Driven by the need to help Africa prosper and develop, Clarah Manuhwa has created a platform for young Africans with the aim of connecting Africans to work together. Clarah is a young Zimbabwean entrepreneur and engineer. Today on the podcast, she sits down with Melanie Parish to explain what drove her to start the foundation and share how she’s motivating, empowering, and engaging young African women to do the best for themselves.
Listen to the podcast here:
Afropreneurs: Shaping The Future Of Africa With Clarah Manuhwa
I'm here with Clare Manuhwa. She's a Founder and Director, a Millennial, an entrepreneur, and an engineer passionate about business and leadership. She's passionate about inventing and leading new processes, products and systems that translate into business ideas and are able to generate profits and growth for new markets. Her international career propels her to support and lead innovation strategies. As a young Zimbabwean Afropreneur, she's driven and inspired by the need to contribute toward prospering and developing Africa. Her passion for Africa and our country had her named one of the Top 30 Under 30 Zimbabwean Entrepreneurs to Watch Out For. She's the Founder and an Ambassador for the One Young World Community. She's created a platform for young Africans with the aim of connecting Africans to work together. It's great to have Claire on the show.
Clare, I am excited to have you on my show.
Thank you, Melanie. I'm honored to be here. I’m quite excited.
Tell me a little bit about what you're up to in your work.
I have to say I'm wearing two hats or rather two personalities. I have my 9 to 5 where I'm a category leader for real estate and facilities. People who know me will probably wonder, “How the hell did that happen?” I am an engineer by studies and it's something that I started in 2020 to lead that category. It's something new to me and that I'm fully engaged in. When I'm not doing that, I am moving the foundation that I have, which is the Clare Rudo Ventures, where I interact with young women and young Africans to motivate their careers, and empower and engage them to do the best for themselves.
Why have you started this foundation? What was it that drove you to do that?
It's something that I myself think back in the time that I moved to Europe for the first time and I was about seventeen there. I moved from my parents' house going to a foreign nation for the first time alone. What I encountered and observed during that time was that there were not a lot of people like me in the spaces that I navigated in. What I wanted to do, which is important to me, is to connect with people to belong to a community. That was one driver, to have a platform where young people feel they belong. Not just to belong, but where they feel that they can make a difference and can have an impact by being themselves and bringing their full selves to the community. That's why I started it.
What's the main mission of the organization?
The mission is to engage people. I look into the workplace, particularly now with Corona times. The need for conversations is even more than ever before. The mission is to use powerful stories and stories that are owned by people like you and me to allow each other to understand where we come from, that we are not moving alone in our own endeavors. All of us have our own goals and missions, but to come together to unite by hearing somebody else's story that can inspire us to unite and to do things together. For me, it’s to embrace deeper conversations and allow others to do the same, to drive a united mission as young people, young African women.
How are you experimenting with your work?
I am in Europe, in Switzerland. This is my personal opinion coming from a culture that is quite different. It's not the norm here to experiment, particularly in the corporate world. There are structures and one needs to deliver. If you tell people that you are experimenting with something, it's not something that always comes off quite easily. However, what I'm doing particularly because there's less traveling and so forth is I have found ways to engage my team in a different way, which is not the usual Swiss culture way of interacting. I’ve been creative in the ways that I interact with the various teams that I have to deal with. That has involved looking from within, which is why I'm a firm believer in deep conversations that can only take place when one looks from within to see what I could bring to the table. If I may read to you one thing I was reading from Brené Brown, which is Dare to Lead, which is inspiring with the way I interact with the teams as well. Have you read Dare to Lead?
I’ve read parts of it. I’ve read Daring Greatly. I’ve read parts of other books. I have friends who have trained with her with some of her coaching programs and I’ve attended some of those things. I love her work.
I have to read one sentence from her book, Dare to Lead, which is on Daring Leadership. It talks here about acknowledging, naming and normalizing collective fear and uncertainty. It goes back to your question in terms of what have I been experimenting on. One of the things I have done in the conversations is to acknowledge that people are afraid. If you know what's happening in the market, people are afraid to lose their jobs or because of the uncertainty of the whole global pandemic that is there right now. What I’ve done is to bring my fear as well to the table, but not inflating it, but acknowledging that it's not just the team that has it, but I also have that same fear. I am addressing ways in which we can deal with that. That's what I mean by powerful conversations. That's something that I'm experimenting with. I am learning because it doesn't always go the way that I think of it, but it's something that should be done more and more to have those powerful conversations and experiment with it. That's what I'm doing now.
My readers would be interested in hearing some of the exact languages that you might use if you're bringing your fear to the table. There's fine-tuning in how we bring our fear forward as leaders with a team. How do you broach that conversation? How do you say, “I have fear too?”
To be honest, it's something that I am personally intentional with because the purpose is not to have ten other people who are afraid of me or to create a division by bringing that to the table. What I have done is simply acknowledging that I do have fear. I have to say that in the company I'm working with that's headquartered in Switzerland, we are doing organizational transformation and I am part of the team that's leading this transformation. It wasn't just to acknowledge that I have fear of the team, but to also share certain aspects of the company that I myself was also uncertain about.
Where we were working within the organization to find solutions that were not top-down, but to engage the people also to bring in how they would deal with that uncertainty if they also had the same uncertainty that I had. It was by acknowledging it and not going into depth with that because what that does is it digs a grave and no solutions come up there. Acknowledging it and stating that the uncertainty is there and bringing the team into that engaged conversation of how can we deal with that? What do they think about that? Without bringing that top-down approach, which is usually the case in transformation projects.
What do you think are some of the most important things to consider in a transformation project?
Without a blink of an eye, I'm saying people because most times it's easy to focus on the process, things that need to get done, or certain figures that need to be made. The first thing for me is understanding that the transformation is before the process and hitting the numbers, it's about people.
What do you do to care for yourself? What do you do for self-care in your own life?
I'm laughing because I had a conversation on that with my friends. I am an introvert by nature, although people would disagree with that. I do get my energy from within. What has helped me when I speak of helped me, I’m speaking of the Corona times, to keep a clear headspace was writing things down and journaling. That helps me take care of myself because I'm also aware of what exactly is happening throughout the day, what emotions do I have, what interactions have I had, and what has worked well for me throughout the day. It helps me to be intentional in what I do and how I do it. That has helped me to take care of myself, by writing things down and reflecting on them, and taking time for myself to think through what is happening in my life.
I love talking about imposter syndrome because one of the things I learned when I started coaching was that almost all of us experience it at some point. What can you say about imposter syndrome? You don't have to bare your soul or tell me your deepest, darkest secrets, but when do you notice it and what do you do about it for yourself?
I have honestly felt at peace with myself. I brought up the journaling because it's something that helped me through the journey of rediscovering self, particularly in the pandemic. Imposter syndrome for me is it's something I hear a lot. It's something that I myself have experienced particularly working in the corporate, being the only woman in the corporate rooms and board rooms, and not just a woman, but also a black woman who was African and working in a foreign nation or mostly in foreign areas. I have dealt with that. I’ve had presentations and I was literally sweating out and thinking, “Is this for me? Am I the right person?” I was the only one like me in those rooms. I go back again to this statement. What helped me is people.
It was one day before a presentation, I was having a chat and I didn't know who it was I was talking to, but I was talking about my experience in Europe. The other guy was telling me as well his experience. He was Indian living in the states and he was telling me about his experience. We shared common experiences. I got into the room and there was the guy, including the other people I was supposed to present to. I looked at the room differently and I didn't feel out of place at that specific moment. It made me rethink the whole imposter syndrome because for me personally, it has stemmed from not being in close alignment with myself. I’m looking at other people from a different perspective, rather than looking at them as people like me. I realize we're all the same and I'm as smart as the people in the room. Sometimes even in some cases, the go-to person for certain things. I am just as qualified as those men. That has helped me to go through the imposter syndrome.
That made me want to ask another question. I'm curious. I'm in Canada, you’re in Austria. Black Lives Matter and all of the things are happening in the US. We're not in the heart of that, but how do you think about what's happening in the US and your own role as a leader? Is there anything there that changes the way you lead or makes you think differently about the way that you lead?
I’ve been in the mix. There also have been several hashtags from Zimbabwe. There has also been Zimbabwean Lives Matter because of what's happening in Zimbabwe stemming from the Black Lives Matter. I have to say, this is where I also acknowledge that I am afraid. I'm afraid because I see a danger particularly of division, when it comes to how we talk of certain things. Here, I am also a little bit outspoken about this because I myself am black. I am a woman, although I'm not American. The American black experience is different from the African black experience. However, at the core of things, what we discuss are things, and this is why I bring up the word people often. When we go head-on in things that are deep to our experience, when I think of me as a black woman, I have experience. I have been harassed in even some cases. I am of the opinion that in order to bring change that is sustainable, we need to have powerful conversations that do not divide us and that also drives action.
Even though I'm in Austria and I have to say, I do not know the whole A to Z of the American experience. I haven't stayed in America that long to be an expert in the American black experience. What I do know is if we do want to have sustainable long-term change on the ground for the people that we campaign for, even in the corporate world, we need to have powerful conversations that unite us. That means coming from a point of this is the experience, this is what we observe, and these are some of the solutions that we think could solve that. I know that there are many solutions on the ground when it comes to programs. I hear many companies. I see many companies even starting diversity and inclusion programs. Is that the answer for me? Not really. We need to have conversations as people in order to understand what is it we're talking about from a united standpoint, then we can change something. I’m a little bit emotional when it comes to Black Lives Matter but that’s my take. We need to talk to each other as people, not as dear white people, dear black people, but as people.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on that. I'm appreciative of you sharing your perspective freely.
I know that the Black Lives Matter is something that is personal to some people and it's sensitive. I would appreciate it if we can angle it a little bit differently there maybe.
What would you like me to do?
I hope that I have also explained myself in the way that I wish to do so. What I want to put out as a message is the need to have conversations as people and not black versus white or black versus Latino, and so forth. For me, that’s quite important. The second is to drive action beyond diversity and inclusion programs. If that's how it comes across and I'm happy with it. What do you think of it, Melanie?
I have family members who are people of color. I have a niece and a nephew who are African-American and Japanese. They grew up in Senegal and Egypt and Japan. Now they're going to school in the US. I worry about them. That's my personal worry. I have tears as I'm talking, I feel like I'm afraid because I want to help people have a voice and use any platform that I have to help people share their thoughts. I agree with you that I'm not sure diversity training is the answer, but I do want seats at the table for everyone so that they can have a voice that gets out there.
I don't want to step on any toes or get it wrong. I get scared also that I'm going to not do it right. I’ve been looking at my own leadership. I'm launching a program that's a leadership program for women leading technology. I'm looking for how part of our team that we have diversity on our team so that we're not doing it as a checkbox, but we're integrating it into the people that we bring on board. They're a part of the process and they're well-compensated, and they are doing the work side by side with me.
Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it.
Where can people find you? Can you say the name of your foundation? Where can they find that? How can people connect with you if they want to find you a little more?
They can find me at ClareRudo.com or ClareRudoVentures.com, which is a place where it's a platform for people to share these stories from the grassroots of people who have something to share. If they want to start a conversation, that's the place they can find me.
Thank you for being on my show. I can't wait to connect with you in the future. I’ve enjoyed hearing your thoughts and your mind. I have deep gratitude to you for coming on.
Thank you, Melanie. Me as well, I'm completely honored to be here. Thank you for the conversation. I appreciate it.
I’ve been talking with Clare Manuhwa about her leadership. One thing I'm most struck by is her willingness to be vulnerable and to share with people that she's also afraid. It's such a powerful way to open up the dialogue to give a feedback loop that's often absent with a superior. I’ve enjoyed talking with her. She is powerful in her thinking, in her knowledge of herself and in the way that she shows up as a leader. It's been powerful speaking with Claire. Go, experiment.
A public speaker, consultant, workshop leader, author, and Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, from whom she received the Prism Award, Melanie is an expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, strategic hiring, and brand development.