LUCIE Barry-Tannous wears many hats. She's studied many subjects. She's lived in many countries. She's broken ground and she's excelled. Her latest achievement has been to have ATC Comafrique Nissan to be named Nissan's Sub-Saharan Africa dealer of the year.
The Ivory Coast based company beat serious competition from across the continent to walk away with the accolade at a gala function held on the banks of the Red Sea in Egypt in June.
For the Malian born in Germany, it's another milestone on a journey that has taken her from school in Mali to university in France; where she picked up her two master's degrees to working as a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme back in Mali. This was followed by spells as investment banker in Togo and Cameroon. She even taught history and geography to high school pupils at the French school in Lagos, Nigeria.
She joined ATC Comafrique in 2001 first as a consultant and then legal adviser and general secretary. By 2015 she was managing director.
"To get where I am today has been a journey," she says, "I had to take the time and be willing to put in the effort. It wasn't easy, you have to fight to have your voice heard, to win respect."
What helped was the fact she comes from a family which puts a premium on hard work, integrity, loyalty and courage as fundamental values, she says.
Barry-Tannous believes it took her about five years of hard work to achieve that, helped by the fact that ATC Comafrique was in challenging circumstances when she took over, which gave her the opportunity to show what she could do.
As the continent prepares to celebrate African Women's Day on Sunday 31 July, she believes far more has to be done to help women achieve their true potential.
"Among the challenges women face is the fear of rejection which fosters a fear of taking risks. As leaders, we need to create a safe space in our organisations where young people, especially women, can feel safe to work, to share their opinions and to be ambitious, learning how to be assertive without being aggressive."
A major problem for ambitious women, she says, is the dual danger of stagnation in positions mid-career as well as the societal pressure to attend to family responsibilities. Her tips for younger women are to be prepared to take risks and get out of their comfort zones, to trust themselves but only if they have done their homework and make the effort to get the knowledge they need.
"We need to remember though, that leadership is taken, not given. To get to where I am today was a journey. I had to be willing to take the time and put in the effort. I had to raise my hand and speak up. Women often get opportunities to be there but they are not heard because they often don't realise that it's not just about being there, it's about doing something when you are there."
As women rise, it's even more important to be able to create teams of people you can trust to buy into your vision and achieve the goals you have set for them.
"I have a team with me, it's like ballet; we grow together, we achieve together," she says. "Together we learn, we make mistakes, we grow, we succeed and we go forward and do better with humility."
Winning the Ignition Award for best Sub-Saharan dealership she said was a fantastic accolade for her team.
"There are 180 people in the Comafrique Nissan team. This award showed them that we hadn't just made a difference in the market, we had made a difference in the continent. It is a great encouragement for us all to do better and it's a great accolade to show our customers that they are dealing with the best."
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