In today’s blog, we are sharing part 1 of an interview with Azunwie, a Google Executive who shared with us how to navigate your career and feeling stuck!
Ose: My first question to you, Azunwie, is to give us a high level of your career track so we understand who you are, what you've experienced in your career, and how we know you are the type of person that would give us the best advice because you have such a successful career and I'm so proud of you!
Steph: I started my career in a global financial services company called AXA. It was a leadership rotational program because when I was looking for roles, close to wrapping up with my undergrad, I knew that I wanted to be in a strategic role that allowed me to solve business problems, but I also went on my personality, and my personality is not to focus on something for the longest time.
I look for something that would give me diversity and experience. So this was a leadership rotational program for two years plus, and I went through different areas of the business. I did corporate strategy, where you work on business problems, such as cost patterns, such as innovation, and defined strategic plans for the business for moving forward, whether it comes to profitability or acquiring market share. I worked in the transformational business as well, and then I did operations because I thought to myself that it would make little sense to have the strategic side and not have the implementation side.
So I don't think that I do it best, but I think what I've always done is to be very thoughtful and kind of iron out what is important for me to get out of a role. And it's always been the same. It's always been to acquire a world-rounded experience. And then when that rotation was coming to an end, so that was in the insurance industry, and again, as I said, I always go with my personality and I get bored easily. I want to be in an industry where I feel like a lot is going on.
So at that point, I decided I wanted to be in Cards so I went to American Express. American Express has essentially three businesses; I would say departments. So they have the merchants, or the merchant is any business that accepts American Express, like your local Macy's or whatever. They have the consumer; you and I are consumers because we have an American American Express credit card. And then they have the B2B, which is like business-to-business transactions.
And so, my ultimate goal was to end up in consumer because I wanted to see the impact of my work. And you tend to see that a little bit more if you're in the consumer space, like if you launch a product, you can see people use it. If you launch a service, you can see people use it, and you can get that instant reaction. But the opportunity that I got was through the merchant side. And so, again, that was like expanding on the strategic skillset I had from the previous role. I went into a strategic thinking role, and that was American Express had a lot of challenges being accepted where Visa and MasterCard were accepted, especially with small businesses like your mom-and-pop shops, these shops in your neighborhood, et cetera.
So a lot of the initiatives that I worked on were either you were finding third-party businesses to partner with them to accept American Express or defining, overall, a go-to-market strategy to make sure that we were just as relevant as Visa and MasterCard. But what I mentioned before, I'd always wanted to be in the consumer space so
I knew whilst I was in that role, I tailored my experience, and I tailored my conversations so that when a role in that consumer space came up, I was legible for it, that I was qualified for it to even throw my application in. And fortunately for me, it came.
I moved to the consumer business unit, and then I was working on partnerships and business development, which is a very exciting role. American Express partners, along with your Google, your Venmo, so for example, you have a Delta credit card that says Delta and American Express at the same time; that's called a co-brand card. And so my team will identify that kind of partnership and build a business case for why it makes sense for American Express but also, let's say that Delta, and then define who the client is.
So the end consumer is Ose. Ose likes shopping. She likes Netflix, she likes subscription services. So you kind of define the value prop to attract this kind of consumer. So I really like that function because it allowed me to do different things. It allowed me to do partnerships, business development, and go-to-market. And along that same line, I co-founded a startup that was focused on natural skincare.
Ose: Stephanie, because you moved so well. You went from one career to another, and I want you just to mention a little bit about your strategy because we hear your strategic thinker. All the departments, everything you did, but what was the strategy you used to say, okay, I'm going into these new companies as a new grad because at that time you were a new grad out of getting your Bachelor's. So you had to kind of say, how can I stand out to be able to move in those two years? It sounded like you moved a lot. What did you do to be able to navigate? And then my second follow-up question is: was there any point you were stuck, and how did you overcome it? Because I know we all kind of go through that in our careers, and I wanna hear a little bit about that too as well.
Steph: I've been stuck many times. I mean, I'm stuck in my current role, and I wanna say that because oftentimes, as I do it too, you go on LinkedIn and you see someone with a stellar career background, and you're like freaking out, and you're like, oh my God, like, I don't know what to is. You get stuck all the time. It's not a pleasant experience, but it's a necessary experience. And the way that I kind of solve for that is I think that it's important to do a lot of work to know yourself because that allows you to almost clear certain things out of your way quickly. And if you happen to find yourself in a place where you shouldn't be, you know that this is temporary.
So like I was saying, my personality is like, I like to be playful. I like to enjoy what I'm doing. I get bored easily. And so the way that I solve for that is I like to answer questions. That's how I think about work. So when I apply for a role, I'm like, what is this role? What question is this role solving? And my ultimate career goal is to be a general manager. So not necessarily to be a CEO, but to be in the C level maybe doing go-to-market or anything that the business needs to move it forward.
So being a general manager: You have to be strategic. You have to have a diverse experience. You have to be well-rounded. The hard skills and the soft skills are all essential. And so, I remind myself constantly. So I was just talking to a friend, and I'm like the next three months, I need to like sit down and write what I need to achieve for my career. And I do these things often. There's never a time that I'm not stuck. I'm always stuck…..
Join us next week for part two of how to navigate your career and feeling stuck with Azunwie, Google Executive!