Meet Aderinola Mary Ojulari, the boss lady at Mercedes-Benz Nigeria
Aderinola Mary Ojulari is the Deputy Managing Director/ Chief Finance Officer at Weststar Associates Limited (Weststar). Weststar is the sole Authorised General Distributor for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars’ and commercial vehicles in Nigeria. Weststar coordinates Daimler AG‘s business activities in Nigeria that includes of sales, after-sales services, dealer support, fleet management support, warranties, marketing, corporate communication, and trainings.
Mary is a focused and result oriented finance executive with over 20 years’ experience of which she spent 12 years working in the diaspora. Mary has worked in a range of senior and director level roles in the media and service sectors. She has a reputation for setting strategic direction and establishing robust working relationships with relevant stakeholders. Her specialties are continuous improvement, financial management, financial reporting, leadership, networking, project management, strategy, production management and due diligence.
She is an enterprising and versatile professional with broad experience in leading all aspects of finance. At Weststar, she oversees a number of departments from the finance to the after-sales. She is responsible for managing Weststar’s budget, fund investments, company policies with regards to capital requirements, risk and cash management and supervises raising of project funding to execute the company’s various expansion projects. She ensures that each department has a clear direction on how to achieve its targets.
She started her career in Audit at KPMG UK, before moving to Bass Group PLC as a management accountant in 2003 and thereafter Whitbread PLC UK as a Management Accountant. She joined the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) as an Analyst in 2006. Her main responsibilities at BBC was Business Partnering across various divisions. In 2009, she was promoted to the Business & Corporate Planning Manager in the corporate finance division.
She relocated to Nigeria in 2012, where she worked with CNBC & Forbes Africa as the Chief Financial Officer for West Africa. In addition, she was responsible for the administration and human resources division for the West African region for 5 years before joining Weststar Associated Ltd in 2017, where she currently works.
Mary holds a degree in Accounting and Finance from London South Bank University and is a Fellow member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants since 2008. She also has several Human Resources certifications from the Lagos Business School. Her passion lies in motivating and mentoring young people. She is married and with two sons.
Growing up was a lot of fun! My parents were disciplined, yet flexible. The values that they instilled has to a large extent, nurtured me into the person that I am today. Thanks to them, I understood early in life the importance of discipline, hard work and time management. These principles helped me early on to structure my life in a path that I desired. My father was always target driven which helped me focus on setting targets. At every given time, there is always a target that I have set to achieve.
Transition and experience from KPMG UK to Whitbread PLC
I worked at KPMG UK as an audit trainee for three years and was responsible for conducting audits on several clients. This was an excellent training ground as it provided a lot of exposure to various industries and sectors. My audit experience at KPMG UK is still useful till this day. I must also mention that it was not all pleasant – I recall working from a dark cold room at a client’s office and falling under the weather immediately afterwards.
Once I completed the trainee programme at KPMG UK, I was determined not to continue in the audit practice and sought opportunities to broaden my knowledge outside audit. Then, I was employed by Whitbread Plc UK as a Management Accountant. At this time, I was able to put into practice all that I had learnt in training at KPMG UK. Learning for me is a lifelong experience and this is what I continue to do till date.
Being Deputy Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Weststar Associates Limited
I oversee various departments from the finance to the after-sales. Across all departments at Weststar, I manage the budget, fund investment, risk and cash management, supervision and raising project funding to execute the company’s various expansion projects. I also ensure that each department is able to run profitably with a clear direction on how to achieve Weststar’s targets.
Expectations for this role are very high, but I get through with the support of my dedicated team. I am also fortunate to be surrounded with likeminded professionals and together, we seek to build a work environment and culture that supports individual and collective development.
Working at Mercedes-Benz Nigeria
The automotive industry at the time I joined was completely new to me; and I think this was the catch. There is always some level of excitement when learning and researching new fields. The structure and work practice of Daimler AG (which we apply at Weststar), provides an organised professional framework that supports learning and career growth. The OEM did not just arrive at the Mercedes-Benz slogan “Nothing but the best” – they actually live, dwell, believe and apply it in their work and private lives.
Working at Weststar so far has been a great experience! And yes, my knowledge base continues to increase with more prospects and assurances of a better tomorrow!
What does women empowerment mean to you?
Women empowerment to me means the continuous learning and educating of a female child. I believe that every other thing falls into place once a female child is nurtured rightly and properly educated. It is therefore a very strategic factor in the development of our society today. The female child is a potential mother who eventually would be charged with the responsibility of raising the future leaders of tomorrow. They are usually the next line educators after the teachers in school, and they tend to spend the most time with the children. It would only be wise for every society to focus on ways to empower women significantly with the right educational standards so that they too can pass down the right values and knowledge to their children. This is what will eventually improve women’s economic power and wellbeing.
What are your personal and professional challenges?
I would say “getting the right” balance between my personal and professional life. As a representative of an extremely successful global brand, the delivery of excellence in our output is quite fundamental. There is a lot of pressure when work hits an “all-time high” and this is the time when I have to prioritize rightly to be able to maintain the professionalism that the brand deserves, and also my family life.
Aside your official work, what other things are you involved with and why?
I am currently involved in researching Nigeria’s history. I believe that for true change to occur, our youths must understand their history to be able to carve out the future that they desire. I am currently gathering content and encapsulating them in ways that millennials would find enjoyable.
What day in your life is it that you can never forget and why?
The day I got married 27th December 2003. My husband is the greatest joy that God has bestowed on me and it has been 17 years with no regrets! If I came back to this world again, my choice would still be Leke Ojulari.
Are women supporting each other enough?
There is always more to be done in terms of supporting other women. I believe we can do so much more by coaching and mentoring women. Women need to engage more in collaborating and partnering with one another.
The journey to the top as a career woman
I live a life of purpose as I mentioned earlier. I started my career with a vision, and I understood exactly what my objectives were in order to bring my vision into reality. I did not spare any cost investing in education and self-development. My aim was always to look forward to the next target and at some point; it felt like I was on auto pilot, fully aware of my destination and its path. I sought for employment in places that aligned with my personal and career aspirations too, and mentors who were appropriate at each stage of my progression. My mentors have been excellent guides to ensuring that I stay ahead.
My advice – when people say ‘think out of the box’, I ask “what box”? There are no limitations or boundaries to what we can accomplish as women. According to Henry Ford, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”. As females, we just have to change our mind set and work towards bringing out the best possible versions of ourselves.
In doing this, we should note strongly that there is no exchange for hard work. It pays always!
If asked to describe your entirety, what will you say?
A woman of purpose, God first (I live by the principles of the Bible).
I am a big advocate of giving back to society. I work hard and play hard.
I celebrate milestone achievements with expectations of a tomorrow that I believe will eventually sum up to the vision that propels me.
Family and true friends means everything to me.
Describe your fashion style
Classic and Classy
How do you relax?
I watch movies, play board games with my children and socialise with family and friends… Maybe I should have said socialising first.
What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to a life post COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic took us all by surprise and quite frankly, at some point in the early days of its existence in Nigeria, it was quite difficult to make concrete plans. There is not much that we can do about the situation until a cure or vaccine is found. The best we can do is to continue to uphold and promote the recommendations made by health professionals globally. Thankfully, Weststar is forward thinking and has embraced the adoption of a new normal that is sure to take us through these strange times.
Women on boards, are the numbers enough?
Not even near as should be. Women are not ambitious enough and I think this is why it is important that they change or maybe, retrain their mind sets. As a woman, you have to first of all believe that you can, irrespective of how many other men are competing. Winning starts from the mind and like I said earlier “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right” – Henry Ford.
What is your take on girl child education?
I believe both girls and boys should be educated significantly. To promote and increase the girls’ education, advocacy is key in creating awareness on the advantages and importance of the girl child education and also to decrease gender bias.
I will quote the words of Vera Nazarian that says, “A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given. A woman is human.”