What I've Learnt: Raja Sharif, Founder & CEO at FarmaTrust

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by Charlie Spargo

Raja Sharif founded FarmaTrust - an AI and blockchain company active in the medical supply chain industry - back in 2017.

The company tackles the issue of counterfeit medicines as well as empowering gene therapy and precision medicine - a specialism that requires a very quick response to create responses for cases where no known cure exists.

His career has seen him move between a range of exciting and leading organisations, including AlJazeera, BT, and Colt. His experience spans both legal and IT, giving him a unique grounding to approach the challenges of medicine.

We sat down with Raja to find out the lessons he's learnt.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

A cold shower every morning, even in the winter. It wakes you up and keeps you focussed. Also gives you an appreciation of the comfort you live in compared to so many people. 

What's been your luckiest break?

Not getting the jobs I 'thought' I wanted when I first started my career. I joined an IT company in 1995, while all my friends were going into banking and real estate legal departments. At the time, I thought it was unlucky, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened. 

What's your best failure?

Not becoming a lawyer in Al Jazeera, it meant I went into a commercial management function instead. I picked up so many other skills travelling the world and launching digital channels. Also taught me, the difference between being popular and respected as well as which one is more important to you. 

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?


How would you describe your work/life balance?

I enjoy working, and if you enjoy your work, then you enjoy your life. I feel incredibly lucky in that respect. However, when you have children, it;s always an idea to give them your undivided attention.

I spend a lot of time with my children, trying to make them as well travelled and adventurous as possible. Now they are teenagers, I am not sure they want to spend that much time with me!

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

'Black Swan' by Nasim Taleb. A book that says you're not in control, or special! The only constant in life is change, so you might as well try to do amazing things, especially if you have great teams with you.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don't worry so much. Career and climbing the corporate ladder are important when you are young, and constantly striving to be perfect can be time consuming.

Most things usually fall into place, if you have a three- or five-year view. Something I once read said, "people overestimate what they can do in a year, but underestimate what they can do in five years." Worrying about being liked is another issue younger people think about too much. Some people are just not going to like you and there may be no reason for it. 

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

Peter MacLean, the CEO of a company that hired me at the start of my career. I was young and inexperienced but he taught me a lot of things from a management perspective. He is now the Deputy Chairman of my company, and one of my most trusted advisers.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I always wanted to be a travel journalist. A slower version of Michael Palin's 'Around the World in 80 Days'. Would still love to do it.

What does success look like to you?

Doing things that haven't been done before.