Celebrating Women in Male-dominated Roles (Ngozi Aghomi, Site Director, Lagos Brewery, Guinness Nigeria Plc.)
Hi, I am Ngozi Aghomi.
I am a Supply Chain Professional.
I play in core Supply Management and currently the Site Director for Lagos Brewery of Guinness Nigeria Plc.
How safe do you feel in this male-dominated space?
I feel very safe and self-assured in this space. This is majorly because I know what I bring to the table all the time. I go beyond my Job description basically. I always bring a Best-in-class or if you like, world-class contribution to any business I join. I never leave any team I lead worst or the same as I met them. Rather, I help them become better versions of themselves and we end up adding so much invaluable benefits to the organization. We save cost, do more with the same or fewer resources, increase efficiencies across board, and the team morale is boosted and they become great assets with a great drive to do more. Any team I have led or still leading just becomes better at what they do; and this improves the Business Performance greatly.
You’ve worked across several male-perceived roles including distribution & logistics, import & export, demand & supply planning among others. What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to work through as a woman in this space?
Yes, I have had a lot of experience working in perceived male-dominated roles especially as first Female Distribution/Logistics Mgr., Import/Export Manager, Factory Supply Chain Manager of the largest Nestle factory in Africa, as Kimberly Clark’s Supply Chain Mgr for West, East & Central Africa(WECA) and as Guinness Nigeria’s first Female Site Director for its Lagos Brewery, I must say the greatest challenge that I have had is what I believe other of my male counterparts have also had operationally. The only difference may be that people expect you to fail quickly or succeed quickly so that they can immediately close their bets, lol.
What do you consider your greatest preparation for the roles you have and are taking up?
I believe my being a very focused person has prepared me a lot. My background too. I must say as I saw my grandma do what women in her time would usually not do, i.e. standing up to men to defend other women who were unfairly treated in the village. My mum also was a banker, with eight children. She worked in the defunct Savannah Bank of Nigeria. I saw her get up very early in the morning, preparing breakfast with the help of my older cousin staying with us, getting all eight of us prepared for school, well-fed, and with lunch packs. While most children in Lagos would buy food from the road-sides, my mum made sure we left home with lunch packs of a balanced diet for that matter. She was combining all these with her banking job, her academic work at UNILAG, and her certification exams at NIB-Nigerian Institute of bankers. I saw a-never-give-up spirit in display growing up and I believe that fired me up and prepared me for this journey.
What was the ultimate drive towards this profession and what has been the motivation all along?
Initially, I did not start up looking for a Supply Chain job or anything like that. After school and NYSC, I saw some adverts both of Diamond Bank and Nestle and I applied for both and was lucky enough to get both jobs. The bank first, I did a stint with them, and then when Nestle came along, I went for it. I actually studied Computer Science at the University of Benin and applied to work in the Computer Department but after the interviews I was placed in Supply Chain which was quite a new field in Nigeria then. So, there was no ultimate drive or anything like that, but immediately I started working in Supply Chain, I became hungry to learn everything and anything available to be learnt on Supply Chain. This drove me and I had some good knowledge ahead of my experience. This opened doors of projects, promotions and responsibilities within and outside the function for me sometimes with no or insignificant salary increases or rewards but just more work and recognitions but I did not mind. My motivation at first was the drive to succeed and make my family proud but as time went on, I became self-motivated and wanted to be a model to younger women in the field of Supply Chain being a male-dominated function.
What were your loved ones stand on this chosen profession of yours?
My family has always been very supportive of my decisions and so this is not an exception in any way. They were with me all the way even when I had to work late nights at times or weekends or public holidays just to meet up with deadlines. My husband has always been very exceptional in supporting my career progression and always very encouraging too. He is still my greatest ally.
What are the main challenges you have faced as a woman in this profession?
Its majorly the fact that people may initially want to question your authority as a woman but once they see that you are firm and know your stuff, they will eventually become your close allies.
What are the benefits you gain as a woman in this profession?
This interview is one of the benefits, lol…Getting some thumbs up from fellow women and supportive men and Business leaders when you do well is another one. Being recognized for breaking the barriers for other women to come along and climb the ladder is another.
Was there any point you almost gave up?
Not really give up but maybe I got frustrated at a point. Especially when you do a lot to make the business better but someone else higher up takes the credit and gives no crumb of it to you at all. However, I think that can happen to anyone irrespective of gender.
If yes, what kept you going?
Seeing that I was adding value and making a difference despite all odds, kept me going
I must say that your line of work is typically not a go-to space for women, why did you choose to specialize here?
Like I said, I did not choose to be here but when I got the opportunity, the “can-do spirit” in me and my drive for excellence kept me here. I have seen severally, the joy and pride in other women, younger and even older women, when they see me taking such male-dominated roles, cheering me on and asking me to please succeed and make them very proud. Some young women hired into Supply Chain roles on several occasions come to me and ask if they can be like me and I answer them with an emphatic, Yes. Knowing that other ladies are looking up to me to do well here also made me to stay even when I had the chance to leave at some point in the past. It is somehow very gratifying for me to see others becoming confident in what they do because of what I do.
What value (s) do you want to see the most among women coming into the workforce?
I want to see resilience, integrity, self-confidence and high-quality work input and output from women in the workforce
What are the top three things women aspiring to come into this space need to know?
- Be deliberate about your work always
- Your career is yours, nurture it to grow
- Don’t chicken out when it gets tough, you will come out better than you imagined
Could you give us some sneak peeps into your personal daily rules in your profession?
- I make the work environment friendly and homely for my team
- I lead by example, so everyone knows that I expect no lack-luster work from them
- When there is a problem that you can’t resolve, escalate quickly to get help before it becomes a crisis
- Have an open mind and keep learning, things change every day
Who is your role model?
My late Grandma, my mum and the late Margaret Thatcher
Do you wish more women take up roles as yours? Why?
Yes. This is because, in this field, women tend to bring a lot of initiatives that make things better very quickly. Women are also easy multi-taskers and planners and in Supply Chain, there is a lot of multi-tasking and planning involved in order to succeed.
What do you have to say to other women?
God made Men and Women different but put the same spirit of excellence in both genders. There is no excuse to remain behind anymore. Chase your dreams, run with your vision, no one can stop you but you!
Our men are waiting for you to come to the table to discuss and find a way forward with them. There are more rooms to occupy at the top and only your consistent quality work, integrity, being your authentic self and passion to achieve can take you there. Don’t be apologetic when you are moving ahead. Bask in your success and encourage others to join you at the top.
What are your social media handles?