning routine that includes catching up on the news, reading articles, and reviewing my schedule before checking emails or attending meetings. Additionally, I block out time in my calendar for breaks and "deep think" sessions, so that I can focus on meaningful work. Effective time management is essential. In the evenings, if I'm not going to the gym, I prioritize getting home to have dinner with my family and spend quality time with them.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
I've learned that some leaders still have unconscious bias when leading teams. As a leader, I take unconscious bias seriously and believe it can be eliminated through education, conversations, and training. While some companies are ahead in this regard, I am committed to creating a more equitable workplace for my daughter, who is of mixed heritage.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Whenever I begin a new role, I always refer back to "The First 90 Days" by Michael D. Watkins. It was gifted to me by my sponsor during my initial foray into a significant leadership position. This book provides several effective strategies for quickly adapting to a new role and is a timeless resource for leaders who want to make an immediate impact.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
To become a well-rounded leader, it's important to gain different experiences. Despite my non-linear career path, which involved transitioning from finance to operations, strategy, and business, I believe it has made me a more well-rounded person and leader.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
During Covid, I managed a team of young professionals who were feeling down due to remote work and monotony. To uplift their spirits, I organized a remote spring bake off. We chose a recipe, sent ingredients to their homes, and took our laptops to the kitchen. We spent two hours on a Friday afternoon cooking, eating, laughing, and enjoying some downtime.
That not only increased engagement, our forecast results started getting more accurate, team members were asking for stretch projects, and it truly made a difference in engagement.
This small effort was very rewarding and it highlights the importance of being silly and having fun as a part of being human.