SOM’s Africa Business and Society club, Social Impact Lab, Women and Management club, and General Management club co-sponsored a mentorship session with the Joyce-Ann Wainaina, the Managing Director of Citibank Africa and a senior fellow at the Jackson School. Wainaina shared her story, some career advice, and her knowledge of Africa as a hotspot for investment.
Wainaina began her career at Citibank in 1990. She had hoped to work for the World Bank after graduating from college but landed at Citi after being an intern there. She encouraged us to treat internships like extended interviews; as her 30-year career shows, we never know what doors they may open.
Similarly, we should not be afraid to lean into unconventional roles. Her rise to Managing Director was not a straight line: by taking roles in operational risk, products, and banking she built a deep understanding of Citi and became CEO of Citibank Zambia, and later CEO of Citibank East Africa.
Creating support and professional development opportunities for other women was important to Joyce-Ann as CEO. She cofounded the Sapphire Leadership Program at Citi, a mentoring program for women that, today, supports Citi’s senior talent in Emerging Markets. Joyce-Ann encouraged us to “find our voice and use our voice.” She admitted that while she sometimes experiences imposter syndrome, she learned how to conquer those feelings and focus on her capabilities and strengths. By networking and building confidence overtime, we can build this skill as well and prepare ourselves to enter leadership roles.
Joyce-Ann also spoke about her creation of Chui Ventures, an investment company with a gender-equity focus, that backs exceptional African founders building tech-enabled companies that address the mass market. Fewer start-ups in Africa fail than in the US or EU because there are fewer competitors for product offerings. Joyce-Ann recognized this opportunity within Africa and seeks to provide capital for creative, educated young people who want to transform their communities.
Joyce-Ann also shared that Africa offers developed countries and firms a few lessons we should draw on as we enter the workforce. For example, the untapped market and talent potential in the region offer innovative and growth opportunities for organizations looking to gain a competitive edge. She recommended that we learn about Africa and other emerging markets no matter where we plan to go after SOM: “Doing business in Africa is exciting!”
In closing, Joyce-Ann reminded us to love what we do and find humor in the bad days. These tenets have served her well throughout her career at Citi, and they will do the same for us as we pursue our careers.