ADEBAYO SANNI, managing director, Oracle Corporation, in this interview, tells FUNKE OSAE-BROWN how his organisation is nurturing women in ICT and his interest in golf.
Our meeting that warm Tuesday morning was not in any way unnerving. We had agreed to meet at 9am, but the slow moving traffic on Third Mainland Bridge delayed me a bit. Luckily, I arrived the corporate head office of Oracle Corporation just at the nick of time.
As I took the elevator to the sixth floor, I pondered over the subject of my interview. It would be the first time we would be meeting, even though I have read so much about Oracle and what it is doing as an organisation in technology, more importantly for me, what it is doing about empowering women in this technology driven age.
Seated behind the mahogany desk in the orange coloured office is Adebayo Sanni, managing director, Oracle Corporation, Nigeria. He greeted me warmly as I sat across the table. He speaks about Oracle as if he had been in the organisation for a decade, whereas he only joined 17 months ago.
Oracle is building up a diversified workforce comprised entirely of local nationals to underpin its growth in Nigeria, he tells me as soon as our interview began.
“Our strategy includes developing talent within Oracle Nigeria through talent development programmes such as Oracle Women in Leadership. Oracle’s Giving programme also supports educating young women for IT careers and nurturing their interest in computer science from a young age,” he explains.
Sanni says Oracle is committed to supporting women in IT hence its drive to train women in acquiring ICT related skills. Oracle’s interest in women development is evident, even in its ratio as female to male employees. Sanni says Oracle’s Nigeria office has almost 40 percent of its employees as women.
“This shows our commitment in our diversity in a male dominated environment so to speak,” he explains. “What is our interest as we take that the programme further is that Oracle is really committed to supporting women as far as ICT is concerned. As far as diversity and promotion of leadership is concerned, we are trying to nurture leadership and take it to the next level. For us, it is critical that women play very key roles in that.”
In the last two years, Oracle has doubled its workforce in Nigeria to 100 plus employees. With a leadership team made up of Nigerians, Oracle Nigeria acts as a hub for West Africa and employs young Nigerian professionals to support all business functions from finance to procurement, human resources, sales, marketing, support and consulting.
Sanni says Oracle recently committed a multi-million dollar investment on a new office space in Victoria Island, Lagos, to accommodate the growth in its own operations and is doing the same in Abuja.
“Oracle focuses on developing and building the pipeline of talent within Oracle,” he adds, “which is also critical to future leadership, innovation and company growth. One programme of note is a grassroots programme we affectionately call OWL, which stands for Oracle Women in Leadership. “OWL creates local and global opportunities that support, educate and empower current and future generations of women at Oracle. This diversity allows us to examine our business from a range of perspectives. Indeed, Oracle has great female leadership in one of its CEOs, Safra Catz.”
In addition, Oracle is also nurturing new talent via its internship programme. “We currently have nine female interns out of a total of 12. We are supporting education of young women in Nigeria through our grant called The Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (WTec). Likewise, we have given centres on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. WTEC’s mission is to build technology skills and IT literacy among women.”
Through Oracle Giving grant, WTec is engaging 400 girls from 10 high schools in programming classes, tech company excursions, career talks, and mentoring. “We are providing weekly technology education workshops for one year to 25 Nigerian secondary schools (25 girls per school) to promote interest in computer science for girls. For International Day of the Girl, our female employees volunteered to join forces with WTec and other organisations to mentor and share their career stories with young women engaged in the programme. Our employees are always willing to inspire young Nigerians to develop their skills and build exciting careers for themselves,” he says.
Sanni says all the programmes put in place by Oracle for women empowerment are continuous. “We review our programmes as we move on. We have had a fantastic outing so far. We have a very good brand. We started this partnership with WTec a year ago and it has been very successful. Oracle would continue to support programmes relating to women development. We are looking at increasing the funding so there is no stopping.
“The programme that we have specifically for the 25 schools is going to run from this January for the next one year. It means that it is an ongoing programme. We have seen that this is making a lot of difference, hence we are increasing the growing interest in the young girls of age eight to 22 in computer science. We are seeing the ones that are already graduates to now look at them pursuing IT career. By supporting human organisations like WTec we are able to reach as many girls as possible that ordinarily Oracle itself would not be able to reach.”
Sanni has been with Oracle for about 17 months as the MD/CEO. And he tells me Oracle’s renewed strive and investment, specifically in Nigeria, is high. “Our interest in Nigeria is pretty much to look at how can we truly support Nigeria in its new status of GDP and how we can be the trusted adviser to the government. We know that technology plays a key role in the economic and social empowerment, as far as Nigeria is concerned. The role that I am playing is to help lead and support Oracle global organisational goals in partnering the Federal Government in achieving its set goals.”
Sanni says his experience in the last 17 months of joining Oracle has been exciting. He came from the technology world and has worked in different capacities with various organisations, both inside and outside Nigeria. “If I look at the way Oracle is positioned now, the amount of investment there surpasses that of any organisation that I have seen in the last three or four years. The amount of investment in the terms of office space, number of employees, and number of partners. All these are work in progress and it is exciting for us.”
To prove its practice, Sanni says Oracle has a clear cut career path for women. “We have the Oracle Women in Leadership; every single female employee of Oracle is expected to be a member of this leadership programme. The leadership programme focuses on what are the things that we need to support, to educate and to empower female in their career path. The whole idea is if you are coming in as a graduate consultant or as an intern today, or you are coming in as an account manager you can build your career to a potential Oracle CEO. It gives you an understanding that Oracle truly supports women growth. Our global CEO is a woman.”
Sanni affirms that a female employee in Oracle does not need a powerful male sponsor to get to the top. “Absolutely not, if I look at the nurturing of even the youths, our investments in the number of girls that we have trained is almost a thousand from ages eight to 22. If I look at the number of interns, 80 percent of them are females, they don’t need males to drive them, they don’t. The number of female employees that we have today in Nigeria; looking at women globally and the fact that we have a female CEO, you will know that we have a career path for women.”
When I asked Sanni if he reads, his answer was not farfetched. He tells me: “Yes, I do. I get involved with books that stimulate my intellect. I would typically read books by authors that actually provide leadership experiences success factors, but at the same time get involved in reading novels too.”
He says he is a big fan of Robert Rudolf. “I am a big fan of his, that is some of the examples of the type of novels that I get to read when time permits. That is another luxury of time that I really don’t have to go in.”
The last book he read was ‘How to drive change’ written by Virgin CEO, Richard Branson. “He talks basically about leadership and all.”
When Sanni is out of the office, he plays golf. A game he says has made him to be focused. “Golf is just an example, because it is relaxing. When I do have the time, it’s the game that gives me that ability to think strategically in an open environment. I am very cluster phobic, so I need to be in an airy environment where I can think. You think of the future before you take the shot, because you are estimating where you want to go. And so, I understand where the game is even before I started. There are very few sports that give me that ability and golf is an example of that.”