The Journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, from an humble background our guest has risen to the top ladder of her career that span over 20 years. Nairametrics had an interview with the head of Corporate Communications, Diamond Bank Plc, Chioma Afe. Excerpt:
How was your early childhood like?
I am the only girl born into a family of 5 children, 41 years ago in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, short hair, no earrings and best friends with my brothers and their friends.
I grew up fast (I think) as I got into secondary school at 8+ years in 1985 and was literally the smallest in my class for the first 3 years and still the most junior in my set. Growing up in Port Harcourt, I think grounded me as no one had time for airs and graces, you were who you were and everyone’s family had barely 6 degrees of separation between them, so if you were spotted doing something wrong, you were sure a message would be sent to your mum or dad. I grew up in the 80s’ and compared to what we see these days with the wealth of information abound via the internet, you had to learn stuff slow and steady and defer to the older family and friends because “they knew better”.
My dad worked in Shell for several years (he was a Shell scholar in the 60s’) before starting his own business, and my mum combined being a housewife, raising five of us and running a petrol station dealership. My mum remains my role model; a strong willed, God fearing, take charge woman, especially after my dad’s death in 1997, when I was the only graduate in the house and she had to work harder to provide for us (myself and the youngest who were in Nigeria and 3 of my brothers who were in the UK).
Tell us about your Educational and Professional qualifications.
I studied English & Educational management in University of Port Harcourt, a fallback course as I couldn’t get into the Law Faculty, as they say “Jamb jammed me” with cut-off mark issues. After NYSC, my first job was at the Pioneer BTL agency.
I also did a diploma in Direct Marketing with the UK institute for Direct Marketing, Tequila Nigeria Limited. I have been privileged to attend leadership and management courses at Wharton University and Metropolitan Business school and I am currently working towards a Masters Degree in either PR & Digital Marketing Communication or Corporate Communication at the IE Business school in Spain.
What about your work experience?
After my national service and Tequila Nigeria Limited, I worked for 2 years at Andersen as an Analyst with the Business services team handling support services for expatriate clients ranging from immigration regularisation, real estate sourcing, to contract staff management.
My post graduate diploma prepared me for my first non-agency job (I worked at a PR agency, the Quadrant company during my NYSC) at British American Tobacco (BATN), where I started as a Direct Marketing Executive, driving the execution of one-to-one communication with consumers via events, activations and database mining.
I continued at BATN for 4 years and six months, rising to Brand Manager for Value-for-Money Brands, before heading to Coca-Cola Nigeria in 2006 as Brand Manager, Sprite. I worked in Coca-Cola Nigeria for 5 years in various roles – Senior Brand Manager, Still beverages, Senior Brand Manager Coke, Commercialisation Team Lead, and a 6 month stint at the South African office, supporting the Still beverages team.
I moved to Airtel for 10 months and the lure of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) business and the opportunity to drive growth in a category, caused me to take up the role of Marketing Manager, Beverages at Cadbury where I was able to lead the team to win back market share for the flagship brand, Bournvita, in the East. I moved to MultiChoice Nigeria in 2013, where I spent 3 years understanding broadcast media, the business of content creation and distribution, customer acquisition & retention strategies and how marketing communications drives this in this industry. I started working in Diamond Bank Plc in September, 2016 and so far it has been an exciting and worthwhile journey.
What has been your big break?
My career has spanned over 20 years, and each role has had some positive break that has led to increased visibility for me, recognition and promotion. I think my first big break was moving from Direct Marketing executive to Brand Executive for Benson and Hedges 14 years ago, as this led me down the Brand Management & Marketing Communications path which finally led me to Corporate Communications.
Your success and failure stories.
For me, there are no failures, only learning experiences and I have had a lot of them. For successes, my most recent on-the-job success was with the just concluded TechFest 2018, which surpassed all expectations and objectives set for a first time event. It was particularly impressive and unforgettable for me as it was an event put together almost exclusively by my internal team, and I had technical support from a longtime colleague and mentor, Edi Lawani.
How have you been able to strike a balance between work and life?
It’s been hectic but I have a great support system with my spouse and family ensuring that a plan is always in place for the children and that I take time out to have a break regularly.