Call her a management guru, a tech expert, an engineer and even a marketing wonder, and you would be absolutely right every single time. Described as a result-oriented professional by her colleagues, Adia Sowho is the first female Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of MTN Nigeria, the largest telco in the country.
She was also the one who stepped in to pilot ThriveAgric back to profitability after the company fell into financial distress due to the pandemic.
Before MTN, Sowho had what one might rightly call a rich career starting from a background in engineering, to years of career experience designing, building and scaling tech-driven platform companies in emerging markets. Definitely a woman of many parts, you would agree!
Adia attended the University of Sheffield where she bagged a degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering. She studied further for her MBA in Analytical Consulting, Strategic Marketing, Management and Strategy, and Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She also attended an Executive Program at Singularity University in 2018.
Adia, the radio frequency engineer
Adia Sowho’s career started in 2001 as a Radio Frequency Engineer at the US Cellular Corporation, Greater Chicago Area just after her first Engineering degree. She would spend the next five and half years designing wireless coverage solutions, implementing network optimization measures, and managing network performance with statistical analysis.
Erik P. Neitzel, a former colleague who worked with her at U.S. Cellular described her work as exemplary. His recommendation on her profile reads “Her technical acumen and attention to detail were directly responsible for the superior network quality of the areas that she architected”.
First into Management and then Marketing…
By 2007, she had moved to Deloitte Consulting LLP as a Management Consultant, developing data-driven solutions to operational, financial, and marketing issues within the telecommunications, media, and technology verticals, for clients.
She relocated to Nigeria three years later and joined Etisalat Nigeria (now 9mobile). She spent eight years at Etisalat holding several positions including the Head of Strategy and Business Development, Head of Digital Media, and Director for Digital Business. Within that period, She launched the business’ first Digital Business unit, developed the vision and strategy, built the team and increased revenue in 4 years to $100 million. She also helped to expand the partner base, served as the primary point-of-contact for Google and Facebook partnerships, and created the 23 million subscriber business’ suite of mobile digital products and services across mobile financial services, advertising, content, and APIs, among others.
She retired from 9mobile in 2018, served as Managing Director of Migo (formerly mines.io), and also as Vice President of Growth till 2020. At Migo, she helped build the pilot operation for this AI-driven digital credit start-up and designed and implement a platform business model that reached 1 million customers in two years and expand into Brazil.
When ThriveAgric, an agriculture investment platform, was going through a financial crisis in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, Adia Sowho was appointed as the interim CEO in August 2020. Within a year, she filled the gaps and the platform bounced back, paid back all its investors and was ready to move forward. It was quite easy to identify the owner of the Midas touch.
Adia Sowho joined MTN in September 2021 as Chief Marketing Officer, and still holds the position to date. She has been described as the new face of MTN’s tech makeover, and her rich background is only one reason why.
Other parts of the wonder woman…
Sowho supports Africa’s tech ecosystems as a startup mentor and speaker, working with various Africa-focused VC firms to better prepare their portfolios for scale. Her records continue to blaze the trail and raise the bar for others.
Sowho also serves as Non-Executive Director with Hover Developer Services, Inc. an early-stage technology venture since 2020; as well as Non-Executive Director with Sankore Investments, an investment and advisory firm.
A recommendation by Donelle Broskow, Workforce Development Analyst at United States Cyber Command reads;
“Because Adia maintained her career while earning her MBA, she quickly mastered how to work well in teams with other high-achieving colleagues, while managing a full MBA course load, which required many hours of outside-of-class work each week – for homework and team projects. At the Kellogg School, our philosophy of academic excellence, teamwork and professionalism is embedded in how we approach who we admit into the School. Adia embodied these characteristics while at Kellogg, as well as currently as she serves as a Kellogg alumni ambassador.”
Another former colleague of hers, Roger (Gang) Cao, rounds off his recommendation by saying “I put my faith in Adia as one of my best coworkers”