To grow, you must aim higher: Zawadia

To grow, you must aim higher: Zawadia

What you need to know:

  • Zawadia Nanyaro wears different hats when it comes to leadership. She is the vice chairperson of the Board of Directors of DCB Commercial Bank Plc.
  • She is also a board member of UAP Insurance Tanzania where she chairs the strategy and finance committee. She is also the chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of LILAC since May 2016.

Zawadia Nanyaro wears different hats when it comes to leadership. She is the vice chairperson of the Board of Directors of DCB Commercial Bank Plc. She is also a board member of UAP Insurance Tanzania where she chairs the strategy and finance committee. She is also the chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of LILAC since May 2016. Ahead of this year’s celebration of the International Women’s Day on March 8 under the theme ‘Women in Leadership, Achieving an Equal Future’, Zawadia shares the story of her career life with Salome Gregory of The Citizen’s Rising Woman.

Q. What is your personal story? How did you get to where you are today?

A. Being a member of the Board of Directors of DCB Bank, I had to start in low positions in my career. To become a board member you must hold a strong CV at a personal level and careerwise. My experience is mostly in accounting, auditing and finance and a little bit in the business aspect. I have over 25 years of working experience.

My career history has been working with multinational corporations in four entities. After working in all those places, I later founded my own entity. I’m am the CEO of LILAC audit and consulting firm.

In terms of leadership, I worked for five years at the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and reached the level of senior officer. I had this quest to become a leader, after five years I found a new job as a manager.

So, I can say in my 25 years of working, I became the manager after five years and I was under 30. Later, I moved to Exim Bank as a manager in charge of internal auditing for two years.

I got a bigger opportunity at Tanzania Breweries as the head of internal audit for four years. And still my quest of reaching higher was not satisfied. I later secured another job at the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA) as director of development where I worked for 8 years.

So you can see the first ten years I worked as auditor specializing in external auditing and financial services, then when I moved to the EPZA I was able to mix my private and government work experience, but still I maintained that consistency of delivering to the optimum.

At EPZA I was director in charge of development, investment promotion, investment facilitation overlooking and attracting investors at the country level and it was a very good, mixed experience. After 8 years with EPZA, but I had to make myself a CEO.

I embarked on entrepreneurship with my own entity LILAC which is now five years and has been so far successful. Having all this career experience when an entity is looking for board members they look for someone with a stable career, network, someone who is well skilled and experienced and has worked in leadership positions. That is how I joined the Board of Directors of DCB Bank.

I worked very hard and became head the Audit and Risk Committee. Just last year, my colleagues thought that I could be become the Board’s vice chairperson.

Many people may have struggled with finding a mentor or support to help them in their career journey. Did you ever receive any form of support or mentoring?

I dare say during my initial working career, I was lucky to start with an international entity where I didn’t have a particular mentor but there was a lot of coaching, where jobs are structured in a way that push one to must grow. Every year you are assessed and every year you have to be promoted to the next level.

For the first 15 years, I didn’t have a mentor but instead of that I used to assess my career growth. It was more of self assessment and motivation and observation.

However, for the last ten years I have had mentors and they really helped me and coached me and in the journey of becoming a CEO and a successful entrepreneur.

Why is it that some companies don’t invest in women when it comes to letting them take top management roles?

The companies that I had the opportunity of joining and had a woman in leadership position, there was no reason for regret. At times, some of the women don’t have this initiative, they lack the confidence, when you are working with men despite doing day to day activities they also have this extra skills like lobbying and showing their bosses that they can do better than others.

So, for women we need to be very confident and show our seniors that we can take certain positions at work.

The trust towards women is not that big compared to the trust that seniors have for men.

When a woman gets a job and given an opportunity to be a leader, a woman should really work hard and demonstrate that women can do it even better than men.

Women in leadership positions should actually be role models and they shouldn’t keep quite on what they do. When a woman is a part of leadership, I think they should take an initiative to pull other women up.

And this should be our common goal for women leaders. Like for my entity 90 percent of the employees are women. Whenever I am in a position somewhere and there is a vacancy I would recommend CVs of other women to come to the top.

How do you manage to wear so many hats at ago and still be able to find time for self care?

With these so many hats I have proved that human beings can actually do so many things at a go.

Me for one, I have a family, children and that has never affected me career wise. I think we all have this extra time that we tend to misuse but if you plan your time accordingly you can still deliver successful at home, your personal hygiene as you know women spend too much time on that but also at work.

For women who are leaders, they are a living examples that women can handle multitasking.

Looking back, what advice do you have for your younger self?

Self motivation is very crucial. But where does one get this? Some people are lucky they are born with this but positive energy from books which are extracurricular provides more room for one to learn. Being ambitious is key for proper growth.

May be if I was 16 years old something which I would change is to consider entrepreneurship growth as part of my career growth. We mostly tend to think that being a leader, you must be employed.

But you can be a leader without being employed. So, a person can also become a leader by creating her own business.

How did you learn to become confident? What is the source of your confidence?

Once you have a vision you need to have confidence. If you have objectives to meet, you also need confidence.

If you are given a task and you completed it well, then its gives you that extra mile of confidence.