Andrea Quaye, Vice-President for Marketing Africa at beverage giant ABInBev is a dynamic woman I met when we worked at Unilever. Back then she was a shy person fresh out of university and starting her career
Andrea has an Honours degree in Economics and a Masters in International business. She is also the mother of two beautiful girls, a wife, and a loving daughter. She loves running, reading (very complex books) and she often likes dragging me to shops where she has a knack for finding beautiful bags and shoes. She is fun, focused, determined, and has a passion for excellence.
But today, I want to focus on Andrea and her career ups and downs. I have gone for the corporate route this time to inspire those of you who are in corporate and want to know her secret to success.
Andrea was the first black woman to be appointed as a senior board executive in marketing at then SAB – a sector dominated by men. She then got promoted to become VP Marketing of the region. I am so proud of her! My heart bursts at how she has done so well and I hope you too reading this blog will be inspired by her.
When and where did your career start?
My career started in 1998 at Unilever in Durban. My first position was as a Marketing Assistant Surf.
Why did you chose marketing as a career?
Marketing chose me! A good friend of mine, Selemagae Kodisang, told me Unilever was hiring for the graduate programme and encouraged me to apply. Although I did not know much about marketing, I knew that I wanted a career that allowed me to be creative and analytical at the same time. Marketing has been the perfect career for me.
What has made you successful in your corporate career?
I try not to define it as successful because it almost feels like once it’s reaches that, you are done. My corporate career has been very fulfilling. I have had the opportunity to learn enormous amounts about brands and businesses as well as myself, and have also been able to make an impact on businesses and society. My corporate career has been extremely fulfilling to me.
What have been your greatest lessons, and how did you deal with them?
When I started off my career, it was all about building my marketing capability and leading myself. I found at that stage that it was mostly about humility & resilience. Humility to raise your hand up when you just don’t understand and resilience to try again when you fail or get things wrong.
When I got into mid-management, delivering through people was key. Understanding the broader business and working with people is really important. Leading your team by example and for the first time testing your natural leadership style. Which may or may not be ideal given the circumstances.
And once you get to senior leadership, it’s all about trusting your experience and really putting yourself out there. My most important lesson at this stage of my career was that people only follow individuals who have conviction – don’t be afraid to clearly articulate your vision and your approach. Leading by example is not enough…. You have to inspire and follow through.
What advice can you give young people climbing the corporate ladder or who one day want to be in your position?
Be yourself, be your best self. You don’t have to change your personality at work. I learnt that from a great friend (thanks Mosidi!).
Early on in your career, don’t be distracted by money, power or promotions. Focus on what you can learn. You career is a 35 year marathon, not a sprint.
Don’t compare yourself to your colleagues, there will always be someone doing better than you. Focus on your journey, where you are in your journey and what you need to do in your journey.
Every person you meet, every manager you work for is a gift. Adapt quickly and learn from each opportunity you are given.