– Lolu Desalu and Bofamene Berepamo
- What was your first role at Sterling? Tell me a story about your first role or a favourite memory of your early days at Sterling.
I worked in what is now called Digital Banking – in the ‘olden days’, it was eBusiness! We had the longest team meetings in the world; looking back now, it taught me a number of things I know about digital banking today so maybe those meetings were not such a waste after all – at the time, I resented them.
- What educational background or professional training did you have before becoming Head of Strategy? Did you receive on-the-job training?
I received (still receive) a ton of on-the-job training and did get some intro into entering that responsibility on a course called the Advanced Management Programme. I think my best training was watching my 2 supervisors at work though, I was able to learn from their actions and their thought processes. I am one of those people who does not need to experience something herself to understand it fully and so watching them helped me pick up things I needed to be competent without making the same mistakes. So, shout out to them for letting me see their own mistakes so I didn’t have to make the same ones!
- What are the best examples of positive change in the workplace that you have noticed in the past years you’ve been the Head of Strategy?
There are some teams that seem to have happier people and that determines how well others can collaborate with them. I also like how much louder in terms of branding/comms/marketing we have become – I know many may think we are still ‘quiet’ but again this is super loud compared to the ‘olden days’ and that’s nice to see.
- What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received and how did it prompt your growth within Sterling
“Don’t let your good be the enemy of your best”. It is the thing that continues to drive me to look for more and better. I think my growth in Sterling has been a combination of luck and this desire for more, which forces me to put in the work I need to/ make the sacrifices required for me to deliver on my obligations.
- How did you reach your level of leadership, given the sector’s gender gap, especially among leadership?
I too ask this question frequently! I think Sterling is (was) open to accepting me and that’s kudos to the culture and leaders here. I was looking through our management list recently and the number of women in leadership positions has improved but we still have a long way to go in building an organization that allows competent, strong-willed women to excel.
- How did you balance your job with your life in terms of volunteer work, hobbies, and other interests? Did that balance change over time for you?
I am not sure that I balance – I have a fantastic support system (this includes my colleagues) that allows me juggle things and do the things that are important to me. For example, my children and watching them grow is priority for me – I would like to experience milestones and events with them but also build at my workplace. I am especially mindful to teach my daughter that she is capable of doing anything she sets her heart to and I hope watching me work teaches her that. As for my son, I hope that he grows up being comfortable with a woman who desires a career and will support her to reach her potential if he chooses that path in life. Society has created a system where some men are threatened by the success of a woman, I hope my son is never that sort of man! Given this my feeling about raising my children, working in a place that allows them in my space becomes super important for me to thrive. Luckily, Sterling gives me that.
My volunteer work has suffered significantly as I am unable to dedicate any time to the causes I care about. Thankfully I can provide financial support towards a few, and I hope that helps in some way. Ideally, I would like to give both financial and non-financial support.
- Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? Are there any job opportunities or careers you would have liked to explore?
Not really, and maybe the real honest answer is that I don’t know because I still have some time to switch careers again. By virtue of my role, I also get to experiment in different sectors so I am content at the moment. I may be able to answer this question differently in a few more years.
- Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.
Oh yes, I draw inspiration from women all the time. From Beyonce to Indra Nooyi to Temitayo Adegoke to all my girls in the Strategy team. I like how disciplined and determined Beyonce is – watch Homecoming on Netflix. Indra is everything I would like to be – confident in her person, wealthy, change maker. Temitayo always seeks to understand things and is firm but kind – I really want to be those things. As for the ladies in the strategy team, they all have many stories that can break a person, yet they show up and show out regularly. That really inspires me to just do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. I know you’ve asked for someone but someone cannot embody all the greatness you need so I have many people and this isn’t even 1% of my list!!
- Do you think women joining Sterling now are better off than women who started working when you did? Why?
I think Sterling has become a better organization than it was when I joined and so things are different. I don’t think women now are better off – I think they face a different challenge. The problems of the past were solved for these problems now to surface. The onus is on all of us women here now, to build a better organization for the women tomorrow or at least build an organization where new challenges can be faced.
- What would you recommend to a young person entering your field at this time?
You will be tempted to think those before you are stupid, don’t fall into that trap, seek to understand why they are the way they are; it may lead you to what needs to be done!
- How do you expect Sterling to change over the next couple of years to encourage more women to make their mark?
As I said earlier, more women are getting into leadership positions, and this is encouraging for those behind us. I hope that we leave behind a culture where competent, strong-willed women are the norm – just as competent, strong-willed men are a given!
- What is your ‘why?’
Honestly, Gucci, Chanel, and Hermes bags. In more recent times, I have discovered Delvaux and Boyy and I think those really suits my personality. More than designer bags, I want to build something that makes my space better. Other people built things for good and that is why my life can be as is; I too should do the same for the next person – pay it forward.