Y Leaderboard Series: Hannah Ashiokai Akrong, renowned HR Director, talks career inspirations

Hannah Ashiokai Akrong, distinguished Human Resource Director at Ghana’s leading Telecommunication Company, Vodafone Ghana,

Hannah Ashiokai Akrong, distinguished Human Resource Director at Ghana’s leading Telecommunication Company, Vodafone Ghana, illuminates the path of the girl child and ambitious women during yet another inspiring conversation on the Y leaderboard Series with Rev. Erskine.

The ‘Y Leaderboard Series’, a segment on Y107.9 FM’s ‘Myd Morning Radio Show’ with the objective to develop the youth and provide inspiration to listeners by hosting leaders and achievers in various industries of Ghana and beyond, saw Hannah Ashiokai Akrong encourage the youth through her upbringing, inspire the girl child and share some career tips for women in the cooperate world.

According to her, she is the 11th of 12 children to a father who worked with a timber empire in Takoradi, hence spending her early childhood in the Western side of the country – adding that the love and care from her parents was enough for her and her siblings.

“Growing up, my dad was very strict. It was a loving family, knowing that I could do whatever I wanted to do. Our parents always imbued in us the spirit of adventure. Just do what you can and just be the best at what you doing,” she said, advising the youth to strive for excellence in whatever they intend doing.

For most girls who seem confused with so many varied career options on their mind, Hannah Ashiokai proves a worthy model to look up to as she encountered similar moments growing up. In spite of having so many interests, she always had in her the adventurous spirit instilled by her parents and always wanted to quench her inquisitive thirst. As such, her love for books was unmatched.

“There were so many things I wanted to become growing up as a young girl. I loved reading, and every little chance I got I would be in the library. My head was always in books, so I had these wild ideas of what I wanted to do. That changed from day-to-day, but at the core of it all I knew I had the spirit of adventure.

“I wanted to travel, do different things and experience different cultures. I would say to a large extent that is what I did. Of course, growing up I didn’t have it in mind that I wanted to be in the HR profession. I was just good at having conversations. I loved having interesting conversations with people and getting to know them, where they are from and more of that stuff,” she said.

Hannah Ashiokai, a product of the Ola Girls Senior High School, disclosed how she acquired the values of “hard work, independence and the ability to focus on one’s goals” having passed through the school’s boarding system. “Over there, you didn’t have the luxury of your parents to always guide you. You have to find that and find your feet quickly, or else you’ll pretty much suffer. Boarding school was so much fun, but taught me a lot about determination,” she added.

Nonetheless, she reiterated the need to improve the educational system to promote creativity and initiative and do away with the ‘chew’, ‘pour’ and forget module. She stressed the essence of the experiential approach in education enabling students to compete on the international front.

Sharing her ordeal upon traveling to the states to pursue her Master’s degree, she noted: “During my first lecture, I took along my notes and I realised the other students had their laptops with them. I asked myself how they were going to type fast enough to meet the speaking pace of the lecturer. But I realised the class was more like a conversation.

“Literally everything has to be your own idea because they are keen about copyright, so you cannot copy and share. This helps assess students and their understanding of lessons while taking into consideration their opinions,” she shared.

The Vodafone boss in highlighting cues for career women in the competitive corporate environment urged them to harness their negotiation skills. She believes that most women have poor negotiation skills compared to men, hence they get paid lower than their actual worth. She urged career women to improve their negotiation skills having their worth in mind.

She noted: “Research says women always negotiate less strongly than men and end up in roles paying less than what they are actually worth. So, as women we need to step up our negotiation skills. Know what you’re worth and what the market pays.”

Hannah Ashiokai is a believer in trusting the process, and also advised career women against rushing their advancement. She cautioned that a rushed advancement forced by frustration mostly leads to failure.

“Don’t be frustrated and hurry the process. You have to be ready, because if you’re not and you get to that level you will be exposed. And you don’t want to be there when you’ve been given the role and you cannot perform. So, take all the opportunities you can now to learn what you can so that when the opportunity is presented you are ready,” she counselled.

She shared tips for employees’ progress as she emphasised the need for employees to portray proactiveness in the working field. “You need to raise your hand for the role. Sometimes we sit and expect people to tap us on the shoulder and say ‘this role is available and you fit perfectly’. No, you have to speak up.”

According to her, the best time for one to express interest in a role is when it’s already occupied. Hannah explained that although the role is occupied, one can meet their HR Manager with a list of gaps identified in the role and measures to fill them. “Get your managers view as well on what you have to do to be ready for the role before it becomes available.”

Vodafone’s HR Director further shared her experience of working with Ghana’s no.1 telecommunication company as she indicated the topmost priority of the company is its staff members. According to her, they have been recognised as a top employer not just in Ghana but for Africa in the last 4 years – a feat she is proud of. She also mentioned that the youth make up a majority of the company’s staff, as there are platforms to improve and train smart graduates at Vodafone.

Programmes Manager for Y107.9 FM, Eddy Blay, was praiseul of Hannah Ashiokai as he urged career women to be more rigourous in their endeavours.

He said: “I’m always happy when established career women come through on the Y Leaderboard Series. Ma’am Hannah represents not just fulfilled women in society but also the very little child who is struggling to find their feet on the right path. To our parents as well, I will only encourage you to give some freedom for our children to explore. That alone comes with some level of confidence necessary for their development.”

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