“Just because you are working in a man’s world, does not mean you have to be like a man” Leading Ladies Africa speaks to Owen Omogiafo

by Francesca Uriri

Career and personal growth have little to do with luck or opportunity. For the vibrant, focused and intelligent Owen Omogiafo, Director Resources at Heirs Holdings Group, it involves having a clear destination in mind, being focused on career goals, and having the right mentors. As the Leading Lady Africa for the week, she shares her experience on how women can find the right balance between quality and quantity and what it takes to win. Be inspired!

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You’re the Director of Resources at Heirs Holdings, how does your role tie into the organization’s growth objectives and developmental plans?

People drive and execute strategy. As Director of Resources, I have the responsibility of identifying talent for the organisation and providing an enabling environment for them to succeed and blossom. This is underpinned by a strong organisational culture, which is results-oriented and a way of life for us. This culture enhances our ability to meet the organisation’s growth plan, which permits individual growth too.


What are some of the tough lessons you’ve had to learn as a senior management female executive?

This is a tough one, as one learns daily. I will say though that my greatest management gem, has been the discovery of Emotional Intelligence as it has equipped me in dealing with many issues and situations as well as allowing me to be a better motivator. Another important lesson I have learnt is how to be a leader of leaders.

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You are a result-driven individual; as a woman have you ruffled feathers by being this way? Do you ever receive comments like “why can’t she calm down?”

The HR role is not a popular one – you are always caught in between management and staff. Management feels you are too staff-aligned, whilst employees feel you are only interested in management’s interests. The key to this is to be fair but firm. Over time, I have become an avid disciple of Emotional Intelligence, learning how to manage emotions to get the desired results. Some people do think I am hyper and overly-driven; I see it as passion and commitment – if I leave my family to come to work, I must get the best out of the time.


Who would you say has made the most positive impact on your professional life?

The Owen you see today, is the result of several influencers and role models. The first person who taught me to believe in myself and not to take no for an answer is my father. He instilled in me, very early in life, the confidence needed to engage with people much older, ensuring that I researched my contributions. Professionally, I have been blessed to work with great people right from internship, NYSC, and to my current colleagues in the Heirs Holdings Group. My dear boss, Mr. Tony O. Elumelu, believed in my capability at the age of 28 and saddled me with responsibilities, when others felt I was too young or too small to shoulder them. By his guidance and God’s grace, I have continued to grow professionally. The most impactful person in my professional life, if I have to name one, would be my husband, Osato Omogiafo, who has been an unshakeable rock throughout.


How did your foray into Human Capital Management begin?

I have always had a passion for working with people. As a child I wanted to be a medical doctor, as I felt that was how to fulfill this passion; I was a science student all through. Alas, just before my finals I witnessed a fatal road accident and realised that I do not like blood. Fast forward some years later, I joined Accenture, where my passion for people was channelled into Human Performance and Organisational behaviour consulting. The rest as they say is history.


As an H.R professional, what do you think are some of the factors that make people unemployable?

I can discuss this forever. There are several factors but I really think it comes down to preparedness. How have you prepared yourself for the job you are seeking? What is your qualification? How do you stand out from the crowd? How much research have you done for the job you are applying for? How do you even know which jobs are available? I know a lot of people say they are not employed because there are no jobs or they do not know ‘anyone’; from my experience, I do not employ people because they come for interviews unprepared or do not apply at all. We are a merit-driven company, and this extends to our employment practice.


Let’s delve into your personal life a little. You’re married with two kids; how do you juggle the roles of wife and mother? Is there really a thing as work-life-balance?


I simply do. As my mentor and former boss, Mrs. Omobola Johnson said, it is about the QUALITY of the time you spend with the family and not the QUANTITY. I love my job and I love my family; yes, I do play a balancing act between them as I am a very passionate person, who gets so involved in what she’s doing and sometimes forgets to eat. I have made sacrifices to ensure that I do not put more pressure on my time than I absolutely need to.


I also have great female role models, such as Patricia Aderibigbe, COO, Tenoil Petroleum & Energy Services, who have successfully managed hectic careers and happy homes. If they can do it, so can I.


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How do you unwind and let off steam?


I hang out with my family; we watch movies together, cook, play tetherball, swim, go for walks… I also love watching comedies.


If you weren’t in the corporate world, what would you be doing?


I would be a chef. I love combining different flavours and ingredients to create a masterpiece J


Where are your favourite travel destinations?


Not very easy to travel with kids. I love going to the US, more because I get to see my family than the place itself. Destination- in terms of value, has to be Dubai. You can have a great holiday there on a budget – and yes, ease of visas.

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What book are you reading now, and which other two would you recommend?


I am reading two HR books at the moment – 96 Great Interview Questions and Roadmap to strategic HR; I am also reading a fictional thriller on my ibooks – An Unlucky Reunion.


For those just starting out, I recommend two books – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and OG Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman in the world.


Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?


Doing what I love doing – positively affecting and influencing people’s lives.


Words of advice for women looking to build themselves and have successful corporate careers?


Have a clear view of your destination; pick the right role models as when you falter along the way, you can draw strength from them. Be very careful who you surround yourself with, as they can bolster or pull you down (remember the saying, your network, is your net worth). Constantly improve yourself, never think you’ve learnt it all or know it all. Be nice to people along the way and going up, as you may need them someday. Pick the right life partner, otherwise you are practically dead on arrival. Finally, just because you are working in a man’s world, does not mean you have to be like a man – embrace and celebrate your femininity.





The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to [email protected] and we just might feature her.


One comment

  1. Lol! Owen is not one to talk. We all know it was a lot of hard work and some luck that moved her from UBA to HEIRS holding

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