By Prince Osuagwu
Women: Acting Country Manager of a technology company, Tek Experts Nigeria, Ashim Egunjobi, is among the few ladies in the tech space who give their male counterparts a run for their innovative prowess.
A typical multitasker, Egunjobi does a little bit of everything at Tek Experts, from strategy to client engagement and coordinating day to day activities of the organisation. She is so strategic to the affairs of Tek Experts, that she, most times, becomes the firefighter on issues, of developing and implementing processes, coordinating interdepartmental operations, balancing recruitment or training needs among other things.
For a global staff augmentation provider like Tek Experts, with highly-skilled technical support, professional services and software engineering it comes as a delight to many Nigerians that a Nigerian lady is so central to ensuring the company’s staff are happy and engaged. And, that is a point Egunjobi says motivates her a lot.
It is apparently this motivation that is driving her vow to direct the company towards increasing the ratio of women in Nigeria’s tech space because according to her, women have an extra drive to excel in male-dominated fields. Excerpts:
Earlier this year you released a white paper analysing the challenges of women in technology, why was that your first project in a new business environment?
Advancing the ratio to which women work in technology is certainly a passion for us at Tek Experts. The passion is to ensure that women not only have an opportunity but are also attracted to working in the technology space. We believe that diversity matters; because we all serve a very diverse customer base so the more diverse our workforce is the more we can tap into the needs of this diverse customer base.
We also truly believe that the more balanced the workforce is, with regards to gender diversity in particular, the more a company can increase or enhance performance. Studies have shown that women often have that extra drive to prove themselves, especially in a male-dominated field.
I also think that showcasing the ability of women to work fields such as technology; will help more women technology industry a career choice. If we take our success stories, as case studies and go to the schools, particularly universities, it may encourage more people to apply for a job in technology, study a science or STEM-based course. It may also encourage full housewives, to maybe, take up that opportunity in coding or programming because it’s something she could do from home. So, it’s really about widening the pool of opportunities and ensuring that women play a part and contribute to the tech ecosystem.
So far, have you hit the target?
The survey was launched for us to understand, across the globe, the different nuances in views and challenges women working in technology face. We delved deep into understanding what challenges women faced in their careers and how they would want to see improvement across the globe. We launched this white paper in five of our sites; Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Nigeria, United States and Vietnam. Based on the results, we held roundtables locally discussing and proffering solutions. In Nigeria, we engaged two major Women in Tech organizations – W-TEC and Pearls of Africa, to particularly identify how we could work together and how we can foster the message and develop solutions to tackle these challenges together. If we look at the road already travelled, yes, we are hitting the target.
Tek Experts is about a year and a half in Nigeria, you must have formed an opinion about Nigeria’s business space?
Yes, of course. Nigeria is located in an optimal time zone, which really gives you broad access to servicing the world. We can serve the far East in the early morning hours, and still be able to serve all of Europe and the Middle East, throughout the normal business day. Then, from evening hours, we will still serve the Americas. So, it really gives you a nice span of operating hours.
The other thing is the English Language skills. English is the language of business and it’s spoken in different countries of the world. If you’re looking for countries to support global customers, English would be a non-negotiable requirement, and, of course, Nigeria’s lingua franca is English.
But the most important part and the reason we came to Nigeria is the people. Nigerians are extremely hard-working, passionate and have a natural affinity to customer service and empathy. Nigerians are very cultured and always wanting to bring out the best in any kind of problem that they are trying to solve. The other is the increase in tech talent across Cloud and other technologies in Nigeria.
So, what have you achieved based on these opportunities?
Our first milestone was the launch of Tek Experts in Nigeria in April 2018 It is no easy feat to launch a global business with international standards employing over 200 technical support engineers from day one. We have now grown our operation to over 1,000 technical support engineers here in Lagos.
Again, we have been able to service our clients successfully with a good performance record and end-customer satisfaction. As a result of that, we’ve been able to launch more business lines that support our clients here in Nigeria.
You appear to have high regards for the Nigerian market, have you encountered or envisaged any challenge that can threaten this regard?
Well, we’ve not faced too many challenges, but I think it is mainly because we have a can-do spirit and believe that everything is possible here. At the same time, we are a ‘by the book’ company. Everything here is black and white we don’t really like the grey zones so we stay away from things we don’t understand and we make sure that we do everything that is right that needs to be done. We don’t run away from any challenge, but we try our best to make it work.
Of course, we had done our research about Nigeria before entering the market so we had a good understanding of what we could expect with regards to operating costs and any other thing in this environment.
If you are this passionate about the Nigerian tech space, what’s your contribution towards making it stronger?
That’s a great question. The most important contribution we’ve made here is with regards to skills development. We recognise that cloud adoption is rapidly growing. As a company serving global customers, we are servicing customers who have adopted the cloud fully, who have been running on cloud for some years, and use a variety of cloud technologies which means that our engineers are able to interact with a much mature customer. This requires a set of skills. So, we have focused on nurturing these skills during our Onboarding and Technical Training.
….You’re talking about Capacity building?
Yes. Upon resumption, our engineers go through two to three months of intense technical and soft skills training. It is this exposure to skills development that sets them up for success along their career trajectory.
We lay emphasis on soft skills training as well, as we’ve realised that anything to do with customer support is not only about your technical abilities to solve the customer’s technical problem, but it is being able to relate with the customer; to be able to empathise; and to ensure that you’re doing everything possible to solve those problems for the customer.
What about Corporate Social Responsibilities. Even though you are pretty young here, is it in your DNA?
Yea, we are passionate about giving back to the community. Already we’ve embarked on several CSR initiatives within our short tenure here. The last year 2018 we participated in the World Clean Up day which for us is a global initiative. Across all our seven sites, we partner with local players on World Clean-Up Day and focus on any area that is under environmental distress and requires some cleanup. Last year, we did a cleanup activity with about 100 Tek Experts volunteers and cleaned up a popular beach in Lagos.
This year we also participated in World Clean Up Day 2019. It’s also about creating awareness on the proper ways of disposing of waste in a bid to keep our communities clean.
We always give back to the society
Also, as part of our Women’s Network at Tek Experts, we also launched a partnership earlier this year with a global NGO called Dress for Success. Dress for Success focuses on taking women from a disadvantaged, indigent background, and elevating them to a place where they go through confidence training, where they learn how to scale through an interview, proper presentation skills, and also where they are assisted in dressing in appropriate professional wear. Tek Experts donated fairly worn clothes and corporate wears, making it more accessible for those that may not be able to afford a smart looking business suit, to wear one for their first interview or their first day at work. Dress for Success also works on placing these individuals in gainful employment and we are very keen to see how that partnership evolves and how we can continue to empower more brilliant, young women.
In Tek Expert, we have a ratio of about 30 per cent women out of just over 1,000 people, so you can imagine what a pretty big network we support. We discuss various topics ranging from how to navigate in male dominated fields such as IT, to gender-specific challenges while progressing in one’s career. The network also focuses on role-modelling to students and university graduates, letting them know that the tech space is indeed a viable career path for both women and men.
How flexible is your recruitment modalities?
Tek Experts is over 5,000 people worldwide. Nigeria is one of our bigger sites already and we will continue to grow on that trajectory. At the same time, our Tek global talent pool will continue to grow and we envision that Tek Experts will be about 15,000 people by 2025.
Now how do we recruit people? We have an in-house talent acquisition team both represented at the global level and in each site locally as well. We have talent acquisition managers in each site. We have a pretty rigorous recruitment process which starts from the online application; obviously we are a tech company so we are kind of paperless; we hope for everybody to apply online which also provides more objectivity.
Once you’ve applied online, if you fit into the profile, you receive a phone call first from one of our recruitment managers and after that, you may be invited for an assessment.
Let’s share in your projections and growth strategies, particularly in Nigeria?
For now, we’ll continue to focus on growth, as we explore all the different opportunities that are out there. We explore working with varieties of clients and we hope to be able to continue to serve our customers and our clients with the strong pool of talented and valuable resources that work here on site. As I said, we are always open to exploring a variety of opportunities but don’t have any concrete plans for now.