By Christy Anyanwu
Vumile Msweli is a South African who has made Nigeria her second home. The amiable lady is the Managing Director of Hesed Consulting, a coaching and consulting firm specializing in business acceleration, career coaching, women’s 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 major radio stations and a columnist in a newspaper.
Vumile previously worked for reputable multinational institutions including Barclays, Investec, Nedbank, First National Bank and Vodafone, gaining 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 out a place for herself in career coaching while serving clients in the areas of leadership, finance, speaking and mentoring. A graduate of two universities in South Africa, she holds an MBA from the University of London and a PhD program in Applied Leadership from UGSM, Switzerland. She recently spoke to Sunday Sun about the under-representation of women and other issues.
You are a familiar voice on Nigeria’s Smooth FM radio station and a regular face on Arise News. Looks like you have made Nigeria your second home. How did it happen?
I had the privilege of studying in Ghana and traveling frequently to Nigeria. My first visit started 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 positive attitude. Nigeria is filled with African excellence, ambitious and hardworking people who strive to embody the African dream. I admire the fast and energetic attitude of the people of Lagos and saw this city as the Mecca of my own ambition, fueling my passion and drive. I then decided that it would become a second home for me. This led me to work with organizations and media, talking about all things career coaching. Many years later, my passion for career coaching is still ignited along with my love for Nigeria and its people.
Your career is interesting; tell us about your journey so far.
My professional journey began in contact center banking and quickly accelerated into a leadership role. My journey has been supported by education, which for me has been the key to the world. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Pretoria and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Financial Planning. I then did my Masters in Business Administration at the University of London, completed continuing education at New York University, obtained a postgraduate certificate at Harvard University, and am currently working on a doctorate in coaching at Monarch University in Switzerland.
I have spent my career working in the banking and telecommunications sectors and it has given me the opportunity to work in amazing places such as Singapore, Germany, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and the ‘South Africa. I always thought I would be an entrepreneur, so I founded Hesed Consulting, a pan-African coaching and recruitment firm.
What motivated your decision to embark on life and transformation coaching?
Becoming a career coach was born out of my frustration in my corporate career. I was a young executive facing challenges and I wanted a coach who looked like me and understood my difficulties. Someone who not only showed empathy, but understood what it was like to be an African woman striving for excellence, while climbing the corporate ladder. I identified gaps in myself and knew that coaching could help fill those gaps.
A career coach is an expert who dedicates hundreds of hours to helping people achieve their career goals and clarify their career paths by equipping them with skills that help them overcome obstacles and succeed in their jobs. This is therefore the service to which I have chosen to devote my time. I accompany people on their career path, overcoming obstacles and having a job that fulfills them.
As the head of Hesed Consulting, how do you merge all the things you do successfully?
Hesed Consulting is the channel that allows me to respond to the vocation of my life; to help people have successful and fulfilling careers. We are a pan-African organization that facilitates the attraction of human capital through recruitment and the growth and retention of 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 family and friends, and make myself very comfortable on my knees, seeking God for his will for my life.
There are so many coaches and coaching sessions targeting women these days. What impact do you think this has on women?
I believe that a coach is a powerful weapon for women’s careers and lives. I personally have three coaches and they have proven invaluable in my growth, both personally and professionally. Unlike a sponsor or mentor, a coach generally has no relationship with you until you seek their professional services. They are objective experts in their field who help people achieve their goals through psychological techniques, self-reflection, and training.
Thus, a coach has often helped many people in a specific industry or career level and, unlike a mentor, does not rely solely on their experience. A coach, in essence, helps share best practices with you as a client and helps you achieve a set goal through a series of coaching sessions.
After successfully leading global teams in Africa and Europe, how can we accelerate and grow women-led SMEs?
I think it’s creating a culture of leaving the door open in every room you walk into to make it easier for other women to come in after you. Essentially, it’s about cultivating a culture of creating opportunity for other women. By intentionally using products and services from women-led SMEs, we help create sustainability for that entrepreneur and increase opportunities for scalability.
Why are women underrepresented in key leadership positions and how can we change this?
Historically, women were not economically liberated and allowed to hold leadership positions. This heritage is at the root of the disproportionate number of men and women at different levels. To change this, we will need to give women the same access, support and privileges that men have enjoyed to step into leadership roles.
To counter this historical male advantage, women will need sponsors, mentors, advocates, coaches and more opportunities that take into account the unique challenges women face, such as maternity leave and family responsibilities. such as being wives and mothers.
What are the five key points you would give to a founder?
Always follow the rule of three: whatever time you think it will take, multiply it by three, how many times you think you need, multiply it by three, how many people in your network 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 if it may be delayed.
Tell us something you did that positively influenced your career.
I think having coaches to help me progress in my career sets me apart from my competitors. I think investing in coaching has helped me better articulate my ideas and better position myself. I also think that intentionally giving myself exposure through education and travel has served me well, allowing me to work all over the world and thus bring together global best practices.
How can we truly empower the woman of today so that she can compete internationally?
To be successful on a global scale, you need to expose yourself to the world. The world is bigger than your city, your country and your continent. You are competing with other women sitting in Kuala Lumpur, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Mombasa and Durban. What you bring to the table should have local relevance, but be able to make an impact on the international stage. Knowing how to effectively position yourself and articulate the value you bring while respecting the nuances of your diversity will enable you to compete globally.
Doing business in different African countries is not without challenges, how do you overcome these problems?
The biggest misconception is that Africa is the same; we may have the same hue, but we are far from being homogeneous. Walking into a meeting in Lagos is fundamentally different from Kigali or Gaborone. I tend to immerse myself in the culture, study the people, understand the value system, work with local experts to help guide me, and then invest in building those relationships. I like to be clear about the value I can add and the unique service I provide as a career coach and recruiter.
What are five little-known facts about you?
I have traveled to over 55 countries around 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’s just like sunshine and happiness to me. I find my peace in my village; something about green hills and beautiful rivers connects me with God.
What changes would you like to see happen for women if you could make them?
I wish I could acquire sponsors and advocates for women in their careers that their male counterparts access with such ease. I think this is a simple change that could propel the careers of women in all sectors and help close the gender gap.