Through the Lens of an Expert: A Professional Perspective

I’ve often written about how experts view their careers—and their professional goals—differently than their colleagues. But I thought it might be interesting to get a different perspective and let an expert tell their story, including how they see themselves and their contributions to a company.

For this blog, I had an opportunity to talk to an expert in data analytics, Omar Khawaja, who is the Head of Strategic Business Operations at Roche. Here are some of the insights he shared with me.

As an expert, what do you believe sets you apart from your coworkers?

Experience, knowledge, and passion. I’ve been in this field for over 20 years and started from the ground up, so I’ve developed a very wide perspective and expertise in data analytics. I’m also very curious and have a growth mindset, which means I like to continually learn new things and expand my knowledge base.

I also bring a lot of passion to my work; to really have an impact, I think you must have passion. I’m willing to go beyond the call of duty to accomplish something. That often sets me apart—the willingness to go the extra mile regardless of my job responsibilities.

“You can learn skills, but you can’t learn passion.”

What inspires and motivates you in your work?

I’m guided by both personal and professional choices. On a personal level, I want to be able to provide the best life I can for my family, including the quality of their lives. It’s also important for me to be a role model for my children and to demonstrate values to them through my behavior and work.

Professionally, I want to be challenged and have a meaningful impact at my company, as well as the larger society. I like being able to help guide the vision of the organization and to watch teams learn and grow, so coaching peers or other tech staff in data analytics inspires me.

What do you see as valuable contributions that experts can make?

Sometimes I think that companies focus on revenue and cost savings when it comes to contributions or value creation. But there are other less obvious ways experts can make valuable contributions, such as greater organizational efficiency, including more knowledgeable and motivated employees.

For me, I began my current job three years ago, during the pandemic when companies were first shifting to virtual environments to run their organizations. The immediate challenge in my new role was to develop a data analytics strategy, while also navigating the needs of a company that emphasizes relationships and connections.

Despite the workplace upheaval of the early days of the pandemic, I was able to work with my team at Roche to execute a data analytics strategy that relied on a data mesh, which is basically a more user-friendly, decentralized data architecture that organizes data by company departments or functions. As part of the data mesh, I also introduced cloud technology to the company. This created learning opportunities for more junior IT staff to train and get cloud certified. So, in this way, I was able to motivate others and help them gain new crucial skills.

How can organizations better acknowledge their experts?

There’s sometimes a tendency for companies to refer to all their non-management as experts, which doesn’t recognize the significance of an expert role. That can be demotivating and disengaging for true experts, irrespective of their type of expertise. So, it’s important to differentiate and acknowledge the different levels of staff knowledge and expertise and clearly define your company’s expert roles—and pay them accordingly.

Another important point is for companies to give their experts a greater role in the organization. For me, I enjoy having a specialized role with some people or team responsibilities. Not all experts want that type of position, but experts in senior roles do want to be recognized and appreciated as thought leaders. And a very important part of that is having decision-making authority that’s respected and valued by leadership.

Lastly, organizations can better acknowledge the role that more senior experts are able to play in coaching junior employees and sharing their knowledge and expertise with them, which can greatly benefit and improve companies in the long run.

Unlock the greatest version of yourself and your organization