Fatema, a young leader with multi-professional experiences, is quite inspirational.
Wearing a black headscarf, she welcomed us smiling broadly. Her black outfit - complemented by the grey top and black high heels - made her look even more elegant. Salome Gregory is talking about Fatema Dewji, the director of Marketing at the Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited (MeTL) Group. She is an author who has published two books, TEDx Speaker, founder of Educate, Empower & Inspire, aims at putting successful women in the spotlight - and for others to do the same. Fatema shares her personal career journey so as to inspire other women. Read on...
Please briefly tell us about your career story
I graduated from the University of Georgetown in Finance and Management. The university is renown for politics. I said to myself that, when I am done, I will go and study Politics before I go for a Masters’ Programme. I came back and worked for one year - and I got bored with doing Finance because it was a desk job. So, I started looking at what was happening with CEOs, started looking at distribution and I was talking to people in the Marketing industry. I realised that, basically, not many people knew about our products. People were not asking for our products. There was no brand awareness and this scared me because multinationals like Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola and others spend so much money on creating a connection with consumers, which is important. I challenged myself to do more market research on our products. The department by then was just me and one designer. In 10 years, we have grown our department significantly. I have 50 people working under me in sales & marketing.
What are the challenges which you went through when establishing and running?
It was very challenging. I went through a lot of failures - but from them I learnt a lot. Thanks to my attitude of ‘I don’t know it all.’ So, I was ready to learn from different people of the same industry who have been here for more than 20 years and have worked for multinational companies. Through that I was able to create a room for people to come and teach me regardless my director title. It was learning through humility which has helped me until today.
As you grew up, did you ever know where you wanted to be?
No, I was a very poor student in middle school. I just used to play a lot of golf and I was very angry as my friends would go out and I was not able to. From Monday to Sunday it was golf and while at school it was religious classes. Just one day I came to realise that it not what I wanted. I knew I could do great things. So I just decided to be the best version of myself and changed my mindset. Through that I started working hard in studies and I managed to become the best student in high school and went to the best universities in the world. My success is based on making an impact in people’s lives and not any of these titles. Even if you see our brand called MO Tunayagusa Maisha yako is all about touching people’s lives. And through my empowerment initiative called Educate, Empower & Inspire aims at putting successful women in the spotlight to inspire others to do the same. And make a difference. It requires time and commitment and not a lot of money.
What is women empowerment?
Whenever I see a woman, I believe they can do anything as we have the power and the emotional intelligence. Look at women who work and have children and are able to balance all this. Women empowerment is all about thinking what we can achieve.
However, according to the CEO of Facebook it’s very unfortunate how we women put ourselves down. Unfortunately, we are raised in a society in which when a woman speaks up it sounds like she is being bossy. But when a boy speaks they support him. We grew up believing we are not good enough and we can’t go places we need to change the way we speak to our children.
From the day the children are born we need to start grooming them to be great human beings and be good leaders. My father gave us all the skills.
Leadership is all about heart, humility and grace. I learned this from my mother.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
My values have always stayed the same regardless of my titles and the things I do. Trying to be a better version of myself every day.
What is your leadership style?
It all about leading with examples and giving people the opportunity to unleash their creativity and talent. Being a controlling leader kills passion and creativity within them. Make sure you are conscious of how you speak and what you do as a leader. I have seen some bad leaders and I never wanted to be like them and they will never tell you important things as they are scared of you. If people fear you they will never have a connection with you and the organisation might suffer.
Here at MeTL, do you have any gender policy that specifically aims at empowering women to be leaders?
The Human Resources department is doing a remarkable job there is lot of gender equality, good ration of men and women. We are still learning and the best we can to give women more opportunities to unleash their potential.
What is the importance of mentorship in one’s career?
In life, no one will come to yo and say I want to help you! With me, I would go and accost everybody and tell them I am stuck here and ask for advice on how to go about it.
I have so many mentors and in life you do need mentors who can guide you about your field. That is why I started mentorship programme. Have a place for the answers to be answered and value in people’s lives. And this is also a way of helping more women to be on top positions as it is very lonely here.
What were ‘vulnerable moments’ in your life?
In three years, I went through a lot of things. From divorce to losing one of my best friends - and when my brother went missing. It was never easy, but I remembered there are people I inspire and they look up to me.
These are the things that really push me to overcome the vulnerable moments.