#CareerConversationsWithLLA: “Be what you stand for regardless of the industry or prevailing business environment,” Oluwabunmi Adeniba, Marketing Director, Unilever Homecare, Ghana & Nigeria.

Image credit: Oluwabunmi Adeniba

Oluwabunmi Adeniba is the Marketing Director of Unilever Homecare division across Ghana and Nigeria with responsibility for the overall performance of the multiple brands in the division. She also sits on the Unilever HomeCare Leadership Team for Africa. A key part of her role involves engineering the purposeful expression of the brands through its marketing activities, one of which is taking a stance on women empowerment.

Her work experience spans across brand building, innovation design and quality management system. She started off in the supply chain and quality management system before making a career change after several years of being a mid-level Quality Control Manager to begin afresh in marketing as an Assistant Brand Manager. In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Oluwabunmi explains why it is never too late to do anything, how to deal with difficult colleagues or bosses and how to identify the phase one’s life is currently in and the type of mentorship to seek for. Lean in!

Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?

I currently manage the Unilever Homecare division across Ghana and Nigeria with responsibility for the overall performance of the multiple brands in the division. I also sit on the Unilever HomeCare Leadership Team for Africa. A key part of my role is driving the purposeful expression of the brands through its marketing activities, one of which is taking a stance on women empowerment.

My work experience spans across brand building, innovation design and quality management system. I pride my career journey on stating that it’s never too late to start anything. I started off in the supply chain and quality management system before making a career change after several years of being a mid-level Quality Control Manager to begin afresh in marketing as an Assistant Brand Manager. I went on to build a career in marketing with the requisite qualifications and work experience across a few multinational companies.

I am deliberate about seeing the marketplace as an expression of our God-given purposes and consider every role a platform to do something that improves the odds for the people we serve and make life easier for those who come after us. I am passionate about women empowerment and raising phenomenal leaders in the marketplace.

Outside Unilever, I hold the position of the 1st Vice President of the Advertising Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) and hold a membership with the Institute of Directors (IOD), Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), American Society of Quality (ASQ) and a 2018 CSC Leader, which is a global programme for exceptional senior leaders selected from government, businesses and NGOs across the 53 countries of the commonwealth. 

 How did you start out in your career, and how long have you been in the ‘corporate world?

I started out as a young manager in a privately-owned hospitality outfit leading a team with its youngest member almost double my age at the time and went from there to join the management trainee program of Cadbury. I have been in the corporate world for almost 2 decades now.

What is your number one hack for dealing with difficult colleagues/bosses?

Once we have established it is “difficult” and not demanding, do not project that person to yourself or your competence. He or she is that way probably not because of who you are or what you do but because of who they are and what they are dealing with. Externalize the behaviour, don’t project that to yourself and do not allow yourself to shrink.

As a matter of fact, that is when you shoot higher in the quality of your work, your competence and comportment on the role. Think of the word stakeholder literarily, “Stake…holder”. Find their stake (what matters to them) and ensure you are delivering to this within the context of the business/organization’s requirements. I must add never at the expense of your mental health.

2 things you do when you are having a bad day?

First- I refrain from speaking. I carry a huge responsibility for the power of words when the emotions are frayed, I am extra mindful of what I say. So, muting serves me well in those times.

Second- I take “reflection walks”.

When you are creatively stuck, you…?

Nothing like what you will expect 😊 As soon as I can, I get into a theatre to see a movie, preferably animated movies, not necessarily for the story, but the ambience, lighting and sounds work for me. Well, if I could explain the science behind it, I will probably patent it and be selling it as a side hustle, but it just works for me. Someone recently attempted to analyze it saying it must be the thrill of the make-believe.  Maybe, Maybe not.

Image credit: Oluwabunmi Adeniba

What’s your take on cliques or “you can’t sit with us groups” at work? How does one navigate such?

Find your own seat and make “you” that person or part of the group people want to sit with. Most people gravitate towards value.

Of course, we’re going to talk about mentorship – what’s your view on it? Important or Nah?

Very important, but needs to be clearly defined for expectation by both the mentor and the mentee. I find some people who need a coach ask for a mentor and some people who simply need a peer buddy ask for a mentor. Be clear on what phase you are in and what area you want the mentoring on – career, personal, business, spiritual, family or total.

Two things – what have been your best and worst career decision – and what did you learn from each respectively?

My best decision will be the career change to marketing. I changed course and started a new career journey in my early 30s. Today, I am glad I took that risk at the time. Navigating the learning curve remains till today, an invaluable experience that propels me into daring other non-career related things. I have little to no fear of doing the different and unexpected. For a worse career decision, I cannot think of one yet. Every phase came with its own peculiarity, the only certainty is uncertainty, so, I ride the waves.

 How do you advise ladies facing harassment in any form, from their superiors at work to handle it?

Never the easiest to do, but please speak up and that goes for anyone at all, either gender, whether from superior or subordinate because it could swing either way.

Find someone you trust and speak up. Find help in whatever system the organization has in place (either a person to talk to or an anonymous call line). The shame and guilt should be on the perpetrator and silence just gives power to the oppressor.

3 greatest career lessons you have learnt on your journey?

i. Guard your inner compass. Be what you stand for regardless of the industry or prevailing business environment.

ii. Manage your career/professional personality as you would a brand. Never stop learning, have your unique selling point, brand promise, growth strategy, expansion plans – the entire gamut as we would apply to any world-class brand – and drive this personally, not HR, not your mentor. You.

iii. Do not underestimate self-care– physical and especially mental. A productive person is a whole person.

 

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly Career Conversation series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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