Episode 25 | An introduction to Yusuf Moolla

The Assurance Show
Episode 25 | An introduction to Yusuf Moolla
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Show Notes

In this episode we learn a bit about Yusuf, one of the co-hosts of the show.
He explains what he considers to be the highlights of his career.

 

Transcript

Narrator: 

Welcome to The Assurance Show. This podcast is for internal auditors and performance auditors. We discuss risk and data focused ideas that are relevant to assurance professionals. Your hosts are Conor McGarrity and Yusuf Moolla.

Conor: 

Today we’re going to be talking about Yusuf Moolla. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Yusuf: 

Born in South Africa in the late seventies, in Durban. Probably about five years old when we moved up to Joburg. So primary school, high school and then the University of the Witwatersrand where I studied computer science and mathematics. Worked for the university for a few years in the finance team and then the business intelligence team. The university was reasonably advanced in the way in which they did things. So we had Business Objects which was subsequently purchased by SAP and we’d produce analytics and reporting for a range of university matters. I joined Deloitte in 2005, in the Enterprise Risk Services team. Worked for a range of fantastic leaders. Had two kids, so my sons are now 15 and 11. And then we moved, to Australia in 2012. And we’ve been here for the last eight years. Worked for KPMG for a little bit, then Deloitte. And then about four years ago, you and I got together and decided to do our own thing, so we’ve been doing that for just over four years now.

Conor: 

So you said there that you were in a business intelligence team when you were working for the university. Was that a term that was fairly new back then?

Yusuf: 

Probably used for a few years already. So I know when I was at university, that was definitely something that was coming through. The South African guys back then were, and probably still are, but they were pretty innovative and forward-thinking.

Conor: 

So you’ve been in Australia a few years now. What do you like to do with yourself outside of work?

Yusuf: 

Most of my time outside of work is spent with the family, recreational cycling, lots of time at the beach, obviously being in Brisbane and near the Gold Coast we spend a lot of time on the beach. And then most of my days and evenings and weekends, when I’m not working, are spending time with the family and helping to guide, to the extent that I can, a couple of young boys.

Conor: 

You’ve done quite a bit of travel over your working life, Yusuf, including working for some of the big, accounting organizations on various continents. What are some of the career highlights?

Yusuf: 

I have worked in quite a few countries for both Deloitte and KPMG, probably about seven or eight of them now. The things that I consider to be highlights would be the experiences that I had, with and for, really exceptional leaders. I started at the university working for a lady by the name of Cheryl, that was my first boss, she was fantastic. Then worked for Kathryn Franz, who was an exceptional leader at Alexander Forbes in what would be superannuation in Australia, but pension funds in South Africa. I worked with Kevin McLoughlin and Neeta and Felicity Coughlan at the university. Again, exceptional leaders. And then when I moved to Deloitte, I worked for Danita de Swardt and Sidesh Maharaj and Shahil Kanjee, Miles Crisp. And then there’ll be a few in Australia that I worked with as well. What I remember, when I think about my career, in terms of highlights of working would be those experiences that I had with exceptional leaders. The content doesn’t really matter, but the way that they treated me and the way that they helped me and worked with me, definitely sticks with me.

Conor: 

So what are some of the attributes or characteristics from those exceptional leaders that you’ve taken with you ? Yusuf: They all took time that they worked with were and what their needs were. And in some cases, they didn’t understand by asking, but they understood and then asked. What I mean by that is they didn’t wait until I went to them and said, oh, I think I need this or can you help me with this? I remember Danita de Swardt, she was a senior partner and she had been for a few years when I joined in 2005. On my first day at work, she told me, so I’m Muslim, right, and I pray on a Friday regularly. She told me on my first day at work that I need to block out Friday between 12 and 2. When we had events outside of work, if they happened to fall on a Friday, she would arrange for, without me knowing about it, a car to come and pick me up and take me to pray and halaal food, and all sorts of things like that. These things, they sound quite simple, but definitely intune and aware of the needs of diverse range of employees that they had. Aware of family situations and what that meant in terms of needs. So we all work really hard, but as soon as there was a situation that required time away or focus on family, then they would definitely arrange for that to happen. So it sounds as if, given those examples you’ve just described there, there was a real sense of trust and camaraderie within the team.

Yusuf: 

Oh yeah. Deloitte South Africa was a fantastic place to work.

Conor: 

Were there any specific engagements or assignments that stand out as memorable for any reason?

Yusuf: 

I probably would have been involved in, well over a hundred engagements. The ones that stand out for me would be the ones where I was involved on an ongoing basis. So you talk about engagements and for me, individual engagements don’t really stand out, necessarily. But where there were relationships built with clients that were ongoing. I’ve had a few, SAPPI would have been one of them, that stands out really strongly. So the South African Pulp and Paper manufacturers. They were a New York stock exchange listed entity back then, and we did work for them over a few years. And working with, teams like that meant that the relationships that were built were quite strong. And those are the sorts of things that stand out in my head more than individual engagements.

Conor: 

So that’s sort of a brief history of your professional career pre Risk Insights. What occupies your time these days?

Yusuf: 

Most of the work that we do is focused on the use of data within audit and integrity agencies. So as you know, obviously, we work with a range of internal audit teams and anti-corruption agencies and other integrity agencies. And the key focus is on individuals and teams using data better in the work that they do.

Conor: 

What are some of the things that give you most satisfaction when dealing with clients particularly around better using their data?

Yusuf: 

When teams are either using data already, or are not using data, but we can work with them to elevate the way in which individuals think about how they use data, that’s really what we’re looking to achieve. And so when that happens, that’s fantastic. A lot of the work that we do would be about actually using data to execute and come up with a result. And that’s nice. But where we add value to individuals, so where we’re able to take individuals to a different level of capability, either in the way, in which they think about using data or in the way in which they use data, provides me the most satisfaction. And that’s because we’re actually helping people . So helping organizations is great. Helping individuals, and helping them advance their careers, and their capability levels, breaking down the fear that some people have around the use of data, but also just giving them the personal satisfaction that they’ve been able to achieve something themselves, gives me greatest satisfaction.

Conor: 

What’s top of your work agenda at the minute?

Yusuf: 

Writing a book, which hopefully will be published first quarter of calendar year 2021. That’s been quite challenging. It’s not an easy thing to do, but really is important because the message that every auditor should use data themselves directly is important and getting that mindset right. So that’s top of the pops. Quite enjoy producing this little podcast; it’s slightly different to the normal work that we end up doing.

Conor: 

I’d be interested in understanding. What you found on a personal level, putting together the podcasts and thinking about the topics and the discussions and so forth?

Yusuf: 

A lot of what we talk about, we’ve been talking about or thinking about for a while. But when you put it into a format like this, where there’s listeners that you’ve just never seen before, and you put it out there and, it won’t stand the test of time because there’s no such thing as future-proofing, as you always tell me. But it does force you to become very clear about the principles and the approaches and what the message is. That’s been quite useful because it’s helped crystallize some of those ideas – that we have in our head, and we think about, and the way in which we do things and put that into something that can be consumed. In some cases it’s actually helped to clarify certain things cause you and I will have debates and, work through. What exactly are we talking about? What exactly does it mean? What does it not mean, et cetera. So that’s been useful from that perspective. Also there’s been a range of interviews we’ve been doing recently and there’s a few others coming. Those discussions have been quite useful and helpful.

Conor: 

On a personal level, anything lined up for the future in terms of goals or objectives that you’re willing to share?

Yusuf: 

I’ve got a son going to high school. So thinking about which school he’s going to go to in two or three years time. I’ve got another son that’s finishing high school, so what’s he going to do? That’s obviously his choice, but you know, helping guide him through that. My own work has taken a bit of a backseat, with my wife going back to work full-time, and now she’s reduced that a little bit, but a lot of my time is taken up now with doing things at home that I wouldn’t have been involved in before, because I was working full-time with my wife at home. That’s been different, but I really am enjoying it also because she’s enjoying what she’s doing. And she’s getting a lot of personal satisfaction from the work that she’s doing as well, so that’s been quite good. In terms of myself, the onset of the pandemic has meant that there’s a lot that we’re just not sure about. What we would have thought at the beginning of this year in terms of personal goals changed and shifted over the last little while. I have to say I haven’t sat down and thought through it very carefully. One of the key personal things that I would like to be able to say in five years time, if I look back, that I was able to change my own mindset from one that was probably a little bit more closed to new ideas to being a bit more open about it. The impact of the pandemic has been that we’ve had to change a lot of our perceptions of what things are and how things work. So we have to be more open to new things, new ideas, new ways of working, but also new ways of dealing with things personally.

Conor: 

Absolutely. Great conversation there. I found out a lot of stuff about you that I didn’t even know beforehand even though we’ve been working very closely for the past four to five years. So, thank you very much for that.

Narrator: 

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