Awazi Angbalaga is the country manager at SweepSouth Nigeria. Awazi has been a startup operator for the last 8 years with her work spanning across industries including fintech, media, and lifestyle tech startups. She is also a human rights activist with a focus on female rights activism and consent education.
Explain your job to a five-year-old
I’m the class captain. My job is to make sure that everyone is doing the right things at the right time so that we can make money.
What’s one piece of advice you wish you’d known earlier in your life or career?
There is no limit to the number of times you can reinvent yourself or the spaces in which you are allowed to do so. You just keep betting on your ability to learn and figure things out.
What (singular) achievement are you most proud of?
I have a really tough time answering questions like this one because it changes often. In recent times, I’m most proud of the work my team and I do, building SweepSouth Nigeria from 0 to launch in a few weeks.
It’s tough complicated work, but it is impactful work that is raising the bar for domestic work in Nigeria as we know it, and will change the lives of thousands of domestic workers for the better through our tech and processes.
What misconception do people usually have about your work?
People assume that I always know exactly what to do in situations, or that I always know the best answer to their questions or problems in relation to my work. The truth is that I’m mostly dependent on data, operational patterns, and lived experiences—mine and that of others. I’m really just a product of loads of information consumption and constantly asking questions.
People also assume that as a Country Manager I spend most of my time up in the nice little silo enjoying the softness and mostly doing work at a desk. I, however, do a lot of groundwork which I enjoy. Both groundwork and analytical thinking help in learning about a market. It gives me a wide perspective of what people’s real motivations are and the kind of insight that only very few research papers can ever provide. It’s this insight that influences the bigger business decisions I make.
As someone experienced in helping founders build startups, what are the best and worst parts about building with founders?
The best part is really between getting front-row access to their brains where they have the most genius ideas. Bringing these beautiful ideas to life and changing lives in the process is beautiful.
The worst part is when founders get in the way of the work and really just stop listening. It also sucks when founders have people-management or behavioural gaps and refuse to plug said gaps because they don’t seem like the real big-ticket problems to solve for. It’s unfortunate because this just creates culture cancers all over the company. All the best people leave very quickly, and it just becomes a game of placeholders for a while.
In your experience, which skills (soft and hard) are overrated, and which are underrated?
The most overrated is probably multitasking. Don’t get me wrong, multitasking builds flexibility, adaptability, and resilience muscles to an extent after all. However, I think that divided attention is not a part of the recipe for delivering consistently excellent results at a specific thing. I’m big on consistent excellence so I’m an advocate for focus, but of course, focus with consideration for speed.
The most underrated are curiosity, emotional intelligence, and a bias for action. If you’re curious enough about a problem, you’ll discover genius ways to solve it. For emotional intelligence, being able to see the world outside of numbers on sheets and being able to connect with people exactly where they are mentally and emotionally is incredibly important. And acting is the final one. It’s an underrated skill to know just how to start. No fluff, fancy talk, or endless strategising—just good old passionate execution.
Which tech sector do you think is the underdog and why?
Hmm. I’m not sure underdog is the right term here, but I strongly believe that tech players in the data space are sitting on goldmines that can change business operations as we know them forever. Just gathering real data on people’s daily lives, their decisions, and habits are interesting and essential to everyone who does business anywhere. Especially in Africa where there are significant data gaps.
What’s something you love doing that you’re terrible at; and something you really do not like doing but are great at.
I love spending time with the people I love and documenting those moments, but I think I’m doing a really bad job at it.
I really do not like thinking pessimistically about the business because it’s really anxiety-inducing. I also don’t like having to hold people accountable, especially when it is someone who should know better but who is deflecting responsibility, justifying inaction, or trying to get away with masquerading busyness as productivity.
Although I don’t enjoy being that person on the team bugging everyone to get things done well and on time so we don’t die as a company, I seem to be really good at it for some reason. It’s even become a running joke in certain circles. People I work with (or have worked with) would randomly tag me on socials to come and hold someone accountable or like just get someone to get sh*t done, and it’s usually so hilarious to me because a lot of the time, they’re inserting me in conversations I know absolutely nothing about.
Is there a book/movie you think everyone should read/watch, and why?
Maybe not a movie in particular, but I think everything Beyoncé has ever produced in her career should be studied by everyone. There is excellence and there is becoming a unit of measurement for excellence by just being so exceptional at what you do. That is who Beyoncé is, and I love that.
For a book, I’d recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear. The first time I read it, it changed my life dramatically.