Dami Fawehinmi interviews Miatta Momoh
Miatta Momoh has had the exciting experience of travelling across the world to China to complete her MBA and join the ever-growing culture and African-Chinese business community. Within this interview I had the pleasure of understanding her journey as a black professional in an environment completely different to England. As a proud Sierra Leonean, she provides detailed and genuine advice on the reality of business and work, as well as shining a light on her failures and successes, equal moments that created the path to where she is today. Miatta’s beautifully captivating words represent that no journey is similar nor easy but definitely worth the work, time and determination.
Tell us about your journey.
I was born in London, and I am a proud Sierra Leonean who started engaging audience attention from a very young age. From performing impromptu dance routines with my Twin Brother at Sierra Leonean Family parties, to going on Pirate Radio station to air what I thought was the best word play ever, as MC TRIXIE. Then, following my graduation in Fashion Promotion and Communication at Solent University in 2006, I soon realised my dreams to become a Fashion Writer were not going to earn me a living. This reality was good and pushed me to try something different but valuable. My Dad, ex-Editor of West Africa Magazine and a Sierra Leonean Broadcaster, “politely” pushed me to join a career in Media Sales. I landed my first job in Sales and stayed in Media Publishing for over a decade, working in Print and Digital advertising. I was given an opportunity to excel in Publishing and Ad Operation teams, which gave me unique access to managing a team, as well as seeing how all mechanisms of a business works – from generating revenue to building a brand or product that was worth investing in. I learned quickly that relevant content will engage the right audience – and became interested in exploring the dynamics of this relationship.
My job as Global Client Services Manager at the UK’s biggest IT news publication, was made redundant in 2016, and I found that the answer to my prayers was doing an MBA at China’s number one Business School. Guanghua School of Management is part of Peking University, and I was based in Beijing in China’s oldest academic institutions. It was an unexpected turn from my decade career, where I always believed my career development would not involve any more classrooms. The two-year experience has been incredible and I am really passionate about the Startup and Africa-China business environment here.
I have done five internships to date and continue working on Business Development projects for the likes of Kente & Silk Africa Week and Zhongguancun Belt and Road Industrial Promotion Association (ZBRA). I have always had a love for people. It’s cheesy but true. So these roles that involve making connections that last and create impact, has been rewardingly fun for me, despite culture and language barriers.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t live to please others. I think when I was younger I was consumed by other people’s opinion too much. I thank God that I have grown wiser, knowing the value I have, where I still need to grow and being content with the fact that not everyone will like me. It’s OK, as long as I am convicted that I am being the person of good character and integrity that God created me to be.
What are your views on the BYP network?
It’s a fantastic initiative and resource. I particularly love how you are fostering a healthy environment for collaboration through networking events but also your vision to also provide access to Mentorship. Mentorship is so important - having both peer to peer and senior Mentorship that allows you to be challenged and accountable as well as guided and encouraged can make a huge difference in career but also personal development.
What do you believe will drive change in the Black community?
Change always begins with myself, with ourselves. I believe by being conscious of my actions, how I can support and learn from others in the black community will help build connections that matter. My attitude and effort in developing my career and being available to support and learn from other people’s journeys will inevitably empower how I can contribute to the black community. BYP is a great resource to connect and build supportive black communities that can foster change by sharing job opportunities, insights and experiences.
What is your biggest failure?
Not seeking Mentorship and Role Models earlier in my career – also not investigating what resources were available to help my personal and career development when I was younger. I also regret not taking foreign languages and my own Sierra Leonean dialects (Limba and Mende) more seriously. In this developing world of Global Citizenship and strong cultural identity, I know that this is an area I could improve on for numerous reasons. Thank God I still have an opportunity to learn Mandarin, and I am more connected to the Sierra Leonean community now more than ever, in Beijing.
What is your biggest success?
Being an instrumental part in China’s first ever Kente & Silk’s Africa Week. It was such an organic project with a lean team, all volunteering and driven to change misconceptions of African culture in China. It was real heartfelt passion project – where all hands were on deck. I learnt a lot and grew a lot during the project that came at the same time as my Thesis defence.
Africa Week was attended by over 500 guests from all over the world in Beijing and we are planning to do it again in May next year. We are always looking for support and collaborators so please contact me if you are interested.
I have also enjoyed developing business in China in general, despite not being fluent in Chinese I have been able to create meaningful relationships that have generated successful partnerships. I am so grateful for these unique opportunities and bridges made. My time here has inspired my future business Ku Tala – Bridge in Limba, a Sierra Leonean Dialect. This will be a cross-cultural media agency focusing on Africa-China Business Development.
What made you realise this was the profession for you?
I genuinely love engaging people – finding out their story and how I can support that or connect them with someone else that can. My friend Olivia who is the Co-Founder of Black Expo and Founder of Tianmi Bakery, has nicknamed me the “Connector” because of this sincere God given passion I have. That’s why I have worked well in BD thus far – I can authentically connect those dots that create good leads. But also know when to push back and knowing when there is no good business match too.
If you had the chance to start over again in your career, what would you do differently?
I would read more. I am so busy learning through other people’s and my own life experiences, but I can neglect quality time for more personal study and learning that’s more academic. Going back to school has been great and I have developed more useful hard skills along the way.
What three pieces of advice would you give young black professionals?
Know the value you create now, know the value you want to try to create and know what you need to try to create that value. I never knew what I wanted to do after I graduated from university but I think that you should always be searching and seeing how you can add value in the world. There are so many resources so I encourage you to seek Mentors, talk to your family and loved ones and be open minded. If you fail, it is never something that can’t be used to help shape future success. It’s through these experiences and times where we are uncomfortable that we can grow the most.
What do you hope your work/business will do for Black Young Professionals?
I want to be a source of inspiration and practical support. I have already promoted various black businesses here and helped other young black people find jobs. I want to continue being someone that people can rely on for good advice and support. I am building a robust network in and outside of the black community to be in a position to develop a Global standing business, that supports talented black professionals and promotes African agency too.
Who are your biggest influences?
My Mother is definitely my biggest influence. She is a strong, beautiful and diligent person, that seamlessly does good business with heart. She has helped and supported so many Sierra Leoneans as she has gained success. Her Christian values and faith have also been a deep encouragement in every area of my life.
How do you seek out opportunities relating to your field?
I have sought relevant events and connections, through my school, LinkedIn and friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, but also see how your experience and network can help those you are seeking help from too. Be willing to give opportunities as well as take them, thinking in the short term and long term too.
Favourite book relating to your field?
I read business articles, essays and relevant case studies relating to Chinese Organisational Behaviour and Business Expansion in tech is what springs to mind and I am about to start reading a book called “Work and our Labor in the Lord” by James M. Hamilton Jr.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
Developing my own business Ku Tala, and creating a Social Enterprise that introduces Sierra Leonean Black Soap to China called “My Jenny”. This project is inspired by my Grandmother Jenny who has helped and raised numerous people in her community in a Sierra Leonean village, called Makeni. The idea would be to create the product in Makeni, and sell it in the Chinese market as an interesting product that also builds Africa-China relations too.
Would you like to add anything?
I am grateful for all my God given opportunities and honoured to be featured here. If there is anyone interested in doing an MBA in China, or interested in finding out more about my experience, please don’t hesitate to connect with me on the BYP Network, for more discussions and even debates.