Maureen Ogbonna is Founder and CEO of Vallore Nigeria limited- an Advisory, Business and Management Consulting firm also offering coaching services with a focus on Business Transformation for sustainability.
Maureen Ogbonna maximizes her diverse experience as a Board Chair, Board Member, D-level strategist and Business operations executive to help organizations become more efficient, sustainable and future-proof.
In this interview with 9to5Chick, Africa’s foremost career development and networking platform for Africa’s most ambitious women, Maureen Ogbonna talks about salient lessons from her career journey to the boardroom and how career women can become board ready.
How did you start out your career as a business transformation agent?
All roles I have had for 17 years bordered around transforming businesses through building and rebuilding teams, rebuilding existing but ailing business, business restructuring, etc.
All these led to more effective and efficient outcomes in the businesses far beyond the planned incremental advancements.
What were some notable challenges you encountered as a woman making it to the top of her field and how did you navigate them?
I experienced patriarchy, patronizing attitudes, bullying, gaslighting, unfair hearing, unequal opportunities, just to mention a few.
I overcame them first by believing those attitudes and situations didn’t define me and would not limit me and ensured that in a good number of those cases, I contributed what was required of me in any given situation without compromising my personal values.
What has your reinvention process been like in transitioning from a career woman to a business owner?
Frankly, the effect of my transition on my thinking process and behavior were quite minimal. This was because, looking back, I always worked as if I owned the business.
There was never a difference in my work ethics between being an employee and a business owner. However, I must mention that I needed to build my personal brand as part of my transitioning process to a business owner.
From your experience of mentoring career women, what gaps do women leaders have and how can they surmount them?
Overcoming fear and lack of confidence in themselves. To surmount. It’s okay to be afraid. Just do it afraid. The ‘Nike’ advert in this context tells you to do whatever you set out/need to do whether you are afraid or not.
False confidence. Haughtiness. To surmount. Realize that this coping mechanism which I think it is and that comes from being treated differently, is not necessary or helpful to being a better career woman.
Poor networking skills. To surmount. Truly believe and accept that your network is your net worth. So go out there to create a great network and make the most of it.
Lack of a big picture. To surmount. This needs deep thinking and the guidance of a coach.
What are some market penetration strategies you would recommend to companies coming into the Nigerian market?
First, the research must be thorough and capture the elements required for entry into a new market. Research should be done first hand by the host country as much as possible as cultures, world views and perceptions rightly or wrongly influence the realities of a market i.e preferably, let Nigerians do research for the Nigerian market.
Secondly, keep a finger on the pulse of consumer behavior as this changes often especially in these days of radical uncertainties.
As the board chair, what are some boardroom dynamics that women seeking to be on boards should be aware of and how can they get better equipped to handle these dynamics.
Situation of Boardroom Dynamics vary and cannot be generalised but there are key things to bear in mind as a woman seeking to be on a board to guide for optimal board member performance.
First, why do you want to be on a board? It should be for the primary or sole reason of adding value to the company you serve. Other reasons could detract from your performance.
Secondly, why should a board employ you? It is critical to know this as that should guide your KPIs in addition to being part of a collective decision making.
Thirdly, be committed to the role as it adds up to the performance of the board, company and all stakeholders – shareholders inclusive.
How has your diverse experience from different sectors been pivotal to your career especially now you sit on different boards?
My diverse experience has given me the breadth, scope of knowledge and experience that has enabled me with deep insights into how businesses run and how they can be improved.
What top 3 lessons would you teach your younger self?
The lessons are quite simple:
– Be deliberate and intentional about your career journey and trajectory.
– Understand networks and networking.
– Grow and maximize your network.