Name: Ahmed Fessi
Title: Chief Transformation & Information Officer
FinTech Chief Transformation & Information Officer, Data & AI Leader & Author, passionate about Digital, Data and AI Revolution, coming from engineering and computer science background, I spent good part of my career in charge defining and implementing ambitious, business oriented IT roadmaps. I had the opportunity to work on multiple industries and get broad view about Data, Digital and AI Architectures overall, in Startups, SMBs and Corporate world.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Ahmed's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Ensuring that teams are aligned towards a common vision and bringing everyone on board for the journey is particularly challenging within an evolving landscape, influenced by both economic and technological shifts
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
As someone coming from computer science engineering background, moving into leadership roles wasn't easy nor natural. During my years in college, we were more prepared towards tech expertise role than leadership roles. As I grew in my career, I quickly identified major gaps between tech expertise roles and business leadership roles, and I consistently worked to bridge those gaps, by adopting a business-oriented mindset. Parallely, I always enjoyed coaching and upskilling the teams. At some point of time, these skills helped me evolve towards leadership roles. It required a lot of work, dedication, perseverance and patience.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I usually start my day around 7am, spend some time with my daughter and drop her to school. I usually start my day working on my most important tasks on my todo around 8 am. I also take 30 min to 1 hour to answer emails in "batch", before 9am. A good part of my mornings is dedicated to meetings, with team members, with management, with prospects and customers. It is key to keep close to the team, to the management, but also to the real business.
I will have my lunch break around 1pm, and use also part of that time to view some videos, read the news, learn and follow online courses ..,
In the afternoon, I will also dedicate 1 to 2 hours of focused work, and progress on "structuring topics", like the Cybersecurity roadmap, or the AI program. I also plan some time to check on the team, request updates on the projects, get into calls to deep dive specific projects or blockers with the team and provide help and guidance.
I will generally log-off around 7 pm (sometimes later), take 1 to 2 hours of break for dinner, time with the family, and I work out for 30 to 45 minutes. Log-in again around 9pm to answer urgent requests and emails, and plan my next day. I generally take at least 1 hour preparing my todo for the next day and "operationalizing" my todo, so that next day I am up & running quickly. I will generally disconnect around midnight, so I can get 6 to 7 hours of sleep.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
As a leader, I've consistently practiced active listening and adopted a servant leadership style. I work closely with my team to achieve consensus and alignment. What I've been reminded of is the importance of occasionally being more assertive. For leaders, it's key to strike a balance between authority and empathy.
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 One Minute Manager' by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson has been enlightening. This concise yet impactful book introduced me to the concept of quick, focused management techniques. The book's principles : setting clear goals, offering immediate praise, and providing constructive feedback promptly, reinforced the idea that effective leadership doesn't always require lengthy discussions. It has taught me the power of simplicity, yet authenticity, in leadership, emphasizing that sometimes, a minute is all you need to make a lasting positive impact.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Build your own leadership style, that is aligned with your core values and your authentic personality.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
On one of my previous jobs, during an on-going Cybersecurity attack, I was working between 2 meeting rooms (management war room and technical war room), and occasionally crossing the open space to go between the 2 meeting rooms. The situation was quite tense and many colleagues were in that open space. After the incident was put under control and we ensured everything was safe, I had one of the team members coming to me and said : "we weren't concerned, you seemed to have the situation under control". What I learned is that, even when you do not communicate, you are actually communicating. As a leader, we can interpret your silences or your body language, sometimes even beyond the words you say.