Many years ago in Tanzania when Susan Mashibe was four years old, she remembers watching her parents take off in an airplane while she was left behind with her grandmother. “At that point,” she determined, “I decided if I knew how to fly, I would never be left behind again.” Years later after getting a degree in aviation management from Western Michigan University and becoming an FAA-certified commercial pilot, Susan planned to get a job as a pilot for a US airline. But 9/11 intervened, after which the aviation industry contracted and restrictions on hiring non natives tightened. So Susan Mashibe returned to her home in Tanzania to explore a niche in the airline industry there. In 2002, Susan used all her savings to rent a small office in the Dar es Salaam airport to start her company, TanJet, which provides technical and logistical support to visiting private jets throughout Africa. Her first client was Jacob Zuma, currently president of South Africa, who was on a visit to Tanzania. In 2007 Susan added a 70,000 square foot hangar in Kilamanjaro where she co-founded the Kilimanjaro Aviation Logistics Centre, a company that processes landing and over flight clearances for private jets through Africa. More recently, she opened her third office on the shores of Lake Victoria. She is also an aircraft maintenance engineer who can service jet engines. Last spring Susan was selected along with 25 other women leaders from emerging countries to participate in the 6th annual Fortune/State Department Global Women Mentoring Partnership, a public private partnership with the State Dept’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit and Vital Voices Global Partnership.
After an orientation week in Washington, Susan Mashibe flew to Google headquarters in Mountain View to meet her mentor there, Marissa Mayer, VP, Maps, Local, and Location Services, and shadowed her (and lived with her) for three weeks. Susan says her goals were to learn how to structure her organization better by delegating work so she could concentrate on how to scale. “What Marissa taught me,” Susan says, “is to hire smart people who get things done. I saw how important it was to have a healthy team, but to be willing to dismiss bad apples before they contaminate the team. You also have to nurture your team well.” As she shadowed her Google mentor, Susan was impressed by how Marissa balanced family and work life and how actively she engaged in community activities. “I now see,” Susan observes, “that the US doesn’t wait for the government to fund everything. That’s a new concept for us but as a result of this program I see that part of my company’s responsibility is to give back to our community.”
And of course good business often arises out of community engagement. Susan Mashibe has agreed to help Google map Tanzania, but she plans to do it by working with the computer department at the University of Dar es Salaam to give students and professors experience in working with Google. On her part, Marissa Mayer observes that after working with Susan she realized that “leadership challenges are the same across countries and cultures.”
Another mentor in the program is Julie Winskie, Global President, Clients for Porter Novelli, a subsidiary of OMNICOM; Julie was paired with Ethnie Miller Simpson, co-managing director and founder of BRANDZ Avenue, a Kingston, Jamaica- based marketing company focused on building global brands. “What I learned during my second year in the program,” Julie notes, “is that it’s the students who really become the teachers. I’m constantly amazed by the work ethic of these women. Besides, they often have a longer term perspective because they have mountains in front of them, but they know those mountains will be there tomorrow. Also, they are so deeply rooted in their cultures, aware of the political realities in their regions, and very communal in their thinking. Many of these women create a powerful revolution just by the fact that they are working at such high levels.”
|Julie Winskie and Ethnie Miller Simpson|
The challenge for Julie’s mentee, Ethnie Miller Simpson was to validate her business concept and to streamline her client list. She also needed help identifying publicity opportunities for the company that reflects her brand. A former teacher and trainer, Ethnie says she had shied away from media attention for herself, but the team at Porter Novelli helped me understand that I could develop a point of view so that I would become the “go to” person and known in my industry for our particular marketing approach, without focusing on me. After working with Julie and other Porter Novelli executives, I see the opportunity for organic growth for my clients by helping them associate themselves with concepts their consumers embrace, such as sustainability, and not just products.”
What impressed Ethnie about Julie Winskie’s leadership was “how inclusive and open she is; she listens and asks questions in meetings. But then she subtly weaves everything she hears into a decision.” Julie turned to Ethnie for her depth of experience in training because in a former position, Ethnie had created a “corporate university” for a telecom company. For Porter Novelli, Ethnie suggested making training more user friendly. For middle management, Ethnie notes, “it’s fine to have an electronic training manual, but you have to encourage learning in bite size formats to engage employees.” Ethnie also left her mark on one of Porter Novelli’s “Thirsty Thursday” social events by suggesting the addition of Reggae music one night with a menu of jerked chicken, salt fish fritters and Red Strip beer!
Julie Winskie admits she’d like to repeat her mentoring experience. “These women make me see how myopic we can be. They are from emerging countries, but they have that doesn’t mean they have tertiary thinking because they work in third world markets. In my experience these women bring great clarity and perspective and valuable philosophic approaches to business, which can benefit us.”