Tell us about yourself
I am a passionate and versatile people person who is self-driven and focused on positively impacting lives whiles helping businesses achieve sustainable growth. With over 15 years of work experience spanning five different industries (Retail, Consultancy, Manufacturing & FMCG, Telecommunication & Technology and Banking), I have built a great wealth of exposure, connected with diverse professionals and grown my career.
I obtained my high school education in General Arts (Economics, Geography and Government) at Accra Girls Senior High school in Accra. I went on to read a combined major in Economics and Political Science at University of Ghana, Legon. I fell in love with Labour Economics, which focused on Trade Union Management and the Employment Relationship. This led me to pursue a Masters in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management at the Warwick Business School, University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.
In 2016 I became a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), a world-class HR professional body based in the United Kingdom.
I provide advisory services to young professionals looking to switch careers and offer coaching, mentoring and nurturing to university students who want to start a career in HR. In my spare time, I do speaking engagements and set up graduate assessment center for organizations. I am also an executive member responsible for the mentoring workstream of the Women Network Forum at Absa Ghana. I have mentored 10 colleagues both formally and informally within the past year.
Spending time with my family, close friends, and supporting people realize their full potential makes me happy.
Walk us through your early career journey (first 5 years)
During my university years, I worked as a research assistant at the African Studies Department, University of Ghana during the holidays. I gathered both quantitative and qualitative data for professors and foreign graduate students. I went to homes, offices, and shops to conduct interviews and have interviewees fill out questionnaires. This experience helped me develop interpersonal relations and build networks. I also learned how to manage rejection and persevere. My summer research work earned me a place at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana as a Research Assistant and Executive Assistant to the Head of Faculty for my National Service in 2003.
After National Service, I got a six months contract as a Research Assistant for a Ghanaian lecturer at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. This contract did not come with an office. My office from morning to evening was going door-to-door at Oxford Street, Osu. When I get home each day, I compiled a report of my work. I updated my employer by email and over the phone and did not meet him until the end of my contract. However, I honored all that we agreed on and this built trust between us. I also learned to work without supervision, build integrity and produce an excellent work. I am proud to say that this project later contributed to the publication of a book by Professor Ato Quayson titled “Oxford Street, Accra” which provides an interesting record of this famous street in Ghana.
Although research work was not part of my career plan, I seized the opportunity to work during my holidays and it turned out to be a great learning experience that has helped me in my career. My being open to new ideas and willingness to explore opportunities helped me develop people skills that I have relied on in my HR career.
I took a career break to further my education and start a family in the United Kingdom. During that period, I did part-time work in retail as a sales executive with a stationary conglomerate outlet. Although I had great career opportunities in the United Kingdom, I turned them down because I was determined to return home. Upon my return to Ghana, it was tough getting a job. I thought that having a masters degree from the UK would make it easy for me to get a job in Ghana. I was wrong.
I checked the daily newspapers for job vacancies and sent out job applications. I found that all the job vacancies in the newspapers were filled by the time the newspapers hit the newsstands. I never received any application acknowledgment or invitation to interview for a job. I later realized that there were a lot of job vacancies but I was not making the right connections and contacts. When I began making the right contact by connecting with old friends and acquaintances, I had a break after almost a year of searching.
Another huddle I faced was that, the job I got was below my expectation in terms of salary, status and resources. I embraced the challenge as a Business Development Manager for a 5-man HR consulting business in 2010. In less than 6 months, I was promoted to HR Consulting Manager and within a year and a half, I got the breakthrough I desired.
A friend submitted my CV to her HR Director when they had a vacancy. I went for the interview prepared and aced my way to a Talent, Recruitment, and Learning Specialist position for Unilever Ghana Limited in 2012. I worked with Unilever for 2 and a half years and I enjoyed every step of the journey.
What values/skills would you say you demonstrated in your early career journey that have contributed to your career success?
Developing the right attitude definitely has taken me places. Right attitude for me include;-
- Trainable spirit
- Respect (for myself and others)
I was open to new ideas and ways of working. It is good to have a perfect picture of the environment and people you would want to work with but when life throws you lemons, you learn from making lemonade.
I took a career break to start a family so once my career kicked off; I had no maternity leave or other long-term absence. This allowed me to seize opportunities. If you are a woman, take a career break if there is the need for it.
Learn how to demonstrate your performance on the job and prove yourself in your early years before chasing huge expectations – car, higher pay, privileges, etc.
I learned not to make money my focus during my early career stage but rather development and growth. If you focus on money early in your career, you will end up jumping at any job opportunity that pays more than your current job and not think about the development and growth opportunities you could be missing.
Did you always know you wanted to do what you are doing now?
At the beginning, I would say no. I wanted to be an Architect when I was a teenager. However, I did not make the grade that would have gained me admission to read Architecture at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
I went to University of Ghana without knowing I was going to become an HR professional. It was through reading, understanding the subjects I read and my passion for people interaction that led me to pursue a career in HR. Once I decided that I wanted a career in HR, I never looked back.
What were some of the mistakes you made on the career journey?
The two mistakes I made in the early part of my career are;-
- Comparing myself to my classmates – When I returned to Ghana from the UK and realized my classmates were progressing well in their careers, I felt I had made a mistake and that was why I was not getting a job. Engaging with the right people taught me that a career is not a race but a marathon. I realized I needed to focus on my own career and grow it my own way because eventually that would enable me achieve my aspirations.
- Being too emotional – This made it seem that I was week and compromised in my decision-making. As a leader, there will be tough decisions to make and if you let your emotions cloud your judgment, you will not make the right call. I also realized I was not getting the opportunity to act in certain capacities because my superiors viewed me as being too emotional. I have learned to better control my emotions and that has given me growth opportunities at work.
If you had the opportunity to change one thing in your early career/work experience days what will it be?
I will not want to change anything because my experiences have made me a better person. However, if there is one thing I will do differently, it will be not sitting down and hoping that opportunities will come my way without letting the right people know about my interests and aspirations.
The right people are those who have the power to make the final decisions. Having a development plan that outlines your developmental gaps and what you need to do to close those gaps is good but not enough, if you do not connect with decision-makers such as your line manager, department head or HR. You need to place yourself at the top of their minds for when there are opportunities.
I felt my excellent work would speak for itself so I failed to share my desires and aspirations with the decision-makers at my workplace and this slowed my development and career growth.
Any advice to someone who is confused about their career planning?
It is not unusual to be confused about what career to pursue while you are at university or even after university. Many people started out not knowing what career to pursue so do not beat yourself up.
Do explore these helpful techniques to enable you make a decision:
- List all the things you love doing.
- Do a 360 degree feedback by asking others (parents, siblings, classmates, friends, lecturers, etc) what they feel you love or are good at.
- Narrow down your list to your top 3 interests or skills.
- Find out what careers are derived from these top 3 things you love doing.
- Find out what it takes to be a professional in any of the three careers you have identified.
- Do a self-assessment of where you are now.
- Find out what it will take to get to be a professional given the gaps you have identified.
- Start working on how to close your gaps.
- Remember to do a periodic review or check-in on how you are managing your gaps.
- Seek help from a professional career coach or mentor.
Should you fail at any choice you make, start again with what you love doing until you become comfortable with it. Given the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world in which we live, nothing is certain and what you will refer to as your dream career today might be nonexistent in the next 3 to 5 years. Thus, what is important is being adaptable and pursuing what makes you happy. If others refer to it as your career, then so be it.
If you had a minute to coach/advice a tertiary student about work readiness, what would it be?
I would encourage students to embrace and do the following;-
- Be prepared to roll your sleeves and work
- Develop a trainable spirit
- Develop both your hard (specific knowledge and abilities usually taught) and soft ( personality traits and behaviors displayed in different situations) skills because you will need both to survive
- Be creative and street smart
- Build a strong network of friends and professionals
- Develop an agile and growth mindset
- Build your personal brand
- Do not be afraid to fail or try new things by being innovative
- Read everything and anything
Knowing what you know now as a high-profile professional, what would be your advice to a rising young professional you are mentoring?
Based on what I have seen happen in organizations and my own experience, I will advice young professionals to;-
- Work hard but be visible by interacting and sharing your work with the decision-makers
- Develop the right attitude
- Stay focused and remember that, you can become whatever you want to be if you put your mind to it
- Build a network of friends across all spheres and not just your area of specialty
- Be assertive and ask questions
- Build integrity so everyone knows what to get and expect from you
- Beware of office politics and play fair
- Respect everyone irrespective of their position or title
- Learn to always smile
*FMCG – Fast Moving Consumer Goods