Khafila Abiola, Executive Recruiter, Amazon Web Services: ‘I’m People Galvanizer’

Khafila Abiola, Executive Recruiter, Amazon Web Services: ‘I’m People Galvanizer’

She is an Executive Headhunter for Amazon Web Services, an online platform that provides scalable and cost-effective cloud computing solutions; making an impact by focusing on improving the face of the global tech industry by populating it with more colour and more women. 

Additionally, she speaks to BL about the impact MKO Abiola, who died while she was just a teenager, would have made on the Nigerian economy had he been president.

It has been said that people do better in careers that require skills that are natural to them. In that respect, are you a round peg in a round hole? 

Certainly, I am a round peg in a round hole. I do think that the career I selected is recruitment and at this moment, I am focused on executive recruitment- it’s a perfect fit for who I am and what I care about.

I am focused on increasing the representation of women. I understand what we look for in technology leaders and technical talent in executives and how to build strong relationships with those executives and sell those on the value proposition of Amazon Web Services.

 I build really strong relationships. Sometimes the people I speak to do not come to work for us for years but I cultivate them, I assess them thoroughly and understand who they are, what makes them tick and what they are interested in doing so that when I do have the right opportunity and the right role, I already have that credibility and have established a strong relationship with them and can engage them.

Ultimately, I am increasing representation of underrepresented people at the executive level at Amazon and that just gives me so much joy. I am changing the look of the executive team at Amazon and I just love that.  

You are artistically talented, skilled and trained. How has your experience been operating in the corporate space? 

 I like recruiting for art. It’s an art form, understanding a requisition, translating it into the right type of talent, engaging with potential folks then putting them through our interview process and getting them hired, getting the role closed. It has similar mechanics to singing an opera from end to end.

 It is like a process map that you follow and I like to say that I have mastered the craft of recruitment so I am able to design a recruitment strategy at all levels.

 I understand it deeply and that is because I really feel as though it’s a craft like most jobs that one has to master and once one masters that, I can then design how our approach is going to be and galvanize the team to execute against what was designed and also do some of the execution myself quite frankly.

So, it is a different type of art form in a corporate space but there’s also an expectation of mastery of the work that I do and I can say that it is similar for most industries.

How can IT advancements in the world of work be more beneficial in African countries such as Nigeria? Further to this, how can women as caregivers benefit from IT advantages or advancement in pursuing the work-life balance? After all is said and done, is IT truly a leveler? Is there such a thing as international work? Is it even possible? 

These are things that are top of mind for me.

 Until recently, I think Africa and Africans have primarily been users of the technology produced by other countries – Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, even mobile apps, the mobile phones themselves even though a lot of materials that are used to produce them are actually African raw materials.

We tend to be consumers of the products that are built. Unfortunately, we are not developers of the products and that needs to change in the next 30–50 years.

 Sometimes I am really excited about tech leaders that I hear about that are African. I know we have some pioneers who are building products that are being used by hundreds of millions of people or products that are being acquired by other companies that are built in Africa. Some exciting start-up work is happening in space in Africa. I am thinking of Paystack which was acquired by Stripe, Callendly which was built by a Nigerian- American tech leader. 

 I just can’t wait to see what more we can do and I know that this is just the inception of applying our brilliance.  I find that Nigerian parents tend to steer their kids towards Law and Engineering.

Tech is not even something that we think about. I shouldn’t have a job. We should have women, black executives. 

The more we are doing that, the more we pivot from consuming technology into creating technology and that goes for women, that goes for black children, that goes for everyone because we want that diversity of thought.

A lot of technology created by the huge tech giants do not necessarily have women on the product teams or women on the engineering teams on the highest levels, so there’s a swathe of people who might not be addressed because they are not at the executive table. 

 So, the more women, the more Africans are inspired to understand technology and not just consume it, the more we are part of actually shaping the world and shaping how people interact with the world and how people, globally, voices and pinpoints are addressed leveraging technology. 

I am a huge advocate for tech; I talk to young kids even here in England about the power of tech.  All my kids are studying computer science and started coding pretty young. My middle child even built a computer from scratch two summers ago.

 So just inspiring the next generation to pivot from consuming tech to building it because then, we are really part of solving the problem as opposed to just buying goods, frankly.

Finally, and permit me to deviate a little, do you think the Nigerian economy would have been in a better state than it is now had your father been allowed to fulfill his mandate?

In my line of work, I am privileged to get to know great business and technology leaders.  They become my friends and I feel like a peer. I get to really know what it means to set a bold and ambitious strategy and then galvanize your team to execute against the strategy. 

My fathers was such a galvanizing leader and were he allowed to execute his mandate, the economy of the country and the country generally, the well-being of the people would be phenomenal, in a significantly better place than it is in currently. 

My father was a financial wizard not just in Africa but on the global stage. He was definitely a strategic and business genius quite frankly and he knew how to unify people and that’s what great leaders do. They know how to set a strategy and unify the whole organisation to swim in the same direction.    

My father didn’t believe in tribes, and didn’t believe in artificially segmenting people according to boundaries. Who cares where you are from, or what relation you have? He would have just galvanized the whole country and had the mandate for the entire country, so he would have united the people, helped us to rise above petty squabbles, set a bold vision for the country, and helped us understand exactly what part we needed to play to get us to that promised land.

 It’s truly so sad that he was killed the way he was, that my mother lost her life as well. It really made me think about politics and to be interested in politics as a result, but it is funny how I am able to sit with our leader. So, it is a shame as Nigerians, we are where we are now.  It’s a shame that I am not in Nigeria contributing to the economy of Nigeria and have to work outside of the country.

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Mr Priceless
A young person with a passion for success and excellence to develop a professional career that encourages empowerment in the overall development of a person which is achieved through hard work. A Journalist with facts and a difference; standing by the truth all the time with interests in Science & Technology, Health, Celebrities' Lifestyle, Crimes, Education and Career Improvement.


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