By Christy Anyanwu
vumile Msweli is a South African, who has made Nigeria her second home. The friendly lady is the Chief Executive Officer of Hesed Consulting, a coaching and consulting firm that specializes in commerce acceleration, career coaching, women empowerment, facilitation and training. The organization currently has a presence in Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana and Rwanda, with affiliates in Namibia, Ghana and Uganda. In Nigeria, she is an on-air personality in one of the top radio stations and a newspaper columnist.
Vumile previously worked for reputable multinational institutions, including Barclays, Investec, Nedbank, First National Bank and Vodafone, garnering experience in Operations, Finance and Strategy as an executive. She has successfully led global teams in Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Lesotho, Ghana, Tanzania; Mozambique and South Africa); and Europe (Scotland, Isle of Man and England).
As a coach, she has carved a niche for herself in career coaching while also servicing clients in executive, financial, speaking and mentoring. With degrees from two universities in South Africa, she has an MBA from the University of London and an ongoing doctorate program in Applied Leadership from the UGSM, Switzerland. She spoke to the Sunday Sun recently about women under-representation and other issues.
You’re a familiar voice on Nigeria’s Smooth FM radio station and a regular face on Arise News. It looks like you’ve made Nigeria your second home. How did this come about?
I had the privilege of studying in Ghana and traveling frequently to Nigeria. My first visit began a love affair that has stood the test of time. I fell in love with the entrepreneurial spirit of its people, the fashion and their can-do attitude. Nigeria is filled with African excellence, ambitious, hardworking people who strive to embody the African dream. I admire the fast-paced and energetic can-do attitude of Lagosians and have seen this city as the Mecca for my own ambition, refueling my passion and drive. I then decided that it would become a second home for me. This has resulted in my working with organizations and media houses, talking about all things career coaching. Several years later, my passion for career coaching is still ablaze as well as my love for Nigeria and her people.
Your career is an interesting one; take us through your journey so far.
My career journey began in banking from the contact center and quickly accelerated to an executive role. My journey has been underpinned by education, which has been, for me, the key to the world. I got a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting Science from the University of Pretoria and Bachelor of Commerce Financial Planning Honours. I then did my Masters in Business Administration at the University of London, had Executive Education at New York University, got a Higher Education Teaching certificate at Harvard University and I am currently studying for a doctorate degree in Coaching at Switzerland’s Monarch University.
I have spent my career working in the banking and telecommunications sectors and this afforded me the opportunity to work in incredible places such as Singapore, Germany, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and South Africa. I always suspected that I would be an entrepreneur, which is how I founded Hesed Consulting, a pan-African coaching and recruitment firm.
What informed your decision to go into life and transformational coaching?
Becoming a career coach was born out of my frustration in my corporate career. I was a young executive facing challenges and wanted a coach who looked like me and understood my struggles. Someone who not only empathised but understood what it was like to be an African female pursuing excellence, whilst climbing the corporate ladder. I identified gaps in myself, and I knew coaching could help close those gaps.
A career coach is an expert who has hundreds of hours helping people to achieve their career goals and gain clarity on their career journey by equipping them with skills that help them overcome obstacles and succeed in their work. So, that is the service I have chosen to dedicate my time to. I support people in their career journey, overcoming obstacles, and having work that fulfills them.
As the head of Hesed Consulting, how are you merging all the things you do successfully?
Hesed Consulting is the channel that enables me to fulfill my life’s calling; to help people have successful and fulfilling careers. We are a pan-African organization that facilitates the attraction of human capital through recruitment as well as growing and retaining talent through coaching. It keeps me busy, but I truly believe in work-life fluidity, which means I invest in my team, take time to cultivate relationships with my family and friends and get very comfortable on my knees, seeking God for His Will for my life.
There are so many coaches and coaching sessions targeted at women these days. In your opinion, how impactful is this for women?
I believe that a coach is a powerful weapon for women’s careers and life. I personally have three coaches and they have proven invaluable in my growth, both personally and professionally. Unlike a sponsor or mentor, a coach ordinarily has no relationship with you prior to you seeking out their professional services. They are an objective expert in their field who help people in achieving their goals through psychological techniques, inner reflection and training.
So, a coach has often helped many people in a specific industry or career level, and unlike a mentor, doesn’t solely draw on their experience. A coach, in essence, allows for the sharing of best practices with you as a client and helps you achieve a set goal through a series of coaching sessions.
Having successfully led global teams in Africa and Europe, how can we accelerate and grow women-led SMEs?
I think it’s by creating a culture of leaving the door open in every room you enter to make it easier for other women to come in after you. In essence, it is cultivating a culture of creating opportunities for other women. By intentionally using products and services from women-led SMEs, we help create sustainability for that entrepreneur and increase the opportunities for scalability.
Why are women under-represented in key leadership positions and how can we change this?
Women historically were not economically liberated and allowed to engage in leadership. This legacy is what results in the disproportionate numbers between men and women at various levels. To change this, we will have to give women the same access, support and privileges that men have enjoyed to get to leadership roles.
To counter this historical advantage men have, women will need sponsors, mentors, advocates, coaches and more opportunities that take into account the unique challenges that women face like maternity leave and family responsibilities such as being wives and mothers.
What five key takeaways would you give a female founder?
Always observe the rule of three: however long you think it will take, multiply it by three, how much you think you are going to need, multiply it by three, how many people in your network that you think you need, multiply it by three. So, in essence, think bigger, increase your capacity for patience, stay focused and hold on to your vision even though it may tarry.
Tell us something you did that has positively influenced your career positively.
I think getting coaches to help me grow in my career set me apart from my competitors. I think investing in coaching helped me to better articulate my ideas and better position myself. I also think intentionally giving myself exposure through education and travel has served me in good stead enabling me to work all over the world and thus gather global best practices.
How can we truly empower today’s woman so she can compete internationally?
To be successful globally, you must give yourself exposure to the world. The world is bigger than your city, country and continent. You are competing with other women sitting in Kuala Lumpur, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Mombasa and Durban. What you bring to the table must have local relevance, but be able to impact the international arena. Knowing how to effectively position yourself and articulate the value you bring whilst respecting the nuances of your diversity will empower you to be globally competitive.
Doing business across different African countries isn’t without its challenges, how are you surmounting these issues?
The biggest misconception is that Africa is the same; we may have the same hue, but are far from homogenous. Walking into a meeting in Lagos is fundamentally different from Kigali or Gaborone. I tend to immerse myself in the culture, studying the people, understanding the value system, working with local experts to help guide me and then investing in building those relationships. I like to be clear in the value I can add and the unique service I bring as a career coach and recruiter.
What are the five little known facts about you?
I have traveled to over 55 countries in the world. I tasted ‘dodo’ for the first time in my 20s. I am doing my doctorate in applied leadership and coaching. My absolute favorite color is yellow; it just feels like sunshine and happiness to me. I find my peace in my village; something about the rolling green hills and gorgeous rivers allows me to connect with God.
What changes would you like to see happen for women if you could make them?
I would love to be able to acquire for women sponsors and advocates for their careers than their male counterparts access with such ease. This, I think, is a simple change that could catapult the careers of women across industries and help close the gender gap.