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Thank you to the 1,400 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions!
I hope reading

7 Questions with Irshad Deen

helps you in your leadership.



Jonno White

7 Questions with Irshad Deen

Name: Irshad Deen

Current title: Deputy Chief Digital Officer

Current organisation: SLTMobitel

After an inspiring academic stint in Loughborough University in England with a BSc degree and Master of Science in Digital Communication Systems I have never looked back in rekindling my interest in the fusion between IT and Computing and Communication.
After a two year experience in Informatics Pvt Ltd., which gave me a decent exposure into Systems Analysis and Development, Relational Databases, UNIX systems administration, I set foot to a long career in the domain of Telecommunications by joining Sri Lanka Telecom as an Engineer in 1991.
Was lucky enough to play a part in introducing Internet services to Sri Lanka telecom customers, from the time of giving Dial Up access to spearheading a project to provide ADSL based Internet Services to customers.
I have been in the forefront in introducing IPTV and Cloud Infrastructure services to the retail consumer and enterprise base in Sri Lanka.
In the aforesaid milestones in my career I have seen my career transcending from Engineer to Deputy General Manager and General Manager in various positions in SLT, in technology, operational and strategic capacities.
My present role as Deputy Chief Digital Officer has a dual intent of a company wide Digital Transformation in the telco value chain transformation, and also a Customer Facing Thought leadership and Solution Propositioning role to the wider Enterprise customer base in Sri Lanka Telecom

7 Questions with Irshad Deen


1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

The change in the human resource landscape with almost a three decade long career has seen people with varied interests and expectations. Also the People's influence on Organizational Culture is significant. Overcoming this by aligning the human capital to the overall vision of the company has been one of the greater challenges.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My road to becoming a Deputy Chief is through dedication and perseverance. One may have roadblocks and challenges at managerial and operational level. But the aspiration to be the Technology 'solver' at each major evolution in the company helped me be visible to the company heads. Also the possibility to adapt from an Operational level to a Strategic, Thought leadership level helped me to be recognized in SLT.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I plan out my 'week' and 'day', ahead of time. Prioritizing and looking at the value which I would bring to meetings and sessions, and which I could pass on. Depending on this I would plan out playing morning golf or business meeting for breakfast or lunch. In the evening I would prioritize between going for a walk/jog, going to the gym, or relaxing and watching TV at home with family and friends.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

I believe Leaders are good listeners. This is a trait which has been sadly lacking. I try to be a listener being part of the problem and contributing in solving the problems with peers and subordinates.

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?

The Mind of The Strategist : The Art of Japanese Business by Kenichi Ohmae. This book is very practical and non-theoretical, in the way by the author in bringing to light the dynamism and the nuances in strategic leadership and management. This has given me to write scripted short stories in leadership and management, and delve on the relevance with my business as usual, and how I can offset and look at things differently and contextually in my day to day affairs at work.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

Leadership capacity building has been the cornerstone in all enterprise that I know of. I tend to let go and transfer leadership roles to peers and employees, in a role setting environment. This brings the confidence of such employees in tackling challenging situations.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

Risk and leadership are oft interconnected. I have been in situations where I have taken decisions but found having a profound negative impact. In the short term this had a negative impact on the enterprise and myself personally, but in the long term the company was able to come to a commonality in addressing such procurement and supply chain issues. What is most looked out is persistence even when the chips are down !!!!

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