Dr Toseef Din dreamt of being in the medical fraternity when she was younger but ended up in finance after discovering her love for numbers in high school. She shares how being recently appointed CEO of MP Shah Hospital brought her full circle.
She does not waste time. I am seated in her office and conducting the interview within minutes of getting into MP Shah Hospital. After this, she has another meeting.
This is how Dr Toseef Din has lived life — no time wasted at any stage. Married and with her first baby by 22, rising up the ranks and becoming a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a major hospital by 39.
That’s why I’m surprised when she tells me time management is one of her biggest struggles. I am a little less surprised when she explains why it’s a struggle. It is not that she is unable to manage it, it’s that she would love to fit more things into her schedule than she already has.
“I want to do so many things. But slowly and steadily, I am realising you can’t be all things for everyone. The third habit in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey says ‘prioritise’. Pace yourself. I keep reminding myself that. It is difficult to follow because I want to do so many things,” she says.
“So I struggle with time management and work-life balance becomes an issue for me sometimes because it is a demanding role that requires me to give the best I can here and, when I go home, I have to appear less tired for my children,” she says.
Still, she manages to fit more things into her life than a lot of people.
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Din was a radio presenter at Sound Asia for seven years, hosting a request show at some point during her career, which she did while studying.
If she had grown up in the age of YouTube, I’m certain she would have had a promising career doing those popular ASMR videos where they use soothing voices to calm your senses. She speaks in such a voice, so the fact that she can do radio is not the surprising part.
It’s that she had the time to do it and still ended up here.
And yet, she wishes she had done more. “I wish I would have studied more in the beginning stages of my life and done more extracurricular activities. Learn more languages, for example,” she says. “When you are young, you have time to learn but when you become older, it becomes difficult to juggle between so many things. So my advice would be that when you are young, try to do as many things as you can because they will help you. The only way out of poverty is knowledge.”
“Would you have been in finance if you had done more?” I ask.
“I wanted to be a nurse when I was young and be in the medical fraternity but, somehow, that didn’t pan out. If I had a chance to re-invent the wheel, I would have definitely done something in medicine,” she says.
“You clearly love it here then!” I remark
“That’s why I haven’t left!” she replies, laughing.
Thirst for knowlege
She was literally born in the hospital. “I would say my journey with MP Shah started when I first opened my eyes because I was born in this hospital, so the journey is quite personal for me,” she says.
She has worked there for ten years, starting out as Head of Finance in 2011, then becoming Chief Operating Officer and now CEO. She was more than ready.
“I have a thirst for knowledge so I usually enrol into many executive programmes,” she says. “Last year, I completed a course in managing healthcare business with Strathmore Business School. This year, I completed another executive course on coaching, also at Strathmore. In-between, I’m always attending something or the other, to keep current. Knowledge is the only way you can remain current so I’m a big fan of reading books in and around my area of expertise so that I can know what is happening.”
As hectic as it sounds, it seems par for the course for the kind of person who would be entrusted with running a hospital, especially during a pandemic.
She was confirmed CEO just last month and is not a medical doctor (her title is due to an honorary doctorate in humanities), so that quality comes in handy, having to keep learning about healthcare and medicine for her role.
“I don’t think you need to be a doctor or a nurse to be in the CEO position. You cannot be a master of everything, so the team is full of people who are experts in their various fields. So if they don’t have finance knowledge, I provide the finance knowledge being a CEO and if I need medical knowledge in making some decisions I use their expertise. So we complement each other extremely well. You need to have a strong team to complement you and provide the expertise as and when required,” she says.
Discovering her path
Crunching numbers is her thing now, despite having wanted to be a nurse growing up. She ended up in finance thanks to a teacher and a love of numbers.
“I had a good teacher at CGHU Parklands Secondary School who taught me with a lot of love. I just felt the way he guided me into the profession made me fall even more in love with the profession,” she says. “When I graduated, I felt my strength was in finance and I pursued a career in finance. Without a calculator, I felt incomplete.”
But medicine never lets her go. She is married to Dr Mujahid Din, an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist at Aga Khan.
“Oh wow, you are in competition with each other!” I remark.
“Healthy competition,” she says, smiling.
They met at an event where he was singing and she was the emcee. They fell in love, got married and now have three children.
“A lot of people say behind every successful man there is a woman but for me behind my success has been my husband. He is very calm and collected and I always go to him for advice,” she says.
Being a planner
Getting here for her has not been by chance. She has been looking forward to getting this position for a while.
“What has been good for me is that I want to develop a compelling future. Something that I want to look forward to. Not something that I am having pain looking at. I plan every detail. So maybe I plan my holidays one year in advance. That gives me something to look forward to and that’s the future and vision I have always had for myself. I don’t let things tell me what to do,” she says.
But she is not so rigid as to never deviate from her meticulous plans.
“I am a person of routine but when the routine is too much I don’t feel fearful interrupting the pattern. It is okay to interrupt the pattern,” she says.
She also admits that she has made mistakes in her career journey. “Don’t try to do everything yourself. That has been my mistake. You become overwhelmed. Be good at delegating and trusting other people to lead the show sometimes. Empower people and delegate. I’m trying to correct it now. You know, me being a perfectionist, I want to be everywhere and do everything and you can’t do that,” she says.
Where you’re from
And as fast paced as her life is, when she takes time out, it is the opposite. She is Muslim and spiritual.
“You are a spiritual being, so your connection with God is also important. That connection makes you content. Knowing where you are from. But despite being a spiritual being, remember you are also a biological creature! So you also need to take a break!” she says, laughing.
“What makes me happiest is when I go to the forest to walk. Those little moments makes me happy. I feel that as a human you can be happy with whatever you have. I will give you an example. I bought this mug yesterday. That is why you see it here. Even though the price isn’t much, it made me so happy because it was something I really wanted. I think humans should try and savour happiness in every moment. You don’t need big things or material things to be happy.”
“When you wake up in the morning, think positive things. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I have beautiful eyes! I have beautiful ears!” As small and silly as it sounds, you need positive thinking. I do that every day. I sometimes look silly in the mirror and my husband asks what I’m doing. I tell him I’m appreciating myself! It is the power of Vitamin G, which is gratitude.
“You should always have that self-esteem that, ‘Yes, I am positive. I am good. I am enough.” You have to say that to yourself. Don’t keep doubting yourself and being self-critical. Keep giving yourself positive affirmations. Love your body. Love yourself. Love your eyes. Love your hands. Love everything about you.”