Ahmad was born on July 1, 1958 in the Malaysian town of Muar. After graduating from Newcastle University in England, she went on to work brief stints in banking and at IBM before beginning her advertising career as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather. She joined Leo Burnett Malaysia in 1993 as joint creative director and eventually moved up to become the agency's executive creative director.
Simultaneously, Ahmad enjoyed a critically acclaimed career as a film director and screenwriter and was known for tackling touchy subjects like interracial and intercultural relations, put into stark relief against the diverse ethnic and Muslim backdrop of Malaysia. She directed and wrote six films, including 2004's Sepet, a romance between a Malaysian girl and a Chinese boy, which earned awards in France, Malaysia and Tokyo, including the prize for Best Asian Film at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2005. Her latest feature was the 2009 Talentime, about a talent competition and love story between an Indian boy and Malay girl, and before her death she was working on two new films, Japanese production Wasurenagusa (Forget Me Not) and the Singapore-based Go Thaddeus!, the tale of a 17-year-old triathlete who died after completing a trial for the Southeast Asian Games.