Recap on July 4th Event — AWiB presents her Gems

On Friday July 8th, 100 guests congregated at a yearly popular program–AWiB presents HER Gems. The evening commenced by enjoying good meal and getting to know each other. A networking question was provided, who are your role models? We talked and bonded over it.

By 6:30, we were asked to reconvene at the hall where we usually hold our monthly program. Sewit, the current president of AWiB, introduced our speakers: Netsehet, Managing Director of LonAdd Consultancy and Sara Tadiwos, Founder and Managing Director of iCAN. Unfortunately, our third speaker, Semhal, Founder and CEO of Kabana Leather, was unable to join us due to flight schedule complications. She was to arrive from Spain.

Netsehet Workneh started by telling us about her childhood. She shared during her childhood she had switched between 10 different schools. It was difficult for her as she had to adapt to new environment and make new friends multiple times. But Netsehet believes that this experience had helped her with her communication skills, which became helpful later in her life. She spent most of her adulthood in Britain, and came back to Ethiopia to partake in business development of Ethiopia. Coming to Ethiopia came with its own challenges as she became accustomed to the British culture. For example, she was used to saying “please” and “thank you”, but here, it was often misinterpreted as she was begging them to do the job.

It has been 10 years since LonADD was born. She started her organization with only 3000 ETB, splitting the cost into half with her business partner. The office was very tiny, and she even brought the furniture from friends and family: it had only 2 tables and 2 chairs.

Netsehet came to Ethiopia for family reasons but never thought that she’d come back and run a business here. It was difficult at first because she thought that it would take only about six months to make profit she told the audience. To her surprise the business couldn’t make profit for the first there years. From this experience, she learned that she needed to be fully focused to run a business. At first she didn’t focus on what needed to be focused on, like finance. For example, she tore out a check once because she didn’t think it was important to keep it. But Netsehet learned a lot of things along the way.

Besides recruitment and placement of HR, LonAdd prepare s job seekers how to be employable and provides trainings to many individuals. Netsehet feels part of her contribution is developing the Human Capital and matching it to the right employers. When it works, Netsehet says it gives her utmost satisfaction—an impetus for continuing and bettering her crafts. “When I see where we started and where we are today, I understand that we are definitely on the right track”. Today, LonADD has also branches in Dukem and Hawassa.

Talking about her major challenges, Netsehet explained running a business and being a mother weighed more but a challenge nonetheless she welcomed. Getting a loan had also been challenging. When LonAdd started, the banks preferred to give loans to the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Enat Bank was the first bank that approved LonAdd’s request for a loan and she is forever grateful to Enat.

LonAdd celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. They celebrated by going to Kuriftu, touring around Addis Ababa, dancing, and donating blood. They also gave over 100,000 ETB to charity.

Netsehet wishes to see an undivided Ethiopia. She also has a vision to expand their organizations by opening up other branches in different regions of Ethiopia, and get internationally recognized for the quality service they provide.

The work they do contributes to the society. They give trainings every Friday which helps people with employability. When I die, “I want to be remembered for the work that I did”. At the end she mentioned AWiB had afforded her sisters and life time friends and she was thankful for that.

Sara Tadiwos

Sara began by giving her heartfelt thanks to AWiB. She said that she felt too young to be here when she was asked to come. “I imagined I would be here on stage when I turn 65”.

Then, Sara introduced herself. “We can say a lot about me, grew up in Tigray and Asmara, studied undergraduate in Addis Ababa University , did my masters in Norway, am a mother of three…etc… but that’s something you can easily find in my Bio. I’m here to tell you beyond that…

Sara is the first out of 7 children. Her father, an educator himself, gives priority to education more than anything else. She has a big place for relationships in her heart; whether it is relationship with friends or family, Sara values it.  She always believed that anything is possible if one puts the right amount of dedication and effort. As a kid, Sara loved math and envisioned to become a Mathematician. But she was told that being a mathematician in Ethiopia wasn’t easy, “you’ll be a teacher and you’ll have to give service in rural areas”, she was warned. Hence she joined Addis Ababa University and studied Sociology. Even though she didn’t want to major in Sociology at first, she ended up loving it and it created more opportunities for her. Sara performed while managing to have extracurricular activities outside of school including tutoring grade 12th student on their national exam. Sara then joined UN for an internship, which sounded impossible to join at the time. While interning at the UN, an opportunity came from Nairobi, and she was selected for the position. Sara did her masters at the University of Bergen in Norway, receiving a full scholarship award. After that, she moved to America for work, where she gave birth to her second and third children. She had her first child in Norway.

Sara met her husband at the university in Addis. When Sara won a scholarship at Bergen, they had to rush and got married. Sara found that life in Norway very challenging. Summer in Norway–the sun setting at midnight—she found to be a huge culture shock. Another challenge was moving back to Ethiopia leaving a good job with the US Government but her husband’s career made it a necessity for the family’s move back home. It took Sara two years to make the decision to move to Ethiopia. Moving to Ethiopia had been challenging most to her eldest child which made the move regrettable at first. “When your child is unhappy, you are unhappy” Sara lamented.

Sara said she knew about AWiB before coming to Ethiopia. Nadia, a proud AWiBer and “force of love and passion”, as Sara described her, was the first person to introduce Sara with other AWiBers. Sara talked about AWiB with passion. “When I was thinking life to be only about my family, AWiB pushed me to expand, to be more”.  She mentioned that AWiB also gave her the platform to develop her confidence to moderate and improve her self-expression skills.

She told us that it was AWiBers that encouraged her to open iCAN, an organization that works on employability. iCAN, just like the name represents that anything is possible, but it is also an abbreviation for International Carrier Advisory Network. The organization works with youths in collaboration with different universities.

Sara loves photography, poetry, and music. She made us laugh when she told us that people get annoyed because she takes a lot of pictures. But to Sara, it is about “capturing the moment”. She loves music because she believes it has a story to tell. Sara also loves the kind of music that puts her in a good mood. Her favorite kind of music is Afro beat.

Sara has a vision that peace and stability is restored in all parts of Ethiopia. At an individual level, Sara wishes to be the best version of herself.

Sara has worked with different kinds of people like people with HIV and disabilities. In America, she worked as a translator with Ethiopian communities. She put extra time and effort to get to know them and listen to them, and even to the extent of going to therapy with them. That’s what Sara wants her legacy to be: her time. On her tombstone would be written “she’s born to heaven”. And if there’s enough space, she wants her favorite poem, “for the love of the world,” by Charlotte Thompson, to be carved on it.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed these two dynamic women’s beautiful stories. And many people had questions to ask them. One of the questions that was asked was “how do you manage work-life balance? Netsehet said that work-life balance is very hard for everyone. She shared that there was a time that she came home and stayed until her children slept then went back to work.  She mentioned that exercising helped her to be calm and not easily angered. Sara also agreed that work life balance is difficult. She wishes to spend more time with her children and husband. She shared how she has a meeting with her children where she discusses various things about her work life so they understand. Sara believes by doing so, they learn about leadership. That helps her achieve work life balance. They both acknowledged their supportive husbands who encourage them in achieving their goals and the team effort of their spouses also teaches the children the importance of supporting each other to succeed in life.

Another question was raised about how their campus life was. Netsehet said she didn’t have much of a campus life as she had to support herself by working. Sara, however had the best time in college. She recommended to do volunteer or any other work outside of school for students.

Someone also asked if they had faced any gender bias at work. Sara said that she has good relations with every employee and hasn’t faced any bias yet. Netsehet, on the other hand, replied that she had faced unconscious bias such as interviewee looking the man only even though she was the one who asked the question.

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