The path to climbing a career is not clearly a straight one. In today's work environments, the ability to make a vertical jump in an organisation takes consistency, an above average work ethic and a genuine engagement with the work. Essentially the gap between the two roles lies in understanding how the entirety of the organisation works and where you and your co-workers fit in.
The Business Standard reached out to three professionals in various industries across the planet to ferret out the commonalities between the three that enabled their meteoric rises at their respective organisations.
Mamun Rashid, the managing director of PwC Bangladesh - a global network of firms delivering assurance, tax and consulting services for businesses - and one of the most distinguished people in the local banking industry, is a great example of legacy work ethic and the drive to excel. Rashid joined ANZ Grindlays Bank in early 1987 and then went on to serve three global banks for two and a half decades.
Mamun Rashid distinctly recalls performing like a manager before he was made the manager.
Looking back upon his career trajectory he recounted, "Just after my return from a training and developmental assignment with ANZ Mumbai treasury near the end of 1987, I was made the Head of Treasury in early 1988.
As the country balance sheet and liquidity manager, I almost automatically became a member of the country management committee.
Then I moved to Standard Chartered (SCB) around mid-1993. At SCB, even though I joined as Country Treasurer, I soon received the group chairman award for network revenue generation."
When asked about what specific traits allowed him to become the veteran banker he is today, he replied, "I think my ability to convert an opportunity into reality, drive very profitable transactions helped me the most. I always wanted to be a reference point for anything happening in the Bangladesh business sector. My seniors trusted me a lot and got me included in the global due diligence team while SCB bought/acquired ANZ Grindlays Bank and appointed me the Head of corporate and investment banking for the combined bank."
From Mamun Rashid we get a very clear picture of what it takes to succeed in the white collar world, but a lot of these ethics and level of engagement can also benefit someone starting out in the blue collar sphere.
Arefin Ahmed Himel, who is currently living in Ontario, Canada started his climb to middle-management back when he was studying. He had been working at Tradition Fine Foods Company since 2018 as a general labourer through an agency.
When he finished college in 2021, he got hired in the same company as a production lead hand where he started out in the cookie line.
In January of 2022 he was promoted to production supervisor. Himel simply says, "My rise to this position was just being a model employee and having good relations with the managerial staff."
Although there is one other tidbit that reveals why management pushed him up through the ranks as fast as they did.
Himel implemented project improvements such as reducing labour standards, modifying production lines, safety precautions, increasing line speed, etc. This is a direct synthesis of being engaged with your work and wanting to improve the quality of your work, which by now, seems like one of the most surefire ways to climb the corporate ladder quickly.
There is a vast tranche between blue and white collar jobs, especially with internet based, information related jobs that are increasingly becoming the norm for office workers.
Sarmad Hassan, a Journalism graduate from Limkokwing University in Malaysia, has displayed such professional acumen and raw potential that he went from joining the Pakistani workforce to being an instrumental part of the Fifa World Cup trophy tour in a matter of two years.
At 28, he is probably one of the best case scenarios of professional excellence, given the socio-economic climate of office professionals in South-East Asia.
Hassan works as a content and communications strategist at Wordsmith global, a digital PR agency based out of Islamabad and has been there since February of 2022. His professional career however began in July 2020 with another organisation called Checkbox Media as a junior communications strategist.
"Over the course of my one year tenure at Checkbox I got a taste of the behind the scenes work of my industry. Interfacing with lawyers, medical professionals and news agencies gave me a lot of valuable experience," Sarmad said.
Regarding his exponentially increasing valuation at the company Sarmad recalls that it was a critical time for the company (and the Pakistani economy in general) and his own level of engagement to showcase his skills and take on the breadth of responsibility before his job title was changed.
To put it succinctly, Hassan is a workaholic who thrived due to his relentless work ethic. He also warns that such a level of engagement does not come without an opportunity cost and the toll it took was from his personal life.
Eventually he had to step away from Checkbox for a brief sabbatical and within months of re-entering the PR fray he was handling an event for one of the biggest brand names in the world, Coca-Cola (official sponsors of the Fifa world cup trophy tour).
The trick to climbing the corporate ladder is not just being consistent on leg day. Proving your mettle and honing your professional skills gets you the higher position, but learning how to manage, delegate and be responsible for quality and deadlines is what keeps you there.
Both Mamun Rashid and Sarmad Hassan entail the virtue of being able to work with and through your underlings and co-workers.
Mamun Rashid says, "Ability to work as a team, working with a common vision, getting the best out of junior colleagues, respect for the company's culture and heritage, ability to go deep into an issue, integrity and honesty of purpose helped me a lot."
Sarmad Hassan admits that effective delegation is something he struggles with simply due to his expertise with all the facets of his job, but also concedes that "Don't take your responsibilities and position for granted, doesn't matter if you're working at a call centre, it doesn't matter if you're a nurse, a doctor or a storefront employee, if you walk into the office with the same fervour as the CEO of Google, trust me, you are going to make it, you are going to get to the top.
But you have to keep one thing in mind, which is that you have to think laterally and vertically at the same time as well. You have to make sure that you make it to the top without trampling other people's success and happiness. At the end of the day, integrity and consistency is all you need."