#CareerConversationsWithLLA: “Work hard, don’t play the woman card and make excuses for yourself if you want to be perceived as a professional” – Bodam Taiwo, Premium Spirits Trade Marketing Manager, Brown Forman Portfolio, at The Nigerian Bottling Company.

Bodam Taiwo is the Premium Spirits Trade Marketing Manager for the Brown Forman Portfolio, at The Nigerian Bottling Company (Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company), where she is responsible for creating and embedding the long-term strategy for sustainable and profitable growth of the portfolio. 

Prior to NBC, Bodam worked at Guinness Nigeria, a total beverage company, where as Customer Marketing Manager, she successfully led the development and establishment of the trade marketing strategy for the Reserve portfolio.  Some of her key contributions on this role include conceptualising, designing and executing the Reserve BTL Activations platform per brand and developing and executing the 365 essentials strategy for Reserve. In this role, she also developed and launched the Diageo Bar Academy, a bartender advocacy and training programme, successfully training over 1,500 bar staff pan Nigeria.   

Bodam also had a short stint in Sales as the Divisional Operations and Performance manager, where she was responsible for translating the overall sales operations strategy for the division into actionable and measurable plans to ensure a competitive route to consumer, market share growth and delivery of sales business targets at a divisional level. She drove the performance culture of the division, built the right culture of discipline within the sales team and was responsible for building the capability of the team. 

Just before leaving Guinness, she managed the Modern Trade segment as National Channel Manager and some of her key achievements in that role included developing the launch plans of the White Walker by Johnnie Walker limited edition campaign and the Baileys Delight launch campaign. 

Outside of work, Bodam enjoys planning events at EBB Wedding & Events Designers Ltd – the luxury, boutique planning company she runs, coordinating two prayer ministries for women, spending time writing her first book, mentoring women through her exclusive mastermind, having heart conversations over cocktails and long meals, enjoying spa sessions, reading, watching movies on Netflix or at the cinema and trying out new restaurants.   She’s also a volunteer mentor at her alma-mater: The University of Reading. 

She is passionate about women truly living their best lives and part of her purpose is motivating, supporting and encouraging women to constantly evolve to become the very best version of themselves and to strive for excellence in all they do. 

She is a former Beauty Queen – the first Miss Malaika UK 2005, and is also a strong advocate of proper etiquette at all times. 

Bodam holds a B.Eng in Electronics Engineering from the University of Reading, an M.Sc in Mobile and Satellite Communications from the University of Surrey and a certification in Luxury Spirits Marketing from a joint collaboration programme run by Insead Business School for Diageo Brands Ltd. 

 

Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?

I am the Trade Marketing Manager for the Brown-Forman portfolio (Jack Daniel’s range of brands) at the Nigerian Bottling Company.  So essentially, I develop marketing strategies to ensure my brands are seen and purchased by consumers.  This is done through ensuring we are in the right channels (both on-premise and off-premise), in the right formats, in the right occasions, with the appropriate promotions, so that we are visible, stand-out and thus become our target consumers first choice at the moment of purchase.

 

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

I’ve been in the corporate world for about 12 years now.  I first started my career with Huawei Technologies as an Assistant Commercial Engineer – my first degree was in Electronics Engineering.  I did my compulsory NYSC with them and stayed on with them for an additional 2 years after.  I moved around a few times and bagged a master’s degree as well, then in 2011, I started working with a company called FunMobile then I moved to Guinness and now NBC.

Your number one hack for dealing with difficult bosses/colleagues?

This is an interesting one.  Something I learnt, the hard way, is that wisdom is indeed profitable to direct, and you can never win a fight against your line manager.  So, there are three ways I prepare before dealing with difficult people:

  • First, I remind myself that it’s not personal and it’s not really about me.  As women, sometimes we are emotional when people are difficult, but I remind myself that I’m in this in a purely professional capacity and that the person being difficult reflects their character and not mine;
  • Second, I am very clear on defining the outcome I want to get from the interaction with the boss or colleague that day; yes, I take it a day at a time.  When I plan my day the night before or early in the morning, I list out all the things I need from the person for that day.  This helps reduce overwhelm and helps me have a more deliberate conversation with them.
  • Finally, I pray – I ask for wisdom when speaking with the person, for the right words to use and for grace to know the right time to start the conversation with the person.

3 tips for navigating office politics?

As much as I dislike office politics, it seems to have become a norm in most organisations.  Some are worse than others, of course, but there’s a little bit of politics in almost every office. So three tips to navigate the confusing maze?

  • Understand what your end game is.  Do you want a promotion? A move to a new department? To be left comfortably where you are?  In every game, there is an objective, you need to define yours very clearly.
  • Understand who the major players are in the organisation – who are the gatekeepers?  Who are the major approvers?  Who are those with access to the people you need access to?  You have the general organisation chart, but there is usually a whole network underneath that – become familiar with it.
  • Build connections across the entire organisation and develop your people skills.  Be polite and courteous.  Show people respect, irrespective of who they are and stay away from office gossip.  Determine that even if others are becoming nasty, you will rise above and play fair.

When you’re creatively stuck, you…?

Stop what I’m trying to crack, listen to some music and allow myself “day-dream” a little.  I also go on Pinterest – I find it provides such a burst of creative energy for me.  Then I go through my Flipboard.  I indulge in good food with dessert (if I’m in the office, I order from Casper and Gambini and they have this really yummy red velvet concoction that I usually have, and it practically melts in your mouth – it’s just soo good!)… Okay, let me focus now! So yes, yummy food helps!  I love things of beauty, so looking at beautiful things – whether it’s food, place settings, artistic nails or event décor helps stimulate my creativity.


What’s your take on mentorship? Important or nah?

I think it’s important to define what we call mentorship, as it’s a word that’s been thrown around quite a bit recently.  I have a life coach, and she described a mentor as someone who provides a pathway for us to walk into a future we desire by showing us in a vulnerable and open way, the behind the scenes of where they’ve come from with the aim of shortening our learning curve.  In this sense, I think a mentor is important, but please be deliberate about the relationship.  Does it have a start and end date? It should – you can’t mentor with someone indefinitely.  What are your objectives for the relationship – what tangible things do you want to achieve at the end of the mentorship cycle?  How often will you check in or meet up with your mentor?  When you define exactly what the relationship is, it’s easier to get value from it.

The reason some of us don’t get value from these types of relationships is that we’re not deliberate about how we use the access we have been given or we take offence over things that aren’t important – like “my mentor forgot my birthday”.  That’s not her role.  It’s not to remember your birthday or buy you a birthday card.  If she does, that’s great but that’s not the purpose of that relationship.  She should be able, through wisdom acquired from her journey, guide you in your journey and you should be willing to put in the work and actually put her advice into practice in your life.  Nothing has a “magic wand” approach, so just having a mentor alone isn’t the trick.  The trick is in distilling the strategies they used and putting in the work.

 

How can women harness opportunities in a male-dominated field?

Be excellent in whatever it is you do.  That’s the first step – be known for excellence.  When you are given an opportunity, do it well, do it on time and finish it well.  Be consistent.  Expand the things you’re knowledgeable about.  Own your voice and speak up with confidence.  Ask for the opportunities you want – volunteer for things as a way of demonstrating your competence.  Work hard, don’t play the woman card and make excuses for yourself if you want to be perceived as a professional.  

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

At the recently concluded IWD celebrations at work, our HR Director made a statement that stuck with me – he said that in a scenario where he has two candidates that are equally competent, he tends to think woman. That’s the first thing we all need to think about, we need to think about all those who are under-represented in our respective industries (in engineering, that may be women; but in nursing, that may be men). For me, it’s in the little things that we can do every day:

  • What kinds of jokes are we making and laughing to in the office?
  • If we’re chairing a meeting, do we call on the other women in the room to speak up;
  • Do we support women who are having children when they go on maternity leave and do we support their transition back into the work force?  In one of my previous companies, this was a big problem – a number of women were choosing not to come back to work at the organisation after they had children, and then they had to deep-dive to find out why, and it was this lack of support while they were transitioning into a new role as a mother and a career professional;
  • Recognize bias and speak up about it. It’s our responsibility to educate people about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour;
  • Modelling diversity and inclusion by our conscious and unconscious behaviour – leading by example, especially if we are a senior member of our organisation.

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

One woman – wow, this is hard because I currently have about three women on my radar. *chuckles* If I really had to pick one woman, I’d pick Mrs. Jumoke Adenowo.  I’d ask her for advice on positioning yourself to become relevant on the global stage in terms of career and how one can begin to set standards for business and charity organisations here in Nigeria that are commensurate with what obtains internationally, potential pitfalls to look out for and driving excellence in a society that doesn’t always appreciate it.  I will also ask her how she utilises her inner circle, who her coaches and mentors are and how those relationships have been instrumental to her growth. I will ask her how she stays motivated, especially when things aren’t going according to plan.  Finally, I’d ask her what content she consumes regularly and how she applies that to her everyday life.

Top 3 tips you’ve used that career women in our community should implement.

Very early on, I developed a culture of excellence. I made sure that my work was done well, consistently, and that I could be counted upon to deliver.  I wasn’t always perfect, but I brought my heart to work and I gave my work my all and it showed in what I delivered each day.  Agency partners that I worked with also came to recognise that there was a standard I would not accept in their execution, so they stepped up their own game when they were working on my projects.  So top tip is this: be known for the quality of your work.

I have a morning routine and I strongly recommend that every woman has a morning routine that she sticks to every day.  In this particular season, I am up quite early as I’m currently writing a book.  So I spend about 2.5 hours writing most mornings, I spend some time in meditative prayer every morning, I spend a few minutes visualising, I review my plan for my day and spend some time with my parents.  I listen to a podcast or to upbeat music as I’m getting ready for work and while I’m in transit to my office, I catch up with my sister, read a book, watch a TED talk or connect with a few people.  So, create your own morning routine and unapologetically guard that time, as it sets the tone for your entire day.  Also, be kind to yourself – recognise the season you are in and create a routine that fits into that season.  So, if you are married, have children or aged parents you need to take care of, take that reality into account.  Build a routine that fits where you currently are.

Be honourable and treat others with respect:  This is a personal value of mine, but I try and treat everyone I come across with, with dignity and respect.  I work with a lot of agency partners and treat them with respect and watch the type of language I use on them, even when they’ve truly done something I don’t approve of.  I watch my language and I don’t use abusive or derogatory terms when speaking with my peers, subordinates or agency partners.

Listen, sometimes I make mistakes too and I react in a way I’m not very proud of, but at the end of the day, when I’m reflecting on my day and on what went right or didn’t go so well, I remember those moments and sometimes, (I’m still a work in progress, so it’s not all the time 😊), I apologise.  The bottom line for me is, I try to treat everyone with the dignity that they deserve as a human being while demanding for them to become better versions of themselves.  I personally think this is just being a good person, and in some organisations where the atmosphere is toxic, competitive and full of negative energy, you stand out for all the right reasons; and even if no-one notices, you can rest in the fact that everyone who dealt with you, left feeling better about themselves.

 

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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