Layla: Hard work key to success

Thursday March 04 2021
Leyla pic

The KPMG manager for International Development Advisory Services and Markets, Ms Layla Ghaid. Photo | Courtesy

By Lilian Ndilwa

Dar es Salaam. Hard work  and commitment are among many aspects that have pushed Ms Layla Ghaid, the KPMG manager for International Development Advisory Services and Markets, to break the ceiling glass and become a successful leader.
She has over 14 years of experience in the development sector at KPMG out of which she served 10 years in managerial position.
Ms Ghaid also leads the KPMG programme of Women in Leadership Agenda (WiLA), which aims at mentoring and developing women to take up leadership positions in the firm.
“With time, I learnt not to be afraid of learning new things. When I first started working I was so scared to air my opinions because I thought they would seem senseless,” she says.
She holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Management and a bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration and Finance from the United States International University –Africa.
Her work as KPMG manager stems from working with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in gender and minority groups, where she helped the CSOs to strengthen their strategic plans and improve their financial management and reporting systems.
“I have worked hard to get where I am today because I always have a vision of where I want to be and what I want to achieve,” says Ms Ghaid.
She believes that a person’s mind is a powerful tool and what one thinks is what he or she will become.
Ms Ghaid is one of the few people who have always known their passion and the person they would become.
“I knew that someday I would become a successful person in a managerial position, but I did not know in which position I would exactly be,” she says.
According to her, during her career, there were vulnerable moments that made her redefine her goals in the managerial position.
“The most vulnerable moment was when I had my son because I knew I wanted to be fully present as a mother but also equally present at work, so learning to balance the two was tough because there’s always that mom guilt somewhere,” she says.
She reveals that she found out about her leadership style when she acquired the managerial knowledge through a KPMG course.
“When one becomes a first-time manager at KPMG, you are taken on a training course called ‘New Managers Workshop’ which is a crash programme on leadership and management for first-timers and it’s very useful,” she explains.
Her position as a manager in the marketing department has influenced her to become a democratic leader who includes her team and leads by setting examples in different fields.
She reveals that KPMG gifted her with mentors who have been helpful since the beginning of her career.
“Since the start of my career, I have been lucky to have not one but a couple of mentors whom I wanted to emulate their work ethics, I would ask them what they do to enhance their technical knowledge, and the resources they use to gain more knowledge in their line of work, and also for feedback on my work so that I could work on my shortcomings,” says Ms Ghaid.
She mentions Michael Ward, Former KPMG Director and Rehema Tukai, Associate Director at KPMG as the lead mentors who have assisted her in shaping her career even before taking the managerial position.
Ms Ghaid details that she has mentees in different departments at KPMG. She guides them through life and work.
“It’s important for the mentees and mentors to be on the same page and have areas of similarities otherwise, you’ll just be forcing your ideals onto someone. I also look out for self-commitment and determination which are important when you are noting down a person’s improvement,” she says.
She explains that leadership is not an easy ride, even when one has inborn talents of leadership, it is the lessons in a formal training course that will straighten him or her to be the best-qualified leader.
“A good leader must accept criticisms because people have different opinions, you may not always have the correct answers, even with the right skills, you must always have a welcome mat on your door for options and opinions,” says Ms Ghaid.
She talks of lack of diversity between men and women in top leadership positions, saying despite the trials to rid the organizations of it, the challenge roots from lack of organisational policy development whereas due to the imbalance of family and work responsibilities, women end up being the most negatively affected group.
“Once a woman starts having a family then it becomes an automatic set back work-wise because the corporate world is growing fast so women are limited to invest time in building their families because of their professions,” Ms Ghaid says.
She adds: “Despite this challenge, the advancement of technology supports women to work remotely, it is the new normal as you can take care of your other priorities, so you do not have to be in the office to get work done.”
Ms Ghaid advises fellow women to also become more vocal of their challenges they are going through within their organisations.
She says many times a woman in a leadership position is directly termed as ruthless and aggressive, while on the other hand, a man in the same position is applauded for his success. Ms Ghaid’s leadership confidence stems from her supportive family, whereas she is the only girl with three brothers who are all treated equally as her.  
“I was moulded into thinking that my opinions matter. I have always spoken my mind and that has been the key to building up my confidence,” she says.
According to her, she has had her lows and highs but through them she got the experience which she believes will help her reach her goals.
She concludes that despite the busy and demanding jobs, Ms Ghaid mentions that self-care for leaders should be included in their schedules because they are what makes leaders the best versions of themselves.