MLT Blog

Reflecting on My Africa Business Fellowship: Becoming a Change Agent

By: Jeanny David, 2016 Africa Business Fellow

Jeanny David was a member of the first cohort of our Africa Business Fellowship Initiative. Read about Jeanny’s experience working for Zeleman, an Ethiopian integrated communications agency, the culture shift she experienced while abroad and ways she set the groundwork for a shifting business culture at Zeleman.

After three months working for Zeleman in Addis and exploring Rwanda, Lalibela and Harar (northern Ethiopian cities) I experienced that business traditions can be extremely different in other cultures. However, no matter how cultural norms may vary, the process of changing business culture follows similar patterns everywhere.

Changing culture…

  • Takes time

Cultural norms won’t change in three months, but setting up best practices and a foundation for change can be achieved in a short timeframe. To fully change an organization’s culture, the Head of Strategy will continue working with the Client Services team after I’m gone. This ensures the groundwork I began at Zeleman will lead to results.

  • Takes constant reminders

Habits are hard to break so you should be patient and provide constant reminders. The most important reminder is YOU– be an example! As a leader, employ the best practices you want to see in your organization but make sure to directly state these as well.

  • Needs to come from top down and bottom up

Upper management can achieve cultural change when employees feel empowered. It’s imperative to make employees feel like you have their back. Employees want to know they’re part of your team, you respect their expertise and you expect to see them rise to the new bar you’ve set.

Being a change agent in a different business setting made me realize that you can make a lasting, significant difference at work. I feel proud that I had the opportunity to make Zeleman more productive while also making a positive impact in the daily work life for all the account executives.

I highly recommend the Africa Business Fellowship– not only can you be a change agent but you get to fully experience a part of the world that is one of the fastest growing global markets. As a business leader, and more importantly, as a  human being– you should be aware of how people can be so similar yet so different, and how where they live influences that. It’s humbling to realize I’m just a tiny part of this great big world but so inspiring to know that I can make such a grand impact.

To read Jeanny’s first blog post, click here.

To learn more about the Africa Business Fellowship, click here.