Cima Sholotan is a corporate and sustainability professional. She is currently the Director for Sustainability and Corporate Communications at IHS, Nigeria. Cima Sholotan is passionate about creating social impact and in this interview, she talks about her work in the Sustainability industry, her passion and how she has impacted people’s lives.
I consider myself fortunate. From the beginning of my career, I had always had clarity of purpose, and I had a job that aligned with my purpose, which is creating solutions to social problems. I began my career in a super-fast paced environment and excellence was a core element. Although it was challenging, it taught me resilience, persistence and collaboration. With these skills, I have been able to drive required results and achieve my goals.
I also have an unwavering faith that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to do. My faith has been a driving force that has helped me in every place I find myself. I create ambitious goals with a healthy dose of reality for myself.
I understood that challenges might show up, but I will achieve results if I am persistent and committed. When things got tough, I reminded myself of what’s written in Luke 1:37, which says “For with God nothing is impossible”.
My Driving Force
My driving force in my career is excellence and the desire to create positive impact. When I also got into the sustainability space, I began to observe that I could influence certain things and my work had a significant impact on the lives of people. This has kept me grounded and focused.
The kind of milestones that I love to look back on are the ones that have mirrored me as a change agent. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Strategic Sustainability Working Group within the first five years of my career, which was responsible for setting up the Nigerian sustainable banking principles. I was part of the Team responsible for setting up the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles and sectoral guidelines which the CBN has instituted, and all Nigerian banks have adopted this policy. These kinds of milestones give me joy.
Another milestone for me was at the stock exchange. I initiated the sustainability reporting and disclosure guidelines for listed companies in Nigeria currently in operation.
I am an ardent believer in collaboration at all levels and I have been recognized as one of the 100 women creating a better Africa, especially for my role within the SDG 17. There are several others, but I would say these are my most memorable milestones. I love how I have used my position to create a lasting impact.
As a career-oriented person, five lessons come to mind. First and foremost, you must have a clear vision, principles and core values. When I started working, I had a new colleague who later became my mentor, and he said, “You need to have a clear vision regarding your career, if not people would use you to achieve their own goals.”
I have never forgotten those words. Having a clear vision has helped me in setting my goals, as well as determining the right move and steps to take in my career. It has also helped me identify opportunities, and likewise, decline opportunities.
Secondly, a career is like a business or company, and I treat it as a business decision. My core values have helped me retain my essence amid various changes.
My third lesson is ‘don’t limit yourself’. Work towards what you want. Get the skills, knowledge and be persistent. I have observed that you do not have to be fully ready to take on a higher career move; we are all learning on the Job. Afterall we create Personal Developmental Plans every year. But remember that it’s not going to be an easy road, there are times when you will question your ability. But be ready to put in the work, it will give you great fulfillment when you see results.
I have also learned to build trust because we all need people. You need to build your network. You need to build credibility. This network of people need to be able to trust you and depend on you, so you have to create excellence in what you constantly do.
It’s also important to be willing to share knowledge and invest in others to help them succeed. You can never go wrong teaching others.
Ensure that you are innovative and always looking for better ways to achieve your goals. Innovation requires experimentation, going above and taking calculated risk to achieve your goals, while having fun along the way.
On Women Empowerment
There are still several distinct hindrances and limiting stereotypes of what women can do and cannot do. In my career, I have seen women struggle with certain challenges, one of which is leadership bias. Women are often judged as being too hard, too soft, and never just right. They are sometimes seen as too emotional rather than passionate. Most times, women leaders are also seen as competent or liked but not both. Mostly, male colleagues are seen as having the “default” style when it comes to their ability to lead effectively. This means that women have to work harder and constantly watch their leadership style.
These are the kinds of issues women are battling on a daily basis. This is why we must push for a change in mindset and the societal values that guide us as a people.
One of the ways I am dealing with this challenge is by serving as a mentor and coach. I volunteer my time to educate different women in underserved communities. I share my story to inspire women and help them become great achievers.
I also provide the right opportunities for women to help them maximize their potential. I believe that we all have the innate ability as humans to navigate all of the challenges we face daily. I always celebrate women, recognize women and root for them.
If I had the power to close the gender inequality gap, I would create the right policies to support gender parity at the Federal Government level. I understand that there are a number of policies in place at the moment, but we need the right systems and mindset to enforce those policies. We need to have great enforcement systems that will take Nigeria to the next level.
When we have the right systems in place, we can cascade at various levels; the Federal, State and Local Government levels.
Cima Sholotan is a corporate and sustainability professional. She is currently the Director for Sustainability and Corporate Communications at IHS, Nigeria. Cima Sholotan is passionate about creating social impact.