BusinessDay

Bunmi Adeniba, this top-notch marketing professional is on to higher heights

Bunmi Adeniba is an experienced marketing professional and commercial operator with a strong bias for using consumer insights and her understanding of an end to end manufacturing process to harness value for multiple stakeholders. Her over two decades experience spans across brand building, innovation design, and quality management system.

She recently joined the Coca-Cola Company as the Marketing Director, after her exit from Unilever where she was responsible for HomeCare Division of Unilever Nigeria, as a member of the Unilever HomeCare Leadership Team for Africa.

Adeniba has a non-liner career journey across different industries, with multi-varied experiences in different roles. She started off in hospitality industry as a Food and Beverage manager in Enugu in Eastern Nigeria, from where she proceeded to join the management trainee scheme of Cadbury Nigeria, a robust cross functional training programme to groom business generalists.

Her first stint after training school was in Quality Management across different brands. After a decade stint, she did a career switch into marketing, restarting her journey into marketing at an entry level as an assistant brand manager. She has gone on to build her marketing journey across different renowned multinational companies.

She has an MBA from Hult Business School, Boston and holds a certificate of Strategic Marketing Management from Harvard Business School, Massachusetts, USA.

A 2018 CSC Leader, a global programme for exceptional senior leaders selected from government, businesses and NGOs across 53 countries.

Bunmi is passionate about women empowerment and raising phenomenal leaders in the marketplace.

She has been recognised as one of the fifty Ladies in corporate Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa, Brand communicator’s top 50 women in marketing and communication in Nigeria, 9to5Chick top 100 women, and the Most Innovative Woman In Marketing by Brandessenceng.

She is a fellow of the National institute of Marketing (NIMN) and holds membership with the Institute of Directors (IOD), Chartered institute of Marketing UK (MCIM), Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), American Society of Quality (ASQ) and is a Certified Digital Marketing Professional (CDMP) from the Digital Marketing Institute.

She is the First Vice President of the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) and the Regional Vice President Africa of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)

She is married with 2 teenage daughters and a son.

What are your greatest influences in life?

One of my greatest influences in life is my mother. I grew up in a very stable home with my siblings. 5 in number. My parents were very committed to us, including their value for academic excellence. I say my mother was the greatest influence over my life because she was family oriented and intentional about who she wanted us all to be, and the type of upbringing she gave us. She was available for us physically and spiritually, in fact, in all areas of our lives and when she died, it left a big space in my heart. She was our support system. I enjoyed a very peaceful upbringing.

You are very passionate about upbringing. Why so?

Parents need to draw the line. They must understand that their impact on their children cannot be overemphasised, and that every other thing they do is basically the role of support because family comes first. Some of the values I learnt from my parents, my mother particularly have helped me till today. Education starts from the home and it is the core responsibility of the family but you have the support of the school, teachers and even well-meaning relatives. I say education starts from the home because, for me, it is about your values and character being shaped from the home. People will impute but your family has a definite role to play. Let’s go scientific. The cell which is the smallest unit of the body is synonymous to what the family represents. Don’t think that it is until you get into the workplace that your character and values can be shaped.

At the most, you would have been 18 before you are seen as matured to work in that organisation, so the first 18 years of your life, people who lived with you, what they could not imbibe in you, an organisation or the HR manager cannot do it in 6months or two years, neither can an emergency training school. Permit me to elucidate further. For instance, when people give me compliments for my work ethics till today, I tell them it started from as minute as the expectations from being thoroughly groomed. For example, my mother taught me that I must lay my bed properly immediately I wake up before getting into the chores of the day. It starts from there, the discipline to order my day and know what to start with. There is a sequence to things. I was taught this at home. It was then easy to replicate same spirit of excellence in my workplace. My family was the tutoring unit and everything else that I have become was built from it. It informed the way I also raised my children. These things start from the home. We must know our roles as parents and teach our children right so that it can manifest in our children in school.

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What does joining the Coca-Cola Company mean to you?

The Coca-Cola Company is a reputable brand. With over 1.9 billion servings of our drinks in over 200 countries each day, including the 700,000 individuals employed by The Coca-Cola Company and 225+ bottling partners that help to deliver refreshment across the globe, the standard, ethics, dynamism and goal of the company speak for itself.

I am glad to be here and I am looking forward to carrying out my duties effectively with my team. I am convinced it will be an exciting time for my team and I as we work together to meet the demands of our consumers. With the help of God and wisdom for project execution, we can only soar higher.

Take us through your Unilever experience

The story of my career has always been very defining. Let me backtrack to how I got into marketing. I started as a management trainee in Cadbury and at some point in my career, I wanted to switch career because when I came in as a management trainee, I had the blessing of people who guided me. The manpower development manager at the time, Kayode Ogunbiyi, is phenomenal in my story. 21 of us who were trainees learnt from him. He told us to map out our career, dreams and aspirations and I remember drawing a ten-year plan in those days. It included the point I was going for my MBA, when I would be in general management and all. I knew that at some point, I would want to leave the functional supply chain and cross into commercial. I had plans to go to business school and do all of that and so, after I crossed, because I was coming into entry-level marketing, having had some experience in a prior field, I knew I needed to do a lot of catch up, which meant I was reading more, I was attending a lot of conferences and generally just doing my best to pace up with marketing. I went for a conference and I heard someone from Unilever speaking at a program in New York. He was talking about social marketing and I was wondering what social marketing was. I became interested in it and I really wanted to identify with it. There was a yearning in my heart to say at some point, I would want to work with the organisation. Later, there was an opening at Unilever and I was asked if I wouldn’t mind working with the organisation and I gladly did. That was the back story of why Unilever was appealing to me. I actually had an inclination that I would join and that is why I joined, simply because I could live my purpose as an individual and it was healthy to do so with the organisation. Sometimes, work didn’t feel like work because I was impacting lives and that comes naturally to me. I was making impact whilst operating in a corporate framework.

What has your experience at Unilever taught you?

Unilever helped me to work on a purposeful journey. They helped me understand the intentionality of identifying yourself as an individual, knowing that you have your own values and purpose, whilst helping you find your feet and reaching your purpose as part of an organisation. Does everyone run with it? Well, I may not be able to answer for everyone, but I knew for me, I saw that opportunity, structure and framework and I went for it. They taught me to see an opportunity and use it, know that you can show up fully, bring your entirety and individuality into the workplace and be unapologetic about it. It also taught me that there will always be challenges but you must keep going and keep reaching deep down to another side of you that was not known before. I also had the opportunity of working with people that were genuinely committed to their own purpose and most importantly, the values of the organisation.

Leaving Unilever

It was a bittersweet experience. It still feels that way because I look back at the seven years and I am grateful to God. Even when it got tough, there were days that God showed up and reminded me of His faithfulness. Even when there were business challenges, there were always reminders of how the same organisation had given me an opportunity to make an impact and influence the lives of people. Unilever will always feel like home and family because at Unilever, I made friends who had become sisters and brothers. Most of all the myths of the workplace were demystified for me at Unilever. I met people who became family. I met younger people from who I learnt tremendous things from. I had team members who worked with me, who were genuinely committed to my succeeding in the marketplace. It was indeed a truly inspiring journey and experience for me.

What every C-Suite woman executive must know

Let’s do the work. It is easy to ascribe the glory to the grace of God but guess what? God Himself is very precise, He loves excellence. Check out the specification He gave for Noah’s Ark, my all-time story, you will see clearly the result of putting in excellence in what we choose to do. Let’s ensure we have excellent skills for the grace that takes us where we desire to be. There is also the part of the personal development plan that you need to have. It is called Personal Development Plan because you need to own it. You might be supported by mentors and coaches but you are the one sitting in the driver’s seat and then riding on the grace and power of God to help you. You owe it not just to yourself to make it as a woman; you also owe it to all the others looking to you to let them know it is possible. It is possible because you have a plan, you worked at it, you pushed for it, you called for help when you needed it, you were vulnerable when you needed to, you reached out to those doing it right and you learnt from them. It’s a lot of intentionality in knowing and believing in who you want to be.

For anyone desiring to get to the top of their career, you can have an image of a character you admire and where you see yourself at the peak of your career. For instance, at my entry level, Jessica Pearson in Suits was mine. I used to watch Suits and say, if I am in the corporate world, and I want to engage different classes of people, her character in Suits shaped something in me. As I grew and matured in career, there were other people who shaped my life. For instance, I had people who in different parts of the world were already occupying positions I admired. What did I do? I wasn’t looking for their phone numbers, neither did I even care that they know that I exist, I merely followed up on them, read their books, attended conferences they were attending, I knew their top favourite books, I knew the trajectory their career went and till date, I am pacing myself to learn through their tracks as it connects to me. It is important to note that you must never stop improving yourself, never stop giving back and never stop learning. Know that things are evolving and what you knew a while back will soon be redundant. Pacing yourself and using resources and people around you to learn more and become better is very important in your professional growth.

I also love listening and learning from younger people because I am intentional enough to know that there are things I can learn and know from them. As a C-Suite woman, keep improving yourself, knowing that you are raising the stakes for yourself to become better. Shift your own goal post.

From the early times of iPhone, every time my phone prompted me for an upgrade, I had questions for myself. There was a time I said “my phone is always prompting me to do an upgrade, am I done upgrading myself?” guess what? I started being intentional about it. When my phone will prompt to say software 12.0 for instance, or 13.1, I would ask myself, “Bunmi, what is your 2.0, 3.0…” and so on. Guess what I used to do? I codified it. Therefore, every time I did a software update on my phone, I would in that week, ensure that I have improved myself on something. It might be taking an online course, it might be reading some books, it might be someone I would reach out to asking to have a conversation on a topic I am not familiar with. Till date, there is no time that I update my phone that I do not codify it or use it in my life. So for every time you upgrade your gadget, ask yourself what version of IOS you are personally operating on, and apply it to every area of your life e.g in the area of parenting, as a friend, as a colleague, professional life and generally in all areas of your life. What version of you is showing up? Is it time for an upgrade? Be honest with yourself to recognise that it is time for an upgrade when it is time.

Though the numbers of top female executives are increasing, how important is it for them to have support systems among themselves?

This is actually a gift. I must at this point acknowledge Ibukun Awosika because a defining moment in my career in 2020 was the gift of the sisterhood that she gave 10 of us. It is like treating yourself as an organisation and you have your own board of directors. Let me explain how it works. If for instance, I am Bunmi Plc, and I have this board of directors of women who are rooting for me in my Bunmi governance, Bunmi ethics and every area of my life, it means they will love on me when they need to and correct me when they need to. It is a gift that every woman should have because it is your safe space. It is where you can be vulnerable. It is a place where your fellow woman is positively involved in your life and they are genuinely invested in you. I highly recommend women to have such community as a backbone. We all need such.

What are the lessons you have learnt in life?

Believe in yourself. You will get handed various opportunities. Mentors might open doors for you, people may mention your name for good in rooms you are not present, but when those opportunities show up, you must be prepared. That door will open but do you have the courage to take the first step? Unsteady and unsure but still take the first step to go through that door. Believe in yourself, knowing that you may stumble, stagger, fall on your face, but make sure you pick yourself up. The one thing that has always defined me is that I can do the things I desire because God says I can. I know that God has pronouncements over my life and I am in full obedience to His perfect will.

What is the role of family in your work life?

I have a very supportive family. My husband believing in me has helped my journey. For my children, the idea has always been to leave a trail for them, showing them that this is the minimum they can be. This has always pushed me on. My entire family, nuclear and extended, friends and all that have cheered me, praying for me and standing by me in tough times has been an amazing experience.

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