Exquisite Magazine took a survey of the Product Management sector and found a phenomenal lady breaking all odds.
Jeanette Uddoh is an innovation and product management professional and EM took the opportunity to have an interview with her. Read up!
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:
I am an Innovation/Product Management professional. My love for innovation and continuous learning inspired me to pursue an MBA Program at W.P Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, which happens to be the #1 school in the US for innovation (8th consecutive times) according to the US World & News Report.
I am currently in Business School and it’s been both an intense and rewarding experience.
I started my career as an Operations associate at United Bank for Africa, one of the leading Pan-African banks in Nigeria.
I gradually worked my way up to a Branch Operations Manager for one of the biggest branches in the Bank before joining Access Bank, the largest Bank in Africa by customer base as an Assistant Branch Manager.
A major accomplishment I am most proud of as an associate was being redeployed cross-regionally to manage a branch while still an Executive Trainee even though there were more senior officers in the region.
I led the branch in achieving a 5* customer service rating from a consistent 1* rating. This resulted in commendations from Management and also winning the ‘Best Staff’ and ‘Best Processor’ awards.
I took up an opportunity to accelerate my career at Access Bank where I started as an Assistant Branch Manager. Pivoting from branch operations, I progressed into Analytics and Identity Management functions.
I embraced a more challenging role as the Head, of Innovation at Access Bank where I was responsible for driving innovation and managing the innovation culture of more than 10,000 employees.
My role entailed the development of new products, services, or processes and handling innovative projects. One of my major accomplishments asides from launching first-of-its-kind innovative capabilities was winning the coveted CEO Awards, Employee Volunteer of the Year (Nigeria and Subsidiaries) 2020 and also winning the Most Valuable Player, Impact 2020 award from Boston, Massachusetts, based foremost innovation platform, InnoLead in recognition of my contributions in the Innovation ecosystem.
I am the only Nigerian and African to have won the award since its inception.
I was headhunted to drive the innovation strategy and journey at the intersection of technology and finance at Nigeria Interbank Settlement Systems (NIBSS), Nigeria’s switching company for the interoperability of Banks, FinTechs, and Card companies as the Head, Innovation & New Product Development.
My role entailed designing and building human-centered, tech-driven products used by over 25 Deposit money banks, and other financial institutions, including FinTechs with a cumulative of over 100M Customers.
I am passionate about women’s issues hence my founding Africa Rising – Women in Innovation, a community of innovators championing the cause of African & Neo-African women in Innovation.
The community was founded in response to the gender and diversity gap in innovation. We are over 500 women and counting who are not only demanding a seat at the table but creating their tables.
I am very family oriented and try as much as possible to have a stress-free life.
When I’m not working or studying, I love to travel and experience new cultures, watch interesting documentaries and movies, experience mindfulness through yoga, read anything interesting that I lay my eyes on, or visit my favorite Karaoke clubs pretending I’m a Karaoke Queen.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS FIELD?
I have been in the Financial Services field for over 10 years.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO THIS FIELD?
Honestly, I never wanted to be a banker, due to the banking stereotype of working late hours and the lack of a work-life balance, even though bankers were considered one of the highest-earning workers at that time.
I remember having an opportunity of taking a Bank aptitude test during my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and I rejected it. Growing up, I wanted to be a Medical Doctor, since my Dad is a Surgeon and my mum is a Nurse, so, I was considering going back to school for a second degree to study Medicine or delve into the Entertainment industry as a Television Presenter.
I discovered my love for presenting during NYSC. I won a ‘Best Presenter award’ for the NYSC Camp Broadcasting Service.
However, after completion of NYSC, I found myself in Banking when I realized how difficult it was to get a job. I had travelled to Abuja from Bauchi where I had just completed my Youth service to visit one of my longtime friends. She served in Abuja and had also completed her service year, just like me.
It was a great time to catch up and discuss life as job-seeking graduates. While I was in Abuja, I received a call from my mum, informing me about UBA’s Graduate Aptitude test taking place the next day.
Even though they had stopped accepting resumes, I told her I was going to take the next flight back home and gate crash the test the next morning, and that was exactly what I did!
A few days later, I remember her visiting a UBA Branch to consummate a transaction and she saw the test results displayed outside the banking hall. You can imagine her excitement seeing that her daughter passed. She immediately called me from the Bank and a few hours later, I received a text message for an interview the rest is history. You can imagine my joy and the thought of landing a job and making my own money. Good money at that for a young graduate.
Getting into the field of Innovation/Product Management was accidental. Starting my career in banking operations, I knew I needed to challenge myself more.
Banking operations were monotonous and although I exhibited excellence on the job, I needed a role that would leverage my creativity and analytical skills. An opening for an Innovation Manager role had just opened in the Bank and a former Supervisor and a Senior Executive that I had worked with recommended me for the role due to my performance trajectory. She believed in me and was confident that I could deliver even though it was a field I wasn’t familiar with but had the transferable skills to execute with.
I am forever grateful to her for her faith in me, and also to my supervisor at that time that approved my redeployment even though it was a difficult decision for him to let me go.
He was selfless, saw the bigger picture, and allowed me to fly. I love my job as an Innovation/Product Manager and the number of awards and recognition that the role has enabled is a testament to my achievements.
Winning the prestigious Global Women in Leadership 2021 awards, a comprehensive study of more than 500 professionals and Entrepreneurs across the world, exploring the qualities and experiences that contribute to Women’s leadership and advancement in the workplace was a career highlight for me. I believed I could and I did!
YOU ARE A FORCE TO RECKON WITH IN THE SOCIETY, HOW DID YOU GROW TO THIS LEVEL?
I must say consistency, authenticity, and being laser focused have made me grow to this level. I am a perfectionist and I tend to go above and beyond with any responsibility I find myself involved in.
For example, even though I didn’t like the routine nature of my tasks working in Banking Operations, I still gave it my 110%. I would always go the extra mile to ensure customer requests were resolved, attended to customers politely, and drove my team to excellence. I have come to realize that what happens when you embody a positive attitude is that it cascades to other areas of your life. Excellence becomes not just a habit but a lifestyle. My roles post-Banking operations were a result of my performance history that provided opportunities for promotion to non-operations roles that I had always wanted and where I could add more value to the organization.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
I believe that success is a moving target and it’s always important that we re-evaluate our definition of success at every point in our lives, and what truly matters to us as individuals. Society often has a certain idea of what success should look like, and it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to conform to those standards rather than defining success for ourselves. It’s important to remember that true success isn’t determined by external validation or societal expectations, but by our own personal values and goals.
For me, I’ll define success by positive impact. Have I inspired someone to achieve more or be a better version of themselves?
Have I used my talents and resources to make a difference in the world or in the lives of others? That for me is a success.
It doesn’t mean to say that at some point in my life success for me wasn’t career advancement or financial success, but rather I have come to realize and understand that success is a journey and not a destination, and it’s important to re-evaluate our definition of success as we grow and change as individuals.
IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO START YOUR CAREER OVER AGAIN, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
I would say, I should have taken more career risks at the early start of my career. As women, we sometimes tend to self-sabotage ourselves, thereby undermining our value, talents, and expertise.
I thank God that I was able to ‘fail fast’ early to become the confident woman that I am today. Also, having a mentor early on in my career would have been a great asset. I wasn’t exposed to mentorship resources to guide me, I basically learnt the ‘hard way’.
EVERY BUSINESS-MINDED SUCCESSFUL PERSON HAS A STORY, WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE?
I wouldn’t call it a challenge because it always worked in my favor. I used to get under-estimated, maybe because of my look, and then when people see me work or hear me speak, they would be like what just hit them.
I always loved seeing their reaction because I was the perfect example of ‘do not judge a book by its cover’. I remember one of my former supervisors mentioning that the first day she saw me, she was like this one is a ‘fashionista’ (I do not joke with my work clothes and heels) and then when she saw me working, she was like ‘Who is this lady?’ in bewilderment.
She was shocked at my work ethic, leadership skills, and how dedicated I was. Who says you can’t be fashionable, intelligent, smart, and hardworking?
Additionally, my first redeployment role post-operations was working in an Analytics Team. I was the 1st woman to permanently join the Team and working in a male-dominated function needed that I proved myself. It was not easy at first but trust me, you will earn your respect in such situations when your value is felt. You just have to put in the work.
WHAT SETS YOU APART?
My passion and authenticity. I work in organizations like it’s my own company and that alone has brought me far.
YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION TO MANY, WHO/WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
My parents inspire me. They instilled in me and my siblings life values and morals that have led us to succeed in all aspects of life, especially knowing what matters and what is ephemeral. I am grateful that they gave me the right weapon to conquer – a great education.
I am also inspired by women shattering glass ceilings in their various fields. I love seeing women, especially in male-dominated industries win. It’s always a proud moment for me. I feel connected to them.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
Kindness. I have so much love in me that I do not understand why people do bad things to hurt others. I wake up every morning choosing to be happy because I believe life is too short not to value my peace of mind.
IF YOU WERE TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD BE THE TITLE?
That’s an interesting question. I think the title of the book would be “You only live once: Secrets to finding your happiness even with the negativities”.
PLEASE KINDLY SHARE SOME OF YOUR SECRETS TO BECOMING SUCCESSFUL?
Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals, be EXCELLENT and CONSISTENT in whatever you do, and the stars will eventually align in your favor. He that is faithful in little will be faithful in much.
WHAT ADVICE WILL YOU GIVE TO YOUTHS WITH THE ZEAL TO GROW?
Have a mentor, a life coach, or that go-to person that will always guide and point you in the right direction whenever you need clarity or advice.
You want to avoid making the same mistakes someone in your path made during their time.
Get curious, network with people in fields that you are in or interested in, ask them questions, seek knowledge and expand your knowledge bank and most importantly, be intentional with your personal development. All thought leaders were once novices. Don’t ever forget that!
Please Share Contact
Instagram – Jeanetteuddoh