Ethiopian born, Kenya raised Mimi Alemayehou is a Managing Director at portfolio company Black Rhino Group, and Executive Advisor and Chair of Blackstone Africa Infrastructure LP.
After studying International Law and International Business, Alemayehou found development consultancy firm Trade Link Holdings LLC. She has held major positions as Director of International Regulatory Affairs at WorldSpace Corporation and was United States Executive Director at the African Development Bank. The mother of two has also served as Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
If you are like us, you will hold your breath after reading about Alemayehou’s career journey. Below, we share some insights from this African power lady.
1. Strive for your educational goals
Mimi: The first successful entrepreneur I knew and looked up to was my grandmother. She could not read or write but she was one of the smartest women I have ever known. I often wonder how far she would have gone if she had been allowed to go to school by her parents, who chose only to send the boys to school.
Although, the silver linings of your career may not shine through that window frame just yet, your education is a step towards reaching your career goals. Mimi agrees (higher) education is a huge part of the African growth story.
2. There is much more in your future
After being asked whether she thought her position at OPIC was the climax of her career, Mimi replied: “I have always believed that life is a journey of learning; there is no end to it until you are no more.”
Although, success can be comforting, that comfort shouldn’t stop us from going beyond our comfort zones. There is always a next move. “I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect position or a dead-end job. At every step, you learn. Life’s a journey of learning.”
3. Believe in your work ethic
During her career at the African Development Bank, Mimi was the only woman working in the midst of 17 men. “I have never doubted myself in the things I pursued. Fortunately, I have had some amazing mentors in my life and in turn I try as much as I can to mentor as many people, particularly young women.”
Confidence is key when it comes to directing your future. Feeling strong about what you do and what you want will minimize doubt.
4. There are ways to do it all
“In terms of the balancing act of career and family, I believe mothers are natural multi-taskers”, is Mimi’s response to ‘how she does it’. And no matter how many exciting career moves she has made, she says “being a mother is my biggest accomplishment so far.”
Mimi believes prioritizing and accepting the pros of cons of having to travel for work is key to combining career and motherhood.
5. Approach situations with an open mind
“My most impressionable years were probably during my time in Kenya. I met so many people from many parts of the world for the first time in my life and that had a long term impact in my life as it made me more open-minded and gave me a greater appreciation for human diversity,” says Mimi.
6. Be picky with what advice you take
Mimi’s powerful statement: “I got to where I am today partly because I did not always listen to the advice I got. For example, earlier in my career I was always interested in working on Capitol Hill but a lot of people, including some of my own family members told me that there was no way a member of Congress would hire someone who was not an American citizen. I pursued this dream anyway and was ultimately hired as legislative staffer on Capitol Hill. I have found it invaluable to question things and not necessarily take “no” for an answer.”
Be aware of your possibilities, be thorough in how you approach them and follow through.
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