Banke Alawaye: I Know the Challenges Women Face in Business

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SUPERSATURDAY STORY

The story of women in technology in Africa will not be complete without mentioning Banke Alawaye. With over 20 years experience, she has helped personal brands and organisations make the best use of digital tools. She holds a B.Sc in Computer Science, a master’s in business administration from Edinburgh Business School, Scotland, and a certificate in Entrepreneurial Management from Pan African University’s Enterprise Development Centre. She is also a member of the British Computer Society. In this interview, Alawaye speaks with Azuka Ogujiuba how she helps female business owners create systems that make their businesses easier to run and productive

Tell us about what your job entails?

I’m a digital expert and business consultant. I help small business owners create systems that make their businesses more profitable.  I love to help people find easier ways of accomplishing their tasks. We have so much technology on our palm nowadays and yet we still struggle with little things like scheduling and planning. I work with my clients to make the best use of the technology they already have. I have over 25years working experience. I started out my career as a programmer and then went on to be an investment banker. I’ve also worked with big brands developing digital strategy and campaigns. My work experience has been quite varied. I thrive on variety and new experiences.

How have you been able to build up your career?

One step at a time. When I look back at all the amazing experiences and accomplishments, it sounds like a lot but all I ever did was to follow my interests. At every career/business opportunity, I saw something that interested me, that was worth getting excited about and I went for it. Looking back, what stands out for me is my willingness to try new things. Even when the prospect scared me, I tried anyway.

For example, when I moved from a career in IT to investment banking, all I had was the willingness to try something new. And from that experience came other opportunities that would not have been open to me without that investment banking background. I have this way of evaluating an opportunity. I think to myself what’s the worst thing that can happen? Once I’ve dealt with those scenarios in my head, it’s easier to go ahead with the mindset that I should at least give it a go.

Why do you specifically choose to help female business owners?

As a digital expert and business consultant, I’ve worked with a variety of people and still do. But I’m particularly interested in helping women because I feel that I understand the challenges faced by women in business. Women usually have to balance the needs of the family with their business and are the ones most likely to need flexible work arrangements and tools to help them to be productive in their business even when they’re attending the kid’s sports day at school. I was an investment banker when my daughter was still in primary school and I left that profession because I wanted a job that was more flexible and allowed me the time to be part of her activities. So I understand the issues with transitioning from one profession to running your own business or working as a freelancer.

If you had to choose another career path, what would it be?

I’ve been lucky enough to work in many industries so I feel like I’ve tried many careers. I love makeup and I even did a friend’s make up for her wedding many years ago. If I had to choose another career, I would either be a make-up artist or an interior decorator. I’ve always had an interest in space planning and making a space beautiful. At a time I used to collect articles about decoration and I even learnt some paint techniques for creating beautiful walls.

The world is evolving daily in terms of technology, how has this aided your career?

Technology is the bedrock of my career. I’ve been a computer geek since I was a teenager. I got interested in computers from a very early age and went on to study computer science in the university. My ability to embrace technology and use it productively has been my advantage all throughout my career. And now it allows me to serve a larger number of people because I can run online courses and provide consulting services virtually.

Has being a female professional affected the way your male colleagues relate with you?

I’ve been lucky enough not to have experienced any form of harassment or discrimination at work because of my gender. There have been occasions where I’ve visited prospective clients with a male colleague and seen that they immediately assume the male is in charge and has all the answers. The good thing is that I can choose to work with clients that I feel comfortable with and where we share mutual respect.

How do you relax?

I love to spend time with my daughter. She has an incredible sense of humor and we laugh a lot when we’re together. Whether we’re going out for spa treatments or staying home to watch a movie, we make an event of it and have a blast.

Who is a complete woman to you?

We’re all perfectly incomplete. I don’t think anyone ever stops being a work in progress. But if you can find some level of contentment even while striving for more then you’re as near complete as you can get. I also think that anyone who’s able to be comfortable in their own skin and who’s a definition of success is internally defined is a rock star.

What is your most prized possession?

Wow! I would say my daughter. But she’s not a possession; she’s my gift from God. On a lighter note, I love to take handwritten notes so I’m always buying beautiful notepads and pens. And also get them as gifts. I’ve just been given a lovely hand-made leather bound notebook that I’m loving right now. And I also love gadgets.

What’s your life’s philosophy?

Don’t jump into conclusions. No matter how clear cut something might seem, there’s always more lurking under the surface. Keep an open mind and don’t make assumptions about people or situations. I’m also an eternal optimist. I believe there’s always a way to achieve your goals. Don’t focus on the obstacles or circumstances. Keep your eye on the prize and be willing to put in the work and the path will clear itself for you.