In this fun and enlightening interview, we chat with LLA’s Founder, Francesca Uriri, who also doubles as Head of Communications for Uber in West Africa. Amongst other things, she shares on the specific ways women can “lean in” more at work and why building competence is key.
Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?
I’m often flummoxed by this “describe yourself” question, but let me try lol! In “corporate speak,” I’m a Communications and Public Relations Expert with 11+ years’ experience in media management and strategy, perception management, crisis management and public affairs. I’m currently the Head of Communications for Uber in West Africa, providing public relations strategy for the brand within the region.
Great! How did you start out in your career, and how long have you been in the ‘corporate world?’
Hmmmm… another “in the box” question lol! I “officially” started out my corporate career as an Account Executive in Sesema Public Relations in 2007 – so that’s a little over 11 years in the corporate world. Since then, I’ve worked in a broad range of industries spanning Investment, Oil & Gas, Private Equity, Consulting and now Tech. It’s been an amazing ride and I’m super grateful for the opportunities.
What are some of the things you love the most about being a career woman?
Well, first of all, my industry – PR and Comms – has given me the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and in a wide range of sectors. That’s always been a plus as I’ve grown and developed in my career. The thing I love the most is that no two days are the same, and I get to collaborate cross functionally with other teams on certain projects that they’re working on – which means that I’m always learning something new. For a creative person like me, that’s super important.
And the downsides – what are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
Haaa! Challenges are legion – but let me talk through a few:
Prioritisation: I haven’t always been great at prioritising, but working in fast-paced work environments meant that I had to learn this skill, if not I’d have constantly been out of time and still not achieved my deliverables. Simple things like putting together a to-do list at the end of each day, against the next day proved helpful. Also learning what emails (or meetings) demanded my presence or instant response, meant I could focus better on what was most important.
Collaboration: In the past, as a creative, I tended to work in silos and not feel the need to collaborate with others or share information about what I was doing. I had to learn (the hard way) that collaboration was the new way of thriving and that people were actually deeply interested in what I was doing.
And of course, there’s always the challenge of learning to give and receive feedback – which is a constant work in progress for an Isoko woman like me.
Of course, we’re going to talk about mentorship – what’s your view on it? Important or nah?
For me, mentorship is super super important – not just for the things you can receive, but for the things you can give. I’ve been fortunate to benefit, especially in my career from direct and indirect forms of mentoring – so I’ll say it’s always a great way to go. Peer mentoring is also a great way to get ahead in your career as your peers also give insightful advice sometimes. So it’s not just enough to look at mentoring upwards, one must also view it laterally.
Two things – what have been your best and worst career decision – and what did you learn from each respectively?
The best thing was starting out in Public Relations, and the worst thing… maybe that time, a long time ago when I did a shoddy job of managing one of my key stakeholders – I learned a lot from that experience, and it’s made me a better person today.
Do you have a “side-hustle” and what’s your view on having other interests outside of work?
Ah! You people want to put me inside trouble o! Hahahaha! I don’t necessarily like the term “side-hustle,” because in my head, it somehow implies something that you do in secret. That being said, I think it’s important for people to have things that interests them outside the specific confines of day to day work. I for example have LLA, my writing, my passion for social impact and women development, etc. While none of these detract or compete with my work at Uber – they ensure that I am balanced and have ways to engage my gifts. Let me also say that there are many people who function well without having other interests outside work – so “do you boo.”
In what specific ways would you advise women to “lean in” more at work?
I could write a whole book about this – but thank God Sheryl Sandberg already has lol! The first thing I had to learn, and what I always share with my friends and mentees is “say yes to more things.” As women we are sometimes socialised to always say no to new experiences or opportunities and thereby sabotage our opportunities for true growth.
The other thing would be “speak up more.” If you’re at the table, then please let your voice be heard. Women are often afraid to say what they’re thinking because they’re not sure, or they think it’s incorrect. Say it anyway – if you’re right, you’ll win accolades, and if you’re wrong, you’ll learn something new.
Lastly, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Don’t be a “glory-hugger.” You go further if you partner with people and collaborate.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
At the top my game baby!
What in your opinion are key success principles for upcoming career women, or those just starting out their careers?
Be open to learning and put in the hard work and effort that’s required in you building your career.
Don’t be afraid to take chances.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
Don’t be so hard on yourself – make the mistakes – and then learn from them.
Make sure you build capacity and competence in something, that’s how people become experts.
And most importantly, never stop being teachable.
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 email@example.com and we just might feature her.