#CareerConversationsWithLLA: “The people you surround yourself with can be one of the most, if not the single most important source of support, inspiration and motivation,” Dr Amy Jadesimi, CEO of LADOL.

Image credit: Dr Amy Jadesimi

Dr Amy Jadesimi (MBA from Stanford University, MA (OXON) and BMBCh from Oxford University) is the CEO of LADOL, a $500 million Industrial Free Zone. Amy was a Commissioner for Business & Sustainable Development Commission. Amy got financial training at Goldman Sachs & Stanford Graduate School of Business & medical training at Oxford University.

Her accolades include being named of the Top 50 Women in Technology by (Forbes, 2018), Oil and Gas Leading Woman of the year (Foreign Investment Network, 2018), voted the Young CEO of the Year (African Leadership Forum, 2018), an Archbishop Tutu Fellow, a Young Global Leader – Alumni (WEF), a Rising Talent (Women’s Forum for Economy and Society), one of 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa (Forbes), one of Top 25 Africans to Watch (Financial Times), one of the Most Influential People of African Descent (Under 40) Worldwide (United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (UN IDPAD), 2018), one of 50 most Influential Women in Business (The Africa Report, Jeune Afrique, Africa CEO Forum) and she is a member Advisory Board of Prince’s Trust International and contributor to Forbes.

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Dr Amy (one of our #LLA100WOEMN2020 Honoree) talks about her role at LADOL, the inspiration behind switching from medicine to finance, how her late grandmother imbibed some of the values she puts to use till today and tips on how leaders can hire the right staff/talent. Lean in!

Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do? Plus a brief introduction about LADOL.

LADOL was the first 100% indigenous Nigerian private industrial Free Zone in Nigeria. The founders began the developing the Zone out of a disused swamp in 2001 and over the last 19 years, they have transformed that swamp into a world-class industrial Free Zone, attracting USD 500 million of investments.

LADOL is building the world’s first Sustainable Industrial Special Economic Zone (SSEZ). LADOL is using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build a unique circular ecosystem, servicing a range of industries. Every year the infrastructure and facilities grow and add more value to the local community and Nigerian economy. The Zone now provides a 24/7 efficient, safe and secure location from which local and international companies, in a range of sectors can start operating immediately.  In 2017 LADOL disrupted the local oil and gas market, halving the costs of local support,  and creating thousands of local jobs. 

LADOL is now focused on attracting and servicing a range of non-oil and gas companies, in sectors ranging from technology to agriculture. The sectors identified will work together to create a circular economy within the Zone. West Africa is one of the largest under-served markets in the world with the fastest-growing population. Industrial companies working in LADOL can service this market sustainably and profitably while creating tens of thousands of jobs. As the local market grows there will be a higher demand for locally produced products, a larger skilled workforce and cheaper domestic operating costs. 

LADOL is becoming the blueprint for Sustainable Industrialisation of Africa, turning Africa’s demographic dividend into a global driver of peace and prosperity. Given the broad range of activities and responsibilities LADOL has, my job requires me to manage projects across several sectors and disciplines, as well as a wide range of clients, advisors and other stakeholders, all in an environment that demands unique solutions, resilience and professional independence.

 

Image credit: Dr Amy Jadesimi

You switched from medicine to finance, two careers that starkly opposite. What informed your decision to make this switch? 

I planned each step before I made it, but I’ve always remained open to new opportunities. Going to medical school was a short career in itself, one that gave me a deep understanding and respect for people, as well as strong interpersonal skills. But while I was studying, I realised I had other interests, particularly in the world of business and finance, and that was what led me to Goldman Sachs, a job I loved.

After three years at Goldman Sachs, I enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to broaden my entrepreneurial education. The skills and experience I gained from Oxford, Goldman Sachs and Stanford were all critical in giving me the confidence to move to Nigeria and take a job with LADOL. Over the years, the additional experience I’ve gained has convinced me that LADOL’s journey towards being a fully Sustainable Industrial Special Economic Zone is the right one for me, the company and, importantly, for our wider stakeholders in the country and, perhaps, the continent.

One of the problems most female CEOs face is staffing/hiring the right talent. Has this been a challenge for you? If yes, how did you overcome it?

Yes, I imagine this is one of the biggest challenges all leaders face. Success for me is about teamwork and each team requires different expertise but with similar values and a dedication to achieving excellent outcomes. Therefore, recruitment has to assess the whole person and how they will work in the various teams we have. We also focus a lot on training.

Nigerians are smart, hard-working and keen to join firms that will treat them with respect and give them a career path. But many Nigerians do not have on the job experience. So, we use technology and training to enable us to hire Nigerians and have them learn on the job, while we continue to serve our clients 24 / 7.

As a women empowerment advocate, what have you/LADOL done to ensure that women’s rights are adequately represented? 

I’m an advocate of well organised, positive recruitment and mentoring systems aimed at finding more qualified women to hire into jobs currently dominated by men. We need to ensure that there are fair structures in place to allow talented women to stay at work and build successful careers. SDG Goal 5 is about female equality in the workplace.

From a business perspective, it is worth investing in achieving this SGD because diverse teams, with female parity and/or leadership, are more productive and make better decisions, leading to higher resilience and profitability. In fact, the McKinsey Research Institute estimated that USD 28 trillion (26%) would be added to the global GDP if we had equal gender representation in the workplace by 2025.

More importantly, an educated woman often leads to an educated family, with significant multiplier effects. Given how much harder it still is, relatively speaking, for women to succeed and thrive than it is for men, this is an important issue that needs to be urgently addressed. At LADOL we address this by actively recruiting qualified women and helping them stay employed through a range of initiatives, including part-time work and working from home.

 

Image credit: Dr Amy Jadesimi

Tips for diversity and inclusion in the workplace (esp. for women)?

People have been my driving force. The people you surround yourself with can be one of the most, if not the single most important source of support, inspiration and motivation. LADOL has faced so many challenges and obstacles and, yet, our people, our team has worked relentlessly and poured their dedication and commitment into the company. This has been crucial to both the company’s success, as well as my own.

On a more personal note, I believe the social and intellectual exposure I’ve been privileged to benefit from through my education and professional experience outside of Nigeria has also been a determinant factor. My family are strong believers in hard work, and I was taught from an early age never to take anything for granted, giving me a strong work ethic.

 

Image credit: Dr Amy Jadesimi

If you could have a lunch date with one woman you admire – who would that be and what would you ask her?

The woman I have admired most in my life is my grandmother, who sadly has passed away. She grew up in a time when she had to fight to be educated. She got her education and even ended up running schools. She experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows in life; and through it, all her spirit was never diminished, and she remained a kind and generous person. Her intelligence grew with her age – she was and is my hero.

Top 3 books/resources career women should read/listen to.

  • ‘Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals’ – a report launched by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission on 5th March 2018.
  • ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell.
  • ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ by Yuval Noah Harari.

When you’re creatively stuck, you…?

I walk away from the problem and work on something else – then come back to it.

Your top three recommendations for career women.

  • Live and work your passion – because the world at large will not understand you or praise you while you struggle. So, your motivation has to be internally driven the knowledge that you made the best life choices you could.
  • Know your value – the world cannot thrive unless women are empowered and free, so your struggle to gain those rights for yourself and for other women is also a struggle to gain peace and prosperity for the world.
  • Enjoy the journey – those of you who have read “The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho”, would know that it’s the journey that defines us and the quality of our lives.

 

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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