The Comms Spotlight: Elsie Ofulue, Vice President, Head of EMEA Internal Communication for Technology, Morgan Stanley

This week on Comms Spotlight, Elsie Ofulue shares her career story. Elsie’s career in Internal Communications began shortly after she challenged the status quo at her first job post-university and she’s not looked back ever since. She’s still breaking barriers and making an impact as a professional. Currently, she’s the Vice President, Head of EMEA Internal Communication for Technology at Morgan Stanley.


You’ve had an impressive career in Communications so far. Can you tell us how it all began?

My entrance into the world of Communications is quite an interesting one as I never started out life thinking that this would be my career. With no prior degree in this field, you could say fell into it – but I am grateful that I did. The backstory of my journey into Communications, takes us way back to 2007, when I was at my first job post-university, in a sales role within a financial institution.

While in that organisation I struggled with how Communications was presented as it seemed very top-heavy and with no outlet for employees to respond or be heard. I complained about this to my manager who, in his way, ‘encouraged’ me to pen my disapproval via email to the bank’s senior management.

After a few incidents, I took the bait and sent this mail to the founder of the financial institution with no hopes of my email being read or acted upon. A few weeks after my note was sent, I was summoned by management and on arrival I was asked – on the spot – to join the Internal Communications team to effect the changes I wanted to see. The rest, as they say, is history, as it’s been 17 years and I have found a home and career I love in Internal Communications.

Having been thrown into a world I knew nothing about, I took deliberate steps to grow in this field: Ignoring the job description provided and putting my hands up for everything

Learning voraciously from others, and understanding what it is that they do that makes them so effective, so that in turn I picked up presentation skills, and stakeholder management, whilst being strategic and authentic to my personal brand.


Take us through a typical day for you as the Vice President, Head of EMEA Internal Communication for Technology at Morgan Stanley.

My role involves me working closely with the EMEA Chief Information Officer’s office and senior leadership team to develop, deliver and measure a portfolio of strategic Internal Communications programs for the EMEA Technology group. This includes creating platforms for our key stakeholders to speak to the wider organisation, connecting employees to senior leadership through internal mentorship programs and crafting and curating blog pieces and open forums for the EMEA CIO to connect with as wide an audience as possible through different mediums.

Also, the beauty of my role is the fact that each day is different and comes with its various challenges. In saying that, it is important to me that everything I am working on is a direct reflection of progress towards my strategic goals, so I continually evaluate my work against the long-term future vision for the firm and my stakeholders, to ensure I am moving in the right direction.

Leading a team across Europe and collaborating with a wider global team in North America and Asia, I ensure that our messaging is fully aligned with the global strategic priorities.


Can you tell us about a major challenge you’ve faced on your career journey?

Whilst I can’t identify specific work-related challenges, I can say that I have always maintained a positive mental attitude to everything, and I give everyone the benefit of the doubt before reaching conclusions. I stay resilient and always believe in the best. I have had to adjust to a mindset gap that came from me moving countries from Nigeria to the UK.

With that, I also moved from being in the same room with everyone who looks like me, to being in rooms where I could potentially be the only person of colour. Learning to speak up and believing in myself more has helped me navigate better.

Reflecting on your career, what are some lessons that shaped you into the professional you are?

Throughout my 17 years working in communications, I have learnt through my own experience and the experience of others around me. Some things that particularly resonate are:

Focus on reinvention and trust: Reinvention is the only constant, you must be agile being able to pivot as changes arise. We have to be flexible to adapt our approach and message. Second, trust is critical—credibility (or lack thereof) will define your growth. Learning how to build trust and rapport with different groups and individuals is fundamental.

Lean into your unique perspective: We all have a unique perspective that allows us to look at communications and not just implement things “the way they’ve always been done.” Using that to our advantage! Trying things outside the box, volunteering to explore new channels, asking several questions and taking a genuine interest in the people you’re communicating with day in and day out.

Learn each stakeholder’s tone and know your audience before you write: Every senior stakeholder executive has their unique voice and tone, in both written communications and the spoken word. Paying close attention to edits made by an executive stakeholder to the Comms you draft on their behalf to learn their tone. Going on to emulate that style of writing in the future cuts down on rounds of review time. Also knowing your audience before you start writing is key. Understanding what is important to them and what action do you want them to take should be nailed before you begin writing Comms.

Developing working relationships at all levels is important. Make it a point to connect with other communications professionals who are focused on different areas of the practice. Our field widens every day, and the knowledge of the community is a key resource for early-stage professionals. Also establishing a relationship requires listening, empathy and engagement, which are strong fundamentals in building a career.

Do you have a project or campaign you’ve worked on that stands out to you to date?

Our organisation hosts global annual expos which span across 15 locations in North America, Asia and EMEA. This event is an annual showcase of tools and products that power our business and drive value to our clients. What makes this event stand out is the level of collaboration and partnership that goes into its delivery.

I have had the opportunity to co-lead the planning and execution of some of these events. It is a multi-faceted process that partners and collaborates with teams across other areas of the firm to develop the right level of communications geared towards the overall user (and attendee) experience. Above all, it is the camaraderie and overall positive impact the event has on all employees that is incredible to be a part of.


What advice would you give to your younger professional self?

  • There are no two like you, use that to your advantage and keep providing value.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things.
  • Believe in yourself! You can do a whole lot more than you think.
  • Relationships are a valuable investment.
  • Embrace change.
  • Curiosity kills the cat, but you are not a cat, so embrace your curiosity!


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