Our Comms Spotlight for this week is Oge Maduagwu, an experienced marketing professional with a bias towards insight driven end to end media and communications for brands. Oge currently leads the Media Team for the Unilever West Africa business and in her role, she works to bring the outside in by leveraging relationships with key media partners as well as the agency partners to deliver data based, insight driven learnings for brands & the entire Marketing team. In our interview with her, Oge takes us through her professional journey so far and she also shares how she has grown in her career over the years.
What do you do as the Media Manager at Unilever West Africa?
Together with my team, I am operationally responsible for end-to-end media (traditional and digital) in Nigeria, Ghana & Francophone Africa. This includes developing, executing & iterating media strategies for the Unilever brands in these markets.
In simple terms, I ensure that our target consumers get to see the Unilever brands via their preferred media channels and take action by buying our brands, using them, loving them, referring them to others and repeating the purchase cycle.
Through my role, I ensure that the advertising and promotion spend (BMI) is effectively and efficiently optimized with positive ROI across West Africa.
Please take us through your career journey in Communications. How did you begin and what steps did you take to grow as a professional?
A bit of back story, my career path is broader than communications and it HAPPENED to me. It was not planned. I studied Economics with a major in Education. I wanted to be a Banker. During my compulsory National Youth Service Year (NYSC), I had applied to various organisations, sat for various tests, went for a few interviews and I got an offer from one organisation that seemed very interesting.
I resumed a day after my NYSC passing out parade and the rollercoaster took off. The organization happened to be one of the top two independent media agencies in Nigeria with a mouthwatering portfolio of clients as at that period. From the intense academy program to crunching data in back breaking but satisfactory work to the annual trainings, I grew through the ranks. I stayed for eight years there, joined Unilever as the Assistant Communications Channels Manager, had a one year stint as Brand Manager of Unilever Nigeria’s mainstream detergent brand, got promoted to Media Manager, Nigeria and here we are today. My journey is still a work in progress.
I would say that what has helped along my way has been self motivation and constant curiosity. Always wanting to learn, add value & see results. Good or bad.
How do you stay motivated as a professional from year to year?
God and my end goal. It’s a moot point depending on any external factors for motivation. They will fail. Self motivation because you know your focus, is key.
Can you share some mentors or professionals who have played a significant role in your career so far?
There will not be enough space to mention them all if I start (laughs). I will mention only three. No coincidence that they are all women.
First will be Phil Maduagwu, my sister in love. A consummate career woman herself who showed me the way and set me up on my career path fresh out of NYSC, egged me on and stood as a personal lighthouse not just in my career but in my personal life. She was instrumental in helping me land my first job as she was the one who prepared me for my interviews and amongst a host of other things, she taught me the right work mindset, corporate poise and street wisdom which were a requisite as a fresh joiner to the corporate world.
Second will be Bunmi Adeniba. I call her The Force. Awesomeness personified. She chose to hold my hand and helped me see value in my work. She strengthened my belief in myself and the innate value I bring. This was very important in the space where I operated at the time in my career. She helped get me a space at the proverbial table and never let me forget why I was there – Hard work & commitment. She taught me that one can be a tough and effective leader and still be a genuinely good person.
Third will be Tendu Chipangura. One special lady, very brilliant, who walked the literal path before me at Unilever and did not shut the door behind her. Unflinching support personified. Another lady who helped fan my essence and helped me come into my own, career wise.
I am grateful that I encountered these women when I did at different points in my career. I am also grateful they are still in my life. Because of them, I know the exact kind of leader I model as I pay things forward. Pushing me to do well at work and in my personal life, criticizing objectively with a view of making me better, pulling me back when I need air but do not know it. Genuinely interested in my growth, being super fine leaders and, inspiring me to be a super fine leader myself.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in the course of your career and how did you overcome it?
Hmm, my journey so far has been fraught with various challenges. A lot of them (laughs). One of the biggest ones I can readily call to mind was one from when I had just joined Unilever six years ago. I can say it was a culture shock/mindset shift transitioning to an organization where people actually came first. Mental health prioritized, people encouraged to take breaks, bosses genuinely invested in the growth and wellbeing of their reports. Feedback actually taken into consideration, value given to individual voices… It was strange. Not to say that where I was coming from was bad but, this seemed like another dimension entirely. I did not understand it at all, however I had to quickly unlearn what I had in my head and get with the program because of the obvious uplift in productivity and wellbeing.
It was not easy because I assumed I already knew what I needed to know about people & values to get work done however, the experience changed me. It further reiterated the fact that learning is a continuous curve. It never stops.
What advice would you give to your younger professional self?
Your hard work and focus will pay off. After putting in your very best, sometimes all you need to do is breathe. Exhale. Be kinder to yourself. Trust the process. You are more than enough. Let go. Let God. Trust Him.