7 Questions for CFO Emmanuel Mushi

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Emmanuel Mushi is the CFO of DHL Express Tanzania. His expertise is bolstered by previous roles as the head of finance at the Tanzanian subsidiaries of Green Resources AS and important contributions at Deloitte & Touche.

Apart from ACCA and CPA qualifications, Emmanuel's academic journey includes a master’s from the University of London and a bachelor’s from the University of Dar es Salaam.

In this interview with CFO East Africa, Emmanuel answers questions about his career journey and view of success.

How did you end up as an accountant - did you have a different career in mind and why did you change your mind?
In secondary school, I was interested in law, computer science and accountancy. I struck out law because I wasn’t good at languages and I am also an introvert. My interest in computer science is still there today; it dates back to my mother bringing home our first computer in the early 90s. I really enjoyed working on it.
Accountancy was where I landed, mainly because I wanted to understand the world of business at a very young age. I also loved mathematics and excelled in any subject that had numbers.

What have been the highs and lows of your career?
I think I am blessed to have had several career highs, ranging from leading audits in a foreign country, to managing cash flows originating from the first carbon credit sale that has ever happened in Tanzania. I was the youngest head of finance to ever hold the position at Green Resources AS subsidiaries in Tanzania.
As for the lows, I really struggled at the start of my career. My first job out of university was a steep learning curve. A lot of painful memories and lessons came out of the experience.

How do you define success both professionally and personally?
Professionally, my version of success revolves around the idea of being the best at what you do. This includes a whole spectrum of things such as obtaining a great deal of knowledge and experience that enables you to master your field and add value. At a personal level, success involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle, spending enough time with family and friends and having the resources and willingness to give back to society.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.
Not sure if it’s surprising, but it’s a bit unusual. I did skip one year when I was in primary school simply because I wanted to finish school early.

How many people do you manage as CFO and what is your management style?
In my current role, I manage a team of 13 staff. I am not sure what I would call my management style, but I like to empower my team to work with minimum supervision to achieve the agreed objectives within the agreed timeframe.

Is there a book or a film that you have watched that was life-changing for you? Tell us about it.
The Outliers by Malcom Gladwell was an interesting read. He explores the factors that contribute to high level success and what makes high achievers different from the rest. Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo changed my perspective of how I view foreign aid, especially at a macro level. The book also shed some light on how global aid and financial institutions were formed.

When it comes to films, The Big Short made the most impact in my way of thinking. The film portrays the events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, how a few brilliant hedge fund managers uncovered the flaws within the subprime mortgage market and profited from the flaws. It underpins the importance of doing your homework, taking calculated risks and making data-driven decisions.

What advice do you have for your younger self and what would you do differently if you were to go back 15 - 20 years?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. I believe the challenges and opportunities that I have experienced have made me who I am. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But still I would advise young professionals to become excellent at what they do, such that they are first in mind when a problem arises in their field. They should seek to learn; as Peter Drucker wrote “knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly or it vanishes”.

Furthermore, never be limited by the boundaries of your country. The world is your playground, so be curious and understand what’s happening globally and how the global changes will affect you. Get mentors very early on in your life, they will help you prevent half of the problems you would have gone through without them.

Lastly, but most important, make sure you enjoy your youth. It gets busier as you get older.

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