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Be a strong leader! Career advices from CFO lifecell

Hi there! Recently, I had a chance to speak to the really charismatic, open-minded and successful person and ask him about his own secrets of being a leader. It was CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of lifecell Company Selcuk Simsek. Let’s see what this interview was about!

Mister Selcuk, can you, please, tell our readers more facts about yourself?

So I’m 41 years old, born in Istanbul, Turkey. In the University I studied Business. And also I have my Master degree in Economics. I first started working even before graduation for the one of the biggest banks in Turkey as a part-time and between undergrad and masters I worked for PwC.

After masters, I decided to go back to business again and it was exactly the time Procter&Gamble offered me a job. So I joined one of the global corporate leaders that is present in everyday life for billions people with its products, and I had worked for P&G for 11 years. It was really great experience for me. And as I had worked in Turkey, Switzerland and Ukraine, I gained realy interesting experience of diversity in culture, economies and societies. For instance, I worked in an environment where my boss was Italian, people on my right Dutch, on my left Scottish, team members from Chili, France, I was having meetings with teams in Pakistan, Morocco, and my best friends Greek and South African. That was great.

In 2014 I joined Turkcell group, and since 2016 up to now I’ve been on position of CFO here in Ukraine at lifecell.

Do you like Ukraine?

Of course, I do! I mean, I’ve met my wife here while working in Ukraine for P&G in 2009-11. So I’m partly Ukrainian now too. I really like Ukraine for its people and as a country itself. I find people here are warm, welcoming, calm, well-educated, modest and some kind of soft. And the youth in Ukraine is also very enthusiastic and they have real potential to change something, build good future for themselves and their children.

What are your professional responsibilities now? Which skills do you think are important in this job?

I take care of Finance, Supply Chain, Real Estate Management, Taxes, Accounting, Treasury and so on. I have 140 people in my department now.

I think as you grow up in your career, soft skills are becoming more and more important. And now major time of my day I spent speaking with my colleagues. So, as for me, CFO needs to have good communication skills, holistic vision of business, leadership – that are the most important.

Tell me more about lifecell and its products itself, please.

lifecell is a digital-operator, which was always a driver of Ukrainian telecom market, because we want to serve our clients in every instance of their life. We provide them almost every service they want and need with our own solution – calls, textin with our BiP messenger, online TV+, music app fizy, lifebox – convenient and sacure cloud storage for your photos, videos and file, as well as payment system Paycell. And on the top of all this we offer all our customers 4.5G mobile internet – vital part of the new digital ecosystem of our life.

Do you know what 1 440 is? It’s a number of minutes in a day. A traditional telecom-operator provides you with calls on average 10 minutes a day and you also receive calls for another 10 minutes. That’s approximately 20 minutes.

But we want to cover every minute in your life, as then if you like listening to music like 40 minutes every day we would like to serve you in this, and also in the other digital products. This way we are helping our customers to live a digital life.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

What I like most is to be able to foresee what is coming, to make real changes and influence business. The beauty of Finance as function and CFO as a profession is that you’re responsible for everything, it’s critical when you need to make different departments work as a one mechanism. You are in the middle of all processes, having access to all information and having a say on all decisions.

Second good thing of my job is that you need to know almost everything in different spheres, you always should develop your skills and knowledge – you always need to be the second best in anything other than finance: second best marketing person after the one who really is into marketing, second best engineer after the engineers, and it works for all departments, as you understand. You need to have well rounded skill set, and strategic thinking and commercial acumen is as important as technical and financial skills.

Do you think that reading is really important for self-improvement of every person?

I think that all the skills can be developed, but physics has its limit, brain – doesn’t. That’s why reading needs to be highly essential part of life of every individual.

I can advise reading more biographies – every person has their unique life and from it you can gain some experience and learn some lessons.

Also I think everyone should find their own sphere of interest. How? You need try a lot of different things until you find what best fits for you.

One thing we did with my friends when we were in university: we used to pick a topic to deeply learn. For example, Asian economic crisis. Or what causes income inequality etc. Each person would pick one topic and then we would find different sources to learn more about it. We would share our knowledge among each other. At that time, when there was no Google neither Wikipedia, nor mobile internet ☺, it was a bit more difficult to reach to information. Now the opportunities to learn is unlimited.

Classic novels are highly adorable – you are lucky that you can read Ukrainian and Russian in original, they are the best one, in my opinion.

Can you advise some books to our readers?

If you’re in Finance sphere, as I am, than I advise you to read regularly related newspapers and magazines, like Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes etc., and closely follow up whats going on in your country’s and in the world economy.

On top, you need to find your own preferences. But you can try some of my favorite books: Malcolm Gladwell “Outliers”, Daniel Kahneman “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Stephen Covey “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

Do you have your own secret of success? What can you recommend to those, who just start their career?

First one is to be a leader.  Have a vision and engage people into it and deliver results. Leave your own legacy in your area of work, create something that will be remembered in the future. Be authentic. Say what you think directly in your own natural way, do what you say, say what you do. Have high level of integrity, be always honest, and do the right thing.

Second advice is to broad your mind in every available way every minute of your entire life, and also broaden your area of responsibility, be a continuous learner. Have your individual development plan.

The third one would be to be a hard worker. Unfortunately, not much can be achieved without real hard work.

Last but not the least, is to have strong social and emotional intelligence level. It should be increased to make you a better person, improve your empathy to people too. Be a social player!

Author: Hanna Bohdanova