Q&A: Behind the Scenes with the Managing Director of Towers Watson
Dr Ahmad Waarie is the Managing Director of HR experts Towers Watson, with presence across the globe and more than 14,000 associates.
During his five years with Towers Watson, Ahmad has been instrumental to the success of various strategic HR and transformation projects in the region for key clients across various sectors including oil and gas, financial services, telecoms and the public sector.
Prior to joining Towers Watson, Ahmad was the Director of Strategic Human Resources at The Executive Office/Council of Dubai where he championed the strategic transformation of the Dubai Government through the introduction of high-profile and complex projects and initiatives.
He also served as the HR Advisor for the UAE Prime Minister’s Office and assisted in the development of high profile strategic projects.
In his 20+ years of experience and prior to coming to the Gulf region, Ahmad has worked in multinational organisations across four continents and has a vast experience in all the areas and challenges in the HR field. We go backstage to find out more about the man behind the MD.
BR EME: Where were you educated? What did you enjoying learning the most/least?
AW: I have studied in the United States and Australia and my specialization was in Economics, which I have enjoyed, especially microeconomics. This subject mainly gave me a good understanding of how things work, as well as getting a grasp on human behaviour and the economic reasons behind it.
My interest in the human factor led me to get my postgraduate degree is in Human Resources, since I always found studying people the most fascinating thing in life.
What lead you into the world of Human Resources?
Pure coincidence!! My best friends at college got offers for HR roles in multinational companies and I joined them as I was interested in what they were doing.
Are there challenges with HR in the Middle East which do not exist in other parts of the world?
There are always region specific challenges when it comes to people relating back to the overall political, economic and cultural environment.
However, the main challenge in the Middle East is having to deal with the unique international and multinational workforce that exists in the region.
Communicating and taking on board ideas from employees is no doubt an important part of your work. Have you ever received any bizarre or out of the ordinary ideas?
All the time!!! Someone suggested providing bicycles for employees to travel to work, which was brilliant, especially with the 40 degrees temperature outdoors in the summer.
Who has been your biggest influence during your career?
My biggest influence was my first boss, who was brought out from retirement from Canada and, even though he was 65 years old, he had more energy and motivation than any of the young employees around. I picked from him my motivation that shaped my career until this day.
Overachieving and keep raising the bar, but with a balanced commitment to family and personal life.
What was the best and worst piece of advice you ever received?
The best piece of advice came from my mother while young: to always be honest. The worst piece of advice is to always follow the rules, which kill innovation.
How important is striking a work and social life balance?
Striking work and life balance is critical to being successful in both. We have to assume our responsibility for everything we do and leave positive marks both as professionals, but also as human beings.
What do you do in your free time?
I don’t have a lot of free time, but I try as much as possible to spend enough time with my children while they are still growing.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Know your dream, do your homework and never give up.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.