Oyeyimika Adeboye is the first female Managing Director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc. In this chat with PUNCH, she opened up about her life as a wife, mum, career woman, family and other issues.
See excerpt below…
You are the first woman to attain the position of MD of Cadbury Nigeria Plc in over five decades. In what ways is this symbolic for you?
I guess having a woman as managing director of a manufacturing company in Nigeria has been something of a big deal, historically speaking. This is largely due to our socio-cultural realities where men tend to dominate in virtually all areas of our national life -be it politics or the corporate world.
Perhaps, that was the reason my appointment as the first female managing director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc made the headlines.
There has been a global push for gender parity in the workplace, particularly at the board level, where critical decisions are made. Nigerian businesses are not left out, with numerous appointments of female leaders and Chief Executive Officers in financial services, technology, FMCG and even the oil sector.
It is symbolic to have a female CEO in a manufacturing company, particularly as this traditionally has been a role held by men. As a global company, Mondelēz International— our parent company— has a growing number of women leaders across our functional operations and business units.
This is in line with our diversity and inclusion agenda. At MDLZ, we have deliberately made it our focused objective to develop and promote our female talents.
What is your typical day like?
Each day is unique as I have reporting responsibilities to numerous stakeholders (local, international, internal and external). Yes, there are many meetings, market visits (customer and consumer engagements), employee engagement sessions, mentoring commitments, to name a few.
What is important for me is to ensure I have a constant connection with all my stakeholders, focusing on the ultimate goal – to achieve our business objectives.
How would you describe your experience so far as the MD of the company?
I am fortunate to work with the best talents, who have a great understanding of our business objectives and are clear on what needs to be done. One thing we did as a team a couple of years ago, was to spend time thinking through and aligning on our mission.
This was very important for us as it also helped to define what we would need to do to achieve our business objectives. I see myself as an enabler, supporting our leaders and guiding the different teams as necessary, with the ultimate goal of delivering on our agreed objectives.
Of course, our consumers and our business partners are our biggest stakeholders and connecting with them is key to our existence. It is important to spend quality time with them as they are key to our success.
I have also learnt to prioritise the company’s relationship with other important stakeholders, including the government, trade associations and numerous regulators.
My corporate role as the Managing Director of Mondelēz West Africa means I am also responsible for our business in Ghana and chair the board of Cadbury Ghana Limited. We now have a growing export business across the ECOWAS region, and I am excited to see our brands growing beyond our borders.
I joined Cadbury Nigeria as the Finance Director in 2007 and over the years since then, I have come to understand the business quite well. With all the right support, moving from the FD role to becoming MD was quite seamless.
What are some of the personal qualities that have helped you get this far in your career?
My values are shaped by my faith as a Christian and this is key to decisions that I make and the way I work. Integrity is one of the values that I hold dearly to.
Furthermore, I grew up in a home where we had strict moral upbringing. My father was a disciplinarian, who did not fail to apply the rod when it was necessary. So is my mum.
These values have, to a large extent, shaped my character and continually facilitate my decision-making. I praise my team lavishly when they are doing well, but I can also be a pain in the neck when I find they are dropping the ball. I try to strike the right balance.
What peculiar challenges do women face in their careers and what effects do they have on career growth?
Women generally face some form of discrimination in the workplace. Sometimes, it is subtle, but oftentimes, it becomes more blatant. For instance, women are often overlooked when it comes to promotion to higher levels of responsibility. This tends to stifle their growth in the organisation.
I had a first-hand experience of this when I worked in the United Kingdom. So, it is something I can relate to easily. Also, there are some jobs that seem to be the exclusive preserve of men. Women are not allowed to do such jobs. There is often a legislation backing up this law.
For example, women are not allowed on night shifts in factories in Nigeria, because of some colonial law passed many decades ago.
I am glad that is changing as we now have a growing number of women appointed to top leadership positions in various sectors of the economy. This shows that we are making some progress and it is something we should encourage for the sake of equity. That is how we can grow as a nation.
How are you able to balance your career and personal life?
Let me start by saying that it is important for one to set one’s priorities right and stick to them. This helps one to strike a fine balance between work and life. According to my scale of priority, God comes first; my family (my husband, who has been my biggest cheerleader, and my children) are second; and my career and job come after these.
I guess the mistake some married career women make is to put their job first. This tends to distort the harmony in the family and sometimes harmony also with their faith. We must all learn to get our priorities right to ensure there is balance between our careers and personal lives.
When we retire from work someday, it is our families that we will all go back to. If a career woman chooses to sacrifice the family front for her job, the consequences may not be too pleasant.
What advice do you have for young people as regards career growth?
I do mentor younger colleagues and other people outside of my immediate work environment, and one of the things I often tell them is related to the point that I have just made.
I always tell them to try and get their priorities right from the start. That way, they can maintain proper focus in terms of career growth. There are several distractions out there, but with focus and discipline, young people can achieve their career aspirations.
What do you consider to be the highest and lowest moments of your career?
The biggest highlight of my career is my appointment as CEO of Cadbury Nigeria Plc and Managing Director of Mondelēz WA. I am struggling to think of a low moment.
Who are your role models and mentors?
As a Christian, I take a lot from what I have been taught in the Bible, particularly the leadership style of Jesus Christ. I also admire my parents for their courageous leap into the exciting but challenging world of entrepreneurship.
My late father was an illustrious entrepreneur and an inspiration for me. Today, I reflect on his management style and business decisions even in my current role.
What are your fondest childhood memories?
I grew up in a large family where discipline and order reigned. Mistakes could be overlooked, but there was zero tolerance for lies. Anyone who told lies knew the consequences. We all helped with the work at home. There was no idling around the house.
My father was a disciplinarian when it came to enforcing punishment for a deserving infraction committed by any of the children. He also expected his children to be top performers in school. One dreaded going home at the end of the school term/year if one was not top three in class.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I initially wanted to be a lawyer, but changed to Economics and Accounting because I thought I would make more money in this profession. Today, when I see some of my legal bills, I wonder if I chose the right career.
How do you unwind?
Unwinding is only possible ‘away from home’. I enjoy running and spending time with my family over a well-deserved meal after the run.