Zelealem – Constantly challenging herself for the better

Zelealem Fisseha was born and raised in Addis. She pursued her degree in the Czech Republic and studied economics.  High school has been tough because of the tense political situation in the country at the time though she was a good student and has always been interested in economics. Searching for a job, on the other hand, was easy. Graduates were assigned to different organizations by the government. Therefore, she started her career as a civil servant and worked for a short time in the Leather Corporation, Awash tannery as an expert in the export department. She then left the corporation for two reasons: to be a full time mother and have some time to reflect and chart her life’s direction. She wanted to think about her career seriously.

Zelealem is “not the sort of person who can stand still for a long time”, in her own words.  So, she started to work on a part time basis in an accounting firm. At the time, computers were new so she taught herself computer based accounting.  She then changed the firm’s working system into a computerized system.  This was fulfilling for her because it enabled her to be a full time mother since her aim was to ensure her children had a good upbringing.  She actually considered raising children as a full time job.

When the children got older, she wanted to change and improve her career. At the time, Arsho medical laboratory was one of the clients who received tax advice from the accounting firm that Zelealem worked for. When a sales pitch was made, the accounting firm was consulted and on the same occasion, she decided to become 50% owner of the company (the first offer) by mobilizing two other individuals.

This was the challenge she itched for. Full management/ownership control was then transferred 11 years ago.  It was during this time Zelealem says she faced many opportunities and challenges. Arsho has a very good reputation. That has been a blessing but it was also in a very difficult state at the time. Zelealem says she was up for the challenge and completely re-vamped the company. “Were it not for the good reputation”, she says, it would have been even more difficult.”

Zelealem’s passion in life is to change for the better.  She says she looks for continuous change and challenge in her profession as her belief is that challenges can result in good things as long as they are managed appropriately. As such, she believes that they should be taken as a good opportunity that leads to the next big idea, rather than as an obstacle.

Zelealem also believes that we are all created and live in the area we live in for a reason.” The world is changing and we need a lot of change if our country is to develop as desired”, She says.   So, when Arsho opens a branch, first priority is given to hiring employees from the neighborhood/ immediate vicinity. The employees are also supported to continue their education. Those who have started as janitorial staff are now technologists, nurses because they have developed themselves and furthered their education and skills.

Zelealem is a key figure in the formation of the “Addis Ababa Private Health Sector Association”. She represents the association in various forums and has high hopes for it. “The health sector is much related to females, children and youth”, she remarks.  Zelealem firmly believes that Arsho is a great link to society. It is much more than a job for her. She continues” health is not like any other business. Community is served, better quality service results in better quality of life.”

From Arsho’s records, one can see that an average of 700 to 1000 people come to receive service on a daily basis. Arsho’s commitment to quality and better service is something that satisfies Zelealem tremendously. She also says Arsho contributes to the community as a training center. Many laboratory professionals are the fruits of Arsho’s efforts. She says training and working with the human resource, creating employment opportunities for about 200 employees and supporting their extended families are all contributions to society.  Most testing at Arsho is ISO certified and locally compliant to all laws. There are also other international standards that Arsho is working towards.

Speaking of her employees, Zelealem says “Team work is from the security guard to the lab director “.  There should be coordination among all parts. Everyone is responsible for quality and customer service. Arsho has, therefore, a strong culture from orientation & training to motivation to empowerment. She says that everyone should be accountable for their actions. Teams should be formed to fulfill this desire. There are challenges and we should not give up as a country. Challenges need to be acknowledged but quality service – no matter what the challenge is – must be provided”….

When asked how she manages Arsho without having a medical background? Zelealem says she actually has a better and all-round understanding of the industry and how it relates to many issues. The service Arsho provides is a critical support to physicians.  There are others who also work closely with Arsho such as banks, Investment office, regulatory bodies and associations. She says the interactions are getting better over the years and Arsho is a respected household name in Ethiopia.

Regarding her recent accomplishments and plans for the future, Zelealem says Arsho provides new, door to door sample collection service to partner clinics and hospitals with simplified processes. This is only the beginning. There are many plans in the pipeline that would be implemented when policy changes are approved. Laboratory culture has been established for a while but Arsho is attempting to change it to the next level. It can be clearly visible for medical professionals as they provide onsite training for trainee nurses, health officers and doctors who all come as fresh graduates. In the future, a referral lab is going to be constructed with a country wide resource for the entire country linking 10 regions. 

Speaking about Coaching/sponsoring other women, Zelealem says it starts from the seemingly simple things e.g. strict support to maternity leave, supporting education, providing time off for those who need it.   Aside from employing many female employees, Zelealem takes any opportunity to mentor other women to be educated, through advice and encouragement. From Arsho’s side some of the community service activities it is involved in are:

  • supporting 5 students  from  Addis Ababa St Paul Millennium Medical University’s first batch for 5 years
  • Regular monthly support to Mary Joy Aid for development.
  • Support to various health related societies such as different Cancer societies and Kidney health society through briefing session and free screening for about 500 people on the occasion of World Kidney Day.
  • Free screening for the public for Hepatitis B and C test for the Hepatitis month.

AWiB commends the work Zelealem does and wishes her the best in her future endeavors.

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