Akua Nyame-Mensah ’19 has worked in e-commerce for the past four years. She was the Managing Director at Jumia Classifieds, Nigeria and Ghana. For the past few months, she served as the leader at a design and build company. She currently aspires to take an entrepreneurial route starting with career advisory services.
Wake up. Stretch. Start off with a to-do list: Akua has built an early morning habit that is allusive of her fitness enthusiasm and her orderliness. This week in Akua’s life has had a smooth live-work-study rhythm owing to its commencement with a public holiday in Nigeria where Akua resides. Coincidentally, Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration on Monday, 1st October, heralded Akua’s transitional journey to becoming a self-employed coach and consultant.
Monday was more than a public holiday to Akua, it was also her boyfriend’s birthday hence the celebratory mode was very much activated. She picked up a cake for him, and they hung out together. She also watched TV shows and movies, as deserving of an extended weekend.
Akua’s Tuesday was for finalising, consolidating and planning. Her last day at her former job was on Friday, the 28th of September, hence she set Tuesday aside for communication with partners and clients to inform them of her transition and to direct them to the appropriate succeeding personnel. She also officially commenced her design thinking cycle for her MBA Capstone project idea which doubles as her next career path.
Akua is driven to provide support to youth who need career guidance before and after they get formally employed. She has personally experienced the tenacity of the job market and the fast-pace of the corporate world, hence her passion to assist others to navigate the professional world/ life-phase. Armed with guidance from her Capstone supervisor and feedback from the accessible target audience, Akua is resolved to translate her Capstone project into a fully-fledged profitable advisory firm after graduation.
“I want to develop products and services based on what people around me are interested in. A lot of people tell me that I need to have my niche, but to me, that is synonymous with imposing my products or services on people. I feel like there’s no need to impose a solution even though such niche markets tend to provide more security.”
On Wednesday, Akua took significant-steps ahead in ideation and project design despite the threat of a cold. She obtained guidance from her Capstone supervisor for defining her target market. Later in the day, she had enlightening conversations with two ladies, one of whom was a fitting representation of her target audience and the other, an experienced coach who has had an inspiring career trajectory from coaching to facilitation and customer engagement. Before the day ended, Akua ensured to engage with some of her Leadership Lab readings.
On Thursday, Akua cross-examined the type of brand she hopes to build with her advisory firm. She reflected on her values and considered how to translate them into the services she aspires to provide. She also did some business development based on the networks she built from her time at Jumia. Furthermore, she conducted research on legal considerations for registering her business in Nigeria and the United States. Today being #TGIF, Akua is super excited as she plans to attend a Major Lazer Concert happening in Hard Rock Beach, Lagos, Nigeria from 7 p.m.
[On roadblocks], Akua is very persistent and adherent to communication and follow-ups when other people are involved. She says, “I’m not afraid to be persistent but I will wait.” When solely responsible, she leverages people around her who help her stay on track.
[Motivation] to Akua stems from the fact that when she makes an investment into something, it’s essential to get something out of it. She expresses her curious nature and its correlation to her interest and engagement with her MBA coursework. In her words, “I’m constantly trying to be innovative, constantly trying to be creative, and finding new ways to be more organised, better, faster, quicker. My self-motivation partially stems from my desire to be comfortable and secure enough to take chances and challenge myself to be better.”
[Work-life balance] to Akua is about prioritising and not compromising habits such as stretching, running and sports. She believes her initial work opportunities helped set up her to be flexible and pursue her interests.
“[A perfect week] is one where I wake up every single morning, write in my gratitude journal, stretch and do some exercises. Getting these two things done sets me up for a really good day. Also, getting through as many of my to-dos as possible and sleeping well and early makes my week perfect.”
To ALUSB aspirants, Akua says, “leadership is really what you make of it. It depends on the resources you want to pull, and how you execute it.” Having previously obtained a Masters in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, Akua’s road to ALU was paved by the desire to partake in building a great institution. She attests that so far, she has obtained real value and built genuine relationships through the ALUSB MBA programme. In her words, “I have learnt a lot about myself and I have been able to apply a lot of what I learned into my daily work.”
Conclusively, Akua advises people to keep in mind that “asking questions when unsure is key for balance.” She chips in the practical need to leverage technology – Google Calendars, Evernote, and possibly, an iPad for reading – to be able to succeed smoothly in a blended learning programme such as the ALUSB MBA.
Bame Moremong ’19 is the Executive Director of Brand Botswana, at Botswana Investment and Trade Centre and a current ALUSB MBA student. She manages marketing teams and mothers two daughters while studying her MBA. Her depiction of this week is as true to life as an executive’s existential template. She is customising this template for the strongest suit by embracing the supportive ALU network of like professionals.
Returning from a three-weeks away from the office on official business, Bame settled into her typical work week with a ‘catch-up’ to-do list slated to reconcile her old and new projects. Her Monday morning started with her “me” time at 5:30 a.m. As a habit, she devotes thirty minutes to spiritual connection before the day comes alive in her household. Then, she gets her daughters ready for school before heading to the office. In the office, Bame tries to fit her MBA coursework into the normal workday by looking at Leadership Lab (LL) during her lunch hour. She also endeavours to end her days with at least an hour of coursework after family time with her daughters.
Bame’s priority for this week is a two circle Venn diagram bearing report writing from her last trade mission to Beijing in August, and event planning for the Global Expo Botswana to be held in October. Outside these circles, she approves projects for her team members to proceed with their initiatives and responsibilities, and holds meetings with the rest of the executive for work updates, strategy and review.
[On Roadblocks], Bame shares her scare in Term 3, where she struggled with her coursework. Now, she thrives on the consciousness that there’s a whole group of about sixty people who are all rooting for her success, ever willing to encourage and remind her of her whys. She says, “one of my Pan-African Group (PAG) members became my self-designated accountability partner. It is so inspiring to have such access to the most supportive people when the going gets tough.”
[On motivation], Bame affirms that her first home-learning teammates at ALUSB have become her sisters even though they are technically no longer team members: “I run to them when I have issues, when I need encouragement and motivation.” She adds that making it through peculiar hitches from her last term taught her to reach out and utilise the support within her ALUSB community.
“[A perfect week] is one the stars align and I am able to submit my ALUSB coursework on time, spend time with my daughters and stay on top of my deliverables at the office. I’m all about simplicity, finding peace and staying on track.”
Concluding with her deepest sense of connection to the ALUSB mission, she says, “I always get a sense of the whys at the intensives and that’s why I look forward to every single intensive. It motivates me for the coming term. During the term, reaching out to faculty has assisted sometimes. Also, my kids just won’t let me fail, they always remind me that I got deadlines because they are so looking forward to graduation next year.”
Bame anticipates two main takeaways by the end of her ALUSB journey: self-awareness and personal growth. She is confident that by the time she graduates, she would have had twenty months of introspection and applied emotional intelligence, a life-long access to a great pan-African network, as well as an undaunted assurance of her ability to create an impactful, difference-making enterprise on the African continent.”
“I’ve been so hard on myself this entire journey but through the process, I have become fully alive to my zeal to make a difference in the lives of people. At ALUSB, I have been given the tools to bring these things to life, and I have the biggest network of people supporting me along the way.”
Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Arowolo ‘18, a wife, a mother of two, and a Nigerian entrepreneur, with plans to expand beyond Nigeria. As Toyin enters the home stretch of the ALUSB MBA, she shares a message for women considering this programme, and talks about the moral responsibility that lays ahead now for the founding class of 2018, as they prepare to graduate.
“The core of this programme has been leadership, but it’s also been ethical leadership – and more than anything, that’s what Africa needs.”
Here are some highlights from Toyin’s Interview:
On striving for work-life balance during the programme:
“I look back and wonder where I had the time to do this. I have two girls, I.am a wife, I work a nine-five job which is more like an eight to eight. I am active in church, started a business midway through business school.
What advice would you have for people considering this programme?
“In the midst of all this, I am happy to say that I have kept up with school work, it hasn’t been easy….it’s been a beautiful experience…in two years as pre-ALUSB and post ALUSB – there’s definitely been a change.”
On what lies ahead beyond graduation:
“As founders, we have an even bigger responsibility to go out, do good and be the kind of leaders people look up to. One of the things that leadership does is inspire us and as the first class, the founders class, I think that we have the moral responsibility (to do so), which is even greater.”
“I think that all eyes are on us, and me as an individual as a member of the class….the sky’s the limit of all of us and we have so much work to do”.
Watch Toyin’s full video interview here:
Brenda Kobola’ 19 works in the Human Capital space at Standard Bank Group. In this interview, Brenda discusses striving for work-life balance as she manages work, study, and family life. She also describes her personal leadership journey since she joined ALUSB.
Here are some highlights from Brenda’s interview:
How do you strive for work-life balance in the midst of so many competing priorities?
“At any given time, I have to make priorities, and I have to decide what I am focusing on otherwise if I split myself, there is no quality in anything that I am doing….it’s not easy, but you have to be disciplined. If you say today is my study day, it has to be that”.
How have you developed as a leader since you joined ALUSB?
“I came here, and we were talking about the V^3 Model. I said okay, I feel that I am that African leader. As guests came to speak to us about the different elements of the V^3 model, I started questioning myself….and as you start questioning yourself, you realise that the journey of a leader is about how you craft it as you go along”.
How is ALUSB building Brenda as a leader for African Century?
“I think for me, having the opportunity to sit around leaders, having guests that come in and tell you their stories… it just pushes you. What do I see around me? What can I do? How do I improve things around me and the issues that I am identifying, and what do I do about them? I think that, for me, is the biggest learning so far”.
Watch Brenda’s full interview below.
It was inspiring to spend some time with ALUSB Guest Faculty Ayesha Bedwei, a Partner and Diversity & Inclusion Leader at PwC in Ghana.
In this interview Ayesha shares some powerful insights about the nuances of doing business in Africa, as well as her thoughts about how to empower and encourage more women into senior leadership positions.
Here are some highlights from Ayesha’s interview:
What is the key to doing business in Africa that most people overlook?
“Our infrastructural deficits and lack of key basic amenities make it difficult sometimes…, but one of the things that it has made us do is to become resilient and very adaptable to change. Those are some of the things that make a marked difference between doing business in Africa and doing business in the West, where things work and should work most of the time”.
What can we do to empower and encourage more women in leadership positions?
“As women, we must support other women because we understand the challenges and we have been through them….we all have a part to play, both men and women, and we should be compassionate towards, and encourage other women to rise up”.
Ayesha discusses first the challenges that hinder women rising up and occupying senior leadership positions, as well as those of managing the multiple facets of a woman’s life beyond her career, as a mother, wife and an African woman with extended responsibilities. There are many things we can do to make the workplace more inclusive for women.
What advice do you have for someone joining the C-suite or making a partner for the first time?
“There are unwritten rules which a lot of people will not take the time to tell you. When you get into this position, you must spend a lot of time keeping quiet and listening, to understand and appreciate the power dynamics and understand the realm that you’ve come into”.
Watch Ayesha’s full interview below!