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#HERStory – Episode 8: The Unsure Manager

What Did She Do?

Took on an Unplanned Promotion, Unprepared

The Unsure Manager: At the interview, the first question I was asked was “Are you sure you can handle the pressure of this job?”. Without a moment of hesitation, and with all confidence, I said, “Most definitely… I am driven by pressure”. I did not know what I was setting myself up for. I started my career in the Telecommunications industry about 8 years ago, as an intern. I remember my first day at the office. It was a dream come true. I was going to work my way up the corporate ladder to become a business leader recognized and reputable both within and outside my company. Fast forward to today, and I had worked hard to become a Team Lead, and grown to be a Senior Officer level in the firm. Things were going according to plan until the day I went visiting Folasade, my mentor and dear friend during my lunch break. After that visit, I was skyrocketed into a whirlwind of uncharted waters that completely changed my career trajectory. Folasade was a Director in the company. We became close friends and started our mentor-mentee relationship about 3 years ago when I got the opportunity to work with her on a project. We realized that we had a lot in common. She always said she saw a lot of potential in me. As soon as I walked into her office that afternoon, she looked at me as if she had just solved a riddle. “Lock the door behind you” Folasade said with a very straight face. I was concerned. She never asked me to close the door unless it was very serious. “Your Group Head just resigned. I am putting your name up as his possible replacement” she said so confidently. The Group Head had resigned with immediate effect and someone needed to step in for him as the interim Group Head almost immediately. I was in a state of shock. “Are you sure, Folasade?” I asked, my voice losing balance. “I believe in you, Dumebi. If I didn’t, I won’t be putting you up”. The only thing on my mind after that was that I did not want to let Folasade down.

How Did She Do it?

I Did Everything I Had to… Afraid or Not.

The Unsure Manager: “Dumebi, my office!”, Folasade called from the door of my shared office space. “Your interview is tomorrow. You’re the only woman that got shortlisted. Please prepare very well. Don’t let me down”, Folasade reported as I tried to sit down on the guest seat in her office. I felt so sick all of a sudden. I was really not ready for this next phase. “I know you feel unprepared, but this opportunity is here now, it may not come again for the longest time. Jump in first, and figure out the rest later” she said as she saw my face melt with fright. At the interview, I was bombarded with different questions about my work experience, projects I have handled, even had to make an impromptu presentation. I was very nervous throughout that experience, but I stayed calm, put on my poker face and spoke like I knew exactly what I was saying. The next day, I was called to interview with the CEO. This meant I was close to getting the job. I was losing my cool. This was all happening so fast. “Just a few days ago, I was enjoying life in the comfort zone and now, I am interviewing with the CEO?” I thought as I sat in the CEO’s office. He asked me a series of questions without taking his eyes off his tablet. I answered every question with extreme confidence and even followed up with questions for him. I felt like I was acting or pretending to be someone else because in my mind, I was freaking out. We had interacted in the past, but not in this capacity. “I hope to see the best from you” he said as the interview came to a close. I did not understand what that meant. The next morning, I was the new interim Group Head of the Division. I was still in shock when all my colleagues welcomed me with praises and celebration for my new appointment. I had not still processed the whole thing. I kept wondering how my life had just changed in just a couple of days. I barely had time to celebrate before I was whisked away into a meeting for the Group Heads with the CEO. I remember walking into the room and wondering what I was going to do there. For some reason, every time I tried to give up or feel weak, I would hear Folasade’s voice asking me not to let her down, and I would immediately get back in character. The first three months in my new office came with a lot of obstacles. From senior colleagues questioning my competency and underrating my work, to taking on new responsibilities that I had no clue about, to managing egos and learning to adapt to the diplomacy required in the role. I was overwhelmed and overworked. I seldom saw my family, and I lost a lot of weight. There were days I just had to run to the bathroom to cry and put myself back together. I questioned myself a whole lot and almost melted under all the pressure. Nonetheless, I never wore my worries on my face. I did not want to be perceived as weak or incapable. It all made sense when on the day before my 6th-month anniversary, I got the official confirmation letter as the new Group Head. I was just 34 years and in a random whirlwind of events, I had jumped into the unknown and seen my dream come true.

A Moment That Tested Her

My First 6 Months of Cluelessness

The Unsure Manager: The first 6 months of my appointment had to be the most difficult time in this whole ordeal. I remember feeling completely confused and helpless. There were meetings where everyone would turn and look to me for answers. I would be completely lost and confused, whilst trying to wittingly manoeuvre myself out of the uncomfortable situation. I had to google everything I did not know. I had sleepless nights reading books and taking crash courses in areas I did not understand. I had to fake it till I finally made it. I did not want to give those male colleagues who talked me down the satisfaction of seeing me fail, so I worked twice as hard to make sure I was successful.

Her Eureka Moment?

Finding My Confidence

The Unsure Manager: Sometime in between my 4th and 5th month on the job, I was asked by the MD to take on a project that I knew nothing about. As usual, I was completely oblivious to what he was talking about during the brief. But, unlike before, I was not filled with fear. I had this complete confidence in myself that I was going to get it done perfectly regardless of how difficult it was. In that moment, I realized I had mastered the art of being ‘the boss’. It all came full circle when at the end of that project I got my confirmation letter as the official Group Head of the division.

What She Learnt

The Unsure Manager

  • Whatever you think you cannot do, you CAN. You just need to dive into the challenge and KEEP SWIMMING. You’ll definitely start by drowning, but soon enough, you will stabilize and begin to soar.

  • Also, the importance of women uplifting other women cannot be over flogged. If Folasade did not believe in me enough to put my name in for the vacancy, I would have never realized my potential. Women who support other women need more crowns.


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