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Uloma Ogba

Gender and Learning Specialist- Migration and Remittances at UNCDF | Co-Founder at Give Girls A Chance | Founder at Launch Africa

"Set clear expectations at the beginning: defining what the mentoring relationship looks like for both of you."

Uloma Ogba, is a Nigerian, Gender and Financial Inclusion Specialist, and cofounder of Give Girls A Chance, an organisation dedicated to increasing young girls' access to quality education in Nigeria.

Based in USA, Uloma is a second-time mentor under the WIAN Mentorship Programme committed to applying the skills and knowledge she has gained over the years, to supporting others; particularly young women who are just starting out in the international affairs field. During the 2020 Mentorship Programme, Uloma mentored SC. Based in Canada, with 3-4 years of working experience, SC holds an undergraduate degree in Policy focused on International Development from Carleton University. SC was a mentee under the Early Career Mentorship Programme, seeking to hear the experiences of a woman who came from a similar background as her - from an immigrant family, who had to work independently to find her own career because she initially lacked access to a social network to help in her career. SC showed interested in accessing professional networking opportunities, as well as improving her employability and career progression skills.

During the 1-1 monthly sessions conducted as part of the mentorship programme, Uloma facilitated confidence building sessions with SC and successfully coached her to ask for and secure a salary increment in addition to a new job title. Uloma emphasised the importance of self-presentation and knowing how to package and present one’s experience. One thing Uloma emphasised with SC was helping her understand that volunteer experience counts as experience. She helped her mentee craft descriptions of her volunteer experience and professionally package the work she had done. They talked through several job descriptions and she helped SC tailor some of what she had done to match a cover letter and CV to the job description.

Uloma coached SC to understand that even if one does not have the exact number of years of experience indicated on the job description, one may have valuable elements in educational qualifications and internship experience that would meet this requirement. She tried to help SC understand what the hiring manager would be looking for. Uloma also shared valuable pieces of advice such as, “Men tend to oversell themselves, while women won’t apply when they meet 80% of what’s in the job description". Uloma coached her mentee to demonstrate that she met at least 50% of the job description and demonstrate that she had the aptitude or potential to meet the remaining 50%.

Since completing the WIAN programme, SC has decided to enter a master’s graduate program as she learned through the job application process that she needed certain educational qualifications to pursue the career path she was interested in.

To Uloma, the role of a mentor has helped with her own career. It has helped her look back at her own career journey. Prior to taking on this role, Uloma did not think critically about her own journey and where she was heading. In order to support mentees, career introspection and big picture career thinking is necessary and at the same time has been useful for Uloma and her career in the education of young girls.

In her own words Uloma provides fellow mentors with advice on how to effectively mentor junior professionals in International Affairs.

She says, “Setting the clear expectations at the beginning: defining what a mentoring relationship looks like to the mentee; defining what the mentee hopes to get out of it. And then keeping the tangible objectives in mind. Without that structure, it could have become more informal coaching, or venting, without an incentive or push to check up and work on something". With these objectives in mind, if Uloma and her mentee worked on something in a 1-1, there was follow up. There were things to check on to see if things were working or not working (in terms of e.g., if an application resulted in an interview or not). She urges one to, "Follow up, so that you know what to change the next time, if it didn’t work well". By the end, the mentee developed very specific things (about the way to present herself) that suited her personality. Setting the expectation that the mentee would initiate topics 2-3 days before was important, so that Uloma was able to prepare.

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