Today on #CareerConversations with LLA, Financial Management professional, Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, with over 23+ years senior management experience delivering world-class strategic business transformation solutions with a variety of global FSTE 100 multinationals, is an alumnus of Said Business School, Oxford – Women’s Transforming Leadership 2018 cohort, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), a certified Financial Management professional with the Chartered Insurance Institute (Cii) in the UK and is currently Director of Communications, Public Affairs & Sustainable Development for Lafarge Africa Plc. bares it all on this chat with LLA, you should pick a pen and paper and take notes on this one.
Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?
My name is Folashade Ambrose-Medebem. I am a wife married for 25 years this year – wow!, I’m a mum of three beautiful girls(always thankful) and I am purposefully passionate in all that I do and by that I mean I live my life doing my best to live aright, fulfilling my raison d’être. I hold a Bachelor’s (Hons) Accounting , a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), I am a certified Financial Management professional with the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII),UK and alumnus from the Lagos business School (LBS) Executive program and the Said Business School, Oxford – Women Transforming Leadership – 2018 cohort, amongst a plethora of other professional certifications.
What do I do? I have more than twenty years delivering world-class strategic business transformation solutions for a variety of global FSTE 100 multinationals including LafargeHolcim Plc, Diageo Plc., PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ford Motor Company, Zurich Financial Services, Learning & Skills Council UK, Nigeria Ministry of Finance and Department for International Development (DFID) the UK.
I am currently the Director of Communications, Public Affairs & Sustainable Development, Lafarge Africa Plc. Prior to this role, I worked as Integration Business Transformation Consultant for LafargeHolcim (LH) (2015) focusing on enabling a speedy integration (following the worldwide merger of LH), in order to deliver the country business ambition as one holistic organization in Nigeria.
In addition, I servedon the NESG 24 Executive Committee, I’m a board member of the UN Global Compact Nigeria and the UN SDG Nigeria – Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) – Cluster 8 Co-Lead to the Federal Government of Nigeria, I am the leading catalyst driving Women in Manufacturing Africa (WimAfrica) initiative, all of which Lafarge Africa Plc is a member and I am the inaugural president of the European Board Organisation – Nigeria.
I am delighted to be the founder of Women Inspiring Impact Network (WiiN),established to enable women win in their career and in business, discover their best self, focused on opportunities, indelible impact and success.
Great! How did you start out in your career, and how long have you been in the ‘corporate world?’
I started out working as a management accountant for a number of investment banks in England – Bankers Trust, AMP,moving onto financial systems project management at PwC which I really enjoyed so much. So I studied and passed the project management certification exams and specialised in financial systems project management moving to Ford Motors working across Europe – Germany and UK leading transformational value saving projects (leveraging my financial experience considerably). Projects I worked on included delivering e-procurement and pensions re-engineering solutions for Ford.
I took time out to have my children, but still worked, this time for myself passing another set of exams qualifying as a financial management consultant providing financial advice to high net worth women earning a great income even after returning to work full-time. The rest I have eluded in your opening question.
My corporate career has spanned more than two decades and as you see, has not been linear at all, instead my pathway has been emergent leading to my multi-faceted pathway resulting in the unique value I always bring to my roles. Mainly due to the fact that I always leverage my previous knowledge and experience.
What are some of the things you love the most about being a career woman?
The difference I can make is what I love the most and why I deliberately chose carefully what I do and where I do it. My purpose is to inspire best in myself and others; this is my anchor that navigates me daily.
I also am proud being a working-mum role model to my daughters as I was proud of my mum who had a career running her own kindergarten business for many years. I enjoy coaching and mentoring people immensely, I enjoy being intellectually (and I must admit sometimes emotionally) challenged at work and succeeding – but by golly, the challenges in Nigeria far outweigh any challenge I faced working abroad though!
And the downsides – what are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
Hmmmm the downsides… well first and foremost I don’t regard anything as a downside but instead an opportunity – I ask myself OK, Fola what is the opportunity here? This thinking enables me to focus solely on solutions. I must be candid though and say this mind-set evolved through experience over many years. To illustrate one of the first things I did when I took over leading my new team at Lafarge a few years ago was to re-orientate. I brought in a great motivational speaker who I briefed diligently, I designed the team retreat meticulously and then got cracking facilitating, listening, observing, coaching, surfacing self-doubts, perceptions, blockers, shifting them all to being self-empowered, more audacious, always seeking feedback and being confident in themselves andperforming as a great team. For me addressing leadership challenges is by taking care of those in my charge, very impactful.
What’s your take on cliques or “you can’t sit with us groups” at work? How does one navigate such?
Clique – means a small close-knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them. As a mum of three girls, clique is a term I am soooo familiar with, as it’s rife in the all-girls prep school playground! Clique in my opinion has no business anywhere period, why? Simply because I believe nothing has meaning until you give it meaning – What do I mean? As individuals we all have the power to choose – So I ask you do you choose to be affected by the clique (defined as a small….group…) or not? I choose not to be affected and taking you back to the playground scenario where I coached my daughters not to give the power of their joy, happiness to anyone.
And so I say here today too – take back your power, focus on being your best, surround yourself with positive achievers at work, be inspired and simply always treat people the way you would like to be treated (my philosophy, by the way). Let your work and performances speak for you.Trust me, the clique members will come looking for you. Stand for what you believe is right even if this means standing alone. Clique – what clique?!!!
Of course, we’re going to talk about mentorship – what’s your view on it? Important or nah?
Ha ha! Surely, that is a rhetorical question. Having benefited immensely myself from being mentored and actively mentoring many (my way of paying forward), I say it is fundamentally important. Mentoring enables the mentee benefit from learning through the mentors experience in order for the mentee to reach their full potential, their way. Mentoring enhances leadership, resulting in greater productivity and often, job satisfaction for the mentee too.Two things – what have been your best and worst career decision – and what did you learn from each respectively?
My best career decision was taking the decision to follow my heart – I enjoy working with people helping them be their best. Working solely with numbers as an accountant just wasn’t for me, needless to say I apply carp diem (Latin for – living life to the fullest) which is my mantra today. Worst ….I’ll rephrase to lesson learnt phase. It correlates to above. I was offered a job once with a car rental company as a management trainee. I didn’t last the month! So always do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life, Infact, the more you love your job the harder you will work.
How do you advise girls facing harassment in any form, from their superiors at work to handle it?
First and foremost your base-line must be that of zero-tolerance to sexual harassment in all forms with that in mind no need to have to ponder. Speak up and always listen to your intuition too, if it doesn’t feel right take action. Speak to the person in your workplace (or at home, worship whoever) someone you trust. Also ensure you have read your organisations policy; there most likely will be an outline regards the procedure for reporting.
Additionally, as women we must all also do more from a preventative angle too e.g. raising awareness for gender equality; after all,women make up half of the world’s population. I was recently invited by the United Nations (UN) Women Country Representation to Nigeria – Ms Comfort Lamptey, to the country launch in Abuja and to speak at the “Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, UN Women’s new flagship report, which provides a comprehensive and authoritative assessment of progress, gaps and challenges in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective. UN SDG 5 focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering ALL women and girls. Here is the link, do share at work with colleagues and read up yourselves ladies:https://www.unwomen.de/fileadmin/user_upload/schwerpunktthemen/Post-2015_Agenda/SDGreport-web-FINAL.PD
Do you have a “side-hustle” and what’s your view on having other interests outside of work?
We women naturally are multi-taskers, we juggle well,with pace all the time ensuring our standards of excellence are maintained. I established WiiN WomenInspiring Impact Network , a Not for profit NGO in order to give back. I am passionate about enablingwomen succeed in the workplace and in business hence my primary ‘side-hustle’ missionis to drive opportunities for impact by encouraging women to speak up in the workplace and by sharing how to implement career winning strategies. This is why I have established WiiN.
To learn more about WIIN please visit – www.folaambrosemedebem.com and follow/interact withme @IamFola_AM on instagram and twitter.
In what specific ways would you advise women to “lean in” more at work?
The phrase, as used by Sheryl Sandberg –Facebook CEO in the book of that title (which I have read – its brilliant – and encourage more women to read), to “lean in” means to be assertive, to move toward a leading, rather than a following, role. Leaning in is about encouraging women to step up boldly for one and all, it’s about embracing our nuances as women and navigating the career bottlenecks with resilience and grit. The phrase is based on the idea of a group of people sitting around a table discussing something together.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Living my best life fulfilled working with growing leaders discover their best self, focused on opportunities, indelible impact and success.
Do you think personal branding at work is necessary? If so, how do you build it?
Resounding yes, one must be synonymous for something. In my case, inclusive of my team, ours is – To Excel & Exceed Always – Together We Deliver, We Win.
How you build this brand is simply to consistently deliver, brilliantly execute and where you’re not, just keep at it until you do. Another FAM Tip is: seek feedback always. We all have blind spots, excellence is a journey, discipline is the vehicle.
What in your opinion are key success principles for upcoming career women, or those just starting out their careers?
Follow your passion and do what YOU love and are good at. Be clear on what you stand for and why – ask yourself who am I?
FAM Tip: Self evaluate –consider your skills(hard and soft by the way) and your talent, in addition to identifying your passion also identify your expertise then ask yourself what is the impact you want to make? Your legacy is..? Consider all these elements diligently.
Another FAM Tip: Speak up as often as you can and encourage colleagues to do the same being noticed requires action , so lead and perform, delivering consistent results.
Finally, seek feedback. Always remember we all have blind spots, so ask, seek and close your gaps purposefully.
What’s your advice to entry-level/interns new to organisations, what should they look out for or try to achieve?
Be personable – meet and greet everyone. Do your homework even before you start the work- research and understand the industry as much as you can, so when you are there, you are adding immediate value. Ask questions and demonstrate your leadership competencies while at it too, specifically your ability to influence for instance e.g.” I thought to share this piece of weekly business update template with you, I know your busy. What do you think?”
Also clarify expectations at the onset – ask your boss or key stakeholders – what is your definition of success? Then seek to exceed it. Try not to reinvent the wheel if you can, there is a great many best practice out there, instead, seek to improve best practice. And finally, find a MENTOR!
The Leading Ladies Africa #CareerConversations Series is a weekly interview series which focuses on Leading women of African descent in the corporate world. It 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.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.