It’s a giant-sized technology behemoth spread all over the world and of course, filled with the male head honchos, but in Google’s Nigerian office, a woman is leading the pack and she is obviously doing well. Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor may not be as popular as the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, but as Google Country Manager in Nigeria, she has proven her worth as a top-rated technology and business leader with a long list of achievements to show for it.
“I would ascribe our accomplishments to great team effort,” she tells Guardian Woman. “My role is to lead the team towards a common vision and coordinate the great talent we have towards key strategic goals.”
As the head of Google’s operations in Africa’s largest Internet community, Juliet is charged with the responsibility of representing the company in all its business development projects and partnership opportunities in the region.
She holds an Executive MBA from the London Business School, a Post Graduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge, UK; and obtained a Bachelor’s degree with 1st class honours in Computer Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. She is a recipient of the London Business School Global Women’s Scholarship, and at Cambridge University she received two scholarly awards – Selwyn College Scholar and Malaysian Commonwealth Scholar.
Prior to her appointment at Google, Juliet was the General Manager, Strategic Business Units of Chams Plc where she was responsible for leading and formulating strategies for Chams Strategic Business units. She also worked with Microsoft UK for 6 years, initially as a Program Manager managing Strategic Projects for MSN Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); and then Business Process Manager for MSN International covering 11 subsidiaries worldwide. She received the Microsoft “Ship-IT” award for successfully launching the new MSN online subscription business in the UK, Spain, Italy, and Germany.
Her early career was at the Shell Petroleum Development Company as Performance Monitoring and Quality Assurance Supervisor from 1995 – 1997. She is also a pioneer member of the Academic Computer Network for Developing Countries sponsored by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy in 1995; which resulted in a Campus-wide area network at OAU Ife.
In 2005, she left Microsoft to start Strategic Insight Consulting Ltd UK, focused on providing collaborative programmes that connect African Business leaders and Professionals with their global counterparts.
Moving to Google as Nigeria’s Country Manager was both fortuitous and deliberate at the same time. After schooling and working for 12 years outside Nigeria, she moved back to the country because she felt she could do more to drive technology-enabled growth and productivity. Two years after moving back, she joined Google and saw it as a great opportunity to make a difference with technology.
Under her leadership, Google Nigeria has launched a series of innovative products and services aimed at building the online ecosystem in Nigeria through a three-pronged strategy – (1) driving initiatives around Internet access to make the internet more available and affordable to the Nigerian user, (2) facilitating local content development, and (3) building capacity.
“One of our key focus areas has been local content creation because the Internet would be more useful for people, if they can find locally relevant information. To this end we have deployed a number of products and programs to support the creation of local content. For example in 2011, we launched a nationwide program called Get Nigerian Businesses Online. As part of this program, we provided free and easy tools that any business owner could use to create a website in a couple of hours, and also get listed on Google Maps,” Juliet said. Adding “we have evolved that program over time and currently run a Digital Business Manager (DBM) programme. This programme leverages Google’s third-party model to grow the digital ecosystem by supporting businesses in their online journey.
Google is also helping to get Nigerian movies, music, arts, fashion shows, educational content, news, sports, etc. on YouTube in its bid to promote local content from Nigeria. Youtube.ng was launched in 2011 – the year she was appointed. This localised version of YouTube provides a good platform for Nigerian multimedia and video content creators to showcase Nigeria’s rich cultural, social, educational, Journalistic, entertainment and other relevant content. And Google has been signing up local partners and entrepreneurs who are generating revenue from their content on Youtube and tapping into the export market as the Internet enables you to cross geographical boundaries. “We are seeing a new generation of entrepreneurs creating entire business models based on the web, from content creation on Youtube to online publishing, and eCommerce” she said.
In the area of affordable access, one initiative, she said is the Google Apps Supporting Programme for Nigerian higher institutions through which funding and technical expertise is provided to higher institutions to support them in building their campus network infrastructure. “We have successfully deployed Google Apps for Education software for free to over 40 academic institutions in Nigeria, and assisted 10 institutions with funding to pay for international bandwidth over a period of time,” she said.
To ensure a sustainable ecosystem, Google is involved in building capacity in Nigeria by training developers, students and businesses on how they can build great Apps, promote their businesses online, and enhance the quality of learning through access to global libraries of information on the Internet. Adding “another capacity building initiative which we announced in April this year and are very excited about is our commitment to provide free digital training to 1 million Africans in one year; through a combination of online e-learning modules, and offline classroom training. So far, about 100, 000 people have been trained offline. As part of this initiative, we are also collaborating with the Lagos State Government to train 50,000 students in 3 months. We believe that if people have the right skills, they will be more employable, empowered to build their own businesses and create jobs, and participate in the digital economy.”
As a woman in technology herself, Juliet believes there is room for women to do more in the Nigerian tech space. She believes women can benefit from more support, knowledge sharing communities, and access to resources. With the immediate foregoing in mind, Google Nigeria, in commemoration of the 2016 International Women’s Day trained female entrepreneurs on digital marketing and organised a developer summit for women, Juliet said. Expatiating further she said “the digital marketing training provided female entrepreneurs from different fields of business with an expanded knowledge base aimed at improving their business performance using digital technology. The developer summit provided resources, mentoring, a code lab and design sprint to support female developers in building great products.
She said Google also has a dedicated programme for female developers – Women Techmakers – aimed at supporting women in technology. Women Techmakers launched in 2014, is also focused on empowering women in their careers by providing access to curated resources and events, as well as information and tools from Google, our partners, and the global tech ecosystem. She said Nigerian women can tap into Google’s gender friendly programme by simply registering at www.womentechmakers.com.
She recognised the increasing leadership role women are playing in the technology space in Nigeria. With about 35 Google developer groups spread across Nigeria and 10 dedicated female developer groups, leading positions in online publishing and technology companies, Juliet said Nigerian women are contributing immensely to development.
With Nigeria being the largest Africa’s internet community, a lot of which is hinged on mobile telecommunications technology – most of which are powered by Android, a Google product – Juliet has her work cut out for her. She’s enjoying the challenges that come with her job but may not rule out delving back into Entrepreneurship down the line.
In response to the question “as a role model, what advice do you have for women” she said, “I won’t necessarily call myself a role model; but I will advise every woman to set a clear vision for herself, believe she has what it takes, and develop a plan to get there. The plan can include learning required skills, leveraging coaches or mentors, developing partnerships, etc.” Regardless of her tough job, she said she strives to ensure that a healthy work-family life balance is maintained.
“Having great family support has helped me to manage my family and work. Some people give that impression but I’m by no means superwoman. The robust support from my family in general has made all the difference in being able to maintain balance and I think that is key when you’re raising a family.” She added “it also helps that Google provides a flexible, supportive, and convenient work environment.”
“Moreover, I’m an early person and so I try to get a lot done in the early hours of the day before getting into other matters that consume my time.” And how does someone like her relax? Picture her on a dance floor, then you probably may have an idea. She enjoys music, dance, and theatre.