Adejoju Ajagunna is the Head of Customer Service at Jumia Nigeria. In this interview, she spoke extensively on the challenges of working in the covid-19 era, balancing the roles as a career woman and mother, and the equal opportunity for career growth at the ecommerce company. Excerpts:
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It means inspiration where I am inspired to dare and to do more. A day where every female gender irrespective of our profession or status is recognized globally, a day where it is important to celebrate the success and growth of every woman, one who has been able to conquer, who has been able to stand for her rights and explore the full potential of herself with no restriction to any obstacle. We need to celebrate every gender called “WOMAN” as the world appreciates our hard work, resilience, struggles, wins and achievements, a day the world stands for “US” and reflects on the impact we have made in society. Officially a day that is devoted in celebration of all women but to me, everyday is IWD because we create magic always
How has COVID 19 affected your role in Jumia since the pandemic started?
2020 has been the most challenging and daring of my 8 years in Jumia where opportunities were explored and we had to transition to a new normal by activating work from home in our attempt to ensure our consumers do not lack general essential and food supply due to restriction in movement for most parts of the country. At the beginning, it was a struggle supporting the team to suddenly change the dynamics of how we use to work by commencing remote working and adapting to the new tools. Some of our team members were not sure if this was going to be possible or if we could achieve our number one goal of “winning the love of our customers” in a pandemic where few of our processes had to be reviewed by ensuring all COVID 19 guidelines were adhered to. The pandemic has brought about CHANGE where alternate channels of a new work-lifestyle are continuously being integrated without compromising the JUMIA standard. With all of these, I had to ensure we give time for the new learning curve, adequate support for onboarding and mastering of the new normal as we are the Jumia Ambassadors
What are the challenges you’ve encountered in your career as a woman and how did you overcome it?
Well, most of my challenges came in my early stages of taking up a leadership role especially with managing the largest team where women are the largest team members, it was not easy managing the diversity of all types of human with the mindset that my processor was male as such it was expected that the role should be dominated by the male gender. So what I did was, I wore the shoes of a male gender and walked the walk by keeping the momentum and turning around the situation in taking up the mantle of leadership. It was also difficult to balance the curve of attaining a leadership role and being an awesome mum to my children especially when they were toddlers who could not understand why I could not be present for storytime in their schools and feel saddened by my unavailability but I have been able to create time at the homefront while I make it up to them in creating that schooling atmosphere at home by playing & learning which is moulding their values to create opportunities when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade out of it.
How will you say Jumia is contributing to the growth/development of female staff?
There are several ways Jumia contributes to the development of her female staff, one of such initiatives used in promoting gender equality is the provision of mentor programs which helps to guide us through any challenge in the course of our career without any gender exclusion. We also have the opportunity of the women forum where we all come together to discuss business, obstacles, opportunities and work-life balance and honestly, it has been engaging and rewarding as you see staff from all levels relate and share learnings, I would say, it’s always a way to learn, relearn & unlearn.
What impact has gender equality made on your life and work?
Jumia is an organization that allows you to explore opportunities as long as you can earn them by hard work and a lot of positive push. One of our core values “You don’t need a title to a leader” allows equal rights amongst all which genuinely values your contribution and supports you to grow even as a woman. Most of the C-levels in Jumia are women who in one way or the other have contributed to the immense growth of the business. Jumia has promoted equality as every opinion counts irrespective of your sex or level.
What female figure motivates you?
Actually, there are two particular female figures that inspire me: one is African while the other is American. The question for me is why these two women inspire me: they are women who have made good use of the opportunities around them with a powerful resilience not to stop but continue to ensure that their achievements continue to impact the lives of women especially the young & upcoming ones. The first figure is Chimamanda Adichie who is a Nigerian, a writer of short stories & novels, I am stuck on one of her quotes “When there is true equality, resentment does not exist.” While my second female figure is Hilary Clinton; a politician. Both women are an inspiration to me because of their strong will and confidence level, I admire their courage in how they have done things differently.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting her career?
There is so much pressure from the world out there where our young women are not sure of who they are or what they stand for, which sometimes makes them lose priority and focus. However my message to young women out there and generally to women “Be YOU…Be ENOUGH”: fuel your passion, making mistakes is allowed, it does not stop you from achieving your goals but in the end, you learn from it and this makes you a better woman. Make sure you work hard and have fun by celebrating your achievements and giving yourself a pat on the back.