How to climb the ladder to the top – and fast

At the age of 30, Diane Moalem has reached a place in her career that most young professionals can only dream about – an executive position at an international corporation. Diane started out her career as a copywriter, but her role quickly expanded to digital marketing before making the leap into management via an MBA from the UCT Graduate School of Business.

After graduating in 2018, she was appointed Growth Manager for 18 months followed by interim CEO of the Jobberman business in Ghana. Then came her current position in 2020 as Head of Group Operations for ROAM Africa – a merger between One Africa Media and Swiss-based publishing house, Ringier. ROAM connects Africans to opportunities through online listings for jobs, property, general merchandise, and other products and services for users in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Senegal. The jobs unit holds the largest job placement websites in sub-Saharan Africa.

A few things she has learnt on her impressive career journey so far include:

Be prepared to work really, really hard

“Both my parents were businesspeople and from them, I learned what hard work looks like,” says Diane. Basically, this means not giving up even if a fifth obstacle presents itself on the same day. “Know that sometimes you have to keep going and have courage to pursue your goals although it may mean waiting for a particular tide to turn.” It isn’t always about the hours you put in, but the impact you make. 

Values are important

Diane says the importance of values-based leadership was driven home during her MBA studies. “I never realised before I did the MBA how uncomfortable it had been to lead in an organisation where the values or the company culture didn't align with my own principles. For me, finding a value-fit is essential.” However, she says, “Some things are not flexible, like integrity, and how I present myself in my workplace.” She is a big believer in soft skills, especially for leaders. “Your staff are brand ambassadors and how they feel is what they will pass on to customers. It is incredibly important to know what motivates your people and how you need to incentivise them. It’s not about money for everyone.” 

Choose to do work that you believe in

“I don’t think I could sell meaningless stuff to people who didn’t really want or need it,” says Diane. “My first passion is technology, then comes education and thirdly, youth employment.” Fortunately for her - her job contains all three.

“There are 10 million Africans entering the job market each year but only 3.1 million jobs are available for them,” she says. This is why she helps drive ROAM Africa’s growth in talent opportunities that matches job seekers and employers' jobs. In addition, she works with teams on Jobberman Soft Skills Training, a free soft skills programme for youth development. In association with the Mastercard Foundation, Jobberman is also promoting job creation opportunities especially for women. On a personal level, she is also involved in initiatives like the education of start ups in Africa through the JICA NINJA Accelerator programme.

If you are surrounded by uncooperative men – find an ally

There have been times when Diane has come up against men refusing to deal with her – or talking over her in meetings. “I have found that men sometimes prefer to listen to other men, so in some instances I have found it helpful to find a male colleague and ask them before a meeting to have my back. Even if it is only someone saying, ‘Diane, you were saying…’” 

Be prepared to collaborate to go further

Diane says that she is positive about the continent’s future. “But we must be realistic, we cannot achieve all our goals by ourselves. And governments can’t do it alone either, more than ever, we need collaboration and partnerships between private and public, NGOs and government. Or co-opetition, in which competitors collaborate to achieve a common goal. It is about growing a market not a share.”

She concludes, “The more we co-create the future, the better it gets, for everyone. So, I think the word for the next decade is partnership or perhaps, collaboration.”

Useful resources:
University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business
UCT GSB is internationally renowned as one of a few business schools in Africa with the prestigious triple-crown accreditation with endorsements from EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA.
University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Executive Education
Executive Education at the UCT Graduate School of Business is dedicated to growing the leadership backbone in organisations and individuals and inspiring a new generation of leaders to engage with the challenges of the African continent in a hyper-connected and globalised world.
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