Mon, 18 January, 2021
We took some time to speak with our new Director of Legal and Operations, Shahid Aslam, to find out more about his role and experience, how he has found his time at TWI so far, and the challenges faced by industry going forward.
Having gained a law degree (LLB (Hons)) from University College London, as well as completing his Law Society Finals and attaining a post-graduate certificate in media law from The College of Law (now known as ‘The University of Law’), Shahid then trained as a solicitor at Radcliffes and Co (now known as ‘Radcliffes Le Brasseur LLP’).
However, Shahid’s career began as an assistant solicitor at Kearn’s and Co. in London’s West End, before he went on to work as a self-employed solicitor with his own firm. After a period working as a consultant, allowing him to achieve a better work/life balance as a lone parent to three daughters, Shahid joined TWI as a full-time employee in February 2020.
Can we start back in February 2020 and ask why you decided to stop being self-employed and join TWI?
“Accepting a full time position at TWI as Director of Legal Affairs was not an easy decision for me. Having been self-employed and effectively in control of my time for the majority of my professional life, with only myself to answer to, I knew I would have to answer to a CEO, a Board and a Council.
“I have had a successful career to date with offices in the UK, Pakistan and Dubai, but I have not really been motivated by money, which I have always seen as the natural by-product of hard work and dedication.
“TWI was, however, going through a difficult period and [TWI Chief Executive] Aamir Khalid convinced me that, by joining the Executive Board, I could provide those skills that were lacking and which he felt were desperately needed to help him and the rest of the executive team turn the company around.
“Most importantly, I did not want accepting the position to impact on my ability to care for my youngest child, but after discussing it with her, she assured me that she was now old enough to look after herself and that I should accept the position, which I did, and the rest is history!”
Can you tell us more about your role as Director of Legal and Operations?
“As Director of Legal and Operations, I have an extensive remit and an important role. This position is accountable for and leads, either alone or jointly, the Legal and Commercial group at TWI, including property, HR, facilities management, The Granta Centre, hospitality, health and safety, as well as UK and Pakistan operations.
“The Director is the primary person responsible for managing legal issues faced by TWI globally. This means working closely with the Executive and management team, global colleagues and outside counsel. The Director manages contract and regulatory compliance, helps develop and implement global policies and procedures, provides research on and coordination of establishing operations in new jurisdictions, ensures compliance with the organisation’s governing structures, advises on global employment issues, takes lead in identifying and addressing potential legal issues and risks for current activities, operations and strategic initiatives and manages litigation.
“As the Director of Legal and Operations, I report to the CEO.
How have you found your time working at TWI so far?
“I found it a little challenging at first, getting to understand the business, the acronyms, the layout of the buildings and, of course, the people.
“It was a steep learning curve for me and I feel there is still some way to go, as the opportunity to gain the required knowledge was disrupted somewhat by the Covid pandemic and the need to work from home.
“Having the responsibility for making difficult decisions and giving unwelcome news, likely to significantly impact the lives of so many, is not the easiest of tasks at the best of times. However, when you have to bring up three daughters on the heels of undergoing triple heart bypass surgery it makes you tough and resilient. Coupled with my legal and judicial training and experience, which ingrained in me values of justice and fairness, I manage to get through the hard times.
“I had thought that, by accepting this role, I would lose my independence, so to speak, but that has not been the case. On the contrary, I have been given freedom to exercise independence of mind whilst, at the same time, being supported by the advice and counsel of my colleagues on the Executive Board as well as those managers who report to me and countless other colleagues - not least our executive assistants who are always around to offer a helping hand. Whilst it may sound cliché, it does indeed feel like a second family and I feel blessed to be working amongst such a diverse, intelligent and decent group of people.
“I am excited by the challenges and prospects ahead.”
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing a company like TWI right now?
“I believe the biggest challenge to TWI to be adaptability. With so many external challenges to contend with, not least the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, it is my view that only those companies that are willing and able to adapt that will survive.
“We have already seen examples of TWI successfully adapting through working from home and moving to online training and offshoring in Pakistan, however, there is yet a long way to go.
“A cultural transformation needs to take place in line with the business transformation. This will require some radical changes and TWI as an organisation, from Council to Executive, Professional to Industrial and, most importantly, the 800-plus staff globally working within the group must be ready and willing to accept and adopt the challenge of change required.”
So, considering the challenges, how do you see the future of the company?
“From what I have seen, there is every reason to believe that TWI has a bright future ahead.
“In a relatively short period over some of the most difficult and challenging times TWI has faced in its 75 year history (or is ever likely to face), the Group has seen a gradual incline back into profitability.
“If we continue along the same trajectory and continue to adapt by implementing the changes required, there is every reason to believe that we can be a profitable leading Global Research and Technology company with one of the most diverse and contented workforces in the world.”
Finally, how about yourself, what do you like to do to relax outside of work?
“My family and I have always been interested in voluntary and community work, especially where we believe our skills can add value. I have been secretary of a local charity and a governor in three schools. I was previously elected as one of the youngest and, at the time, the only Muslim local councillor in my borough. I have also sat part-time as a Presiding Justice in the adult criminal court (Magistrates) as well as a Judge of the Family Court (Magistrates).
“Sadly, after my heart bypass surgery, I have not been as active as I used to be, when I enjoyed amateur sports including cricket, basketball, badminton and squash. But, otherwise, I enjoy going to the theatre, reading, and spending quality time with my daughters, family and friends.”