Meet Patricia Duru, Fuzu Nigeria’s Country Director, who gave us a few tips below on getting things done, knowing when to let your hair down with a busy schedule, and doing it afraid.
Leaders always find themselves figuring out how to get things done before rushing off to the next boardroom meeting. This is no different for Patricia Duru, Fuzu Nigeria’s Country Director. As someone who has been in leadership roles throughout her career, leading a business for a country was unchartered territory. She found herself working through the weekends because the calls and emails never stopped coming. That is why she emphasizes the importance of setting limits for yourself and your team when managing a business. Patricia spoke to us on how she handles her busy schedule while relying on her instincts which guide her decisions at work. This way you don’t end up pulling all your hair out from burnout and realize when you need to let your hair down and take time off.
Walk us through a day in the life of Fuzu Nigeria's country director.
A typical day for me starts very early in the morning and then once it kicks off at 8 o'clock, it starts with back-to-back meetings either virtually or sometimes physically with my team here in Nigeria. Some days can be quite hectic.
On other days, you also have to focus on client meetings, stand-up meetings, weekly, check-ins, or one-to-one sessions. Depending on our strategy level, I also talk to other teams that are direct stakeholders to what we're doing here in Nigeria for Fuzu.
Since we recently launched in November last year, we've slowly been able to set the cadence for the sort of meetings that we have. Especially, since most of us are working remotely with the pandemic and there’s a wider team outside Nigeria.
How different is your current role from the previous roles you’ve held?
It's a whole new world from the typical roles I have held in the past. I think in my previous roles, I had a certain level of decision-making. However, there would be a person like a direct-line manager who would also be checking those decisions or discussing strategies or plans with somebody else.
In my current role at Fuzu, most of the decision-making has to come from me. I have to directly answer most of the questions concerning Nigerian operations from the team members here. There is still a high level of engagement with our CEO Jussi Hinkkanen across the board, but primarily, I have to make the decisions and provide direction for the team. This isn’t what I have typically had over time.
One visible similarity across all the roles I’ve occupied in my career is the fact that I was mostly in leadership positions. That hasn't quite changed because I’m leading teams to success.
You’ve been in leadership roles for over 15 years now. What lessons have kept you going and growing during this time?
One key lesson for me is the fact that you never stop learning regardless of how well or how high you’ve grown in your organization. You keep evolving and you keep getting better.
Another key lesson for me is that you don't know it all, and so each person across the role within your respective teams has value that they're bringing to the table. This value can impact what you want to achieve in terms of your vision. You might have a lot of experience and certain career milestones, but at the end of the day, no man is an island. That’s why you leverage and draw from the strengths you find within your team to achieve success together.
Another lesson is teamwork. Even though you're a leader and you're leading people, you must always have a high level of emotional intelligence and empathy. We all come from different backgrounds and people might be dealing with different things. We know that we also have a hard stop to make sure we hit our targets. Showing empathy to the people who work closely with you helps to achieve the organization’s overall vision and success.
I think for me these three stick out. It's all about teamwork, constantly learning so that you evolve and stay competitive, then showing empathy to everyone no matter how high you are in your career.
What are the easiest and most challenging parts of the job and how do you handle it?
(Laughs) I think the easiest part of my job is my title. Just the fact that I’m the Nigerian Country Director, I think that's the easiest part of it.
The most challenging part of the job for me is the fact that this is the first time I've had to lead a business for a country from a geographic perspective. It's been challenging to introduce this concept into the market as people aren't familiar with it. The Fuzu brand wasn’t what people would immediately identify with. Being able to establish operations and get people to understand the value offering that we bring to the table as Fuzu was a challenge.
Also, building the team because that's critical to the organization’s success and ensuring that you are bringing in people that share the vision. You need people who are equally as committed to what you’re devoted to.
There's also ensuring that we win together. We're trying to build trust and great relationships in a market where people are largely suspicious about offerings than what you bring to the table. We're also ensuring that the clients that we interact with either on the B2B or the B2C side, get true value from Fuzu.
Patricia speaking at the Fuzu launch event in Nigeria.
What has been your biggest realization since Fuzu launched in Nigeria?
The fact that I was part of the narrative that largely believed the economy was so bad, so there are no jobs in Nigeria. Fuzu had to do extensive research when planning our go-to-market strategy and think of the best way to enter this market. The Fuzu launch highlighted a paradox problem in Nigeria, where employers are saying they don't find the right talent and career builders tell you that there are no job opportunities. Before I joined Fuzu, I could easily believe the career builders’ narrative of a lack of job opportunities due to a bad economy. I'm on the inside at Fuzu and we know we're solving a big problem.
Another realization I had is that there are lots of jobs and to a certain extent employers ride on the fact that they don't find the right talent. Fuzu is trying to see how we can bring both sides of the equation together. We’re helping people get access to available jobs posted on our platform that they would not ordinarily find. We’re also helping them upskill to become equally as competitive for those roles and be the best version of themselves.
Bringing it all together, there are actually jobs out there. It's just about how we get ourselves out there and get the working population in Nigeria to upskill so they can perform those roles. At the end of the day, we’re helping employers get talent that drives their organizational goals, and job seekers to get roles that push them to be the best version of themselves.
Where would you like to see Fuzu in the next couple of years?
I'd like to see Fuzu as a market leader and the biggest player within Nigeria and across Africa. That's what our vision is and what we’re working towards. We've told ourselves we would like to eat Mars for breakfast. We won’t stop until we solve this looming human capital challenge that has pervaded the African space for so long. We’re also solving real problems and ensuring every Fuzu user gets true value from using the platform and being connected with us.
Your experience and academic background are critical for you to succeed in your role, but are there instances where you've relied on your instincts?
Even though I'm usually very data-driven in my decision-making, I find that I rely on my instincts, especially when picking people to join my team and not just even within Fuzu alone. The roles we put out there are very competitive. There are great candidates with years of experience and skillsets who are cracking the case studies given to them. But how is this person a cultural fit for the values we're building at Fuzu?
Certain people come for interviews well-rehearsed, but there are other people that you speak to and know they are being extremely authentic. You truly feel like there is something about them that helps you in your decision-making. If you had two candidates who are extremely close in terms of their experience and skillset, my instincts will tell me if this person would be a good fit for my team. Not only around the hard goals but also within the soft skills and knowing how to interact within different teams across the organization.
I also had to rely on my instincts when piloting different initiatives. Sometimes, you step away from the data even though it tells you what the true picture is. This will make a case for whether that product should go live.
In those instances where you relied on your instincts, would you say they were always right?
Not 100% of the time as there are times when I've gotten it wrong. Usually, you learn from these experiences and you can tell that certain things may have clouded your judgment. However, I find that seven to eight times out of 10 my instincts are usually right and that's why I keep relying on it when I need to make decisions here.
How do you develop a work-life balance?
Honestly, it's been a bit challenging to achieve a work-life balance, especially as I have occupied senior positions and grown in my career. This is because you're responsible for yourself, other team members, and a business. When I occupied more junior positions, it was easier. Even though you had certain hard KPIs to meet, you knew you were responsible for yourself. So it was easier to pace yourself to deliver and find time to do other things personally.
I started to intentionally ensure that I set clear hours for my team and with the tools that we use at work like Slack and emails. I've also been able to prioritize really well where I have the ‘nice-to-haves’ and I have the ‘absolutely must-dos. Those take priority where I know that I have to do them. I also make sure that I find some time to focus on the nice-to-haves without pressuring myself to deliver back on them.
I found myself dangerously working almost around the clock, from Mondays to Sundays, and that was not healthy for me. I've actually found myself at the risk of burnout. So I set aside days when I must shut down. I told myself that I would achieve what I need to from Mondays to Fridays and have the weekends as my time. When there is a need to perform an office task that comes up during the weekend, I focus on it without making it the core of my weekend activities. I'm also now deliberately making sure I take vacations of a few days to recover, let my hair down, and forget about work for a moment.
Achieving a work-life balance helps you come back better. This time to recharge is critical and helps you achieve this balance so you consistently bring your best self to work at the end of the day.
What’s that one belief you have that most people don’t agree with?
That you should do it afraid because you don't know it all. When you step into a position that you’ve never occupied before, it's okay to do it afraid. I make sure I'm open to learning from anyone and recognize that even though I'm leading a country, there are people that have been in the organization much longer than I have. I can also get inspiration or knowledge from them.
Another key belief I have from being an avid tennis fan is that you're the most vulnerable when you’re never let up. A lot of people believe that because you are ahead, it takes a lot for somebody else to catch up with you. However, it actually makes you vulnerable because anything can happen to pull you down, so you must never relax. You must keep pushing.
For me, those are the beliefs I know a lot of people may not agree with, but that’s the way I look at life.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The one piece of advice that resonated throughout my life and that I always pay forward is that as long as you believe in yourself, you can do it. I’ve brought that into the teams that I have managed over time. What I always take away from people I meet within and outside the work environment is that everybody has value they can offer. You're great at what you do. Push yourself past those barriers.
As long as you’ve got ahead and you’re alive, you have value and just need to unlock it to understand how great of a person you are. No matter how daunting the task is or how hard the road ahead looks, this advice resonates with me and gives me motivation and courage.