Where and what did you study?
I studied Electrical and Electronic engineering (B.Eng.) at the University of East London. I am a chartered member of the institute of Engineering and Technology (UK). I also hold an MBA from INSEAD in France.
Tell us your STEM initiation story
I always tell this story with smiles and a depth of gratitude to my father.
In my formative years, long before I understood what STEM was, my dad, who was an engineer (now retired) started introducing me to his trade in a rather subtle way. Whenever something breaks down in the house, he would ask me to go get his tools to fix them. When I came back with the tools he would gently guide me to fix it. I must have changed by first fuse in a plug before I was 5. At the time I did not understand but in hindsight, he was preparing me for the future of life in STEM. During my advanced O’levels and A’ levels, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I would go on to read STEM related causes and when it was time for college, it was pretty clear at that time I wanted to be an engineer.
How did you land your first job?
Having started out in the manufacturing plant and subsequently becoming a sponsored student, I focused on getting my first graduate job at Ford Motor Company. So like all other applicants, I attended the assessment centre and came out successful. Once I got the job, I never looked back.
How did you take ownership of your career and understand your own niche?
I believe that nothing happens by chance. You have to be deliberate in your choices and your actions especially if you have big ambitions for your career. Realizing big ambitions is always niche because by definition many people allow their dreams to be defined by what they see around them. I say paint a picture of a dream that is not yet physically visible.
Very early in my career, back on the shop floors of Ford Motor Company, I envisioned my future as a CEO. I wanted to be in charge not only of a business unit but to have oversight responsibility over the entire operation of multinational businesses. So I took deliberate steps to realize this ambition. For instance, I realized that to be the CEO, I needed the skills and knowledge of running big business operations. I knew that with just my engineering degree, it would probably take me a while to get there, so I decided to pursue an MBA at INSEAD. Post my MBA, my focus was on leadership roles in technology companies across multiple geographies. I eventually became the first Ghanaian female CEO of one of the biggest multinational telecom companies in Ghana.
Taking ownership of your career is absolutely important. You also need to be clear in your mind what you want, where you want to go and take deliberate actions to get there.
On philosophy to work?
Be bold in creating positive change to deliver superior business results.
On striking work-life balance?
I have never felt the need to do everything myself. My philosophy has always been to focus on getting things done. I may not always be the person to do it.
I have become adept at compartmentalization. I allow different facets of my life to exist as discreetly at possible. I make sure things are taken care of; if I have to be at work then I have to ensure that my family is well taken care of. It also means that when I am actually with my family I focus on value creation – what should I do to make our time together count. I always surround myself with a good support team that understands me and is willing to help me along the way. This ensures that compartmentalization is possible. When I’m at work, I’m the CEO running a business. When I get home, I am mum and wife. The support system I have been privileged to have has ensured that I have a good work-life balance. My biggest success factor? A great partner, my husband.
You have to be deliberate in your choices and your actions especially if you have big ambitions for your career
What’s been the best thing for you so far career-wise?
Having the privilege to build, lead and inspire every team I have worked with to achieve breakthrough outcomes is truly invigorating and I am thankful for that. In addition, and closely related, is the joy of empowering young people across the continent to dream, to believe and to do. There is nothing more fulfilling to me than the many young people who write to me or who share how my career and outreach have impacted their lives and careers.
What’s been the worst thing for you so far career-wise?
I would not call it the worst thing in my career but I think it is a challenge many women face in their career — having to prove themselves over and over again or having to be twice as good to get half the chance that is available to their male counterparts. We need to collectively drive for equity in the work place. Gender is not a defensible criterion of selection. The focus has to be on the skills required to fulfill the role. And if the candidate meets the requirements, regardless of gender, then they should have the role. Women are as qualified to lead as men are. They aren’t given easier versions of course material in school because of their gender. The good thing is that things are changing – albeit too slowly. We need to deliberately focus on creating equity.
Motivation to work?
Creating an African continent where everyone prospers. We need to create the structures, empower and inspire our young people to believe and to take deliberate actions to make this continent the true economic super power that it should be.
How do you alleviate stress?
By focusing on what is truly important. Stress is precipitated by focusing on the distractions when you should be focusing on what you can do about the situation. And once you have done your best, relax, rest and do something that you find fun.
So So Random: What can’t you do without – hair or heels?
I will always choose my hair. My hair, the way it was created, is an integral part of who I am. Sounds simple but it is an expression of me that goes beyond just physically complementing my appearance. My hair is a creative outlet. It is where my art gets done.
Word of advice to younger self
Enjoy the journey. I have been focused from a very young age and sometimes I forgot to enjoy the journey. I would tell her to let her hair down a little more.
Over two decades ago when I started my career as a young school leaver on the shop floors of Ford Motor Company, the start of a lifelong professional relationship with STEM, I always nurtured the dream of founding and managing a business of my own at some point in my life. And throughout the years, holding many top leadership positions in multinational companies around the world, that desire was nurtured and enriched through experience. Today, I am truly delighted to be managing Quist Blue Diamond (QBD) focusing on business model transformation. We use technology, data science and engineering to enhance business acumen for transformation. Nothing is more fulfilling right now than the joy of running QBD and the awesome opportunities it presents to the African continent.