Vodafone CEO inspires young students to strive for greatness

The packed room of expectant young graduates were staring at the personality seated above them on the stage. She was clad in red and looked resplendent and in control. They were hanging onto her every word. It was as if their lives depended on the golden nuggets she was sharing. And maybe they were right.

One young man stood up to ask a question: “What legacy do you want to leave behind at Vodafone Ghana?”

The question threw the entire room into complete silence. All eyes were transfixed on Vodafone’s CEO, Yolanda Cuba.

Arguably one of the most recognisable corporate faces in Ghana, Yolanda was sat on the stage at the Kofi Annan Center of Excellence at Ridge answering questions from 100 young students aspiring for roles in the corporate world. This was part of an invitation she had accepted from the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) to cheer these students up and give them a reason to hope for greatness.

The conversation started in earnest with Yolanda pulling no punches.

“Gaining employment is only a tool to achieve your real goals in life. It is a means to an end. You have to be selective and deliberate in the career pathways you choose to reach your intended destination,” she begun to say.

The room had students from key Tertiary institutions from across the sub-region. Majority of these were either in their final year or were on the verge of taking up internship programmes with multinational companies across the globe.

One enterprising young woman asked her if she believed in the work – life balance concept.

“I do not think there’s such a thing as work-life balance. There’s no way you can achieve an equilibrium. What is desirable is to embrace both roles and treat them equally. Everyone knows my children at my workplace. They are a part of my corporate life and that’s how you make the most of the situation because there won’t be a time where you can claim to make time solely for them.”

The answer drew some giggles and slight murmurs in the room. Most were clearly surprised at the bluntness and frankness in her responses. This was Yolanda at her candid best.

So when the question about the legacy she wanted to leave at Vodafone Ghana came; it was unexpected but not surprising. Yolanda herself was taken aback. There was a slight pause. A wry smile and then she picked up the cordless microphone from in front of her.

“The biggest legacy I’d want to leave behind will be the attainment of inclusiveness in all forms in the country, including the marginalised in society. That will be a fulfilment of what our strategy stands for. The second legacy will be to have set the tone for the next CEO of the company to be Ghanaian. I believe the time has come for Vodafone Ghana to have a local CEO and I believe that should be after me.”

It drew a roar of applause amongst the students.

The plot was thickening at this time; “What two things do you reckon changed the telecommunications landscape?” Another participant enquired.

“The concepts of the prepaid in mobile telephony and micro payments. These two things democratised the mobile telecommunications landscape and gave power to every citizen. Had it not been for them, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion,” came Yolanda’s response.

The students couldn’t believe their luck after the session. They had come face to face with an accomplished Corporate Executive who is currently at the top of her game. It was a defining moment in their lives. Yolanda herself was elated at the opportunity and was quick to indicate that it was made Vodafone a differentiated brand amongst all the big brands in Ghana’s corporate world.