Mamy Tall – The Young Architect putting Senegal on the Map through Art and Design

Mamy Tall is a 26-year-old Senegalese powerhouse, architect and art director. Over the past 3 years, her work has not only catapulted and heightened Senegal’s global artistic merit and tourism, but it has also created trends in Senegalese and African art direction outside of the white gaze— a sort of ode to “our art, for us and by us”.

In 2014 Tall co-founded the social media platform, Dakar Lives, that has won third place at the Linguere Digital Challenge. It has been recognized by CNN, Konbini, OkayAfrica, Hypebeast etc. It has also been classed in the top ten best digital platforms promoting African destinations, by numerous websites like Trace, Le Petit Journal and Tech in Africa.

In 2018, she worked as the artistic director on projects like; the launch campaign of Selly Raby Kane’s Pichkari collection; the Sidy collection by L’Artisane; the music video to Nix’s Highlander; and the photo-booth of the Afrodysee Festival in Geneva.

As an architect, Tall has worked on awareness campaigns about the use of local materials in African cities and the necessity of the rehabilitation of Saint-Louis (the ancient Senegalese Island recognized by Unesco World Heritage).

She has also worked with architectural teams designing public buildings in Dakar such as the Ministerial Spheres and the United Nations Headquarters, in Senegal’s newest city: Diamniadio.

She is currently finishing her first solo project, The Slim VillaRather than a “Jack of all trades, and master of none”— Tall is a clear “Jane of all trades and mistress of all”.

Mamy Tall is also a celebrated photographer whose work has been featured in Elle South Africa x Cote d’Ivoire, Elle Decoration, the  Afrourban exhibition in Montreal and Toronto, OkayAfrica, and on the accounts of Africa’s top Instagram influencers.

Mamy Tall’s aesthetic across her IG platforms @mamytall and @mamymaliste echoes the clean and futuristic feel of African millennials fusing innovative local designs and Global South inspired art for projects that represent the third culture kid who speaks their native language like they never left ‘le bled’.

SLA contributor Mariama Wurie caught up with Mamy Tall, to find out what it takes to be so young, yet a leading figure and force for culture, architecture, and innovation in one’s hometown— making waves across Africa!


What’s it like as a young Senegalese woman, fiercely pursuing a career in this field? Tell us about your journey to becoming an architect? 

It’s true that the field of architecture is perceived to be a male-dominated one in our society. What’s funny is that during my studies in Montreal, there were more women than men in my faculty.

I knew I wanted to be an architect since I was 8 years old. I know that’s an early age, and I don’t even know if I can say where it came from… maybe because I love sketching, imagining, tinkering with stuff and above all— I have a lot of energy.

My parents really pushed me in this direction, not to mention meeting Atepa Goudiably (a famous Senegalese architect) at the of 12, was a determining point in my life.

Becoming an architect allowed me to discover who I was, what I wanted, what I don’t believe in, and what I support— it’s been a rediscovery of my sense of vision (through an architectural lens)!

It’s this experience that today allows me to assert myself as a woman architect with convictions. As architects, our common mission is to constantly solve problems posed by the environment and society, we must never let misogynistic remarks hold us back.

What was your favorite project you worked on in Dakar? What was your motivation for this project and how did you accomplish the project’s goal(s)?

I have been back home in Dakar since May 2017 and I must say that I have had a lot of stimulating creative experiences.

However, to date, my favorite experience has been working on the music video for Highlander (April 2018).

The reasons that motivated me, the building featured in the video, the people I worked with— everything was in perfect symbiosis. I had already been contacted by the Nix team for the art direction/realization of the video, but it happened a month or two later— Nix called me one Tuesday saying “Mamy! We need to shoot this weekend, I’m going on tour next Monday”.

We had to mobilize and manage all the logistics in 5 days— the equipment, the mirrors, the choir, etc. And on Saturday, everything went perfectly!

I think one of the strengths of this project was the synergy that was on the set and the fact that almost all of us knew each other! The shooting was top, editing with Moshady (the director) even more top.

The day of the release, we had so much encouragement that it was really validating… and a few months later, the clip won the Best Music Video of The Year at the Galsen Hip-hop Awards— even more rewarding for us.

Becoming an architect allowed me to discover who I was, what I wanted, what I don’t believe in, and what I support - Mamy Tall Click To Tweet

Your designs are strikingly original. How do you get inspiration? 

I’m inspired by everything! Everything inspires me here (in Dakar). From— the most insignificant scenes that I see on the street, to the daily inspiration of the African creative scene on social media— which I am quite fond of and close to.

I’m also inspired by the daily struggles that our society faces. One of my challenges is to make these problems that may seem trivial, “visual” to the as many people as possible— today’s digital generation.

I don’t limit myself in my creativity, I think that trying to go find inspiration is a very difficult/limiting thing.

Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Agfacolor 40’s Aged’

What advice would you give to African women in architecture and creative/design roles for finding inspiration?

The most important thing is to develop your vision of things, your capacity to rediscover banal things. In general, we look at things on a shallow level— except what is deemed societally interesting.

The challenge becomes, being interested in everything!

Got any key advice for African women working up the corporate ladder in traditionally male-dominated professions?

I would advise them not to wait for validation from others to move forward. Unfortunately, we are in a society where gender equality is still a desire, we must work twice as hard to stand out.

I would advise them not to set a barrier in their creation and imagination. Do not talk a lot, just act. To believe in themselves and to not take too harshly to the misogynistic comments they might hear.

They should pick up on the underlying concern and issue that is feeding into that narrative that makes the person a closed minded individual. I would advise them to not feel obligated to do something, but rather to do what they really want to do.

To always try to rise above. To be the only masters of their image and not to deviate from their own universe, to remain oneself in any situation.

Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Agfa Optima 200’

What cool and exciting projects can we expect to see from Mamy Tall in 2019?

I think one of the things that allow me to express myself so freely, is not giving in to outside pressure— to do what I want, to move at my pace.

That’s why I rarely speak about my projects while I’m working on them.


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Life Hacks you must Master to Help you Grow and Glow in Life

Life nowadays is more hectic, busy and can be downright overwhelming at times. A lot of us, if not all are itching for a time out or a method to handle the numerous demands life brings our way.

We need to be okay within yourselves and with those around us if we are to navigate this thing called life in a fulfilling and positive way.

A few life hacks I have come to find useful are listed below in no particular order – try to incorporate them in your own way and life as you know it may be a little easier to get through.

Network/Socialise more

I know, I know… an article like this, you’d think I’d be advocating for more alone time and silence, BUT more people time is actually not such a bad thing.

The reason I say this is because you never know who you could meet out there who could easily be the missing link you needed for a job you were looking for, a position you were looking to fill, a service you needed, a friend you never thought you needed, and possibly a life partner who would never be if you hadn’t gone to that event, that meeting or that party.

Growing your network is never going to be a bad thing and the more often you put yourself out there, you learn to network smartly.

Socialising more also helps develop your people skills, boosts your confidence and self-esteem and it helps you grow as a person.

There’s a reason the saying ‘no man is an island’ exists. Humans are co-dependent, we require interaction, connection, and engagement with others like us…

Get out more, interact more, connect more with like-minded people – it can be a literal lifesaver.

Functional Eating

We want to make 2019 our best year yet yes? So why not incorporate better eating habits to our lifestyle? It’s much easier said than done for sure but there are simple hacks that can help you achieve a perfectly balanced diet on a daily basis.

First – Control your portions

Using your hands will help you manage the number of carbs, veggies and protein and fats you ingest.

The rule is usually, a palm of proteins with each meal, a fistful of veggies, a cupped hand of carbs and one thumb length of fatty foods if you are adding fats to your meal.

It may read like a lot but if you think about it, it actually fills your plate with proper portions and you don’t miss out on the essentials.

Image by pelambung on Pixabay
Second – Drink your greens

Drinking your greens has got to be one of the easiest ways to get all the veggies you need into your system.

Celery juice is all the rage right now and for good reason – a hydrating juice with vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants that relieves bloating, helps with digestion and gives me an energy boost as well, where can I get one now??

It’s a perfect pick-me-up first thing in the morning, pushing the Apple cider vinegar phenomenon aside for a bit (not saying that it doesn’t have its benefits).

Green juices, especially those made at home with no artificial additives are great for you and fill you up, leaving no room for indulging in cravings. They give you all the nutritious elements you need and keeps your skin popping all day every day too, who doesn’t want that?

Put down the sugar-laden latte sometimes and pick up a green juice, or better yet a green smoothie that will keep you fuller for longer.

Third – Manage your eating schedule

Most of us have a 9 to 5 job which means we have to actively make time for meals – do it in a way that doesn’t add to your waistline but still fits in your schedule. Never ever miss breakfast.

Eat a healthy filling breakfast, be it at home or at work to avoid snacking badly throughout the morning hours. Carry packed lunches more often – this helps you avoid eating out and saves that coin as well as your diet. Drink more herbal teas instead of copious amounts of coffee.

Green tea, for example, is great because it keeps your metabolism going and still has a substantial amount of caffeine to keep you going for the day.

When you get home, have an early dinner, around 6 if you have a 10/11pm bedtime and a dinner devoid of starch if you can if you can’t – try to apply the hand portion control rule mentioned above.

Create Boundaries

As much as people time is necessary, protecting your space is also very key in getting through life. Creating boundaries with your friends, colleagues, family and everybody else you interact with is important as it keeps your sanity and lets others know you’re not one to be messed with.

Some people detect a weakness in someone and immediately use it to their advantage, therefore, making that person feel disrespected and defeated.

Boundaries at work help keep your working relationships strictly professional and keep your mind clear of any drama thus helping you focus on the task at hand. Boundaries with family members protect your peace, some relatives can be toxic and if you aren’t careful, it can put you in a negative space that doesn’t end well for either of person.

Create boundaries. Letting friends know the non-negotiables with you, and vice versa keeps you both accountable to the friendship. Click To Tweet

You love your family definitely but you also have a life to live and sustain, if someone is actively coming in between that in ways you cannot handle, it is okay to love them from a distance.

Friends are great and we all need that tight-knit squad we can always count on and trust. But we also need to make it clear when friends have crossed the line with us.

It’s never easy but some people can get too comfortable in your life and treat you in whatever way they like, thinking you’ll never have an issue with it.

Letting friends know the non-negotiables with you, and vice versa, keeps you both accountable to the friendship and in most cases, it helps cement the already great foundation of the relationship/friendship. It also helps you filter out the genuine people from the non-genuine ones as well.

Positive Financial Habits

We all like money, we all want more money but how do we utilize the money we already have? How often do you save? What do you do with said savings?

Financial responsibility is a harsh reality of adulthood and in this world of flashy lifestyles and doing everything for the gram it’s important to practice good financial habits. Saving and saving smart is one habit to incorporate this year.

You may want to finally move out this year, or finally go on vacation to one of the destinations on your bucket list or perhaps you want to get a car. All these things need money and a good chunk of it.

A good saving hack I picked up from YouTuber Shameless Maya was to always save 10% of anything you earn.

It can be more than 10% if you would like but it should never go below that, try it and see how much you save at the end of the year.

Image by loufre on Pixabay

Another positive financial habit is to immediately put money for all your bills aside as soon as you get paid.

You can put it in a separate account than the savings account so that the account is solely for bills. Once the 10% is put aside and this other amount is stored away to cover all the bills you have throughout the month, you are left with a nice little fraction for your monthly survival.

Usually, people tend to treat themselves to something once they get paid, either by going out or buying something nice which isn’t bad, but can also be avoided if your goal is bigger than that meal or those shoes or that one night out at the club.

If you focus on the end goal of where you want your finances to go, you’ll learn to compromise on the little things you spend money on like buying a coffee every day or eating out on the weekends or going out every other Friday.

When you’re in Greece giving us all the FOMO with your vacation pics, you’ll be glad you saved that 10% and carried packed lunch instead. Save those coins!

Unplugging

Social media is our new normal. We cannot seem to escape it and it’s been developed so much to a point where we somehow cannot live without it.

The baby boomer generation before us who never even understood social media are now the ones on Facebook and showing us YouTube videos and sending constant forwards on WhatsAppp.

(Thanks, but no thanks mum).

Unplugging is reiterated a lot more now because of how addictive the internet has become.

This is another life hack to keep your peace of mind and to give yourself a break from all the noise and chaos that is social media.

I think of social media as a machine that refuses to turn off, it is constantly on and constantly going and if you’re not careful it can swallow you up and spit you out in the worst way.

Social media is not horrible, not at all, but it can consume you very easily so taking time off it from time to time will give you clarity and calmness you never thought you needed in the already busy life you lead.

A simple hack I learned from a friend was to pick one day in the week to completely be offline from everything.

I chose Sunday. Every Sunday I switch off my data, wifi and I don’t get online for anything the entire day. If anyone needs to find me, they can just call or text me directly.

There’s no WhatsApp to keep me chatting, no Twitter to engage in and no Instagram to scroll through. At first, it feels difficult because you want to know what’s going on, you want to know what people are doing, where they are etc… but after one or two weeks of doing this, you actually anticipate that one day offline because of the peace that surrounds you.

You have a lot more time on your hands, you can get into other non-internet activities such as reading, cooking, calling up a friend to talk and catch up, going for a walk, spending time with your parents or siblings… you’ll start to realize how much you don’t do just by being on your phone/computer all the time.

Unplug. It helps you cancel all the noise in your head, for a while. Click To Tweet

You can do it for a day or a couple of hours, whatever you decide – try it and see how much fuller your life becomes with a simple break once in a while.

All these plus many more life hacks I’m sure you can add on here are just little ways to make your life a little easier, more manageable and just easing the stress of everyday life, in the long term keeping you happier and fulfilled.


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Nobuntu Webster: I let go of the parts of my business that were not aligned with my purpose and values

Nobuntu Webster is Director of African Pursuit, a social enterprise using media and story for economic and social development and Avad Media, a content production, content distribution, and content marketing company.

She has extensive leadership experience in development organizations such as the International Women’s Forum, Businesswomen’s Association of SA and KZN Youth Chamber of Commerce.

She holds a BPhil Honours degree and postgraduate qualifications in Strategic Leadership and International Trade Management.

Nobuntu Webster expresses her joy of living out her purpose through her business and career and contributing to meaningful work on the continent.

In this interview, we asked her how other aspiring Motherland Moguls can use their businesses and careers to do work that fulfills them and impacts lives.


 What is your purpose and how are you using your career and business to fulfill it?

I’m a storyteller and I am moved by injustice. I want to see economic justice, economic equality, and social justice.

You’ll find me using stories to create narratives for justice and to bring in new thinking and ideas. I develop Media strategies and content for social justice and economic inclusion through African Pursuit.

I am also perturbed by distorted narratives. With Avad Media, we create content that challenges people to question the narratives that we have been taught.

My heart is for Africa, so we create platforms and content to engage, grow and build Africa.

We are building towards an Africa that has enough for its people - @NobuntuSA Click To Tweet

What steps did you take to turn your career and business to fulfill a purpose?

My faith drove me to pursue purpose. The first step was looking to God and growing my faith.

The second step was to sacrifice. I had to let go of the parts of my business that were not aligned with my purpose and values.

The next step was going for it! I discovered that where my purpose would be fulfilled is in Media. I had to make the bold, courageous steps towards Media.

Go boldly into what and where your purpose is. Be humble and willing to learn from others if you’re getting into a new craft.

Learn the technicalities of the craft, and know what your specialty is. Also, know what the business model looks like in that craft and then think about how you turn that craft into a profitable business.

Using business for a purpose is a long journey, you have to be willing to be in it for the long-haul. It is going to unravel layer by layer, you just have to keep taking the steps as you discover them.

Learn the technicalities of your craft, and know what your specialty is - @NobuntuSA Click To Tweet

What meaningful work on the continent have you been able to contribute to and which have you found most fulfilling? 

One of the projects I am working on currently is Abundant Africa. We are building a narrative for a restorative economy in Africa; saying, ‘how do we create an economy that is influenced by our own unique African values?

How do we go back to Ubuntu and create an economy that is good for people; to making sure that the poor are given opportunities to pull out of poverty?’

I am part of building teams that create content that moves from policy ideas to stories that people can relate to. We are building towards an Africa that has enough for its people and that protects its environment.

How does one discover their purpose and identify meaningful work they can contribute to, as a business?

The clues to knowing your purpose are in the things that you do without trying hard; things that you would be willing to do for free.

To identify meaningful work you can contribute to, you have to know your calling. Ask yourself, ‘what moves me?’ What can you not ignore? What do you want to change?

There is so much need on the continent and that need is an opportunity - @NobuntuSA Click To Tweet

How do we grow from a survival and profit mindset to a service and purpose mindset?

There is so much need on the continent and that need is an opportunity, and you can still have a profitable business. Every entrepreneur should have a service and purpose mindset.

As Africans, we are people of ‘Ubuntu’. If we go back to who we are and we go back to the need around us, we easily move to a service and purpose mindset and build sustainable businesses that contribute to the continent.

How do you turn your business to fulfill purpose without losing profitability and your current clients?

I had to let go of clients whose work did not align with my values. There is always a risk in these kinds of bold and courageous steps. The greatest rewards in life come with sacrifice. There are things that you are likely to lose.

How do you secure your team’s buy-in into the new purpose and vision of your business?

A great leader is someone who is able to bring the people that they lead with them on the journey and get them to buy into the vision and own it.

People though are also on their own journey. Give them the option to come along on the journey or not. The new direction of the business might not feed into their purpose and career.

I had to relocate anyway so I had to start new teams that are passionate and that buy into the new vision.

Go boldly into what and where your purpose is - @NobuntuSA Click To Tweet

“I have the blessing of living my childhood dream… It looks completely different than I thought it would but it is so much more meaningful!” – Nobuntu Webster 


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Dear employee, what’s your leadership distinction?

 Every year for the last few years I’ve called a year a particular name. 2016 was called the year of outstanding distinction. 2017 the year of creative distinction, the year 2018 was the year of cutting edge distinction and 2019 I’ve called the year of global distinction.

There’s an unprecedented political, economic, socio-cultural and technological shift which involves easy access to fake news, fear news and forward-thinking news.

But, through it all, I truly believe we are in one of the most exciting times which I’ve called the era of creative distinction.

As an employee, know that the global market is now local, and the local market has gone global. And with the emergence of artificial intelligence, now is the time to lead with your distinction.

The first question is what actually is leadership?

In 2015 from my message of Cutting Edge Distinction, I penned the following quote,

“Leadership isn't about age but rather, leadership is about influence, impact, and inspiration - @Onyianyado777 Click To Tweet

As you see from my quote, it’s not about how old you are, how young you are, how long you’ve been in your job or industry, the essence of cutting edge leadership is simply the 3 I’s, influence, impact, and inspiration.

Question number 2, before you can serve and lead with your influence, impact, and inspiration, who is the first person you have to influence, impact, and inspire? That’s right, you got it, it’s you.

In this era of creative distinction, finding, developing and leveraging your distinction as an employee is key to your development and that of your department and organization as a whole.

So how should the 21st-century employee channel their leadership skills?

Lead with excellence

We’ve already established what the essence of cutting edge leadership is and from my message of cutting edge distinction, I’ve combined excellence and branding and created the 3 V’s of branding. Your vision, your values, and your voice.

The key to employee distinction is to be fully emerged with the vision, value, and voice of your organization, why?

If you’re not seeing, believing and saying what your organization is seeing, believing and saying, no distinction can be created in regards the prosperity, progress, and purpose of your organization.

 

Be a trailblazer and pioneer

On the image below I developed the 3 C’s of employee distinction. To lead with distinction in your chosen career, the 3 C’s have to be your way of life.

You’ve heard of thinking outside the box but in this era of creative distinction, using the ‘box’ as a stepping stone to save money, improve output and increase productivity is a key to leadership distinction.

Creativity is the new currency so regularly reading articles and watching TED Talks will, in my opinion, increase your creative awareness.

Once you achieved a task in work, actively look for other tasks to complete. If you find them hard, ask team members for assistance knowing not only does teamwork make the dream work, teamwork also makes you write, work and win with your leadership skills enhanced.

Bring constant change to your organization

With your understanding of what cutting edge leadership is all about, taking the lead to be known as a solution provider in your organization is a vital key to employee distinction.  

Spending quality time to serve, showcase and speak your distinction will mean you sometimes being misunderstood but because you’ve integrated the 3 V’s of your organizations brand, any misunderstanding will mean you’ll eventually be understood as a leader who is a critical thinker and a problem solver.

For the next seven days spend time observing the challenges you face at work and how quickly you use critical thinking to gain a quicker result. It doesn’t matter if you are a junior staff or you’ve been in your organization for less than say 6 months.

Your leadership distinction will come from constantly applying the 3 M’s of time management which can be viewed on the quote below and also asking questions, looking for quicker solutions, working in the team to see and understand the future goal and understanding, applying and really celebrating your leadership distinction.

So there you have it, you’ve been given the essence of cutting edge leadership and who the 21st-century employee is. With organizations desperately looking for employees who are thought leaders in nature and results, now is the time for you as an employee to lead with your distinction.


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Addie Olutola: Building a Fashion Line for the culture

Addie Olutola is the founder of D’IYANU, a ready-to-wear clothing line that offers African inspired fashion for men and women.

She thought of the business idea while working as a buyer and also attending a Masters program in International Marketing. Her professional and academic background, coupled with a love for fashion and a passion for African-centered art set the stage for D’IYANU.

A regular on my Instagram Explore Tab featuring #datenight outfits and a go-to brand for the culturally-conscious fashionista, D’IYANU encourages self-expression through its bold prints and unique pieces.

The meaning behind the brand name draws from French (D’) and Yoruba (IYANU) influence, translating to “of something wonderful”–a reminder to everyone that they’re uniquely made and to dress like it.

What makes D’IYANU even more special is Addie’s commitment to seeking ways her business can empower her community and help address the social issues it faces.

The company has grown to 12 employees, many of whom are Nigerian women, and has donated a portion of its profits to nonprofits that provide clean water and education to African communities.

In this interview, she gives a sneak peek into her world and shares her wisdom on how to build a purpose-filled business.


Tell us about your journey of starting D’IYANU.

Since university, I held a purpose to help build schools and clinics and provide opportunities to people in underdeveloped communities in Nigeria and other African countries.

I later launched D’IYANU with a mission centered on community engagement. Since our start, we’ve donated over $20,000 to causes that support African communities and the D’IYANU brand continues to grow daily.  

What were some important lessons you took your work experience to your business?

My first job out of school was for an online pet store. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about inventory and website management that helped me when I launched my own business.

My second job as a buyer helped me hone my vendor and customer relation skills which was much needed as well in my business. All my previous jobs really contributed to my success as an entrepreneur.

I would advise aspiring entrepreneurs to regard their current and previous jobs as stepping stones and commit to gleaning as much knowledge and skill as possible from that role

Not every business is the same. Don't make the assumption that what worked for another company will necessarily work for your own - @AddieIyanu Click To Tweet

What did you learn from your biggest failure?

One failure we experienced was trying to implement an ERP system that was too big for us. It was an archaic system used by larger companies and thought it would work for us.

We made many assumptions, and it ended up costing us a lot. The lesson learned was that not every business is the same and not to make the assumption that what worked for another company will necessarily work for your own.

Also, make sure you do your due diligence and get as much of your questions answered as possible.

Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I listen to some motivational speakers regular such as Les Brown, Jim Rohn, and Tony Robbins whose words have helped me through tough times with my business.

Words from Les Brown such as “It’s not over until I win” or Tony Robbins “I can, I will, I must” ring in my mind when I’m feeling discouraged.

As your business grows, what are some core values that will remain important?

  1. Always keep customers first and maintain excellent customer service
  2. Hire great people and keeping them happy within the team
  3. Continue to innovate and try new things with operations and fashion
  4. Make sure that D’IYANU continues to give to great causes

The African fashion market is heavily saturated, how do you cut through the noise to differentiate your brand?

 

Since starting D’IYANU, my goal has been to make sure that we’re differentiating ourselves by offering quality, ready to wear clothing at reasonable prices, quick delivery, and quality customer service.

Our men’s fashion line, for example, has allowed us to reach a rarely tapped market and to gain a competitive advantage in the African-wear industry.

With the substantial relationship between e-commerce and social media, what are some creative strategies you’ve experimented with or want to explore?

With social media, we recognize that the possibilities to connect with new customers are endless. We’re currently exploring our options in using more video content and collaborating with influencers.

What is your personal brand mantra?

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”- Maya Angelou

What’s your advice for a budding entrepreneur?

Write down why you want to start your business. Make sure the reasons are compelling enough to get you going on tough days.

If your reasons are compelling enough, you’ll figure out a way to make your dreams a reality and continue to push in spite of failure.

Make sure your reasons for starting your business are compelling enough to get you going on tough days. - @AddieIyanu Click To Tweet

What are you most excited about at the moment, and what are your next steps?

I’m excited about our use of a new type of fabric that’s woven but has a little bit of spandex for stretch. No one else in the African fashion market is using this type of fabric to my knowledge.

We have to get it special made. It looks like cotton, but it’s made with a rayon/nylon/spandex blend. It can stretch to accommodate curves nicely.

We have a few pieces that we will be launching in January 2019 with this material which is exciting!


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If you want to GLOW in your next Job Interview, avoid these Red Flags

A lot of candidates get a rejection mail and are confused about what went wrong in an interview process. Working as a recruiter both as a consultant and an in-house staff has exposed me to various interviews across all levels.

I have compiled some things that candidates should beware of when attending an interview. Here is a list of things that would most likely get you a rejection mail:

Dressing badly

This includes rumpled clothing, unkempt hair, provocative dressing. Ladies you are not here to sell boobs and fine legs! Please be moderate!

We call them DOA (dead on arrival), it means your interview has ended even before it started because you can’t fit into our company.

Bad sitting position

Slouching position shows a lazy and pessimistic personality. Sitting up straight shows a confident person. These are important non-verbal cues.

Lack of eye contact

I had a recent interview with a manager that had a superb profile and from the interview, it shows he actually did all he wrote. However, his role was to face customers and he barely looked us in the face which was a big red flag for the role.

Bad mouthing your previous employer

Even though you have justifiable reasons for leaving, say it in a good way that doesn’t make your last employer look bad! No organization is perfect so be careful what you say!

Short stay in various organizations without a reasonable reason

If you are on this table, I’m not saying it’s entirely wrong to have short stays, but they should not be flimsy reasons. Think through the explanation you want to give.

Using an Inaudible voice

Yes, using your bedroom voice during interviews is totally unacceptable. You need to be audible even if your voice is naturally low. Try to speak up and don’t wait for the interviewer to cajole you. It can already be a turn-off.

Using non-professional language

Avoid switching to pigeon English or vernacular because you feel too comfortable with the interviewer. Please don’t switch, it’s a TRAP. Keep it professional always.

Not doing your Research about the organization or the role before the interview

You would end up talking off-point. You would also turn off the hiring team because it shows a nonchallant attitude. ALWAYS do your research and think of the value you intend to add before an interview.

Being Rude to the Receptionist

This is a big NO. Even if you’re a Senior Director or whatever, you need to be polite and courteous to ALL staff. Don’t begin to feel like a ‘god’ even if you have a leg inside the company. It would backfire.

Clownish looking Make-Up

Unless you’re going for a make-up artist interview, I would advise you to wear moderate make-up. I have sat in an interview where the lower eyeliner was bright green and she was a fair lady so you can imagine the distraction.

Rolling your eyes

Some candidates think they are talking to their boyfriends/girlfriends. Don’t forget to be a PROFESSIONAL. I realized some people do it unconsciously. I would advise you to practice in the mirror and ensure your eyes are not flying everywhere.

Feel free to ask questions, I’ll watch out in the comment section to make some clarification.

I sincerely wish you the best in your career.


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Mwandwe Chileshe: My career in nutrition stemmed from my own struggles with ill health

Mwandwe Chileshe is a Global Health Corps alumni who has carved out a meaningful career path in Zambia’s health and nutrition sector.

In this interview, she speaks on how to trailblaze a career that’s both challenging and rewarding—while working to ensure the safety and health of generations to come.


  What inspired you to build a career in nutrition/health?

My work in nutrition and global health stemmed from my own struggles with ill health. As a university student enthusiastic and eager to learn, I was suddenly struck with multiple abdomen complications.

This led me through many hospital corridors and multiple surgical procedures. The experience included severe pain, days of no food, and wards where I saw people in even worse conditions. After three years of this situation, I realized that my opportunity to access health services gave me the best shot at life.

The experience took a financial and emotional toll, which would have been hard to survive without the goodwill of my family.  In the meantime, many women and girls are living through worse, and some of their lives are cut short as they are unable to access the health services they need.

When I started to work on nutrition I was exposed to the dire effects of hunger and malnutrition on women, girls, and children.

Children who lack access to adequate nutrition and consequently suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting), their fates are decided even before they can make their own decisions. A stunted child is more likely to fail at school, fall sick with other conditions, and struggle to find work as an adult.

My first-hand experience of the heavy price of inequitable health services coupled with my early work experience in nutrition motivated me to build a career in global health advocating for improved nutrition.

What does the future hold for this sector? How can young leaders plugin and cultivate their own careers here?

So many people worldwide are affected by hunger and malnutrition. More than a billion women and girls do not have the access to the adequate nutrition that they need. It is a health and development issue that requires a critical mass of young minds to solve.

Political will has been stated, global commitments have been made, and yet nutrition remains insufficiently funded globally. For an issue that affects so many of us, it is important that we get involved and we pursue careers that will have lasting impacts.

It is a space that still needs people to see its importance and its linkages to so many other health and development issues.

What does it mean to be an anti-poverty advocate? How does this show up in your daily life?

It shows up in the little and the big decisions in my life. Straight out of undergrad I started to work for one of Zambia’s leading commercial banks in a high-density area.

What stood out for me at the time was how during a 30-minute bus ride, the landscape changed from posh malls to people living in shacks. The disparity was so apparent and jarring. Every morning was a trek to where the people strung along their savings. Within four months I knew I couldn’t stay.

I quit at what was considered a prestigious and income-secure job and went right back to work on nutrition and health. For me, being an anti-poverty advocate means that I cannot be satisfied with just my own income security.

When faced with the small choices or the big ones, I will always choose that which impacts more than just me.

After my work at the bank, I went on to lead and contribute to efforts to raise the profile of nutrition and increase political will to address it. I played a significant role in the startup and growth of Zambia’s Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN), the first organization in the country solely dedicated to advocacy on nutrition.

I took the lead within CSO-SUN in ensuring creative approaches towards advocacy efforts.  I became a Global Health Corps fellow working at 1,000 Days in the U.S. as a Global Advocacy and Outreach Associate, working to mobilize greater resources for nutrition initiatives.  In early 2017, I became a global citizen campaigner and was recognized as one of their leading youth advocates.

Through this role, I have led and supported significant campaigns and advocacy on nutrition. Most recently, I was part of the Global Citizen team that worked to secure commitments for the Mandela 100 festival in December 2018.

Why is it important for young leaders to build careers that are socially-minded? How has your career shaped your identity?

The problems arising from hunger, malnutrition, poverty are not new at all. The world needs new solutions to these old problems! It is so important that young people get involved.

We are open-minded, and we have fresh voices and new ideas. We cannot sit by and wait for phantom changemakers – it is us that we need.

My friend joked to me just a few days ago that when someone asked what my hobbies are and what I do for fun, she responded by saying “That’s easy, her nutrition advocacy work.” We laughed, but I interpreted the exchange as a sign that my career deeply shapes my identity.

Perhaps more importantly, I believe it means that the joy that I get from the work I do is evident.

The work you do isn’t easy. How do you stay focused, committed, and well?

There are moments when fighting for health equity is overwhelming and challenging. I imagine that this is true for all careers working towards a better world.

I find that it is important for me to always remember why I do what I do to stay focused and motivated. However, this also includes acknowledging burn out and cultivating time for self-care, which allows me to always bring the best version of myself to my work.


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Boss Lady Series: How to Maximize Your Week with Maya Horgan Famodu

Maya Horgan Famodu came to Lagos about four years ago and knew no one.  She had no connections and no start-up capital.

What Maya had was an idea and the drive to establish Ingressive, a venture capital fund and a fantastic team that is building tech ecosystems across sub-Saharan Africa.

Even if you are just starting out in Lagos, she told me, “…you can do whatever you want here. Don’t let someone tell you aren’t good enough or that your profile is not typical. You can create the space of your industry, and you can get it done.

Start now before you are crazy busy to develop good habits - @mayahorgan Click To Tweet

She has come a long way from when she started her business.  She has gone from working all day and week on her business to figuring out how to break up her day and week into manageable pieces, so she is not only successful professionally but has time to follow her non-business-related interests.

Maya shares how she spends her weekend and has some suggestions on how to balance your work with your other passions.

Divide up your week so you can tackle all aspects of your professional life

If you are like Maya and you tend to get very involved with details, you can schedule out your week with specific tasks, so you are forced to focus on every aspect of your business or position.  For example, Maya focuses on internal team meetings and planning on Monday.

Her Tuesdays are for reviewing the companies she works with. Wednesday is for external meetings and networking. Thursdays are for dealing with paperwork and reviewing internal processes.   Similar to Wednesday, Fridays are for business development.

She usually attends extended in-person meetings that might lead to a relaxing dinner or drinks. You can use Google Calendar to help you stay on track of your critical daily work themes across the week.

Make the most of Your weekend

Maya used to spend a lot of time going out but realized as a Lagos transplant she needed more time to reflect and rejuvenate in her favorite spaces so she could be her best.

If she is not hanging out at her house or at the beach, she will only schedule meetings with individuals who she has both professional and personal relationships with.

She calls Saturday her ‘Enjoyable Partnerships Day.’  

Give yourself some quiet time, but start small

She has learned that she needs time to rejuvenate to be at her peak.  Maya plans to attend yearly quiet retreats that can last up to ten days.  She tries to incorporate some of the same techniques into her life in Lagos. Her Sundays are entirely offline.  

She doesn’t check her emails or phone and might do some offline planning for the week. She also spends time reading and writing. She has found that when she reflects, she has space to think about new ideas.

You might not be able to take ten days off or even an entire day off your social media, but you can start small.  Maya starts off her day mediating, and you can start off by meditating for a few minutes to work your way up to 1 hour.

Maya suggests waking up an hour earlier, she usually is up by 7 am, during the work week to get in some silent time.

Make the most of your tribe: Find Your Core People

When she is not working, Maya spends most of her time by herself or with one to two people. She credits her tribe with helping her get through the good and tough times as an entrepreneur.  She suggests that you surround yourself with the right people. Focus on quality, not quantity.   

You should have one to three people you can call on when things go poorly or that you can lean on - @mayahorgan Click To Tweet

Maya suggests having advisors you can turn to for your business or professional career and then emotional support, people who can tell you everything is going to be ok or set you straight.

My biggest takeaway from Maya was the idea that you should start now before you are crazy busy to develop good habits.  You don’t have to spend 24 hours working. Entrepreneurship and life, in general, is a marathon. If you want to do it for the long term, you need to set yourself up for success.  Developing the right habits and routines can help with that.

How do you plan out your week? Are you making sure to include time for your other interests?

Want to learn how to build a health-conscious routine? Read our Good Good Living Part 2 series w/ Funmi Oyatogun


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Your Self Care shouldn’t suffer at the expense of Career Excellence – Nnennaya Udochu

Female engineers have been branded to be nerds and unattractive. It is a common belief that female engineers have no sense of style, not feminine enough and probably too strong for the average man.

Contrary to this widely held bias, Nnennaya Udochu is a firm believer that female engineers can be trendy, decent, and elegant.  Nnennaya’s life and style is full proof that women are going against this bias.

As an analog engineer, she doesn’t fit into what you’d typically call your hard hat-wearing engineer. She has held the office of a Professor Faculty in the Mathematics department at the University of Portland, Oregon., and she balances career with self-care.

Nnennaya doubles as a fashion blogger and also motivates ladies who fear that taking a career in engineering or any career in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) would impede and perhaps limit their chances of a relationship.

In this article, she shares her experience in the profession gives her insights on the misconceptions placed on women in STEM.


 What prompted you to want to become an Engineer?

I enjoyed solving a lot of Math problems and enjoyed a particular topic in my physics class, Electromagnetics.

It was from that course in Secondary School I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering.

 What setbacks did you experience pursuing this dream?

Taking some engineering courses that would make me think, “why me” or “God help me” because I found them very challenging. For example, Thermodynamics and Statics.

Aside from those challenges, the fear of self-doubt. Sometimes, just believing in yourself regardless of what people think goes a long way. I remember being in a study group where we were discussing our prospective first jobs and I said Microsoft or any Fortune 500 company.

The whole group burst out laughing but today here I am staying in the course of what I want for myself.

 Did you have a hard time proving your credibility to your male lectures/superiors?

Yes, I did most of the time. It took a lot of hard work and proving myself but I would always let the quality of my work delivery speak volume.

Once you’re very knowledgeable about your expertise and firm about making decisions, it would be difficult for anyone to question your abilities in the workforce.

 Females in #STEM tend to recline to the background whenever leadership or academic roles are called for. Was this your experience?

No this isn’t my experience. I am very tenacious in the pursuit of leadership or academic roles in my career; certainly not shying away from it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been an Adjunct Professor at the University of Portland, Oregon and I’m continuously getting mentored by senior leaders in my industry.

 As an Analog Engineer, what does your typical workday look like?

My workdays are very busy and a lot of critical thinking is involved.

Every day I am faced with new challenges on addressing power issues and honestly, everything I learned in Physics II (especially applied principles of electromagnetics) are applied from day to day.

Basically, I am mentally tasked each day.

 You are also an Instagram blogger. Tell us about your journey.

The journey so far has been great! I continue to curate content on my platform to inspire people across the world through my travel shots, beauty, hair and showcasing different fashion looks ranging from street style to guest inspired looks at a wedding.

I’ve collaborated with brands such as Pitusa, Chi Chi London, Res Ipsa, Palmers, Victoria Emerson just to mention a few and my work has been featured on various Instagram and media platforms.

The most exciting experience I’ve had from my journey so far was being privileged to have featured on a fashion segment on Fox News (Fox12 Oregon) discussing the latest Fall fashion trends in 2018.

 In your opinion why do you think women in #STEM do not take self-care as a top priority?

I feel it’s because they don’t want to appear unserious for their jobs and have their co-workers not take them seriously in a meeting or on a project.

The perception of a woman figure in STEM is always painted wearing dirty clothing, or plain tops and jeans and this have clouded some women’s judgment on how they would like to present themselves.

 What advice do you have for women starting out in #STEM?

Stay persistent and confident in the pursuit of your career goals. Don’t let the presumptions society has about women in STEM be a reason you get discouraged in achieving your career goals.

Who you are or aspire to be shouldn’t be limited by someone’s experience.

What’s the look on people’s face when you’re all dressed up like a diva and you tell them what you do?.

They are always astonished and perplexed. Some make decent remarks like, “Beauty and Brains” while others find the need to argue.

Once a co-worker said I was in Finance and I said, “No”. Only for him to turn back around still amazed and say, “I always thought you were in Finance and you were a spoilt brat because of the way you dress”.

Between anger and range, I managed to get my emotions in check and simply responded, “For someone educated that is quite shallow of you to say”.


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Boss Lady Series: How to Build a health conscious Routine with Yasmin Kumi

Do you have a routine or a way to approach your day? Setting the tone for your day has a massive impact on how much you accomplish.

This month I will be showcasing the routines of several leading ladies who work on the continent. Learn how they balance working hard with staying on top of their physical and mental health.

Routines are a trial and error process and take time to build - @ynjkumi Click To Tweet

By sharing our experiences, learning from others and deciding what works for us as individuals, we all can have a good life.

I had a chance to sit down with Yasmin Kumi, the founder of the pan-African consulting firm, Africa Foresight Group. Yasmin travels between 3 to 4 times a week and wakes up at 3 am to set her priorities for the day.

She is a problem solver and has learned how to approach her wellness by trying new things and focusing on what works for her.

I put together a list of things I thought others could keep in mind from her experience.

1. Keep your personal goals and routines fluid

No two days in Yasmin’s life are the same.  Given all the work she does the most important thing for her to do is not put additional pressure and stress on herself by feeling bad about not having attained certain personal goals.  

She has introduced ‘if’ rules for different situations that allow her to create some consistency in her head. Try using this phrase to build your own ‘if’ rules:

“If some conditions hold, then this is what I have to do…”

2. Playlists can help you get into or handle a Mood

Yasmin is a very audiovisual person, so she reacts a lot to music.  

When she feels tired, she knows what music to play to get back up to speed. When she needs to relax or focus on something, she has a playlist for that.

She also has a playlist to start her bedtime routine that usually ends with a prayer.  You can use music to motivate you or remind you to do tasks you normally avoid.

3. Understand Your Personality to Maximize Your Output

Yasmin describes herself as a borderline extravert and though she loves her team, she sometimes feels like she can get more done if she spends some time working from home before she gets into the office.

Though not for everyone, Yasmin feels most productive when she wakes up early, at 3 am, to work undisturbed until about 6 am.

 Find what works for you and helps make you feel productive and successful.

4. You are What You Eat

Yasmin is hardly ever home.  When she is traveling, she normally spends part of her evening networking or socializing with clients and her team.  

She always feels so much healthier and efficient when she is at home, this is primarily because she has control over what she eats.  Yasmin believes that with good food, you think better.

She loves to make dinner for herself and while cooking she reflects and feels rejuvenated after a long day.  When eating, reflect and think about how the food you eat makes you feel.

5. Do You!

When some people look at Yasmin’s lifestyle, they assume that it is unsustainable. She encourages people to not get too influenced about what others think.  

You have to find out for yourself, physically and mentally what is healthy and what you are comfortable with.

Focus on how you feel and what makes you comfortable when building your routine.  Don’t be too hard on yourself. 


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