Antoinette Aba Shor. Head of People & Organizational Development at WaterAid.

Tell us about yourself

I attended Holy Child School in Cape Coast where I had my GCE Ordinary and Advanced Level certificates. While in school I was an active member of the Red Cross Society and the Young Christian Students (YCS) and later became president of the YCS.

I loved to play hockey as a sport.

I later went to the University of Ghana where I graduated with a BA in French and English. I largely enjoyed the freedom of university life and had fun as much as I could. I did a number of off-campus jobs like working at trade fairs and even modeled for a few fashion houses to look after myself.

In 2006 I obtained an MBA (Human Resource Management option) at the University of Ghana Business School.

Walk us through your early career journey (first 5 years)

After my National Service, I got a job with M&J Business Services Centre in Accra as a Customer Service Officer. I worked there for a little over 2 years. At the time in Ghana people didn’t have a wide access to telecommunications and secretarial services so this business largely served the business community. My work exposed me to people from all walks of life – CEOs running their own businesses, employees, expatriates and diplomats.

I later moved to help start up the first 3-star hotel in Takoradi called Hillcrest hotel. My stint there was short-lived. I later moved to the Empretec Ghana Foundation where I stayed for 5 years. I started off as an Admin/Programme Assistant and was promoted to an Assistant Manager.

What values/skills would you say you demonstrated in your early career journey that have contributed to your career success?

I entered the workplace with excitement and a curiosity to learn new things. I was lucky to be in the company of people a bit older than me who were doing meaningful things in the country and were showing good results.

I followed and observed very closely managers and colleagues who were willing to help me. I’m not sure I understood everything properly then. I recall I was introduced to management concepts very early in my career and these have helped me to date. I was largely working in administrative support but had the opportunity to see the link between my work and the strategic goals of the organization. These became necessary as I aimed at growing a career at a strategic level.

The early years experience helped me develop skills in basic Accounting, PR, Entrepreneurship, Business Management which I didn’t study in school. Little did I know how all these would add to my versatility in the workplace in later years. These were skills that also made me stand out at interviews.

I was also enthusiastic with any initiative introduced wherever I worked. I would participate in meetings, organizing events, interaction with clients. Everything seemed different from what I learnt in school and I enjoyed every bit of work-life.

Did you always know you wanted to do what you are doing now?

Not exactly. I fancied becoming a Lawyer and even considered it when deciding my second degree. My grades into university were good but one way or the other I couldn’t read Law because I wanted to read French as well and at the time couldn’t take the two subject areas together. My passion for French was strong and I decided to go with French.

How I got into HR: I naturally like working with people. I enjoyed anything related with supporting people and at the time anything people-related was all my excitement. Through this I developed relationships and a network that was going to make a way for me many times in my career.

As I progressed, I started recognizing areas I could add value to what work I was doing. Administration included HR so by default I had to do some HR, writing policies and seeing to their implementation and recruitment. I wanted things like fairness, equity and best practices reflected in what I did. Gradually it was clear Human Resources was my strength and interest. It became a natural flow from that point.

What were some of the mistakes you made on the career journey?

Things somehow came easy on the career journey so on hindsight, I would say I was quite playful. My mistake was that I didn’t attach the level of seriousness I should have to grow my career. By this I mean setting career goals as to where I wanted to be, when.

Another was I wasn’t deliberate about the organizations I wanted to grow my career in. Some organizations were not ready to take HR seriously and that didn’t help me.

If you had the opportunity to change one thing in your early career/work experience days what will it be?

I would’ve been more deliberate in planning my career in Human Resources much earlier.

Any advice to someone who is confused about their career planning?

I would say first; determine what you are passionate about. Passion is what will keep you focused on achieving your plans.

Second, give your best shot at every work opportunity you have, even if they are part-time or internships. Some opportunities will open up because of how ardent you have been at something Remember in the workplace, people are watching and would recognize you for the best efforts you display.

Third – Take time to cure your skills. Growth comes through practice.

Fourth – I would also add, know your stuff. There is a body of knowledge to operate in any field, that is basic. You will however need to go further and keep learning if you want to progress in your chosen field.

If you had a minute to coach/advice a tertiary student about work readiness, what would it be?

Make the best of opportunities you have on and off-campus. There are so many extracurricular activities you should get involved in and learn to balance. The student groups, clubs, sports, hall weeks, etc. You start writing your cv right there. As a fresh graduate the employer knows you have no work experience. How you turn your non-academic endeavors into experience and knowledge and skills that make you work world ready will be key.

Knowing what you know now as a high-profile professional, what would be your advice to a rising young professional you are mentoring?

Every organization’s return on investment in its employees relates to the value they bring. You therefore cannot go through any work system without adding value to it. The value you add is how best you deliver your work initiatives or output and its place in achieving the organization’s objectives.

I’ve seen young people go through the motions each workday, being lackadaisical, waiting for payday. You cannot last in today’s workplace with this attitude and just a sense of entitlement! Show enthusiasm to learn and contribute effectively to the workplace.

Grow! Take the challenge of difficult tasks even when you don’t know how. Get on and figure out how to do it! Give it time.

Do not look down on any piece of work. Volunteer to serve when you have the opportunity. There are skills to be developed in every endeavor; like working well with even the most difficult people, organizational skills and leadership to mention a few.

Finally, develop relationships. Your genuine interest in people will pay off. You would have people in many places who can help advance your career in many ways. 


Akua Ampah

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