“Women should pay attention to the opportunities around them” – Guardian Woman – The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
Deborah David is a Chartered Accountant and Certified Social and Emotional Intelligence Coach. Trainer, author and speaker, she has been an ingenious and versatile professional for more than two decades, an experienced C-Suite executive with professional expertise in finance, strategy and corporate governance. She is the current Chief Financial Officer of African Circle Pollution Management Limited (ACPML), a company licensed to operate port reception facilities at the six Nigerian seaports on behalf of the Nigerian Port Authority.
Economics graduate from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Aresty Fellow and alumnus of Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, INSEAD, Lagos Business School and Institute of Directors, UK, David is the founder of Workplace Channel where she has mentored young professionals and women managers since 2012. Partner and volunteer mentor at Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), she regularly serves as a resource person for training-oriented initiatives emerging leaders from Africa, advocacy for women’s empowerment and youth employability.
In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, author of ABC Tools For The Workplace, shares the life lessons of his professional journey.
You have a long and illustrious career, tell us about your journey so far?
MY professional background is somewhat adventurous, touching different companies in different sectors. I started with MTN as a pioneer staff member in 2001; we had a month-long world class training especially on customer service. It amazed me to be noticed for serving more customers in a unique way using different languages. I later received an award before leaving the company.
When I was recruited by KPMG Professional Services, we had over 100 people in a two-week, world-class residential training called KBAC (KPMG Basic Accounting Course). I emerged as the best intern after the course; I left KPMG in 2006. Then I worked at GlaxoSmithKline PLC and then at Centrica Energy, which is a sister company of British Gas in the UK. After four years, I left Centrica and went straight to entrepreneurship. Subsequently, I joined my current company – African Circle Pollution Management Limited.
You are a chartered accountant, certified coach in Social and Emotional Intelligence and author, how do you manage to hone your skills?
Before I became a chartered accountant, I took the exams several times, I failed. I had to work on my mindset to agree with myself that failure is not final and that I could try again. So I tried, and by the grace of God I got chartered. In retrospect, I felt that I had lost chances in my adult life because of a trauma from my childhood. After identifying my issues and addressing them through coaching, I decided to take the certification to help others.
I signed up with the John Maxwell team, got full coaching practice, theory and techniques. I went further to the Institute of Social And Emotional Intelligence to target the emotional dimensions of workplace and career issues. Speaking of my writing background and how I learned the skills, my love for writing became evident from my childhood experience where I lost my mother after my thirteenth birthday; I learned to express my feelings through writing.
Today I have written three bestselling books. The latest being Work Easy – Proven Strategies for Getting to the Top of Your Career Quickly and Developing Thought Leadership. In this book, I expressed my heart, my mistakes and how I found them useful in my life. It contains what I wish I had known that I discovered later.
As a versatile professional, with over two decades of experience, how did it go?
It was bitter, sweet, and a mixture of experiences. My summary is that the greatest lessons I have learned came from the times when I experienced the most pain. Part of my regret is not recognizing early on the role of mentors and mentoring, career sponsors, and then the role that coaching plays in someone’s career trajectory. I realized it was late. When I woke up, I realized that I hadn’t moved like I should have. Therefore, I advise and encourage ambitious, future-ready career professionals who want to do something right with their careers to ensure that they are properly held in hand.
You have various certifications, both locally and internationally. What value does it add to what you do?
Lots of values. Talk about ACCA, you have to be gossiped to be respected as an accountant in Nigeria. In addition, I am a member of the American Institute of Financial Managers. It exposed me very well to the world of numbers and how easy it is to explain numbers to those without basic technical skills in numeracy, accounting and related fields.
With your expertise in financial management, how can businesses, especially women-owned businesses, improve, given the state of our economy?
Very simple, education! The education I mean is not the paper we get after going through a standard bachelor’s degree program; if you run a business, educate yourself about the business. If you don’t understand your value system, your value chain, how do you collect the money? What problem is this company created to solve? I take it for granted that all businesses are designed to be profitable and then bring income to the investor, yes, but the problem you solve is what ensures that you continually have income.
We see a system where business owners do not have enough financial education; they don’t even capture all of their costs, like communicating with customers, sending out marketing information, and inviting people. When your cost is not captured accurately, you can undervalue yourself. Entering costs correctly is a great way to manage your risk in order to survive in the long run.
Did you go through tough times in your career and how did you get out of it?
Yes, a few and at different stages. I will give you a general view of the problems; problems are thus labeled if you do not have enough resources to handle the demands placed on you. The demand can be performance, money, or whatever is an output that you have to deliver. The resource, on the other hand, is the things you own; skills, expertise, training, know-how and your support system are your resources.
As I started to introspect much later, I realized that the things we call problems are transformational adjustments, things that come to our ecosystem to expand us beyond the status quo so that we look at differently and were starting to reason at a higher level. So I had some tough issues.
Let me give you an example where I got into entrepreneurship after leaving Centrica; it was difficult to financially support a few projects that I had in progress. I was not faced with potential clients who will need my service. And my summary will once again be that hardship is an integral part of growth; it depends on the label you wear on it. You should call them growth challenges, transformation opportunities, where you handle your situation with kindness and ask yourself what am I supposed to learn in this process?
After you’ve walked this path, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Having a coach is something that I would have done differently from the start of my career to be able to develop properly. Then I will do better networking; strong careers thrive on good relationships.
How can we get more women to succeed and reach the top like you did? What advice do you have for young women?
Let me play a respect card here, Millennials have a lot of computing resources on their hands, which can catapult them into their journey even faster than the generation before them. However, women need to be careful of the opportunities around them. They should support each other. They should seek continuous improvements and invest time in learning their chosen models. Read their books, blogs, articles written by or about them, take their online courses, listen to their speeches and glean from their rich experience. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you can win by trading the secrets of the giants.
How to find inspiration and stay motivated?
Prayer and worship. I see inspiration as being in a space where you have new ideas; your mind is cleared.
As an established author, what kind of lessons do your books seek to impart?
My books seek to provide avenues for professional success. My first book being ABC Tools For The Workplace, I explain the place of planning, programming, relationships, how to operate with an open mind, investigate issues beyond the surface, develop an approach of healthy skepticism. I wrote The Confident Woman to emphasize that women need to play in their rightful space in the workplace; confidence amplifies competence. My latest book launched in September 2021 is titled: Work Easy – Proven Strategies to Reach the Top of Your Career Quickly and Develop Thought Leadership.
Hard work is hard. The work under the correct knowledge (LUCK) is what I call the easy work. I write from a place of empathy. I see a lot of people who were like me, who didn’t care about going out and offering themselves in the workplace. They say, “I don’t want to be seen as being so forward thinking. I have offered a lot of ideas in Work Easy on how to do what you do in the best way, getting the best possible results and using all the resources at your disposal (human and technical resources). These are the kinds of lessons I seek to teach.
What is the mantra of your life?
Anticipating is staying ahead. Yes, we don’t own the future, but there are some things that planning ahead can help us achieve so that when we have a change in our environment, we are better prepared to deal with the changes. It’s the easy way to work.