#LLAInterview: “The path may not be clear but if the vision is strong, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions and leverage opportunities that show up” – Juliet Ehimuan, Leadership Coach, Country Director, Google, West Africa.

Juliet Ehimuan is Country Director leading Google’s business strategy in West Africa. She was named by Forbes as one of the top 20 power women in Africa, by the London Business School as one of 30 people changing the world; and featured in the BBC Africa Power Women series, and on CNN Innovate Africa.

With over 25 years’ experience primarily in Technology, Oil & Gas, and New Media industries across Europe, Middle East and Africa; Juliet is a thought leader, and a leading voice on Innovation, Transformation, and Leadership. She has received numerous awards for outstanding contribution to the digital landscape in Africa.

Juliet is an Executive Leadership Coach and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.  She is the Founder of Beyond Limits Africa, a leadership and organisational capacity building initiative.

Juliet holds an Executive MBA from the London Business School, a Postgraduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge; and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. 

 

Asides who we know Juliet Ehimuan to be, can you share things about you that most people don’t know?

I am a technology enthusiast and a self leadership champion. I believe in the immense potential that exists in every human being, and I see technology as an enabler that can be leveraged to enhance personal and organizational effectiveness. I am passionate about growth and transformation, and provide coaching and mentoring to support individuals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses through the Beyond Limits platform. My hobbies include music, dance and writing. 

You were named Forbes’ top 20 youngest power women in Africa, with decades of experience in tech, new media, oil & gas, is it safe to say you have gotten to the peak of your career? 

Is there really a peak? Life is a constant process of growth and evolution, and I’m a lifelong learner. There’s a lot more to be done. Normally life has segments and we are at different stages in the different  areas. Yes, in my tech career I have made a lot of contributions but there is so much more that I will still like to contribute to. I’m all about impact and continue to see opportunities for growth and development.

Would you say you have always had your journey figured out; how did it all pan out for you?

I haven’t always had the path figured out, but the vision and intention at each point was  usually quite clear. I have always had a passion for technology and for impacting the world around me through the productivity tools that it provides. I have also always been a lifelong learner, and a believer in striving to improve oneself, and in looking for opportunities for growth.  My goal was always to be the best I could be and develop myself fully, knowing that this would mean getting stretched, and sometimes being taken out of my comfort zone . That desire to grow, caused me to make tradeoffs like leaving a good and well paying job at Shell to attend graduate studies at Cambridge University. While at Microsoft UK, it became clearer to me how my vision to use technology to contribute to growth and advancement could be directed towards Africa. That vision caused me to leave Microsoft after 6 years and start a consulting outfit focused on knowledge sharing between African leaders and their global counterparts, and ultimately led me to Google Nigeria. 

I always talk to people about the importance of having a clear vision. The path may not be clear but if the vision is strong, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions and leverage opportunities that show up. That has certainly been true in my case. My vision has been clear – leveraging technology to impact society and providing coaching and mentoring that will help the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs to emerge and find success, as they fulfil their visions and realize their purpose. How you articulate the vision may change over time but the essence of it doesn’t change. 

Beyond Limits with Juliet is a new project; what inspired it and can you give a brief description of the project?

Beyond Limits is not entirely new. I have coached and mentored people for a long time through one on one mentoring and targeted programs. I started Beyond Limits in 2017 as a platform to drive leadership and effectiveness for individuals and organisations. The current focus is on leadership, innovation, and transformation. I am currently running a transformational series online that includes instructional videos and two webinars. The second webinar aimed at sharing tools and techniques that enable transformation and drive success held on August 20th at 6pm. 

As a career woman, were there particular challenges you faced? If yes, what were the challenges and how did you overcome them?

First of all, the term career woman is an interesting one, and one I would question as it sometimes implies that many women who are home makers are not pursuing a career. Nothing can be further from the truth. There are many people who run small and medium sized businesses out of their homes, taking care of their families, while also building their businesses. 

Also, there are many aspects to my life and career is just one of them, albeit a big part. Specifically focusing on my career, I am in an industry (technology) where the rate of change is very fast. One challenge is keeping up to date with and staying ahead of the fast pace of technology change. 

Are there instances where you failed at something you put in so much effort to do? How did you handle it? What are your thoughts on failure?

Oh yes, I have indeed tasted the sweet scent or bitter stench of failure. One example was in 2006 when I first ventured into independent consulting. It was a challenging period, but I learnt a lot and grew  from the experience. I believe that there’s no failure, only feedback. What this means to me is that failure is not a denial, it is merely a deferment. Failure simply means a task, a goal, or a vision might not come to fruition on the timelines that we have set. When I face setbacks now, I try to take a step back to see the broader lessons that can be learned. If we are open to the feedback that failure offers, we can find new approaches, make necessary course corrections, and do a host of small or big things that might be needed to get back on track. 

What was your defining moment?

I have had many amazing moments and experiences that I am grateful for, including some of the work that I have been able to do alone, or in partnership with others. More recently from a career perspective I am very proud of the work we’re doing at Google to contribute to economic opportunity and digital advancement in Africa. Example initiatives include our commitment to train 10 million Africans in digital skills and 200K developers. So far, we have trained over 5 million people! 

In the work that I do in Beyond Limits, I am awed by the immense impact that we have had in the lives of participants in the program. It is humbling to see some of the people that have gone through the program, going on to create solid, prosperous businesses, that have changed their lives and that of their families and loved ones. We have been running a six week transformational series aimed at “igniting the leader in you” and helping you to generate positive results in your life. 

In the early days as one of a handful of women studying engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University of Ife, it was a thing of great joy for me to have graduated from my Bachelors degree with a First Class degree. That increased my confidence in my abilities and also created a great foundation to build on.

Final words to women in our community

Women take on and contribute a lot to society. They have an immense capacity for leadership and service, and this should be acknowledged and celebrated. I encourage women to be true to themselves, and to be authentic and purpose driven as they navigate their careers and lives. They should not impose any limitations on themselves based on external chatter that might make them doubt themselves, or their abilities. Thankfully, we now live in a time when there is an abundance of female role models and inspiring trailblazers in practically every facet of life and career.  I encourage younger women starting out in their career paths to find such role models and find inspiration in their stories. 

Follow Juliet on Twitter and Instagram – @jehimuan, to leverage tools and resources shared frequently on her page.

   

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview 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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