At a recent ceremony in Lagos, Interswitch’s Group Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Cherry Eromosele was named one of the Most Inspiring Nigerian Women. A dynamic, performance-driven professional with more than 20 years strategic marketing and product innovation experience, Eromosele has served in diverse industry sectors such as FMCG, Telecoms, HealthCare and most recently Payments/FinTech.
The University of Benin graduate currently provides leadership and strategic direction for product innovation, product development, customer value management and product marketing functions, while continuing to champion the Group’s brand management, corporate communications and corporate social responsibility functions to drive key business objectives across her company’s entire business portfolio.
Not a stranger to recognition, her significant contributions to the positively changing face of marketing in Nigeria was recognized in 2015 when she was named Marketing Personality of the Year in Nigeria by Marketing Edge and recently, as one of the top 50 Marketing Professionals in West Africa at the 7th edition of the annual Marketing World Awards held in Accra, Ghana. She chats with WW about advocacy, mentoring and insights into the Marketing world.
In what ways have you been an inspiration to other women?
I’m not sure I’m the best-placed person to be chronicling this, at the risk of sounding immodest. What I can however volunteer is that I consistently challenge myself and endeavor by making it a point of duty to always explore opportunities within my sphere of personal and professional influence, irrespective of how small or latent they appear, to add value, with an unapologetic bias for impacting the lives of young girls and women. I suppose this streak has always been part of me for as long as I can remember. I am highly passionate about individual social responsibility as a means of making impact on one’s immediate and expanded communities, particularly in Africa where there are debilitating gaps in key infrastructure from physical and social standpoints, and I’ve been extensively involved mentoring and finding ways to give back through charitable causes whilst being particularly enthused about female empowerment and girl child development and advocacy.
In your acceptance speech, you spoke about women being more resilient. How is this related to you?
There’s no doubt, and even the men would agree with the assertion that women have their work cut out, and need to work against greater odds and barriers -particularly when it comes to juggling the multiple demands life and society typically impose. In my case, drawing from experiences from my career, it has taken sheer resolve and resilience and of course, the special Grace of God in the face of several challenges and inhibitions, some of these stemming from gender-based considerations and biases, to move to the next level and ultimately to have arrived at where I am today – essentially I have gained many profound learning points along the way, but also ensured I enjoyed every phase of the journey in spite of whatever odds lay on the way.
In your view, are women who are in more privileged positions doing enough to lift up other women?
This is a very interesting question which interestingly came up at a women forum I recently participated in. My view would be largely subjective as the issue in itself really is, but I find it to be mostly based on individual experience, as it wouldn’t be ideal or fair to stereotype matters. In my own case, (perhaps I have been extremely fortunate) I have found many mentors and pathfinders in women who were senior colleagues, more experienced, or who had walked certain paths ahead of me, and who were happy to empower based on this. I suppose this has coloured my own disposition as far as the resolve to replicate this for others is concerned. As women, the least we could do really, and ideally is to help one another up, as much as is within our capacity to do!
How can this be improved in your opinion?
It starts with a conscious effort and resolve, and with knowing that you don’t have to necessarily be wealthy or have all the years of experience in the world to be of value to another. A lot of times, we err in thinking that we need to have more to be channels of impact/blessing to others. Again, it is back to the realization that what we have in our hands is a lot more than we imagine, most times, to enable us positively impact the lives of others
As a mentor to younger women and girls, what is your philosophy?
Strength, industry, grace and decency are personified in femininity, not feminism. That’s what Kofi Annan famously captured in that timeless assertion that “the empowerment of women is the most effective tool for development.”
Also, the empowerment and rise of women is not, and can never be the downfall of men. In the end it is complementary, not a zero-sum game of ‘winner-takes-it-all’.
You have had a very rich and successful career in Marketing, straddling several industries. How has this diverse exposure affected your career in general?
It probably was a bit more accidental in the initial phase, and then at a certain point along the career trajectory, I started to become more deliberate about growth and how I progressed on that journey. I have no doubt that having a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your working life is key to achieving your goals and enjoying success, and setting goals provides long-term vision and short-term motivation. In my early years working up the ladder, it helped me focus in terms of my deliberate acquisition of knowledge and also helped me to organize my time and resources. I should however add that time and chance do have their role in the mix as far as career dynamics are concerned. As a marketing professional who has had the benefit of successfully moving across different industries, functions and countries, it’s helped me to become more adaptable and flexible and with the right level of personal commitment to learning and development, I’ve been able to bring value-adding lateral thinking and approaches to bear across all the organizations I’ve traversed – indeed I have always seen myself as an intrapreneur within all the organizations I have worked, by challenging status quo and taking hands-on responsibility for influencing and creating innovation to move the businesses to the next level.
Is the Nigerian economy leveraging enough on technology? How can this be enhanced?
Certainly not, in my view, as our level of exploitation of technology to solve our environmental, social and economic challenges leave much to be desired – if in doubt, a cursory visit to some of the economically and demographically smaller emergent economies in Africa such as Rwanda will convince you that Nigeria so far, regrettably is still the sleeping giant. In terms of what is required, strong leadership with political will, awareness of trends and a genuine desire to transform the quality of living is most critical to drive change in this regard. With that foundation in place, many other incremental efforts the private sector is capable of driving can then bear fruit.
Technology is disrupting most professions today, including Marketing…
In reality, one does not even need to be a marketing professional to come to an appreciation of the dramatic way technology has shifted paradigms in marketing, media and communications. What I’d however like to add, for the benefit of marketing professionals is that at the risk of being carried away totally by these technological advancements and their benefits and impacts, it is fundamental, for success, to always be conscious of the need to go back to first principles. Some things never change, and much of the underlying concepts and philosophies that underpin the practice of marketing and communications remain eternal truths.
After all these years, and having risen so high in your career, what do you know for a fact?
There may be stepping stones and ledges which you need to be perceptive and discerning enough to identify, but there are no short-cuts to success. Not all opportunities that glitter are gold, and sometimes it’s too late after you’ve jumped that you get to realize. Also, it takes some doors closing for you to come to the realization that all the while, there had been open doors which you were blinded to simply because you were fixated on the single open door you saw at the time.
What is your final word for young, ambitious girls looking to build a career in Marketing?
Hone your craft. Do your homework and pay your dues. Being in marketing offers you incredible latitude to infuse your validated thoughts and perspectives into the construct of brands and thereby, ultimately, culture and society, shaping people’s expectations, experiences, world-views etc. The marketing/creative sphere is so lateral, iterative and engaging as compared with some other more strait-jacketed fields of endeavor which are more linear in orientation. So I don’t think it gets more exciting and engaging in any other sphere!
At the initial stages it may turn out not to be as glamorous as it looks from the sidelines….in many instances, pay at the early phases may actually seem like peanuts when juxtaposed against the expectations and deliverable and you’ll often have to roll up your sleeves to do dirty work. But remember that in the quest to build capacity, what you earn is secondary to the sheer extent of what you’ll learn. I never fail to emphasize this to upcoming professionals. In the end, the hard work definitely does pay off after all.
What does it mean to you to be named as one of Nigeria’s Most Inspiring Women?
I do find the recognition quite gratifying and also an inspiration towards re-focusing my resolve and efforts towards adding more value, whilst appreciating JTAH foundation for taking the initiative to institute this, as well as for deeming it fit to recognize and honor female trailblazers, including myself to inspire further contribution to women and girl-child education.