Vision Realised: Menna Selamu

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Menna Selamu has become a leader to be reckoned with. Having lost her mother at the age of 4, Menna was raised by her grandparents till the age of 8. Then she started living with her father. Being raised by a father that is well educated, a lawyer, a global thinker in his own right, Menna was challenged to think independently, to stand her ground and argue her desire. Menna came from a family of three, but was the only one to be raised by her father and as a sole child. “I had a pleasant, nurturing and loving childhood”, she asserts with a big smile.

Menna went to Lycée Gebremariam and her mother being a francophone didn’t hurt her enrolment in a French school. She pursued her education at the Addis Ababa University, Electrical Engineering department. She later earned her MBA from the University of Liverpool, UK.

Menna’s first job was at Infotech PLC, a place that gave her an unlimited opportunity to grow and learn. In a short two years, she was promoted to lead the technical support department that helped her have a glimpse of leadership, entrepreneurship and organization; that became the greatest foundation for her professional career. After Infotech, Menna started her own business, an IT organization, Flipper Computer Aided Learning Centre [Flipper], with a former colleague Serkaddis as a co-founder. Flipper is a computer learning centre for young children where students from various schools in Addis enrol to learn how to use computer and get opportunity to practice language skills and subjects such as Math and Science, using applications. Flipper Computer Aided Learning Centre was the first of its kind, as a result obtaining a license was a challenge. While teaching these computer skills, they observed that students were being challenged to understand key concepts such as logical thinking and problem solving.  Menna and Serkaddis decided then to change their organization from computer learning centre to early years education. They knew this would close the gap. That idea became a reality as Flipper International School.

With an engineering background, Menna never saw herself opening a school. She felt that she has nibbled and dabbled into the career that led her to her passion–education–that she now feels has fulfilled her. It brought her a new meaning of success that creating something that many can benefit from and making it sustainable. Seeing Flipper where it is now, she can see that it has attained both.

Flipper International School has 2,100 students, and 465 employees, 70% women. After 18 years of success as one of the best international schools in Addis, the founders compelled to think and strategize its future. The best approach they found was to engage strategic partners who can invest and take the school to the next level. This is the first step to institutionalizing a business. An institution has a better chance of sustainability than staying under the wings of its founders.  By taking this path, the founders not only ascertained the future of this social institution but also enabled Flipper to be part of an international network of schools.  As proved in the business world, to spread the decision among many stakeholders will only strengthen the institution. That had been their vision all along and Menna feels privileged that it came to fruition at the end of 2018.

Throughout her journey, simplicity and open-mindedness is what brought her success to Flipper. It is within those two elements that you can see things clearly and break barriers as Menna said it. When asked what success meant to her she said “to create something that many can benefit from and making it sustainable”. She never shied away from doing new things, but she believed that being surrounded by people who shared her visions and goals is what brought her success to another level.

Menna believes that her family, children and friends are what made her the person who she is now. She feels she’s one of the lucky ones in having such a wonderful support system. Menna enjoys watching sci-fi movies during her spare time.

Leadership is creating a shared vision and guiding others to the attainment of the vision through a collaborative effort. Menna believes that developing a culture of learning in an environment where others can self-improve and grow is the duty of a leader.

A message to the younger generation: It is important to be open-minded, to be curious, to listen to others, critically analyze perspectives instead of shutting down and thrive to acquire new knowledge. There are abundant opportunities in life, but we need to be open to new ideas and have the willingness to commit.

Being a new member to AWiB’s Female CEO Breakfast Club, she is pleased to be networking with women with great achievements. She has gained a lot from the discussions and engagement with the women. With Menna’s exact words, “It’s critical for women to network”

“Learning can never stop. Always reinvent yourself” Menna

AWiB expresses its gratitude to Menna for letting us tell her inspiring story.

The AWiB Team