Last week WCAN hosted its much anticipated Annual Conference at Goldman Sachs, and it was nothing short of a testament to black female excellence! Read on to find out what you missed!
The day kicked off with Kene Ejikeme, co-head of EMEA Equities Execution Sales-Trading and Execution trading businesses and co-head of the Firmwide Black Network at Goldman Sachs. An Engineering Graduate at Imperial College graduate and ex-professional rugby player, Kene shared with us his journey into the corporate environment.
After an offshore engineering internship and a career in professional Rugby, Kene found himself dissatisfied with his current position. At that point, he asked himself “What does a young, black, catholic, rugby playing engineer do with himself when he doesn’t know what to do?” The answer, work at Goldman Sachs of course. Kene expounds that his entry into Goldman was a result of a woman taking a chance on him, and further highlights the importance of networks such as ourselves to create pathways for others to get into the professional world like ourselves.
Following Kene's brief introduction, we welcomed to the stage Heather Melville OBE, an IBM business school graduate and a director of strategic partnerships and head of business inclusion initiatives at the Royal Bank of Scotland. In 2016/17, she was recognised in the Financial Times’ global outstanding executives. She was also winner of the 2016 Top 5 Rising Star champion for diversity. Heather is also a career coach and mentor.
Heather kicked off her speech by taking a room-wide selfie, uttering to the girls “I need to do this [stake selfie] because this is what the future looks like.”, sparking a thunderous applause and cheering from the ladies in the room. In her incredible speech to our ladies, Heather poignantly highlighted the importance of her role and that of others like her to champion diversity in large organisations.
She laboured the necessity to have women of colour in positions of power to mentor the following generation so their talents do not go unnoticed. In her own words, “I was one of the few women colour, now I look around myself, I see amazing, talented people of colour coming up as your mentors.” Throughout her speech, she emphasised the importance of authenticity and reflecting this wherever one was, be it amid friends or strangers; pointing out how authenticity influences one’s brand, and brand the opinion of others about you.
To continue with an already brilliant line-up of women, Yvonne Ike took to the stage to deliver yet another profound and inspirational speech. Yvonne Ike is a managing director and head of Sub Saharan Africa (Ex-RSA) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She has more than 20 years’ experience in financial services, including capital markets operations and fixed income, derivatives and equities products.
Over the course of her career, she has led senior teams in New York, Geneva, Hong Kong, Nigeria and South Africa. It was clear through her speech that Yvonne came here to do one thing with our girls, and that was to cause a paradigm shift in thought and action. She highlighted the importance of accountability, focus and diligence when pursuing one’s passion.
Her penetrating words could only be catalyst for change in the lives of our attendees. She certainly shook the room when she dropped this nugget “Do not run from where you are, run to where you want to be.” A reminder that obsession and diligence are necessary fuel to run this race called success, and fear; the great obstacle. You can find a list of all the quotable using our hashtags #WCANAnnualConference17 or #WCANConference17 (Seriously, we implore you to go through those hashtags. Your life will not remain the same).
Following Yvonne’s exhilarating speech, we had Ade Oshinloye of Capital Moments lead a brief session on commercial awareness. The session was also followed by a CV workshop led by WCAN founder Mariam Jimoh and Strategy Director Melanie Okuneye. Our attendees were given the opportunity to have a one-on-one CV health-check session with members of the WCAN team; offering assistance on how to make their CV industry specific.
Succeeding the CV session, we invited to the stage three amazing female entrepreneurs; Oyin Solebo of MoveMeBack, a global members-only community connecting leaders, influencers and top talent to unique and exciting opportunities in Africa; Abadesi Osunade of HustleCrew, a global careers community led by expert mentors; and Stephanie Onwunali of What’s Next Coach, a professional coaching services to help young professionals make life and career decisions with greater clarity.
The three entrepreneurs shared their career journeys. The three entrepreneurs shared their journey to starting their own business, explaining their transition from their old corporate roles to their new positions of leadership. The key lessons learned from their story were, the need for a change in mindset to effect change in action and attitude. Also, the importance of carefully outlining your business plan and preparing for change. The women also touched on how essential having a good network of investors is, and the power of self-belief and confidence in your product.
To end the day, we welcomed Sophie Chandauka to deliver an electrifying speech to our ladies on overcoming adversity. She is an executive director and EMEA chief administrative officer of the Legal and Compliance Division, at Morgan Stanley, and previously worked as senior corporate finance lawyer at Virgin Money and Baker & McKenzie advising significant multinational corporations.
Sophie has been shortlisted for the Women of the Future Awards, featured in Financial News’ editorial pick of 40 Rising Stars in the European legal profession, and recognized as one of the top 100 most influential Black Britons on the Power List 2014, “15 and “16.
Much like our previous keynote speakers, Sophie came with words of wisdom and encouragement for our ladies. Her message was to uplift and remind our ladies of the brilliance which resided within them and the tenacity with which they must pursue their dreams, forsaking that which diverts them from their goals. Sophie emphasized the importance of consistency to successfully build a brand and left us with five key tools to creating a strong brand:
1. Exceed expectations every time.
2. Demonstrate excellent commercial judgment.
3. Be responsible as a leader.
4. Be influential as an operator.
5. Be approachable as a person.
WCAN sat down with 4 wonderful young ladies - Sawida Magba Kamara, Jocelyn Longdon, Josephine Png and Safiatou Fomba - after the event to get their thoughts on the day, and here is what they had to say:
What were your expectations before attending the event, did we meet them?
Joselyn- "I feel like I had expectations that were branded by other schools and companies, it wasn't that it exceeded it was that it was completely different. It was a nice family atmosphere. It was inspiring to have people who look like me in the room, who are doing great things. Every one seemed to be doing something with themselves. There were lots of ambitious women around."
Sawida - "I've been to conferences everyday. Today exceeded expectations because the women looked like me and the women were so real. Yvonne talking about having a child and working and becoming who she is now, that was really moving. These women are real women, who have faced challenges and overcame. These women are really inspiring. When I came, I was in a place where I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life and listening to their stories made me feel like that's okay. It's okay to not have everything figured out. It left me with a peace that I can do this, whatever it will be, I can do it because people just like me have."
What was the highlight of the day for you?
Jocelyn & Sawida- "Listening to the women speak. They were just so real about everything. From the founder of WCAN to the guest speakers. They were very transparent about the professional ladder process. Listening to the biographies and realising the person behind the success. Being a genuine person, being clever has no exception."
Which of the WCAN Team members you've spoken to was your favourite?
Jocelyn & Sawida- Teju (This may have not been the true answer)
Sawida- "I also loved speaking to Melissa. I was crying because my unsureness about what I want to do was weighing down on me and I felt overwhelmed. She broke things down for me, and it was really nice to have her encourage me."
Where do you see yourself over the next few years?
Joselyn- "I want to complete my PhD in Quantum Physics; I love numbers! I also want to start my own business. I've got the idea down, I'm just planning and looking forward to executing it."
Sawida- "I want to find the role that will make me happy. I have a Youtube chanel called Queens of the Kingdom and I want to continue to influence young women in the faith."
What have you enjoyed most about the event?
Josephine- "I received proper advice on general and professional life. I personally enjoyed Sophie. Seeing so many black in higher places was a reminder. Heather talking about the opportunities that come your way. A lot of people are stuck to one direction. However, you should make your path colourful. She spoke about culpability and perception."
Sofiatou- "Sophie being an immigrant was absolutely relatable to me, as I'm also one. Sophie said you have to build your brand and reputation when I leave the room. When I go home I'm going to modify my social media."
What were the key lessons you took away from today?
Safiatou- "It's okay to fail. I strongly relate because I've applied to different roles and have faced a lot of rejection because of my immigration status, but I'm now determined more than ever to overcome them."
Which two women are your greatest inspiration?
Safiatou- "My mother, she's a good business woman who started with nothing in Burkina Faso. She selfless and always has time for us despite being so busy. I love Michelle Obama because she's smart and she empowers women."
Josephine- "My mum - because she's an incredibly strong woman. She's financed our education and works so hard and she has dedicated her life to us and empowered us. She is also very hardworking.
I also love Sophie is inspirational because she makes time for people even though she's the busiest person I know. I love the way she carries herself and there's something about her presence. She's someone who's absolutely about helping women. In the words of Heather Melville, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help others." Sophie is not like that. She really does care and wants to help."
How will you apply the lessons you've learned today to your lives?
Josephine- "Capital Moment's segment on commercial awareness was really important. I'm going ensure I set aside 15mins just to catch up on what's going on. Also the CV section; I'll be going home to adjust my CV."
Once again, we express our gratitude to the attendees, our panellists, and our keynote speakers, women with tremendous stories of their own, who all left our ladies with a message that renewed, revived and restored them. See you next year!