The beauty of Communications is that it is diversified and can truly be applied or linked to any field. Meet Ashu Ma-Mbeng Success, Corporate Communications Manager for Olam Agri in Cameroon. In this interview, Ashu talks to us about how she transitioned into Communications from the Teaching field and why the work she does is important – for her brand and the people she serves.
Hello Ashu, first of all, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Thank you Fabrice for this unique opportunity to share my story to the world. As you are aware, I am called Ashu Ma-Mbeng Success and currently the Corporate Communications Manager for Olam Agri in Cameroon. With over five years of professional experience in the Communications field, my passion for the job I do has greatly contributed to my being a result-oriented Communications professional.
Why did you choose a career in communication? Was it a childhood dream?
Interestingly, I started my career journey in the Educational Department precisely the Teaching Field. As an infant, I have always admired and looked up to my mum who is a teacher by profession and grew up dreaming of the same career.
I had that perfect dream of impacting knowledge, guiding and most importantly being of service to people and help people be the best of themselves. This was my primary reason for choosing the teaching field which is indeed a noble profession.
A few years into my career, I made a switch to Communications, thanks to a crisis in my residing town at the time which encouraged me to look at alternative career paths.
Once I moved, I realized that the Communications field also gave me an opportunity to serve people, brands etc. and help them live their best lives, so I focused on learning everything I could about Brands, Public/Media Relations, Employee Engagement, Stakeholder Management etc. Both on the job and from my peers and senior colleagues in Communications.
In recent years, as I have advanced in my career, I have focused on finding opportunities for knowledge sharing, coaching and people development to improve my leadership capability. And I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn something new and hone my skills.
What difficulties have you encountered on your career path? How did you manage to overcome the various obstacles?
I have had lots of challenges, but beginning a Communications career was the most difficult. I began my career with a PR & Communications agency with little or limited knowledge of how to blend in or how the field works.
Conversations during my first interview with the agency gave me an assurance that even though this is a new journey, I would have the support of everyone to make it a success.
It was challenging for me because I had no education on Communications or anything related, no training and yet I had to meet up with the demands of an International complex agency with over 30 premium top brands as clients.
I remember my first project as Project Manager barely a month I got in, I could barely express myself fluently or understand the client’s needs and even execute efficiently and in a timely manner. I can assure you that I made so many mistakes on the job yet pulled through.
The truth is I was challenged, never gave up and made up my mind to succeed. I made it a point to upskill myself through the agency and self-sponsored training programs, diplomas, certifications in Communications, and leveraged my natural curiosity to go beyond my immediate line of work and learn what my colleagues in other functions do. I can boldly say; it has been an awesome and exciting ride as I have been able to blend knowledge from both the teaching and Communication field.
What qualities do you think one needs to develop in order to become an excellent Communication Manager in an agri-food company?
The communications management industry is increasingly fast-paced and ever changing. In order to meet up with its trends, any aspiring Communications manager will need to develop skills in ; Understanding a company’s brand, mission, values and business objectives , verbal communication, content writing, public speaking, leadership abilities, creative thinking, attention to details, emotional Intelligence, negotiation skills amongst others. All go a long to nurture and build a good industry professional.
What are your references and your inspiration in terms of communication (people or books that have made you want to do this job) ?
Honestly speaking, one of the people who have greatly inspired and contributed to my career journey is Adeline Sede Kanga, Founder and CEO of FabAfriq Media Group. With her several years of experience in the PR & Communications, she has guided and supported me in my career journey.
I also read a lot of books in my leisure time and for personal development, but there are a couple that I often find myself going back to now and again (1) Courage: The Backbone of Leadership by Gus Lee, Diane Elliott-Lee; (2) Linchpin by Seth Godin ; (3)Brand Media Strategy: Integrated Communications Planning in the Digital Era by Antony Young.
How would you describe your worst day as a Communication Manager in a food company?
Amazingly, I have not had a worst day yet since I joined the company.
What information are you most interested in when you contact the media? Are you satisfied with your collaboration with the local media? If not, what would you like them to improve?
The media is a very important tool in communications so when I reach out to media partners, I am most interested in their portfolio, values, reach, target audience, the message they convey and most importantly try to build a long-term partnership.
So far, I can say I’m quite pleased with my collaboration with the local media even though there’s still much progress to be done in future.
How do you see your career in 5 or 10 years?
In five or ten years, my career would have greatly evolved. I would be one of the best industry experts that others can come to for ideas, help and strategy. Who knows…? I could even be a Regional Director in Corporate Communications or perhaps own a Communications firm.
Is the growth of AI an opportunity or a threat for the communication sector?
Globally, artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the world in a positive light, but we also need to consider the ethical concerns and challenges that might come with it.
From my point of view, AI technology itself is neither good nor bad. In fact, it reflects the heart of the person using it or unleashing it through automation. Just as the internet has done for more than two decades, it can reveal as much moral clarity as it can moral depravity.
Looking at it from a communications perspective, I strongly think that AI would go a long to way to help communications professionals as well as pose a threat. AI can be a friend to corporate communications, although there is a potential dark side of AI when it is used for nefarious purposes.
The most important thing to do is to strike a balance. The discussions on AI keeping going on with several opinions and suggestions on the benefits and disadvantages it possesses.
Is there an activity that particularly relaxes you and allows you to recharge your batteries?
Yeah! Listening to music helps relaxes and de-stresses me always. It is medicine to my soul lol.
A word to young people who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t ever be afraid to move out from your comfort zone when the need arises. Be bold enough to take risks and demonstrate a commitment to learning always. I took a risk to transition from Teaching to Communications and I can say this has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in life.
Seize whatever opportunity you have now and don’t stop learning because life itself is a school we never outlearn.