You have the skills, experience, and ambition to make a leap in your career and yet your progress has stagnated. You’ve had some successes but not as much as you have envisioned and it’s been difficult to attract and retain the talent you need to build a high-performing team. Jawad Ahsan has been in your shoes, and when he decided to stop letting others chart his course and instead began to pursue his own North Star, it transformed his career.
In his new book, What They Didn’t Tell Me, Jawad translated the lessons he learned along the way into actionable advice for leaders at every level. Drawing on his remarkable story, he shows how charting your own course not only changes how others view you, it changes how you view yourself.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey, listeners. My name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Jawad Ahsan, author of What They Didn’t Tell Me: How to Be a Resilient Leader and Build Teams You Can Trust. Jawad, thank you for joining. Welcome to the Author Hour podcast.
Jawad Ahsan: Thanks for having me, Drew.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick this off. Can you give us a rundown of your professional background?
Jawad Ahsan: Sure. I’m currently serving as the CFO at Axon. We were formally TASER and our flagship product that everyone knows is the Taser device that is prevalent in law enforcement. We also are the market leader in body-worn cameras, also for law enforcement. We’ve been expanding into federal and international but primarily that’s who we serve today. And I’ve been here since 2017.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, why was now the time to write this book? Did you have extra time because of 2020? Was there an inspirational or an ‘aha’ moment that happened?
Jawad Ahsan: I actually started the outline for this book in probably late 2018. When I got to Axon, I had an opportunity to talk to folks across the company, and being a publicly-traded company, I had a bigger audience as far as folks that were interested in what I had to say, from a career development standpoint and coaching.
I’ve collected various tidbits and my own learnings over the course of my career and put them in emails and PowerPoint presentations. I actually do a lot of public speaking and I’ve given these presentations in various formats.
When I got to Axon and the audiences got bigger, I would have people come up to me on a regular basis and tell me how much I connected with them and how my message really resonated. A couple of folks said, “Hey, you should think about writing a book.” That’s why I had to say, you know, I actually have these notes spread across various mediums. So, I consolidated those and put together an outline, and this was around the time I found Scribe Media and started working with them on a book.
Drew Appelbaum: Were there any learning or breakthroughs that you had during the writing of the book? Maybe some research you did or just by the introspective journey of going through your past?
Jawad Ahsan: It’s interesting, the initial outline for the book, I wanted to focus on the lessons and the principles, all the aspects of leadership and what I think makes a resilient leader, and most importantly, how you build great teams. When I was working with Scribe through the process of writing the book, they actually helped me understand that it would be better presented in sequence.
So initially, it was all out of sequence and I was focused on the lessons. What they helped me realize was, this actually reads better if it’s a story. So, the book almost reads like a fiction novel. It’s all true. It’s all non-fiction but it starts when I’m actually in college and how I started my career at GE and then goes all the way until today. That was one thing that I think was pretty exciting to work through.
What Is Your North Star?
Drew Appelbaum: Now, who is this book for? Is it only for leaders or is it people who aspire to be a leader?
Jawad Ahsan: Yeah. Great question. I’ve talked about the premise of the book, and the book itself with a few folks. What I found is that a lot of these lessons are pretty universal and they don’t just apply to someone who’s in the corporate setting. But if you work anywhere where you are responsible for a team or you’ve got to demonstrate personal leadership, that applies to a lot of different areas, I think these lessons really hold true.
The big ‘aha’ moment for me was probably about eight or so years into my career. I realized that the path that I was on was where other people wanted me to be. I had always sort of kept my head down and worked hard and tried to just wait for that tap on the shoulder for someone to say, “Hey, you’ve been doing a really great job. We’re going to have you move onto another role.”
I was doing a few jobs in a row and this one particular move I made, I was only there for about a month before the person who tapped me for that role ended up leaving. And I was in a division of GE where I had no network at all. I realize that if I keep doing this, I’m going to end up where other people want me to be, so I really stepped back and thought about, “What do I want to do? Where do I want to end up? What is my North Star that I’m driving towards?”
Once I defined that, I started working backward from there and figuring out what the experiences were that I needed to get to my North Star, and I stopped focusing so much on the next promotion, or titles, or any of that stuff. It was more about, “What experiences do I need?” Then I got really picky about only taking roles that gave me those experiences and not necessarily had bigger titles or more pay. That was one of the first lessons I learned that I wanted to share with people in this book.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you mentioned being a Pakistani-American and a practicing Muslim had an impact on your journey from where you began to where you are today. Can you talk about that journey?
Jawad Ahsan: Yeah. So growing up, I grew up in a fairly homogenous town in the suburbs of Boston, not a ton of diversity, so I always sort of stood out. I never really felt like I fit in. One of the strange things about that was, I didn’t always feel like I fit in where I grew up, in the town that I grew up. Then my parents would take us back to Pakistan over the summers, and I didn’t fit in there either because I talked different, I dressed different, my hair was pretty short. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere and then on top of that, I’m not only an ethnic minority, I’m also a religious minority.
So, at some point, you get old enough and people tend to find a lot of common ground but what became difficult for me as I entered the workforce is that, actually, I don’t drink alcohol and a lot of the camaraderie and a lot of the relationship-building tends to happen in happy hours and people getting together after work. I was comfortable in those environments, but I think other people didn’t feel super comfortable being around me because I wasn’t really joining in with them.
That limited my ability to build relationships with people on a personal level to some degree. It wasn’t a complete blocker, but it was just an extra thing that prevented me from building those types of relationships.
The Difference Between Skills and Culture
Drew Appelbaum: You mentioned there’s a difference between a skills fit and a cultural fit when building your team. Can you talk about that difference and maybe which one has worked out best in your experience?
Jawad Ahsan: So, what I’d like to start with, this is the basic premise that I talked about in the book, is that I’ve learned over the course of my career that there are traits that you can coach in people. Those types of thing are if someone needs help with public speaking, or they need help with the presentation, or they do a lot of great work and they generate per digits amounts of work themselves, but they have trouble boiling that up and presenting it in executive format, or maybe they need help prioritizing. These are all things that you can coach in people, all traits that you can coach.
Then I’ve learned that there are traits that you absolutely cannot coach, and you’ll waste your time trying to coach them into people. Those are a really strong sense of integrity, a strong sense of accountability, the ability to collaborate, really be collaborative and understand that you win as a team, and prioritize a team’s success over their own individual success.
Then finally, a very positive outlook. I catch some flak for that last one, because some folks say, “Well, I’m a realist. I’m not either an optimist or a pessimist.” I think that might be true, but I think on the margin, if there’s a spectrum of positivity, it comes to a point, and at that point, people tend to either roll towards positivity or negativity.
Where that is really important is when you’re faced with adversity, either individually or as a team. Which way are you going to go? Are you going to roll up your sleeves and really look at the challenge ahead of you and look at it as a way to grow and to develop or are you going to start to gripe? And are you going to maybe complain and think that the cards are against you and life is unfair?
On the margin, that’s where it becomes really important for people to be positive. Those are the four traits that I look for that fundamentally, I think people have to have them.
What I talked about in the book is that, collectively, if someone has those traits, it’s basically a heuristic for trust. If someone has those traits and I can trust them, that’s really important for my style of leadership because I’m not a micro-manager and I like to let people spread their wings. I like to trust them and empower them. I can only do that if I can trust them.
At a basic level, those are the types of things I look for. When I’m interviewing, I assume that most folks that make their way to me in an interview have already been vetted for technical skills, so I don’t always look for that. If it’s someone that’s reporting to me directly, I do look for the skills.
There’s so much out there today. People are so focused on development, whether that’s their own development from the softer skills standpoint if they’re getting advanced degrees. It’s very competitive out there. Many people actually have those skills, but they don’t always have all those traits. That’s why I spend a lot of time focusing on that.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you also mentioned in the book, besides talking about building the team and being a great leader, you talked about your journey and you talked about you having your share of fuck-ups. But each of them was a learning lesson of sorts. You actually throughout the book share some of those lessons. I would love it if you could pick one of those lessons and just run us through what was expected, what went wrong maybe, and then maybe what that learning was.
Jawad Ahsan: I talked about this at the very end of the book. The book is basically a compendium of all the different ways that I fucked up. It’s, I think, made me a better leader because I learned after a while, it’s okay to fail and it’s okay as long as you’re learning a lesson and there’s something in there that you’re reflecting on and you’re growing from. That’s the most important thing. Everyone’s going to make mistakes, but are you really taking stock of what went wrong and how you can improve next time?
That’s why I tend to look at my career as a series of missteps that made me stronger and helped me get to a point where I was able to be more effective. I still feel like I make those mistakes today.
I’d say that one of the ones that comes to mind is when I was in that role that I was talking about where I didn’t really have a network, and a new manager had come in that didn’t really see eye to eye with me as far as my career trajectory. At this point, my career in GE had been on a pretty nice upward path, and the next promotion for me was going to be at the level where I basically became an executive at the company.
The person who came in to replace the manager that I come to work for had her own ideas and basically said, “Look, I understand that was maybe something that was promised to you, but I’ve got a different model, there’s a different set of things I’d like to see from you before we could even entertain a discussion like that.” It rubbed me the wrong way. I was a thorn in her side, probably intentionally. I had a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities. So, in meetings and in various settings at work, I would be a little awry sometimes and maybe a little bit overconfident and I would challenge her.
I didn’t really feel like my own talents and skills were being respected and became difficult to work with. It was actually at a point where I was getting ready to leave. For a couple of weeks, I was actually going to get married. I was trying to wrap some stuff up before I headed out to the airport and she called me into her office. She said, “Hey look, I know you’re heading off for the weekend and you’ve got some time off coming up and I’m really happy for you. I’m sorry to bring this up right now, but this is really not working for me. Your attitude is not great and it’s toxic. I got to tell you, if you don’t fix that when you come back, then I’m going to put you on a performance improvement plan when you come back.” And at GE a performance improvement plan or a PIP, that’s a one-way ticket. You don’t generally come back from that.
She was sending a pretty strong signal, “Look, the next time we have this conversation, you’re going to be out of the company.” I was just floored because I felt like I was doing a good job. It was more because she and I didn’t necessarily get along. That was kind of the message I wanted to send. I stewed over that and talked to some mentors and friends. What I started to realize was, you know what, it doesn’t matter how right I think I am or how good or smart I think I am, any of that stuff. None of that mattered.
What mattered was that this woman who is my manager was, she had her own challenges and things that she wanted to work on and develop. I’m sure she also took to heart what it meant to lead a team and to be seen as a leader and I was being so disrespectful of that.
I really started to understand the idea that perception is reality. I could sit here and think how right I am, but if her reality is something different, if that’s her perception, then nothing I say or do matters, especially if I’m going to be handed a pink slip and be showed the door.
I really took time to reflect on that and I think it’s one of the periods of my life where I had the most personal maturity. Because in the early part of my career, I was definitely pretty immature as far as the confidence I had in myself and I really had to grow up pretty quickly. When I came back, instead of doubling down on my tactics, I said, “You know what, I’ve got to change. I really need to grow up.”
I started little by little, just being a little bit more collaborative in meetings and more positive, and more supportive to her. I realized she’s actually a really bright person and she has a ton of experience and I can learn from her. Maybe I don’t totally agree with her style of management, but there are definitely things that I can learn from her.
I started going to her for coaching sessions and trying to even ask her, being more inquisitive about her background, and I actually ended up learning a ton from her. So, about a year later, I got a call from a buddy of mine, and this was around the same time that I also took stock of my career and what I wanted my North Star to be. The next step for me to get to where I wanted to go, my North Star was running a company. I wanted to run a company someday and I felt like the best way for me to do that would be to first get to the top of my function in finance, to be a CFO before I made a leap to be a CEO.
I felt like what I wanted to do next was to really be a divisional CFO. So, a buddy of mine called me about a year after this happened, and said, “Hey, look, there’s a division in GE that is adjacent to mine where they’re going to be doing some seed funding and they’re starting up a brand-new business.” GE typically didn’t do this. They had existing business lines that have been around decades or they would acquire a new company. It was very rare for them to stand up a new business line. It was pretty small, and they were looking for someone that was going to be a first-time CFO and they already had a general manager that they had hired.
I got wind of this through a buddy of mine, and before I could go interview for it, I had to go ask my manager. I was dreading this conversation with her. I went into her office and pretty sheepishly said, “Hey look, I have an opportunity to interview for a divisional CFO role. It’s back in Boston. It’s where my parents are. I would really love an opportunity.” At this point, I was married and my wife was in Boston as well. I said, “I’d really love an opportunity to interview for it.” She sat there and I braced myself and then she smiled and said, “You know what, if you had asked me a year ago, I would have said no way, like there’s no way I would let you go interview for that. But you have completely turned things around and done 180. I absolutely will support you if this is what you want to do.”
I went, interviewed for the job and I got it. That job was the one that really put me in a completely different orbit, on a different trajectory from a career growth standpoint.
The Need for Feedback
Drew Appelbaum: That’s actually a really amazing story and I figure it falls along with the line of your career where you rose in the ranks really early, but still just had a lot of learning to do. What was it like learning on the fly and how did you get through it? Did you find a mentor? Was there anyone you looked up to for inspiration in those early days or was it just that sheer confidence that got you through it?
Jawad Ahsan: I was so fortunate to start my career at GE. Look, GE has fallen on some tough times recently. But when I started in July of 2001, Jack Welch was still the CEO. He was CEO for the first three months or so while I was there. Jeff Immelt didn’t become CEO until about September 2001. A lot of the very senior leaders in the company were still Jack Welch disciples and that trickled down. So, a lot of the people that I learned from early on, I never met Jack myself, but I worked with or for people that had directly learned from him. That benefitted me so much.
The great thing about GE when I was there, it was really a collection of smaller companies. It was obviously this behemoth company that everyone knew about. This giant conglomerate. When you look at it internally, it’s really a collection of smaller companies. You had an opportunity to go into different industries, so I worked in plastics, I worked in health care and aircraft engines. I worked at NBC Universal when GE owned them for a little bit, in oil and gas, transportation. I had exposure to all these different industries and business cycles and most importantly, all these different leaders, really terrific leaders.
GE’s model was that they would really give you as much as you asked for. You got out of your career at GE as much as you put in, and I put in a lot. I worked probably 100-hour work weeks for all of my 20s. Sometimes people will ask me about my career path and how I got where I got to and, “How did you get to be a public company CFO at age 37?” What’s sort of implied there sometimes is like, “What shortcut did you take?” And there are no shortcuts. I just worked more than everyone else when I was in my 20s.
It came at a personal cost. I lost a lot of friendships and relationships that I had with folks outside of the company and people I grew up with. That was a little tough. But I just was so enamored with what I was learning. The more I put into the company, the more I kept learning and developing.
The other thing that was great about GE back in the day was that they were really big on feedback, constant feedback. When I say constant, sometimes on an almost daily basis. Even within a day, multiple times a day, you get feedback. If you had a meeting and you were presenting to a senior executive, right after the meeting, you’d get feedback on what went well and what didn’t.
In some places, I thought that was the norm. What I came to find out later was that in most places, you have a performance review twice a year, maybe, if that. And you might not even get regular feedback in between those two sessions. At GE, it was like an almost daily thing. What was interesting about that for me was, I learned to crave it. I craved the feedback. I used to get really nervous when I would have to present to people and I didn’t do great with public speaking and having to give presentations to senior executives.
I learned a couple of things from mentors at GE. One was to redirect your nervous energy and to tell yourself, “Hey! You’re actually not nervous. You’re just excited.” If you tell yourself that you’re excited, you’re going to trick yourself into being excited. I still do that today when I get on an earnings call or if I have to get up in front of a thousand of our employees, 1500 employees, and have a company meeting and give an update on our financials. I always tell myself how excited I am and how much I can’t wait to get started and just to redirect that nervous energy.
Another thing I do is I also, immediately after I give a presentation, the first thing I do is seek out folks that are close to me and I ask them how I did, and I ask them for what I could have done differently or better. I just became addicted to that feedback and where I saw other folks fall down as they advanced in their careers is that they would get defensive and they would get feedback and they would dismiss it or be defensive or just disregard it and they wouldn’t really act on it.
What I saw was that that didn’t really serve them very well. When I got feedback, yeah, of course, it hurts. It hurts when you think you’re good at something or you perform really well and someone comes in and says, “Actually no. You kind of rambled on,” or, “You didn’t make your point very clearly,” or, “There was a lot of filler words and it was hard to figure out what exactly your message was.” All of that for me, I just realized, feedback really is a gift, and if I can stop getting emotional about what people are telling me and try to understand what it is about what they’re saying that could help me grow and to help me get better next time? I want to learn from that. I want to use that as an advantage.
That was the other thing that really helped me, not only did I have exposure to all these great leaders, but I also got feedback on a regular basis and got addicted to that feedback, and also asking for it, seeking out that feedback. That’s another thing that’s I think tough for a lot of people to do, is actually ask for that feedback.
Choosing To Be a Leader
Drew Appelbaum: I think one of the interesting things you talked about in the book and that you sort of just touched on is that, you could be in a leadership role and actually not be a leader. And to be a leader, you actually need to choose to be a leader. What’s the transition like once you make this decision and what steps would you suggest for someone that says, “Hey, I do want to be a leader”?
Jawad Ahsan: This is one of the most important lessons I learned, is that you can give anyone a title and people listen to that person because they have to. If I were to make you the CFO, or the CEO of Axon tomorrow and you started barking out orders, people would do what you say because they have to.
Real leadership to me is when people listen to you because they want to, because they’re genuinely inspired by you or motivated by you or they’re curious about where you’re going to take them. That’s real leadership to me. You don’t elicit that feeling in people by just telling them what to do, by barking orders at them.
This is why I’m not a micromanager, because when you’re a micromanager, what invariably ends up happening is, despite your best intentions, what you’re doing is, you’re not only telling people what to do, you’re telling them how to do it. That’s really demotivating, especially in this day and age, again, we talked about people going to school and getting these degrees, and advanced degrees and making such a huge personal investment in themselves.
They’re doing these things because they want to flourish themselves. They want a chance to spread their wings. They want a chance to fail, and learn, and then grow and become better leaders themselves. If you’re coming in over the top and being super prescriptive about what to do and how to do it, that’s kind of soul-sucking. I know because I’ve been there. That’s not exactly fun. That’s why for me it’s really important to be that type of a leader, where people are inspired by you.
A key secret here is that you have to care about people. You have to really care about them. You have to care about who they are, what makes them special as an individual. Where are they going? It’s the very first question I ask everybody in an interview. “What is your North Star? Where are you headed? What’s important to you?” It helps me understand how I can help them, how I can coach them.
Not everyone wants to be a CFO or a CEO. I have those people. I have interviews when I asked that question and people say, “I want to be the next CEO of Axon,” or, “I want to be a CFO.” That’s great and I love coaching those types of people because I’ve got a blueprint for them. But I also love the people that say, “I want a really fulfilling, challenging job and I want to be a good father, a good mother. I want a fulfilling life.”
Those types of people, you have to be a leader for them too. You can’t just be a leader for one type of person. But the first thing it starts with is that you have to care about people. That’s what I think for me is the big differentiator. For you to be a leader that people want to follow, you have to care about those people and then understand what is it that’s going get them motivated and excited to follow you.
Drew Appelbaum: It seems like from reading the book that a lot of people you looked up to had integrity as a main quality of their leadership. Can you talk to us about the role that you find integrity plays in leadership?
Jawad Ahsan: Yeah. This is a very, very important one for me and it’s one that I think makes sense to everybody. There’s a saying, I don’t know who said it, but, “Integrity is who you are in the dark.” That’s really the essence I think of, everyone could outwardly pledge allegiance to integrity and talk about how important a value it is but when you’re faced with adversity and you’ve got to make a really tough choice and it might come at a personal cost to you, what are you going to do? Are you going to do the right thing?
The types of leaders that I’ve been attracted to, you’ve nailed it, they have that as a core value. They have an unyielding sense of integrity. The reason that’s important to me is I feel the same way, but I want people to know exactly where they stand with me. I’ve met people that are just really good socially and are just the life of the party and they have an ability to maybe have different conversations with different people and take different viewpoints on the same topic.
I’m not that smart. I’m not smart enough to remember what I told different people. So, I am the same person as everybody, no matter who I meet. It’s just easier for me to do and keep track of. I also love to let people know where they stand with me at all times
That’s hard for some people sometimes because if you ask people what they think of me, some people will tell you I’m great, positive, et cetera. Other people will tell you I’m overly direct and a little too blunt. But it’s because, for me, part of having integrity is letting people know exactly where they stand.
Is an MBA Worth It?
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you actually talk about this in the book and I’m very happy you did because not many people do, especially in leadership roles. I think when you see it on a job description, you just assume that that’s definitely what everybody’s looking for. It’s really the question, how do you feel about getting or needing an MBA?
Jawad Ahsan: This is one of my favorite topics. What I talked about in the book is for a long time, when I first started my career, my plan was, “I’m going to go work at GE for a couple of years, get some experience, and then go get an MBA.” And I wanted to go full time. I got through the first couple of years at GE. They had this rotational program where I just learned so much and what was unique about it was, we’re on these rotations with really meaty assignments. But you also had to take course work that GE spent hundreds of millions of dollars on. They actually in some cases spent a billion dollars on specific training materials.
You had to take actual formal classes. You got together once a month. You had exams. You had to maintain a certain GPA. If you didn’t maintain that GPA, they would literally fire you from the company. So, it was almost like an MBA type of experience. What was great about it was, you not only learned in the classroom, but then Monday, you went back to work, and you got to apply it. I thought that was pretty cool.
But I still had an idea that I wanted to go get an MBA. After I graduated from that program, I had a chance to do the internal audit program at GE, which was an even more accelerated leadership developmental track. I did that and said, “You know what, I’m going to do this first as long as I can and then go get my MBA.” I ended up doing that for three years.
After I did that, I was seriously considering getting my MBA, but I had an opportunity to go get a really big job at GE Aircraft Engines. I was the risk manager for their wide-body engine platforms. Basically, what kept happening was, I kept telling myself, “You know what. If I just do this next job, I’m actually going to learn more in the job than I would in the classroom.” The longer I stayed at GE, the more of a track record I have of that, where I felt like I really was learning and growing.
That happened for like the first 10 years of my career and it wasn’t until I became a divisional CFO for a part of GE healthcare that we spun off into a joint venture with Microsoft–it was during the process of standing up this brand-new company, working with external lawyers and bankers, consultants, standing up an entirely new entity in this joint venture, where I realized just how much GE was not going to be able to teach me, how much I didn’t know. That was the first time I thought, “You know what. Now, I think I do need to go get an MBA because I’m not going to be able to learn everything on the job.” But at this point, I was too old for a full-time MBA and applied to MIT and did their executive MBA program.
When I did it, it was pretty intense because it was a pretty new program and they basically took their full-time MBA program and just spread it out over two years and on the weekends. They’ve come a long way and it’s a fantastic program. It was a very challenging program, but what I loved about it was, just like earlier in my career, you’d go to the classroom, learn a ton and then go back to work and get a chance to apply that.
So, the first question people ask is, “Is an MBA worth it?” and I say, “Yes, absolutely.” Like if you care about your own development and if you want to be in business, certainly if you want to be in corporate America, an MBA, it only adds that much more value to you because it gives you mental models and frameworks. It’s all common sense, but it really crystalizes for you, things that leadership lessons and experiences that other people have had that are going to benefit you.
You can learn a lot of these things online yourself for free, but there’s no substitute for learning those things in an academic environment with a professor who does this for a living. The thing that really, for me, set it over the top was at MIT, my cohort, the other people in the class with me were CEOs, and surgeons, and founders and other CFOs and they were fantastic. They were amazing. So, the classroom discussion was so rich because not only were the professors world-class, but the rest of the classroom were all very successful on their own. I was actually one of the youngest people in my program. The average age at the time of my cohort was 40 and I was 32 when I entered the program. I just learned so much from my peers and that also augmented my experience.
Definitely, I think you should get an MBA. I think the question is really, “Do you do it full-time or do you do it on a part-time or executive format?” I’m personally partial to the executive or part-time format because when you go full-time, you’re stepping away from the workforce. So, there’s a part of your learning that you’re stopping right there. And yes, you go full-time, you get to be immersed in that environment, but you still build networks in a part-time or executive program. What I love about that is that you get to apply those lessons on the job, so to speak.
Drew Appelbaum: I love that, it’s no surprise at all after reading this book that you were the youngest person in that class. Jawad, writing a book especially like this one, which is really going to help a lot of business professionals and it’s a wonderful story of your career. It’s going to help up incoming leaders as well. It’s no small feat, so congratulations.
Jawad Ahsan: Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, if readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Jawad Ahsan: I talked about this in the book. If the early part of my career was defined by the work that I did, and the lessons I learned and it was my own individual success, at some point, there comes an inflection point where your success depends on your ability to recruit and build and maintain a really high performing team. That’s the most important thing I think I want people to take away is that your own personal abilities, it doesn’t matter how good you are, how smart you are, how talented, charismatic. None of that stuff matters if you can’t be a leader, and inspirational leader of a high performing team, full stop.
I like to tell people this. I told Axon this when they first interviewed me. I told them, “Look, I’m not a great finance person. If you’re looking for a traditional finance person, I’m not the CFO for you. I don’t have a CPA. I never worked on Wall Street. I’ve been a divisional CFO and I was a private equity-backed CFO but I’ve never been a public company CFO. My superpower, or at least what I believe my superpower is, is building high performing teams and motivating them.” That is not only an important trait for an individual to learn, but it’s also something I think that when you look at the success of a company, it’s also really important.
Drew Appelbaum: Well, this has been a pleasure and I’m really excited for people to check out this book. Everyone, the book is called What They Didn’t Tell Me and you can find it on Amazon. Jawad, besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
Jawad Ahsan: I’m happy to connect on LinkedIn. I included a personal email address in the book, and you can email me at . I would love to hear from you.
Drew Appelbaum: Jawad, it’s been a pleasure, and thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Jawad Ahsan: It’s my pleasure, Drew. Thanks so much for having me.