With over two decades of experience in leading technology infrastructure, Kashif Ali has established himself as a true icon in the world of IT. Starting his journey as a humble tech, he has risen through the ranks to become the Chief Technology Officer at GRF CPAs & Advisors. His skills in supervising, creating policies and procedures, enhancing cybersecurity, network architecture, and deployment of computer network systems, including hardware, software, applications, cloud-based systems, servers, and mobile devices, are unmatched.
As a certified IT professional, Kashif has tested and deployed both on and off-site technologies and monitors existing technology to determine future network needs. His current position sees him overseeing the firm’s technology, from servers to individual personal computers, installing network upgrades, managing technicians and engineers, coordinating helpdesk systems, managing IT clients, and maintaining vendor relationships.
The impact has been phenomenal in firm’s growth over the years. The head count has doubled which speaks for itself when it comes down to the bottom-line revenue growth. Technology provides the tools that drives the growth. Kashif has been keeping up with the latest technological advancements and identifying ways to leverage them to improve GRF CPAs & Advisors services and operations. He has implemented new systems, processes and tools to streamline communication resulting in efficiency. Kashif has been responsible for firm’s digital assets, such as data, privacy and protecting from cybersecurity threats. All of this has made client’s trust in firm ability to provide a better and secured work environment.
Kashif has built a high-performing team as a CTO that required a strategic approach that considers the firm’s goals, the team’s needs, and the available talent pool. Some of the areas of this approach includes, defining team roles and responsibilities, identifying the talent pool, conducting proper assessments, fostering collaboration, providing developmental opportunities while monitoring performance. This “work hard, play hard” culture has made a significant difference in achieving high-end results while keeping the work life balance.
Journey From Humble Tech to CTO
Kashif embarked on his IT journey from the very bottom as a humble tech and steadily climbed the rungs of success, transcending from a specialist to an engineer, then a senior engineer, a supervisor, a manager, a director, and ultimately, a CTO. His career path has been a diverse tapestry of roles and responsibilities, enriched by a wealth of experiences and learnings.
Kashif’s source of inspiration for delving into the tech industry was ignited by his neighbor who was a senior in high school at the time. As the dot-com bubble was about to burst, this enterprising neighbor founded a computer school. Kashif was fascinated by the computer software and books his neighbor was working on, as well as his home lab that showcased how servers and networks connected. Hanging out at his neighbor’s house and discussions with his father gave Kashif the opportunity to explore his curiosity for technology and gain a deeper understanding of its inner workings.
Following in his neighbor’s footsteps and father’s encouragement, Kashif enrolled in the computer school soon after graduating from high school. His passion for technology only grew stronger as he learned more about the field and discovered new ways to improve it. The allure of constantly learning something new was what drew him to pursue a career in tech. He found the idea of constantly evolving and expanding his knowledge base throughout his life incredibly inspiring.
Contributions to the Accounting Industry
Having dedicated over a decade to the accounting industry, Kashif finds immense joy in being an active participant in the CPA America of Firms roundtable. Attending these conferences provides him with a platform to share his valuable insights and opinions, and he takes great pride in the contribution he makes to these discussions. Kashif’s firm, GRF CPAs & Advisors, is considered one of the leaders in the industry when it comes to technology. They have implemented policies and procedures that are innovative and ahead of the curve, which is a source of great satisfaction for Kashif.
As a part of his efforts to advance the industry, Kashif has created a range of IT policies, employee IT handbooks, network security policies and sensitive data processes for accounting and financial firms. He shares this knowledge and learning with other firms, and has even created a library of policies and procedures that are utilized by many firms within the CPAmerica network. Kashif is committed to continuing his efforts to enhance the industry and will keep creating new policies and procedures that are efficient, effective, and keep up with the latest technological developments.
Headquartered in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, GRF CPAs & Advisors (GRF) is a full-service professional services firm providing clients with accounting, tax, and advisory solutions. For more than 40 years, the firm has supported the financial and operational success of for-profit and tax-exempt organizations locally, nationally, and around the world. For more about GRF CPAs & Advisors, visit the firm’s website at www.grfcpa.com.
GRF places a great deal of emphasis on hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about their work and willing to go the extra mile for clients. This creates a culture of growth, profitability, and enthusiasm that permeates throughout the organization.
In the realm of IT, GRF CPAs & Advisors has carved out a niche for itself in cybersecurity and IT services. The firm’s diverse portfolio of IT clients adds value to its services.
Enhancing Efficiency and Security
When Kashif first joined GRF CPAs & Advisors as an advisor in 2012, the firm had a modest user base of around 80-85 individuals. Over the years, however, the firm has grown significantly, and it now boasts a user base of 250 individuals, including contractors. This growth has necessitated a number of changes in the firm’s IT infrastructure and policies.
His primary focus at GRF CPAs & Advisors has been on creating and implementing policies and procedures that ensure the security of the firm’s financial and accounting data. While this has required a significant amount of red tape, Kashif recognizes that it is necessary to maintain a secured network. One of the most significant changes that Kashif has observed during his time at GRF CPAs & Advisors is how people communicate and collaborate.
One of the core principles of IT is to ensure that people can perform their jobs efficiently and accurately. In light of this, Kashif has implemented strict parameters around the firm’s network to make it both secure and efficient for both users and clients. By doing so, he has created an environment in which individuals can work with peace of mind, knowing that their data is protected from prying eyes.
Kashif’s approach to IT at GRF CPAs & Advisors is a testament to his commitment to excellence and his willingness to go above and beyond to ensure that the firm’s clients receive the best possible service. His efforts have helped position the firm as a leader in the industry, setting the bar for others to follow.
Enabling Remote Work and Ensuring Cybersecurity
To ensure effective communication and collaboration despite physical distance, GRF CPAs & Advisors has implemented various remote tools such as Citrix, VPNs, Teams, Zoom, and other collaborative tools. These tools have made it possible for the firm to transition smoothly from working in the office to working remotely without any significant disruptions.
In addition to these remote tools, the firm has also implemented various cybersecurity measures to protect its network and sensitive client data. This includes implementing policies for every vendor the firm works with, as well as closely monitoring the network to prevent any potential security breaches.
Impact of AI on the Accounting Industry
The financial and accounting industry is being influenced by various factors, with technology being a major contributor. One notable trend that Kashif has observed is the growing utilization of AI. Its impact can be seen in the creation of financial statements, data gathering, and even audit processes, where automated sample-taking and analysis are becoming more prevalent.
Previously, auditors had to physically collect samples from their clients and manually cross-reference numbers on spreadsheets. However, various technologies now enable remote collaboration and data collection, making the process more efficient. Therefore, Kashif believes that AI will play a crucial role in shaping the industry’s future.
Insights and Strategies for the Accounting Industry
Kashif acknowledges the significance of data analytics in enhancing business operations and recognizes machine learning and data analytics as major players in this domain. At their firm, they take part in accounting industry roundtable conversations to keep themselves updated about the latest implementations and upcoming trends. Whenever they come across something new, they adopt a creative approach and experiment with it. They delve deeper into it to understand how they can leverage it within their systems.
Advice for Budding Leaders: Embrace Learning, and Remain Curious
Kashif suggests that for budding leaders, it is often the case that you may not know what you want to do until you start experimenting with various things. Therefore, the best approach is to initiate your education, explore your interests and learn more about them. For instance, many people have an interest in information technology, but they may not have a clear idea of what it encompasses beyond computer repairs. IT involves coding, data analysis, application development, and software creation, such as the operating system that powers Tesla’s self-driving cars or the codes for cryptocurrencies.
There are numerous programming languages to learn, and Artificial Intelligence is advancing at a remarkable pace, generating vast amounts of information. You can even pose questions to applications such as ChatGPT and receive responses. Therefore, Kashif’s recommendation is to continually learn, remain curious, and embrace new technologies and opportunities as they emerge.