Adia Sowho

Years in Tech


Current Role

MD, Nigeria,

Core Skills

Strategy Development and Deployment, Product Innovation and Implementation and Managing High-performance Teams.

Interview Date

14th December, 2018

Adia Sowho is the Managing Director, Nigeria for Mines: a machine learning-powered digital credit platform. Previously, she was the Director of Digital Business at 9mobile (formerly Etisalat Nigeria) where she was responsible for partnering with startups to deliver mobile content, advertising, financial and API services.

Adia decided to tackle the challenge of addressing consumer credit for 90 million Nigerians after failing to find an app to travel back in time to see Michael Jackson perform live, despite 10X’ing the digital business at 9mobile.

Apparently, being a former management consultant, radio frequency engineer and a Kellogg MBA doesn’t help bend space-time.

What experiences led you to technology and how did you develop the skills to compete in the industry?

I have always been inclined towards technology. Numbers and problem solving just seemed to appeal to me naturally, so I have not really known much else. In school, I gravitated towards maths and science more so than other topics. Throughout my education and career I have found the most comfort amidst the more technical competencies. Becoming an engineer was inevitable for me.
I did notice that I was in a male-dominated field, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to let that derail me, possibly because I grew up around a lot of loving male family members – so being surrounded by men at work or school didn’t cause me the discomfort that I’ve come to understand many may feel, although I do not think I was totally immune to it. Now, however, having been in the industry for so many years, I realize the value of having a more gender-balanced workplace. I think I may have grown and worked a lot differently had I developed in more evenly balanced workplaces.

Technology typically brings transparency to an industry, this tends to make them more democratic and therefore, less subjective since progress and results are measurable. This creates a fantastic opportunity for women to succeed on the basis of results and be rated on their merit. So, just be so good that you can’t help but be noticed.

How has your background helped/differentiated you in the tech industry?

I have a family that is very supportive of my life decisions whether conventional or not. My parents – specifically my father – and I had many conversations on what I wanted to do and be when I grew up. It was those conversations that very deliberately led me to study engineering. This encouragement and support played a huge role in shaping my career. I was also fortunate to find great mentors – and I like to give credit to mentors of both good and bad behavior – I believe the latter are just as important.

The combination of engineering, an MBA and management consulting turned out to be a good one for me, in terms of aligning with my interests in solving varied and complex problems. It turns out these apparently make one a pretty effective business leader too. Engineering set me up to solve problems analytically, the MBA allowed me to extend these problems solving across different competencies and business areas and management consulting prepared me to develop and execute the solutions to the problems that a leader is tasked with addressing.

What advice would you give to women considering a career in technology? What do you wish you had known?

Just do it! It’s so much fun, and women are natural problem-solvers anyway, so there is a more natural fit than many believe. Nigeria’s cadre of women leaders is becoming more visible and I hope this trend continues as we can set an example for the world. We have a long way to go with advancing women’s rights in general, but there is an encouraging number of women in technology. So please join – you will be in good company.

I also think that it is important to remember that technology is an enabler of EVERY industry, so no matter what industry one is in, there is a technology opportunity to consider.

I wish I knew not to put my femininity in a box when I was a student and a young engineer. These days, I enjoy being a very colourfully dressed geek.