Inside Aperian Global: Adwoa Osei
In our monthly interview series, Inside Aperian Global, you will get to know the passionate people that drive Aperian Global’s mission,values, and day-to-day operations. Aperian Global’s employees will provide you with a sneak peek into their work lives and share stories about themselves. This month, we asked Adwoa Osei, one of our Senior Global Account Managers, based in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, a few questions.
Adwoa, when you think back to the beginning of your career, what led you to the cross-cultural consulting world? What brought you to Aperian Global?
My introduction to this industry wasn’t by design or from a calculated plan. Coming from an economics and policy background, I didn’t even know the industry existed until I chanced upon Aperian Global in grad school. As I started learning more about this industry, I realized that it wasn’t new to me after all, but rather gave me the language and framework to make sense of some of my own past experiences. Growing up in a developing country, I remember hearing the frustration of family members who were working with multinationals. Although working for a multinational was a good career opportunity, they didn’t feel heard and often had to implement initiatives from Western-based headquarters that really didn’t match local needs. At Aperian Global, I help to get these voices heard every day by helping my clients work effectively across borders and differences; this essentially improves their bottom line results as well.
You moved from Accra, Ghana, to study and work in the U.S. Now you manage our global clients out of Washington, D.C., the capital of the U.S. What would you say are the biggest similarities and challenges in working in these two environments?
I think it is safe to assume that in both locations, organizations seek to grow and increase their profits. Although networks are important for doing business in both, it is imperative for doing business in Ghana. Even for the seemingly mundane things, like getting a landline or registering your business, “who you know” gets you in the door and a quick response and resolution. Without this connection, it will be a frustratingly long experience, at best. To do business in Ghana you need to broaden and leverage your personal and professional network in almost all instances.
As a global citizen with roots from the African continent, what misconceptions do people have about Africa?
I could write a thesis on this one, but I think most of these misconceptions center around the theme of the lack of awareness/appreciation/recognition that Africa is not homogeneous. It’s a continent of 50+ countries with immense diversity. You won’t believe how often someone makes a reference to an experience in another African country or person the moment they know I am Ghanaian. It usually goes something like this:
“Oh, you’re from Africa!”
“No, I’m from Ghana.”
“I have this Kenyan…”
“Again, I’m from Ghana.”
“…co-worker who ….”
I can assure you this is not uncommon.
As a result of this mindset, many fail to recognize the potential of this continent and its people. Africa, like other continents, is complex and has deep rooted historical issues that have shaped the continent. While it is true that many countries in the region, including mine, are plagued with many challenges such as corruption, poor leadership and inadequate infrastructure, there is great potential for growth and incredible talent that should not be overlooked. Organizations and leaders need to take the time to understand the complexities of the different countries in Africa in order to fully tap into its potential. Often, I notice organizations comparing Africa to India, China, or other emerging markets, thinking that what works there must work in Africa. In our new book Leading Across New Borders, there is an interesting case study exploring how Bharti Airtel perceived similarities between Indian and African markets and failed to realize the differences in the two environments, which ultimately led to a struggling acquisition.
You are one of our Senior Global Account Managers, handling client requests and managing our relationships and solutions. If you could share one piece of advice in working with clients from your home country of Ghana, what would it be?
The importance of personal and professional relationships cannot be overstated in Ghana. Invest time in building these relationships and they will serve you well. Your relationships get you in the door and will keep you in, if you perform.
Finally, if you don’t mind, share something we don’t know about you yet!
It may come as a surprise to many that I have an impressive shot glass collection from cities, states and countries all around the world. It started with my brother picking up a piece for me whenever he traveled, then it quickly became our thing where we looked forward to traveling to new places to add to our collections. Over the years, friends and family who know about this always get me a shot glass when they travel to an exciting new location. Of course it’ll come as no surprise that most are carefully labeled to show when I got them (and from whom).
It’s hard to pick a favorite. In terms of aesthetics, it’s a tie between Singapore and Greenbrier, West Virginia. For location, it’ll definitely go to Museu do Futebol in Sao Paulo.
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