Experience Based Management, Effective Leadership and Valuing People

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Interview with Abdul Qadir

Technology Services

 

Abdul Qadir is the Chief Information Officer of Wakensys (Pvt) Ltd, a company that has been providing global consulting and technology services since 2006. Wakensys is a leading, world-class quality developer of Open Source customization and integration of market-leading solutions at a competitive price. Their products and services include: Social eCommerce – Complete Business Solution, Application Support Services, Mobile Applications, Hire Development Resources, Web design and developing. Their current market extends from the Asian Pacific to Australia and from Europe to the USA.

Elena Ornig:

Hi Abdul and welcome to the Gold Coast. I would like to firstly ask you what your company is primarily known for in Sri Lanka.

Abdul Qadir:

We are a developing company and we do web development, mobile applications, we integrate CRMs (Customer Relationship Management) through websites and mobile phones; we also do business intelligence (software solutions for organizing and analyzing raw data).

Elena Ornig:

What differentiates your company from others?

Abdul Qadir:

We have developers who can work on any platform. So, we are not platform dependent. We work on Linux which is an Open Source, we work on Windows which is not Open Source and we work with different languages. We can connect different systems together and we offer a whole package of solutions from just one company. We are also very competitive when it comes to pricing. That is how we differ from other companies.

World-class Quality Developer

Elena Ornig:

I have noticed that you are not bragging about your flagship clients which you have clearly listed in the marketing brochure…

Abdul Qadir:

I have realized that bragging about my clients actually breaks my business instead of gaining something. It is like showing off.  I do not want to show off but when we work with new clients and they are ready to sign up then I show them my credibility that is recognized by other companies and their references. We provide references from other clients only at the last stage. We do not want our new clients asking questions of existing clients because they can get irritated and we do not want that. I have experienced that situation in the past. It wasn’t a new client but some development company that was trying to undermined our services by offering cheaper prices. Our clients told us about this and expressed how annoyed they were; so we stopped showing off our clients.

Elena Ornig:

You are part of a very exclusive delegation representing some of the biggest companies in Sri Lanka. What made your company succeed in the ICTA selection process?

Abdul Qadir:

ICTA (Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka) selection wasn’t based on the size of a company. It was based on the quality of products and services and that is why we were selected.  We always concentrate on the quality of our work and our products. When we work on a new development we never take or copy existing templates -we build and develop new websites from scratch. We do sometimes look at the ideas and concepts developed by others but we only consider the ideas or concepts, we build and develop everything from the beginning.  Each and every website that we build has its own concept behind the design for every page and all functional aspects of the design are based on a reason of how it’s supposed to work. So we develop the entire operational process before we design the entire website. That is the difference between us and other companies and that is the reason why we are here.  We were recognized by our government for the high quality of our work and our uniqueness.

Model-View-Controller

Elena Ornig:

Did you study in Sri Lanka or in a different country?

Abdul Qadir:

I studied in the US, in Connecticut. I learnt a lot from there. Even the website development, the concepts and the quality of work that I deliver now is all because I lived there and I learnt there, in the US. I understand the mindset of the American people and I know their requirements. When you develop or do something for an American company or American vendor you have to maintain a certain standard which is recognized worldwide.  One of the reasons I serve clients from different countries is because I do have a US based company in Chicago. When new clients see that I have a US based company they know we have the highest standards. That helps me to finalize deals. So, it is always a plus for me.

Elena Ornig:

Have you also learnt about American management and if you did, do you apply it in running your Sri Lankan company?

Abdul Qadir:

Yes, I did. When I was studying in the US I used to work odd jobs and I was managed by the owners. One of my employers when asking me to do something always said: “Could you please do this for me?” I was working for him and he could just say: “Do this.” I asked him why and he told me that he could just say: “Do this” and I would do it but I would not feel that I was willing to do that. So, by him asking politely if I could do something for him I was doing it willingly. It was something that I have kept in mind. When I came back to Sri Lanka I used it with my employees. I never command – I request and they are happy thinking that they are helping me. That creates a very friendly atmosphere because they are happy. Just this little thing has created a big change in the way I work with my team.

Elena Ornig:

Are you thinking about expanding and diversifying your services and products?

Abdul Qadir:

To be frank, we started with the websites and now we are doing websites with eCommerce, social networking websites, community websites and membership websites.  We do web applications which have nothing to do with website design and development but are web based applications that can be accessed from anywhere. Obviously we want to do more because technology is moving forward and we need to move with it; just maybe not that fast.  We keep on learning and trying new things and it is different to what we did just five years ago. We always try to come up with new concepts of how it looks and feels.  I have a very young team; the average age of my employees is 25 to 26. It is very dynamic and very talented team and they always come up with new ideas because they learn quickly. To develop unique websites takes a lot of time but my team has a good set of analytical and developmental skills and it works well.

The Gartner Symposium 2013

(Abdul Qadir and one of the Directors at Wakensys (Pvt) Ltd – Fazeel Salihu)

Elena Ornig:

You talk like you really love your job.

Abdul Qadir:

I love it! I could say that I am a workaholic because I like to work. Work for me is not about making money it is about living and enjoying life.

Elena Ornig:

Many companies attending the symposium have a desire to find new customers or new partners in Australia. What about your company?

Abdul Qadir:

I think I am looking for something different, not just customers because I am not looking for just selling a product here. I am looking for someone who wants help in their development and provide them with dedicated resources. I could provide them with the needed skills that they might not be able to acquire here: skills in Business intelligence, Microsoft dynamics, CRM development, PHP development, .NET development, Open Source development and design. I can provide these resources and they don’t have to worry about the time difference between Australia and Sri Lanka because it’s only about three and half hours. This time-frame is perfect because the Australian client can identify what they need and by lunch time, provide us with details and we can start to work. That is what I am targeting here and I know that the salary rates in Australia are quite high for IT professionals but I’m not trying to take away their jobs. I would like to work with Australian companies; if they need a backup team for a particular project I can provide that backup. For example you have one developer here and three developers in Sri Lanka or vice versa but we work as a team. I believe that can work well for both countries. So, that is something I am looking for right now.

Elena Ornig:

So you are talking about contracted employees and not full time employees.

Abdul Qadir:

Exactly, it doesn’t have to be long term employment. The minimum is usually three months and I would be more than happy with that.

Elena Ornig:

Have you ever been afraid of losing your job?

Abdul Qadir:

I have never been afraid of losing my job and I know that generally we are not afraid of losing jobs in Sri Lanka.

Elena Ornig:

Why not?

Abdul Qadir:

Because we know that as long as you are talented, skillful and capable, you can find a job. Maybe you will not be paid as much as you wished or were paid before but being paid something is better than nothing. So, we believe that as long as you have the skills you can find a job. If you do not have skills, then I am sorry. If you have the skills there are always opportunities. That is the mentality we have in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Delegation 2013

We try to keep the best people working for us because we do not want to lose them.  If they come and say that they want to work for a different organization we always ask if we have done something wrong and what we could do to keep them. In America, when people lose their jobs they say that they’ve lost everything but to be honest a job is just a job and it is not life. So, you lost your job – go and find another one the same way you found the previous job.

When I first started to work I was in college and I started to work at a gas station. I cleaned everything, I mopped the floor, I took out the garbage and I learnt the mentality of an employee. I learnt how low an employee can feel. That way, I learnt how to treat people who are now working for me. They are just doing their job and I treat the people and not the job. I do not look at the social status of people, I look at the person. We are human beings and we are all the same and nobody is better than the other.

Elena Ornig:

It was a real pleasure to interview you, Abdul. I wish you and your family all the best.

Abdul:

Thank you, Elena.

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