Ovais Ahmed’s transition from combat to corporate

While many undergraduate students at TRSM come to our school directly from high school, some are transitioning from different careers.  This was the case for Ovais Ahmed, a decorated two-time war veteran.       

After spending nearly a dozen years in the Canadian Army’s Armoured Corps where he was an Operations Manager and deployed twice to Afghanistan, Ahmed decided to pursue a career in the financial services industry.  Knowing that he needed to complete an undergraduate degree to do so, he decided to go to TRSM.   

Ahmed graduated in 2016 with a major in Global Management Students and a minor in Human Resources and has been working in management roles at BMO Financial ever since.  Here is what he had to say about the importance of his military experience in business, choosing to study at TRSM and valuable learnings from school. 

How has your military experience helped you in the corporate world? 

Conference Room

One of the greatest skills I gained from the Army is my ability to remain disciplined, especially when dealing with ambiguity. My current role as the Head of Fusion Centre Operations in BMO’s Financial Crimes Unit involves dealing with crisis and having to bring key stakeholders from all over the enterprise together to execute our response plan. As a result of this, there’s so many moving pieces and persons to collaborate with that I need to remain focused.

Thanks to the experiences gained during my 11 ½ years in the Army, I have learned that the best thing to do when faced with ambiguity or even chaos is to take a step back, go through your checklist, which you would have created, and then calmly move ahead with your execution. There’s a saying, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” and I believe that if you are calm, you will naturally perform faster when faced with highly stressful situations.

Why did you choose to go to TRSM? 

I was seeking a Toronto (GTA) based business school that offered a real-world and valuable learning program that I could pair with my military background. I felt that TRSM offered this through its experienced professors and the fact that the university has a great reputation for developing successful leaders. 

How did you manage going to school and working in the Canadian Armed Forces at the same time? 

Open book

I actually started by attending evening classes for the first two semesters because I needed to work full-time during the day. I still remember the sacrifices I made because I only saw my wife for a couple of hours each weekday. By the time I received my release from the military, I was able to convert into a full-time student and this overall hardship taught me that life is short, so spend every second you can with your loved ones. 

How did what you learned at TRSM help you in the roles you’ve had at BMO?

In the fall of 2016, I was in my last semester at TRSM and was also applying for roles at financial institutions. Thanks to a specific course (Global Management Strategy – GMS850) and its Professor (Michael Manjuris), I was able to articulate my military experience during my interview at BMO with the learned knowledge from that course. I ultimately got hired for the position.