Q&A with MK Khan
Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with MK Khan, Senior Portfolio Lead @ Etihad
How could you describe your career path in a few words?
After completing my master’s degree in eCommerce, I started my career as a Trainer within Education before moving into Project Management within IT. Meeting people, bringing stakeholders together and implementing projects really interested me and back in those days travelling around the world in my early 20’s was fantastic.
However, like the ups, there were downs. The ‘Great Recession’ put together with some personal life situations and challenges meant that I had to focus on some self-study, certifications and starting over again and really think about how and what I want my career to be. I moved into contracting and started taking more of an interest in Digital Transformation initiatives including Web, mobile and CRM’s. I moved up the ranks, from Project Management to Program Management to now handling complex Portfolios. I also continued the training and coaching and became a certified Agile coach. Along the journey, my career landed me not only in many different parts of the world but in many different industries which has been exciting and challenging. Education, Telecoms, Healthcare, Financial Services and now Aviation. It’s been an eventful journey so far, one which I look at and feel I’ve learnt so so much and I’m still learning!
What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?
Surviving the pandemic and rallying through it both personally and professionally has been the most challenging experience I have ever faced. These have been unprecedented times, where you don’t know what’s about to hit you and how it will affect you and those around you. Your unable to plan for tomorrow and you have never been through anything like this before so you can’t learn from the past either. Seeing how big corporations folded overnight, everyone took hits and losses. Financially, professionally, personally, including the mass losses of lives, put together with working within the airline industry where out of all industries we were the most severely impacted, it changed my mind set and outlook in life in many ways I would say. I feel now that every decision I take, every approval I am required to give, every initiative I’m involved in, I now question its merit and need a lot more diligently than before.
What’s the most important key success factor for you based on your experience?
I’m going to say there are two for me. Without sounding cliché, it has to be having humility and a ‘solution orientated’ attitude. Having been part of many different industries, what has helped me, to not only settle within these new industries, but for me but to grow has been because I feel I have the ability to remain humble and respect people around me which results in people wanting to work with me and develop respect and trust. I’ve been given a lot of backing and respect by my teams and colleagues over the years, senior leadership and pretty much all stakeholders both internal and external. And when you have that kind of confidence and backing the respect comes as the work and results do the talking. As for the ‘’solution orientated’ attitude. It’s important for oneself to not be fixated or stuck in problems, but to seek solutions. In my career, I’ve seen far too many times that we tend to focus more on the problem and less at the solutions and therefore become risk adverse. Collaborate and seek solutions together. Involve your teams, take initiatives to your management which will solve problem statements is what I say.
What would be the major pitfall that may undermine the success of a leader?
Credibility. Once you lose credibility and trust amongst your team, colleagues, stakeholders, for me that’s probably the single biggest blow which undermines the success of a leader. And we have seen this a lot recently in the news. Government leaders, CEOs of major companies all losing credibility and thus resulting in complete chaos. As a leader, your teams look to you, get inspired by you and trust in you. A leader needs to be credible in his/her vision for their teams, department, and company. I’ve worked with some great leaders who have really inspired me. How? By setting out to achieve what they have said they would, empowering and trusting their people and staying true their word!