On several occasions he has been mistaken as a Pakistani, Arabian, West Indie among others, but a first conversation with him will sweep you off your feet, with a great sense of humor, he puts laughter on your face and leaves you smiling.
So affable, open minded, very down to earth and up to speed with ensuring the EIB Network brands are topnotch.
StarrFMonline.com caught up with Jeff Sowa, Marketing and Brands Manager of EIB Network to share his life story.
BRIEFLY TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY?
I am a very open minded individual who enjoys every moment life throws at me. I’m one of two boys to my parents and from an average background. My dad is a Naval (retired) doctor and my mum is a house wife who currently lives out of the country. I grew up in Burma Camp and had my formative school years there as well. My wife and I have four beautiful kids – two boys and the last two being a set of twins (boy and a girl). And I am a die-hard Man U fan.
DO PEOPLE OFTEN ASK IF YOU’RE A GHANAIAN AND HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THEM?
I get that a lot… I have been called an Arab, Pakistani, West Indie, Indian etc. But anytime I open my mouth to talk people get taken aback and try to figure out where I come from. Occasionally people even try to insult me thinking I do not understand the local language but when I let them know what they said, they feel embarrassed and apologise. I am half Russian and half Ghanaian but I always proudly say I am Ghanaian because I have lived in Ghana since I was five years old.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A MARKETING MANAGER?
It’s something I have always wanted to do as it involves putting resources together to deliver the set objectives for the business. And it requires tactics to be able to get the maximum output from your team to do that.
HOW WAS IT LIKE WORKING BACK THEN AT BARCLAYS BANK?
Barclays taught me a lot. I started as a business customer advisor and rose to the level of Head of Bancassurance and left after my 5th year there. Barclays, being a big multinational taught me how to be a team player, manage/lead, work with systems and structures and most importantly it taught me to keep all stakeholders satisfied. I, however, left Barclays because the Banking environment in general was too regimented and so did not fit with how I wanted to proceed with my career… I was also tired of wearing a suit and tie every single day.
HOW DID YOU LAND YOURSELF WITH EIB NETWORK?
It was quite simple. I had known Bola Ray for close to 12 years and he had tried to get me to come on board one of his other businesses, however I was not ready then, and so could not do so. So when I heard EIB was coming up I gave him a call and said I was ready now. I met with him and asked him what his vision was, it was daunting but very clear. He said ‘Jeff we are going on a crazy drive in the media landscape and we want to jump the queue’ (legally). The rest as they say is history…
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR WORK?
It’s tricky supervising 10 media brands who target 10 different markets. Constantly you need to keep on switching between markets and delivering tailor-made strategies that will benefit each market.
The other challenge is the management team I work with. These are seasoned media or should I say marketing oriented people in the industry. Presenting an idea to Cox, Von, Bola, DJ Blow, Kwasi et al was a challenge as these are people who were filled with ideas themselves and so you were always worried your ideas will not fly but somehow we always found a way and they supported me to deliver on what we set to do.
HOW IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU AT WORK?
I have a wonderful team so I ensure they do all the work and I take the credit for it…. hahahahaha. As the leader in my team I just need to ensure the team is constantly aligned to the vision of the company. I mainly touch base with the team to find out what is happening in their space, I scan around a lot on the net and on social media so as to come up with ideas we can implement and finally ensure there is convergence between all the 10 units we operate.
WHAT MAKES YOUR JOB SO SPECIAL?
I enjoy creating concepts/ideas for events, promotions and brand enhancement. I love working with my team as well as interacting with other units. Most importantly, I enjoy seeing people grow/develop in their space. So I ensure I always make myself available to mentor others.
WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM OTHERS?
As an individual, it’s my willingness and ability to help people improve at whatever they do.
As a business, the vibrancy we bring to the industry in terms of visibility and emotional connection sets us apart.
WHY ARE YOU INTO BRANDING/MARKETING AND NOTHING ELSE?
People see branding as an expensive venture, but not branding is more expensive. At EIB, building brand equity is key. It’s the blood that runs through most organisations especially ours. I feel special having the responsibility to ensure there is constant supply of ‘blood’ within the organization for it to live over the period of time.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO TAKE EIB NETWORK IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
We want to ensure all our units are No. 1 in their various markets but most importantly we want to rub shoulders with the media giants in Africa and the world, as such there is a global perspective to whatever we do. It’s deliberate.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF TO SOMEONE WHO IS MEETING YOU FOR THE FIRST TIME?
A humble young man.
HOW WAS LIFE LIKE AT KINGSTON UNIVERSITY?
Kingston University is where I did my Masters in Business Management and I would say that is where a lot changed for me as a person.
It made me a focused person, it taught me to be articulate and express myself without fear or favor and most importantly it taught me to be a team player.
HOW WAS LIFE LIKE AT PRESEC, ANY MEMORIES?
PRESEC days…hmmmm. It was a good period. Didn’t enjoy Form 1 that much because life was hell with the seniors but forms 2 to 3 was a blast. The breaking of bounds, getting into all forms of trouble, peer pressure etc. Most fond memory was when my friends (the troublesome ones) convinced me to stand for DHP (Dining Hall Prefect). I did not campaign even a single day, on the day of election I was told to come and give a speech with the other candidates to the entire school. I had no clue what I was going to say so my friends assured me I should not worry and that all I had to do was stick to a badly put together speech and just start talking. They would take care of the rest. I mounted the stage and as I started talking they started clapping and making so much noise that I could even barely hear myself, so I took advantage of the noise and read my speech quickly through it so that nobody would pick up any details to ask follow up questions. Somehow that strategy worked and I was elected DHP for that year only to find out that my friends got me there so that I will be lenient to them when they got into trouble….which to their surprise was not the case…lol
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?
I have various role models for various aspects of my life. I look up to Ken Ofori Atta and my Dad when it comes to being humble. I look up to Ben Dabrah (former MD of Barclays) when it came to being practical and realistic at all times and to Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and Bola Ray when it came to chasing your dreams and not letting anything stop you. However, my Step Dad will top it all for giving me direction and constant advice about life.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
I travel….it could be local or foreign travels….it didn’t really matter. So far as I had some time out of the office to recharge that was ok.
ARE YOU ABLE TO SPEND TIME WITH THE FAMILY, HOW DO YOU DO IT?
It’s difficult, but I do my best to always reserve my Sundays for them. But the most effective time with the kids is when I take them to school. That is when they tell you all the stories in the world and it’s always a pleasure interacting with them.
HOW DIFFERENT IS IT FATHERING TWINS?
It’s a lot of work as I have not been able to still master handling the two of them together. They are at a delicate age so I manage one of them at a time.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE HANG OUT AND WHY?
I’m not a fan of the classy hangouts in town. Any open air space will do perfectly for me. With all the stress one can go through, the last thing you want is to be boxed in a room again.
IF YOU ARE TO CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT LIFE /JOB WHAT WOULD THAT BE AND WHY?
I love every aspect of my life…my career, family, friends, favourite football team etc and would not want to change any aspect of it. Life is what you make it.