Becoming one of Africa’s Top 100 Female CEOs before the age of 40 is no mean feat by any standard. Add that to the fact that she also became the youngest CEO on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, and the youngest and first female to lead Transcorp Plc, and you can see a woman who continues to raise the bar and shatter every glass ceiling. We are talking about non other but the incomparable Owen Omogiafo.
She is a Harvard-trained executive, a certified Change Manager from Prosci Institute, USA, and a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, UK.
Let’s get to know more about her fascinating story and how she steadily rose through the ranks to become one of Nigeria’s top CEOs.
An interesting child and education
Owen Diana Elaiho was born on May 28, 1980, in Benin City (now Edo state). She recalled having a great childhood. And this was partly due to her privileged background.
Yes, she was born into a wealthy family, so much so that she would later say this: “my spoon was so silver it was nearly platinum”. But within some years, the family’s fortune turned around after her dad lost everything he had, save for his mental health, his dignity and his family.
The change was so swift that Owen would later recount how she and her siblings had to trek to and fro school, sometimes having to lap each other in the bus so that they could save some money up to buy snacks. That notwithstanding, her parents never compromised their education.
Owen attended the University of Benin (UNIBEN) Demonstration Secondary School UDSS, Benin City and went on to attend the University of Benin where she obtained a B.Sc. in Sociology and Anthropology. She proceeded to the London School of Economics and Political Science for a Masters’s degree in Human Resources. She would later attend the Lagos Business School and IESE Business School, in Spain, to hone her business skills and acumen.
Her career growth trajectory
Owen officially started her career as a relationship manager at Bond Bank in 2003, and after a year there, she went to Accenture to become the Organisation and Human Performance Consultant (specializing in Change Management). While at Accenture, she covered various projects and clients across the Private and Public sectors and diverse industries.
By 2008, Owen left to join the United Bank for Africa (UBA) as HR Advisor to the GMD/CEO, and her career training sped up. On working with Tony Elumelu (TOE), Omogiafo said she had to temporarily occupy the position of someone who went on maternity leave, and she took it very seriously. It was to be a four months relief and when the four months ended, she was made to stay in the executive office at UBA.
After serving at UBA for two years, Omogiafo moved to Heirs Holdings Ltd where she was HR Director and Director of Resources, responsible for establishing structures for optimal human and machine engagement and deployment within the group.
She moved from that point to become the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in 2010. She was a critical part of the team that oversaw the $100m Programme aimed at identifying, mentoring, and funding 10,000 entrepreneurs over the next decade.
About her career growth, Owen Omogiafo would say “from my initial roles as a Human Resources Director to my pivotal career moment of being appointed the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and subsequently, Deputy CEO (DCEO) of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, this has been my story. I was able to raise my hand and say that I can do it when each opportunity presented itself, and thereafter, justified the confidence of those who said go ahead by delivering on the job”.
She admits that she is a product of the mentors she has had at different stages of her life. “I had several mentors at every stage in my life, right from my university days till now. I am fortunate to have one of Africa’s best products, Tony O. Elumelu, CON, the Chairman of Transcorp and Heirs Holdings, as a mentor.”
In 2018, Omogiafo left the Tony Elumelu Foundation to assume the role of Executive Director at the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (Transcorp Plc) – a significant feat in her career narrative. Her hard work again paid off when she was announced as the new President/GCEO of Transcorp Plc in February 2020. In this position, she had to oversee a company with a shareholder base of about 300,000 investors, and interests across the power, energy, hospitality, and agricultural sector.
Transcorp Plc includes Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja; Transcorp Hotels, Calabar; Teragro Commodities Limited, operator of Teragro Benfruit Plant – Nigeria’s first-of-its-kind juice concentrate plant; Transcorp Power, and Transcorp Energy Limited.
Owen Omogiafo is a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Nigeria, as well as the Board of Avon Healthcare, where she sits on the Board of Finance, Investment & Risk Committee and Board Audit & Governance, in a Non-Executive capacity.
Omogiafo is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Power Generation Companies (APGC) in Nigeria. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, UK and a Certified Change Manager with the Prosci Institute, USA. She is a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Nigeria.
Owen Omogiafo Recognitions
One of the quotes from her interview says “When you miss milestones, do not throw out the goal completely, rather take stock and keep on the journey.” This is a reflection of the focus and grit with which she pursues her goals, and the result is well seen in her career.
All of her career successes have not come easy, as she has had to manage several personal and family challenges while pursuing a demanding career. But one thing continually stands out in her story. She says “I can” and her results agree with her. Omogiafo is still considered one of Nigeria’s youngest but outstanding CEOs, and her bullish consistency in developing her career over the last two decades remains commendable.
Business Day (Nigeria) Women’s Hub also named her among the 50 Most Inspiring Nigerian Women. Omogiafo made the YNaija – Power List for Corporate Nigeria in 2018, as well as the 50 Leading Ladies in Corporate Nigeria (put together by Leading Ladies Africa).