Khalid Ahmed – Financial Controller at New Balance
Posted October 25, 2017, by Jenny Sakr
Before starting with one of the world biggest and oldest sports shoe brands, New Balance, Khalid worked for a small start-up that many retailer lovers have grown to love, The Iconic.
Read about his career journey in accounting and finance and his tips to anyone wanting to get in the numbers biz.
How long have you been in finance?
I started in finance at the age of 19 when I was offered a position in the cadetship program at Grant Thornton as a Trainee Accountant. In the 8+ years since I’ve experienced the profession on both sides of the accounting coin.
What did you study and what are the steps you took to be where you are today?
I studied a Bachelor of Business at the University of Technology Sydney majoring in Accounting and Finance. After this, I spent the next two years studying for the Chartered Accountants program. My entire tertiary education has been a juggling act as I also worked full-time - it’s definitely taught me a lot about time management and prioritisation.
There were no clear steps that led me to where I am now. I am quite extroverted and one of my strong character values is my love of learning. When you combine the two it led to completely new experiences with groups of people. The key takeaway was to always be open to new people, new ideas, new perspectives and try to learn at least one thing from any new experience. It might not have led to anything at that particular point in time, but I guarantee those learnings enabled success (or at least avoided failure) in the future.
What was your first job?
My first job was a retail sales assistant at General Pants in the few months between finishing high school and starting uni. I think everyone should work in a sales role at some point in their lives. The ability to build rapport with someone in a minute or less, influence their decision, and have both parties leaving with a sense of a win is a skill I am so glad I was trained in from day one of my very first job.
When did you first know you wanted to take this career path?
Having quite a close family growing up, and with both my dad and older sister being accountants, it’s no surprise I fell into the profession. I applied for the cadetship positions at accounting firms when I was in my last year of high school under the advice of both of them. I saw how much they loved their work and the opportunity to earn a salary straight out of high school and wear a suit in the city cried out to me. Fast forward a few years it turned out that my ability to analyse the relationships between numbers, and meet and work with such a diverse range of people means that I really enjoy my job!
Tell us about what a typical day at work is like for you...
New Balance is a huge global entity which means you have to be prepared to face anything! If I had to list out some common activities I come across daily they'd include:
- Catch up with my team every morning. They are a lot more involved in the detail than I am so often they will know of an issue well before I do.
- Do a scan of my emails before to see if anything urgent has come through overnight from the global or regional teams.
- Catch up with my manager who is at a regional level for a two-way status update.
- Check the status of our cash and track our month-to-date performance against the forecast. The country manager and I check-in regularly with each other on business performance. I report in on the financial performance and we will then decide if any actions are required by the business.
- Every six months I like to workshop some overarching team goals to contribute to the business strategy. I then have the team think about what they can do to achieve these goals individually and usually, this will form a constantly updating workflow.
Name the best and worst parts of your job
Certainly, the best part of my job is that being an accountant, and therefore the custodian of the company financials means I have a lens over the entire business and am trusted to provide the factual guidance on our performance. At the end of the day I see the financial statements as a set of records which only exist through a series of transactions and real-life operations the company undertakes. It’s the most interesting part of my job that I can be involved with any part of the business and be able to provide meaningful input. Having access to all of the data, and being able to see the holistic impact to the company I can assess whether decisions made may lead to a positive or negative outcome. Of course, at the same time, I’m not a subject matter expert in marketing, sales or tech development and that’s why I love working with those departments as it allows me to learn so much more and further develop myself as an all-around business leader.
Working for a multinational company, with Australia being so far ahead of the world sometimes does mean the hours can slip away from you during urgent deadlines! There has been more than my fair share of late night phone calls where the start of the day for someone else is around bedtime in Australia, or urgent tasks that only come through past 5pm as another time zone starts their workday. Thankfully as I’ve gotten more experienced I’ve learnt how to manage expectations and become better at pushing back these things to find the right balance between my personal time and what I enjoy doing for work.
What do you wish someone had told you before starting in this industry?
Don’t feel afraid to voice your idea, no matter what rung of the ladder you’re on, and listen more! One thing I’ve learnt over my (relatively short) career to date is that the best ideas come from everywhere, and not just your boss, or their boss. I’ve had accountants in my previous teams who would almost be reviewing my work because they knew more about tech development than me so when it came time to model costs for that area, they were in a better position to guide the business than I was!
What’s next for you?
It’s hard to say what’s next for me right now. I little over three years ago I didn’t even know what a start-up was and found myself right in the middle of arguably the most exciting retailer to be a part of. Now here I am helping guide the Australian business for one of the world’s oldest shoe brands. It definitely wasn’t in my 5-year plans back then… Where do I see myself at some point in the future? I would like to think that I will be part of something that really focuses on creating social change, we live in a world where everything is fast: fast fashion, fast news, every one wants to make a fast dollar! Sometimes we need to slow down and really think about our impact on the world around us. Whether that’s my next career move or something that happens outside of my day-job, I’m not sure yet but that’s something that also excites me. The world is changing so fast nowadays I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself into any particular pathway.
Where would we find you when you're not in the office?
Eating and drinking away in the Inner Northern food paradise of Melbourne.
Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.