Before the summer break, I reconnected with old colleague Samreen Ghani to talk about her journey and her role as President of Moonbug Studios. It had been a long time since our M&A times together! And we end up finding ourselves in a similar life reflection on “how you measure your life”!
The Early Days
Samreen did not follow the expected path. Her earliest memory from childhood was spelling the word “doctor”, which was exciting for her parents as she grew up. In Pakistan, her expected paths would have been doctor, engineer, lawyer or banker if she wanted to define herself as successful. So as she finished her degree, she joined investment banking, which she sees today as a great grounding experience to give you the technical skills, but also the discipline and work ethic you need later in life. From there, Samreen started moving along her “5-Year-Plans”.
As she evaluated the next 5-year period, Samreen realized she did not want to stay in M&A and started looking at the industry she enjoyed and the type of transferable skills she had. With that, Samreen moved to entertainment but stayed in Finance. Whilst she gained the work-life balance, she did not feel she had a fit with the corporate culture. She found herself only halfway through her 5-year plan but not happy with where she was going. That is when she really started exploring what she wanted to do and in which type of corporation.
She felt the clock ticking on her as she engaged in her career break (I can see where she is coming from) and really gave herself time to reflect. For her, what worked was to talk to different people and be open about what the future would be. She was talking to people across industries and different types of small to large corporations. More importantly, she was open to herself about what worked and did not work for her.
“Sometimes there is so much noise around us that we forget who we are and what makes us happy!”
Listening to your inner self
You may not always want to listen to it, as sometimes it tells you things you don’t want to hear. But it is when you hear yourself that things may work out better, so talking to people is a part of the process but can’t be the main driver. Amongst one of the many conversations, an opportunity came up to participate in a project that then became a role. Samreen stayed close to the finance space and used her early career skills along the way.
Further along the way, as her 5-year plan included building a family, she also had the opportunity to join Moonbug as CFO and later President, while doing multiple acquisitions and funding rounds. This experience tested her in ways like never before.
Prioritizing and Focusing
There is enough work to fill any hour of the day, so you need to focus on the big things you want to achieve. Samreen runs a to-do list across work and family, but she reminds us that you also need to create the right level of infrastructure and autonomy so that people can help you and you are not the bottleneck.
On top of it, it is important to keep an eye on the end goal, to ensure you are prioritizing accordingly and ensuring you are taking small steps towards the longer-term goal.
A non-linear path
Samreen describes herself as very organized. But when you are figuring out your path you can’t always expect it to be very linear. Staying nimble and going out of her comfort zone has been key for her, however if she were to look at the chart of her career throughout time, it would still be on a positive trajectory towards her goals. It just does not have to mean the same path to everyone. It is important to remember that you could do things differently, but they may not have been better or worse than your current choices.
“Don’t be afraid to be not liked”
As a leader, you can’t always be liked. That is a defining characteristic of Samreen. You need to make difficult decisions, but they are not always going to be popular. You can make difficult choices, but you can do them with empathy and kindness. In running a business, there is a big people element in it, with a lot of grey areas that need to be managed.
Samreen reminds me that the need the small kids have goes away very quickly and there is a short amount of time to make the most of it. That helps her keep perspective with her priorities and the demands on her time coming from everywhere.
- Advice: There is a lot to be said about listening to yourself. So try to get to know yourself better
- Book: The Alchemist
- Quote: Fail Fast
- Word of the Year: Soul-searching