There is no denying the fact that women are gifted with the multitasking abilities and my date for this week is a super multitasking diva who never retires but constantly refires. I was at an event recently when she spoke about “walking on water” and it sounded impossible but by the time she was done with her speech, the entire audience were in high spirit and felt truly ignited!
She is such an amazing woman I have known for some years now. One minute you hear her doing something great and before you are done congratulating her for a job well done, another feat is acknowledged. She keeps going higher and higher and waxing stronger and stronger. She is none other than the beautiful, industrious, energetic, intrepid and amiable Udo-Okonjo.
Udo Okonjo recently moved on to becoming the Executive Chairman of Fine & Country West Africa, with a new management team including Country Managing Director from the UK and a Director of Sales / Operations, set to lead the formidable team into the next level for the business.
She is an alumni of the University of Nigeria, Enugu, Lagos Business School, Oxford University and most recently an alumni of Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, where she sought to refresh and deepen her knowledge of branding and strategy for business growth.
She was admitted to the New York Bar and Nigerian Bar Associations since 1991 and 1993 respectively and pursued a successful legal career for almost 2 decades, in addition to having acted as Senior Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Matters to the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As best graduating female student in her year at the Nigerian Law School, Maryanne was awarded the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship to study at the University of London, Kings College School of Law, where she graduated with a Masters degree in Law (LLM) specializing in Corporate and Commercial Law.
In 2005, Udo took the South African Real Estate exams and qualified for certification by the Estate Agency Affairs Board, and in May 2008, earned a certificate in Effective Real Estate Marketing from the National University of Singapore in conjunction with the Dubai Real Estate Institute. Having spotted the opportunity that an international Real Estate network provides, she successfully negotiated and acquired the Fine & Country West Africa License in 2007 along with some partners, launching successfully in Nigeria in 2008. Fine & Country is known worldwide for its unique blend of intelligent and creative marketing, coupled with a professional approach to the sales and leasing of premium residential and commercial properties. Operating out of over 300 locations worldwide, Fine & Country has its head office located on Park Lane, Mayfair, UK. The West African operations are run from Sandton, South Africa, Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana.
Within a short time of opening the office in Lagos, the Nigerian office has leaped to the top in the provision of excellent real estate services to leading real estate developers and institutional clients.
In 2014, Okonjo leading the Fine & Country West Africa team received an award for the Gold category for quality, excellence and customers satisfaction at the 2014 – International Arch of Europe Awards in Frankfurt, Germany to mention a few. She is also the Chief Igniter of the business leadership and personal development series titled- “Ignite the Champion Within” and “Ignite the Tycoon Within” a platform for national transformation through empowering and equipping professionals and emerging entrepreneurs with a change of mindset and conditioning them to ignite a whole new world of possibilities previously unrecognised or untapped using the K.E.E.T model (Knowledge. Engagement. Entertainment. Transformation).
Apart from her active involvement in her local church assembly This Present House where she serves on the Market Place Alliance Group, Udo also dedicates her spare time to mentoring over 20, 000 professionals/entrepreneurs through her online platforms where she daily shares nuggets of business and life inspirations, while also leading the iWOW network.
Udo grew up in a large family. Her late dad a true nationalist had been a Federal High Court Judge in Kano and subsequently Ikoyi, Lagos. Her mum is a lawyer and currently the Chairperson of the Delta State House of Assembly Commission having married at a really young age; under twenty. “My parents instilled the discipline that has shaped all my siblings and I while ensuring that we received the best education at the highest level possible. Growing up within a large dynamic family was exciting and provided a background for some of the values and beliefs that are dear to me.” She says.
Sharing on recently becoming the Executive Chairperson of Fine and Country, Udo has this to say “It is as a result of the expansion our firm is currently undergoing to consolidate our gains over the last 6 years within the West African Real Estate landscape. We recently finalised arrangements for a new management team including a Country Managing Director from the UK and a Director of Sales/Operations along with other local and international experienced professionals set to lead an already formidable team into the next business level. My role will be to lead and oversee broader brand strategic activities for the entire region at a board and executive level.” Udo explains.
The real estate sector is quite demanding and any woman in this sector has a lot on her sleeves. Hear Udo’s take on this “as an individual, by being an avid learner and someone who is continually investing in questioning the status quo, I am not content with yesterday’s success or accolades hence my quest and commitment to the principles of Kaizen – ongoing, steady improvements. We have continued to demonstrate a commitment to supporting our developer clients with strategic market intelligence that enables them achieve better results, while ensuring our individual investors continue to feel ‘inspired and confident’ about their decisions to invest in any of the projects we advise them on.” She informs me.
iWOW is one of Udo’s passion and she shares more about this with me “iWOW which stands for Inspired Women of Worth was established in 2010 in Johannesburg by myself and 25 women from 8 countries. The ultimate mission of iWOW is to ‘accomplish a world of good through inspired, connected and empowered women’. We do a world of good through our 2 key awareness projects- the Autism Project and the Breast Cancer Project using annual events focused on Knowledge, Hope and Possibilities.” Udo reveals. Everyone has a plan for 2015, she however shares hers with me “My plans in 2015 include contributing to the strategic direction of Fine and Country at a more global level which will see me interacting mainly at the brand level while our new management team focuses on solidifying our local partnerships and clientele base. In addition, I’ll be finishing up a comprehensive executive general management program at the Judge Business School,
Cambridge University, while continuing to provide leadership direction across the businesses and community initiatives. Supporting our new senior management team in an advisory role to drive Fine and Country’s growth and leadership further will remain my core priority in the next season. Beyond that, I’d say, stay tuned.” And to that I say “we sure will…”
The mission of Fine and Country over the next 5 years and beyond according to Udo, is “to inspire confidence in the future of Nigeria and Africa using our business as a platform and trigger.”
Hear the chief igniter inspire you all “To men as well as women, I say losing hope is indicative of a loss of perspective. Every day we all have reasons to give up, but having the right perspective about life, seeing things in light of eternity is always a good way to view whatever your current situation is. I have learnt to ask a simple question? ‘Whatever I am going through, will it matter in ten years or in eternity?’ If not, I take a deep breath and have another look at it. There’s always a way out. I’m not minimising what people face but I recognise the importance of staying encouraged and inspired, which is why I have committed to sending a bi-monthly personal newsletter to encourage and inspire business leaders and professionals.”
What an enlightening way to end the interview but not without asking her one final question and that is the importance of real estate investment and her answer said it all. Again, Udo speaks “Investing in real estate is one of the most significant investments anyone will ever make. It is also one of man’s essential needs and the right time to invest in real estate is always NOW! if you are equipped with the right market intelligence. It’s important for investors and the public at large to recognise that ‘confidence and trust’ are the critical factors for any real estate transaction. It’s too significant an investment to gamble with. It is very much a business where you get what you pay for.” Udo says as she wraps it all up…I feel ignited already!
(Culled from http://businessdayonline.com)