Tell us about yourself
So let us start off with my background, My name is Anita Erskine – but everyone calls me ‘Boss Lady’! I went to primary school at Christ The King, and then had my secondary education at Ghana International School. From where after a two-year break, I then enrolled at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario Canada. So that is my educational background.
Walk us through your early career journey (first 5 years)
Well arguably, my early career journey can take it back to 1997 when I got my first job in television at Metro TV and Groove FM simultaneously. Of course, now that I look back at the uncertainty of what I did at the time, the sheer raw ambition at the time, I have kind of reset the beginning of my career to 2006 when I moved back to Ghana. The difference between the two is the intentional vision I had for myself when I started working at TV3 in 2006, the clarity of what I wanted to accomplish. I was also armed by a unique vision of success, which inspired the kind of opportunities I took advantage of.
The space between 2006 and 2011, was ridden with fast decision making, major learnings and many important hurdles. In 2006, upon returning to Ghana from studying in Canada I auditioned for a role at TV3. It was for a TV show called ‘Looking For Love’. This opened my eyes to the real definition of working on television, in terms of production, making sure that language appeals to your audience, as well as versatility – being able to connect with a variety of people from across the country all at the same time. I then had an opportunity to audition as a correspondent for MNET Studio 53, and I became the Ghanaian correspondent working across the continent particularly in the West Africa sub-regions and delivering positive stories about Africa. One of the biggest things that that opportunity gave me was to see the continent through the eyes of somebody who just wanted to be able to tell the real African story, so where the true African story has so many different sides, definitely has the good, the bad, the challenges. I started falling in love with the innovation of this continent. Studio 53 afforded me that opportunity. I loved communications in its general sense, not just TV and radio, but I loved strategic communications, even though at the time I didn’t know what I was doing was strategic communications. It was my experience as the Corporate Communications Manager at Tigo that brought me into the world of Strategic Communications and learning the art of Brand and Marketing. That experience also helped me grasp corporate culture, and the discipline that came with it.
I made a personal decision to commit some time to my babies. I remember being home, spending time with my second child and truly missing the urgency of daily work. Lucky for me VIASAT was migrating into home-grown content development, and a good friend of mine had introduced me to a consultant who was working on that, in the VIASAT camp. They were looking for a Program Production Consultant, somebody who would come on board to help with cultivating, moulding, developing home-grown content. This opportunity helped me nurture the true storytelling skill I have today. My relationship with VIASAT brought me to many media executives from around the world. Notable among them was Michael Djaba, we worked on some amazing high-end reality TV shows and content that were developed around African people, across the world. Making of a Mogul, Pamper your Mum, Cooking With and Revealed were shows we worked on. I always remember being very hungry for opportunities to tell true African stories and in those first five years, I learned how to love my continent enough to tell the world about it.
What values/skills would you say you demonstrated in your early career journey that have contributed to your career success?
The first value that I can say has contributed to my career success is raw ambition. The kind of ambition that came right from the core of my being. That raw ambition that was wild, unstoppable. It forced me to look at all the possible options that the world could offer me. It was an indescribable innate desire to consistently find the next big challenge and go for it without fear!
The second value is humility – the humility to learn. Every opportunity or platform requires dues to be paid. I don’t carry the dues I have paid somewhere else into a new opportunity – No! I carry the knowledge, skills, the experience. When I walk into a new room, I know I am going to pay certain dues, because it is completely a new territory or platform. I remembered distinctly in 2006, walking in TV3 knowing that I was about to start on a whole new path. I had to pay attention, listen and observe. I had to believe that am was (And am) a conqueror that no matter what I didn’t know, if I humbled myself enough to learn, that I could conquer!
One major skill I demonstrated is the art of thinking on my feet!! I carry this art in my heart!
Did you always know you wanted to do what you are doing now?
I always knew I wanted to be in a space where my voice would be utilized. I can’t tell you that from day one, it is who I have moulded myself today. We are all very different. I’ve got colleagues and friends who have had a succinct plan, I can’t boast of having a succinct plan. I can only boast of having a vision, closing my eyes, seeing myself in a certain room, hearing myself speak a certain language and feeling myself rubbing shoulders with a certain kind of people. Even though I didn’t study journalism or broadcasting, I didn’t let that determine where my career was going. I let my voice, curiosity and ambition lead the way.
What were some of the mistakes you made on the career journey?
The first mistake I made was believing that EVERYONE’s opinions mattered. I eventually learned that only a handful of people truly believed in me and they were the ones I needed to listen to. The moment I realized this; I began to navigate the territory on my own terms.
The second mistake I made was thinking that I had partners, when indeed, truth be told I was on my own.
If you had the opportunity to change one thing in your early career/work experience days what will it be?
To stop blocking my power of versatility, which was always misconstrued as doing too many things all at the same time. I would hear this from people so much that I began shying away from opportunities that I knew I would excel in.
Any advice to someone who is confused about their career planning?
Let your journal and pen be your best companions. Write a list of your natural talents and general interests. Connect them to well-researched career options that genuinely interest you.
Research the kinds of entry-level opportunities that can help you get into and ultimately thrive and soar in your career space of choice. For example, one of my first jobs in radio was to work as a receptionist and an admin assistant. I served people their lunches, I answered telephones, I worked at odd hours of the day. That was a job in my “career space and path”…it served a purpose. It got my foot in the door. It led me somewhere – exactly where you see me today.
Speak to people whose milestones in your chosen career, inspire you. Be bold about asking about the help you need.
If you had a minute to coach/advice a tertiary student about work readiness, what would it be?
- Start building your network now – Don’t wait till you have an opportunity to wear that suit before you become conscious of needing to “build a network”.
- Language – What kind of language are you speaking. Look at the people in your career space. How do they sound, what do they say? What language do they use to communicate to each other?
- Personal branding – Do you understand who you are? When you stand in different kinds of rooms, do you know how you are being seen? Do you know how you want to be seen?
- Mental state – Every day is an opportunity to show your readiness, set your mind on “ready mode”.
- Career goals – It’s one thing to say “I have a career goal”, but it’s another to say “I am conscious of the kinds of opportunities I need to grasp and grab in order to achieve my career goals.”
Knowing what you know now as a high-profile professional, what would be your advice to a rising young professional you are mentoring?
Tear down your fears! You cannot rise, fly, climb, thrive or even strife if you are afraid. Failure is the story of resilience you will tell one day. It doesn’t define you, it must remind you that you need to work harder, smarter and faster! The world is always evolving – learn the art of reinvention and pursue whatever it is you need – new opportunities, further education, extensive research, in order to be consistently competitive.
Always be transparent and honest. These traits are the most difficult to adopt and maintain because they do often rub people off the wrong way, but you NEED them if you’re going to boast about being a reliable, dependable professional. When you are at fault, own up. It makes you the bigger person! Be discerning, read, pursue knowledge and push yourself to be better today than you were yesterday.
Read. Write. Speak. even when no one is listening or paying attention. Always be prepared for the BREAKTHROUGH because it will happen one day when you least expect it!
Finally, when you’re in doubt look to your Higher Power for guidance. I look at myself today and know that without God’s guidance, I would be genuinely lost.