#LLAInterview: ”My Biggest Fear is Failure.” Leading Ladies Africa Meets Ivorian-Senegalese CEO- Emmanuella Aboa.

Emmanuella Aboa is the CEO of Transolutions Services- an initiative that focuses on delivering self-awareness and self-development trainings especially for teenagers. Emmanuella sits with us today and shares with us about growing up and how her fear of failure has continued to push her to go after her dreams.

Hello Emmanuella, it is great to have you on LLA. So, tell us, who is Emmanuella Aboa?

Emmanuella Aboa is an over ambitious entrepreneur,who is passionate about the development of young people and women. 

Reading about your ancestry here gave a mental picture of what growing up must have been for you. Tell us, how did growing up in a full-fledged African family, shape your outlook of the world?

Growing up, my friends would call me African Union because of how diverse my family is. My father is an Ivorian by birth while my mother, Senegalese. My grandmother was half French and half Malian. Our family stretches out into Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Malawi and Mauritania just to name a few. My love for Africa is deeply rooted. 

This diversity formed the foundation of my world: the way I perceive life and the values I uphold. It made me aware of the differences of each and all, and at the same time gave me a deeper appreciation of the things I took for granted.

Would you say this outlook heightened your curiosity about the challenges peculiar to Africans and in fact formed the foundation of what you do now at Transolution Services?

Absolutely. My mother created this ‘village’ we grew up in, which comprised of people we shared similar values with, amidst the differences in opinion. The world, however, portrayed something entirely different. What was however astonishing was how, despite being raised in different countries, whenever I would question people about the world of today, a majority felt the gap in our social upbringing and how much it affected the caliber of leaders we have today. Most of us were worried. Others, accepted the status quo. I did not want to constantly sit down and complain. I wanted to be part of the solution. I started offering my services for free, the feedback received was overwhelming and pushed me to formalize Transolution Services.

 Let’s talk about your professional and educational background? Did those qualifications equip you for what you do right now or like many other success stories, did you have to make a professional/academic detour? 

I hold a degree in Business Administration from Edith Cowan University and a MBA from Maryland California University. I found myself studying business by mistake. I never really knew what I wanted to be growing up. My desire was mostly based on the judgement people had of me. I was argumentative and so many felt that I should pursue a career in law and my confidence in class made people believe that a career in journalism was also something I should consider. 

Unfortunately, I never had a clear vision of what I wanted to do and that made me hold various positions in various industries. This was merely out of boredom and an increased desire for challenge. Every time I faced a challenge and surpassed my expectation, I would feel such a huge pride and was on to the next challenge. Fast forward, this exposure and differences built me into the individual that I currently am. It is during this confusing time that I realized the deep passion I have for young people and ventured into what I currently do. In the process, I had to take additional courses linked to where my passion was leading me.

Walk us through what you do at Transloution Services.Why the specific interest in Teenagers?

At Transolution Services, we say that we are in the business of transforming lives. We provide various types of training and coaching services for different target markets. Our focus is on self awareness and self development because we believe that these two elements constitute the backbone of success. Once an individual gets a higher sense of self, it becomes difficult to be manipulated, pressured, have uncontrolled emotions and loose yourself. On the contrary, you now become more efficient and effective, you have better relationships, better well-being and a deep satisfaction. It is a skill that can be taught and is constantly improved.

Why teenagers? Because I absolutely believe that a solution to Africa’s problems, which arise from poor leadership, can be solved by investing in teenagers and young people. The lack thereof will continuously have a causal effect on individuals, families, society, and Africa at large. As our future leaders, inculcating specific skills in young people can make them think differently, act differently and become highly intellectual and God fearing leaders. These are leaders who have credibility, compassion and are hungry to see Africa move forward.

Still on Transolution Services, can you share some impact stories from your work?

We have many but there is one in particular that made me quite happy. We held a training on mental health and one lady I had met during a networking event asked if her niece could attend, since we have different trainings for different target groups. I answered positively and the niece attended the training. The father later called and requested that I let him know of our next training, which was on emotional intelligence. She attended and he called me again after some few days. He asked to have a meeting and there he confessed the challenges he had been having with the daughter and that she beat him up. But he also noticed a change in her behavior since she started attending the training. He wanted her to be coached as he felt that she would open there most. He was willing to be included in the sessions- parents tend to shy away from that so that was a positive step. Fast forward to today, the girl has changed. The father also realized how his abusive nature turned his daughter turned her into who she was. We continue working with them and the girl just joined university. It is a story that melts my heart.

Our next training programme, which will take place on the 23rd of February 2019 and covers the topic of emotional intelligence.

 As a woman in Leadership, what are some of the fears and challenges you’ve faced on your journey and how have you navigated them?

My biggest fear is failure. As entrepreneurs, we all have our low moments but what has kept me so far is God (because I know I am doing what I was born to do), my family (I want to leave my children a legacy) and all the amazing people God has blessed me with, who are close by in both good and bad times. 

 What counts as success and impact to you?

Testimonials from participants and seeing a positive change in their lives.

Digressing a bit, what is your take on collaboration and competition? Is collaboration a business commandment? Is competition inevitable?

This question has two answers. Externally, I would argue that collaboration and competition are two different sides of the same coin depending on ones strategy and ambition. I have collaborated severally with many of my competitors to achieve some of the objectives we had. This is a strategy we prioritize because as Helen Keller once said: “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” However, one has to be diligent on the terms and conditions. Whether you do business with a competitor, a friend or a family member, have a legal document in place. 

Internally, however, I would choose collaboration over competition. As an entrepreneur, creating a sense of competition between colleagues can be confusing and toxic. 

If you could go back in time and speak to your 25-year-old self on professionalism, work ethics and generally what is obtainable in a corporate environment, what will you tell her?

The 25 years me believed that no one was wiser than her. My first advise to her would be that, in the workplace, your boss is queen/king. It means a lot of humility. I would tell her to continue being the caring person she has always been because this will eventually be her biggest asset.

I would advise her to make better financial decisions because time flies, youth fades and she would regret not having started earlier.

I would ask her to breathe, take her time and not rush through the process. When I was 25, I was always in a hurry to make it. I had many responsibilities and was eager to be independent. I never had fun and limited my social life. I would have had more fun, if I could turn back time.

Let’s talk about family and parenting, what counts as balance for you and how have you been able to sustain it?

Balance, for me is the ability to come do homework with my kids at least 3 times a week, spend quality time with them: where nothing distracts me, my phones are as far as they can possibly be and the focus is just on them playing and doing anything they want. I have been able to sustain it by being intentional. My priority is my family. I do believe in what mother Theresa said “if you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” 

If I am not intentional with their upbringing, they will grow up and become the leaders I complain about today or give a headache to their spouses and communities. As much as I value the amazing work of my house help, our personal value is different from hers so I must ensure that those values are not passed onto them. I also pray a lot for them because nothing is ever guaranteed. As parents, we do our part but we put God before everything. He is, after all, the author of our lives.

I also follow the 10-10-10 rule developed by Suzy Welsh. It is a rule I employ whenever I find myself in a difficult situation. Eg: when I promised my kids to do something with them and work gets in the way. The rule helps prioritize decisions- will the decision I eventually make matter in 10 days, 10 months or 10 years? The answer determines my decision.

Do you think a woman can have it all?

Yes but not at the same time. There is a season for everything. There is a time when the focus will be on family, other times work. There are days when you will ignore everyone and prioritize yourself. The solution here is not to fight the seasons but to embrace them as they come. They are all pieces of the final puzzle.

What does it for you when it comes to fun and having a good time?

At times, it is all about being with loved ones and having a good laugh. Other times, being by myself with a good book. It depends on the state I am in.

3 African book recommendations?

  1. Living and Raising a Godly family in the 21st century by yours truly Emmanuella Aboa.
  2. Purpose first then profit by Ruth Tembe.
  3. My first coup d’état by John DramaneMahama.

What is your advice to young women who want to be an “Emmanuella Aboa”?

I once read a research that indicated how every younger generation is smarter than the older one. The research suggested that I am smarter than my parents and that my children will be smarter than I. When I think critically about this, it makes so much sense. We need smarter people to move forward, people who question the world and are innovative. 

So my humble advice for those who aspire to be me are:

  1. Embrace your uniqueness
  2. Aim higher.

The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that 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.

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 lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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